Dean Wesley Smith Gave Me an Attitude Adjustment

I’m a big fan of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog about publishing and writing. he has an excellent series up called Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, but it’s more than that. It’s about killing the idiotic myths that get in the way of new writers… well, more specifically, some of the idiotic myths that  get in my way as a new writer. The most recent entry is all about this last point, because all of these obstacles boil down to fear.

There are some other things in his blog I didn’t really get, most specifically about his admonition to not rewrite–well, he does say there are some authors for whom rewriting works, but for a newbie he recommends against it–and working in creative voice. I understood these things on a superficial level, but didn’t understand the why, until very recently.

How I finally got it:

I had an extremely valuable–for me, anyway–email exchange with Dean recently about his challenge stories and whether it would be a good exercise for a newbie writer. He picked up something in my language (I reasoned that if I wound up with 50 terrible stories in 50 weeks it was okay, because it was still 50 terrible stories’ worth of practice) and correctly called me out on my attitude, telling me that if he didn’t know if his own stories were any good after decades of writing, there was no way that a newbie could have any idea about his own stories. Fair cop.

This opened up some other ideas, and I re-read a bunch of his older posts about over-editing, endless rewriting, and all the other things that trip up beginning writers like myself, and they all boil down to fear. More specifically, they boil down to the fear outlined in this post about killing a career by making a mistake. And now I get it on a visceral level. What the hell do I know about killing a career that I don’t have and have never had?

Then I picked up a copy of Zen in the Art of Writing after listening to a podcast where Dean mentioned Ray Bradbury turning him around, and that clicked as well. I remembered the reason I decided to write in the first place, and why all those stupid myths and fears were killing it. Maybe I still don’t know much about creative voice, but I know where it comes from and to get the hell out of its way.

So now when I re-read the "Killing a Career" entry from the perspective of a newbie, it boils down to this:

Q: If I do X, will it kill my career?

A: Go write more, get a career, and then you’ll know why that’s a silly question.

Thanks, Dean.

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