Tag: breaking down success

Your Art is crap…but that’s okay

I’ve been putting it off for too long.

Let me fill you in: I wrote a novel four years ago. My first reaction? Hell YEAH! Take that Stephen King. Eat my dust JK Rowling. James Patterson—who’s that?! So there it was, a completed manuscript, in my hard drive, fermenting in digital soy sauce. And you know what? I was happy. I was exuberant. I was feeling like a freakin’ genius.

I read it last week.


It was crap. Damn…

I’ve written a few rudimentary novels in my twenty-seven years alive. I really cared about this one. That’s why it hurt. That’s why it hit me hard. That’s why I’m writing about it now.

Listen up. I believe this.

I believe that all artists—directors, writers, painters, singers, rappers, poets, and interpretative mime artists—take their art seriously. Too seriously. We’re an insecure group that craves affirmation and acceptance. We want people to say: “Hey, that was awesome!” although know-one truly cares. We want people to call us a genius, when, most of the time, our best work will remain invisible.

I envision my writing craft as a Jujitsu-trained pelican. It stabs me with its bill every time I make a mistake. It hits me hard. Every time. Pelicans don’t like me. Interesting fact.

Moving on.

I had to be honest: Kane, you’re a crap writer. Your sock choices are horrendous, too. Idiot.

But wait. Was it really that bad?

Think break. It hit me when I was on the MRT. There are levels to crap. It’s true—every profession, every artwork, every piece of work. So I began to think: what did I really do?

I transformed a dream…into a reality.

We often don’t give ourselves credit, but sometimes, the simple act of creating is enough. Transforming a dream into a reality, something you can see, read and touch, is an incredible feat. It takes time. It takes focus. It takes blood, sweat and repeated pokes to the heart. So what if we weren’t so self critical all the time? Where would that lead us?

Here’s my advice: Just complete. See your creations through.

Create your own story—an oil painting, a film, a stick figure drawing—and finish it. Make it personal. Care about it. Love it. Don’t have sex with it. That’s weird. But love the process.

Sometimes we need to think of our work as crap to push ourselves forward. And it’s okay to admit when it’s not your best work. Sometimes we put in infinite amounts of effort, and get nothing back.

Know this: you are making better crap every time. Slow steps. There are geniuses in the world. The simple fact is all of us aren’t. So practice and go through those growing pains. Pain is growth.

Right now I’m editing the second draft of my young adults novel. I’m looking back at myself four years ago, and I can see the intention, the enthusiasm, the fire to finish. But…

Art will never be perfect.

There will always be a “better idea”, a “better sentence” or a “better shot”. Make mistakes. Learn to love them. Do better next time.

So keep going. Success is just over that hill of crap.


The Art of Being Terrified

I’m terrified.

I don’t think people say this enough. It’s not a very productive or desirable state of mind is it? It has certain connotations associated with it.

Running away. Being scared. Crying and sobbing uncontrollably. Holding your breath until that little shiver deep in your stomach goes away.

Being terrified of something can happen for a lot of reasons. Maybe because you’re trying something new and you’re not sure how it’ll turn out. Or maybe you’ve done it already — and you think it’s rubbish. A TOTAL waste of time and effort.

But there’s something about working in the film business and the arts that has always troubled me. It’s mastering the art of being terrified. And I’ve found one intricate link:

The more terrified you are of doing something, the more successful and incredible the experience will become.

You’re not growing if you are not travelling out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones hamper success.

Comfort zones wall you in. Comfort zones are that part your mind that says: “We’re ok here because we’re not going backward and we’re not going forward.”

Be terrified.

What do I mean? Challenge yourself, in whatever endeavors you undertake, to find a piece of yourself that is absolutely terrified.


Why? Because that’s the side of you that is going to grow. That’s the side of you that’s waiting to be developed, harnessed and pushed to greater success.

Being terrified isn’t a bad state of mind. It’s the side of your mind you’re going to have to train – because it’s stopping you from where you need to be.

The brain is a funny thing. It wants to be comfortable. It wants to take a break. It wants to slack. It doesn’t want to be afraid or challenged.

But as soon as you tell yourself your fear will be your motivation; things will start to change.

I’m pretty much terrified of a lot of things I’m doing at the moment. I’m producing one project with little or no experience. I’m running on my own steam. My own passion for the material. I’m educating myself.

And for a writer/creative producer or anyone in the arts, that’s the best place you can be. Be terrified. You’ll be glad you were.

You Can Learn A lot From A Small Success

I abandon my babies.  It’s despicable. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember and I want to stop. They’re living breathing entities aren’t they? Why would I do that?

When I say ‘babies’, I of course mean..my stories.

Yes that’s right –  I am the master of starting stories that I don’t finish!

I get ideas mostly at night (at that dead hour when you can’t sleep and start to realise there IS something lurking in the corner).

I’ve only started, very recently, to get into the habit of writing ideas down and transferring them to my computer.

Now I know that it’s common. Writers come up with ideas all the time. They probably disgard half of them thinking they are too far fetched, unrealistic or downright embarrassing.

Or even because they believe they’ve made a complete mess of a really cool concept. That they didn’t do it justice.

That’s my biggest fear as a writer. To come up with a really kickass story – and then write it in such a way, that it’s better in my head than on paper.

To me that’s a tragedy.

You want to write it so it’s EXACTLY like you envision it in your head.

So people can smell every scent, feel every chill and love every character as you do in your heart and mind. That’s the challenge of every writer.

The only time I managed to do that was with one story of mine. It’s getting a small measure of success at the moment and so I’ve decided to break it down.

It’s a teenage novel – a science fiction tale – that has recently been picked up as a concept for an animated short (* awkwardly high fives myself*).

I’m currently in the second draft of the novel which is going well as well.

I think there are several reasons why this is my biggest success to date and…why I stuck to it!

1. The story, characters and theme came from a personal place.

There’s no dodging this one. ‘Write what you know’. For this story in question, I  wrote each character as an extension of me (not entirely..juuuust a bit).

My main protagonist is a Eurasian (like me). She’s migrated to a different country at the beginning of the story (England to Singapore..like me!). And has the same insecurities and ‘flaws’ …as me.

Now we aren’t carbon copies but it sure did help. It was also science fiction, which is ME (proud Treky over here).

The theme of the tale, which I felt I needed to define in one sentence, was also very personal; my views on family, parents and the meaning of home.

2. It tapped into what I WANTED to see (as an adult and child)

There’s no point in writing a story that you wouldn’t read. There’s no point in making a film you wouldn’t fork out $10 for at the cinema to watch.

Make something that excites you. On numerous levels.

This story, the world and the characters have kept me up since I was 8 years old. Harness that energy.

3. I took my time.

I don’t believe in rushing stories and writing them. There’s nothing worst than getting the feeling that something is written in a hurry, with mistakes, gaping plot holes and a lack of fastidiousness.

It’s taken me a good fifteen years to create this world – in all of its different incarnations and versions.

I’ve streamlined it over the years and now have a solid skeleton that I’m proud of. It was tough but above all– fun!

You have to believe in your story first (no matter how far fetched it may seem).

Take care in the world you create. Take even more care in the characters. Listen to people’s comments.

These are the profound links that will connect your words with the reader. That’s really where all the magic comes from.

I have no real big successes to talk about yet. No book deal. No official website or avid readers queuing up to read my latest work just yet.

However, I’ve learned that it doesn’t take big success to learn a lot.

Start small. Perfect small. The rest comes later.