How Writers Fail (Part One)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I keep forgetting that working in the arts requires a very specific sort of attitude. It’s an attitude that can be trained, but to do that, an artist must want to change. This is a complex and sometimes difficult thing to do.

First, the attitude itself.

It’s a combination of optimism and pragmatism, with a bit of cynicism mixed in. Yeah, I know, confusing. So let me give you the example that sparked this small series of blog posts.

Moving to Las Vegas four years ago now enabled me to get in touch with dozens of artists in very different fields. I haven’t had that experience on a daily basis since I left Wisconsin mumble-mumble years ago. When I lived in small-town Oregon, going to conferences and conventions provided some of the contact, and the openness of the internet both helps and hurts, but nothing replaces an in-person experience, particularly with other art besides writing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been taking a series of classes. Some of them are in disciplines that I wasn’t able to practice due to that West Coast move, although I kept my hand in through online study. Some I simply needed to do in person for me, to get the feedback that comes from an audience and/or from an onsite instructor.

. . . .

But, about a week ago as I write this, I sat in the first class of a discipline that has changed a lot in the past forty years, due to the internet and the connectivity of the world. I’m being deliberately vague about the discipline for a variety of reasons, not the least is that I don’t want a bunch of people (on Facebook or here on the blog) asking me why I’m abandoning writing.

I’m not. I’m just reviving some other parts of myself.

. . . .

What type of class we’re dealing with isn’t exactly relevant to the story. I was sitting next to another person who desperately wants a career in the arts. That person had confessed as much to me.

We sat through the same presentation. We learned a whole bunch of really cool stuff. By the end of it, my internal optimist saw so many opportunities that had I not already chosen a writing career, I’d have been jumping on all of those opportunities. As it is, I’m looking at how to use what I learned just in the first class in my own writing career. (You’ll see posts about this scattered throughout what I’m doing the next few months, as I learn more.)

I was so excited. I’m still excited. The entire class made me realize I had felt this way when the indie publishing movement started—the whole popcorn kittens feeling. That feeling is essentially so many cool ideas that it’s almost impossible to corral all of them.

. . . .

So many opportunities! So much choice! How can I best use all of this to the advantage of my various businesses? How can I add more without losing something that I want to do?

After the class was over, I turned to the person beside me.

“Wow, this is incredible,” I said. “I hadn’t realized there were so many possibilities.”

The person made a sour face. “I don’t believe any of it,” the person said. “They’re going to have to prove to me that these opportunities exist.”

Prove? Heck, it was obvious to anyone who looked. It was obvious through just by going through daily life. And the class itself was obvious: It was being offered by people who worked in that discipline. If there weren’t opportunities, there would be no class.

Instead, if the opportunities did not exist, those who had the expertise would jealously guard that expertise so no one else could even attempt to participate. That’s how doors close, particularly in the arts. You have to break them down or sneak in sideways or be even better than anyone already practicing that art.

That was how traditional publishing was back when I first broke in. It took work, perseverance, and a willingness to ignore the word no over and over and over again.

. . . .

So, I said, in response to this person, “Prove it? What do you mean? It’s obvious.” (And sometimes I’m oblivious.)

The person said, “[this particular discipline] has never been open, not when I first tried it years ago. I doubt it’s open now.”

We’d just sat through a long presentation about all of the opportunities, and the instructor even talked about the way this discipline was once the most difficult to break into in the country and is no longer.

I opened my mouth, closed it, and finally got a clue. This person did not want to hear that they had just walked into a place with a lot of opportunity.

I said something polite (God knows what) and turned away to talk to another person who wanted to reinvent themselves because they’d lost their job in the pandemic. That person was very excited, as was an artist in another discipline who joined the conversation. That artist was trying to figure out—as I was—how to blend what we had just learned with what we were already doing.

We didn’t see dollar signs: we saw opportunity.

The first person? Opportunity had just given them an hours-long presentation, and that person turned their back on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person does not show up to any future classes.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

2 thoughts on “How Writers Fail (Part One)”

  1. This is so true. Opportunity is everywhere. Mindset is everything. If you don’t believe what you see, you aren’t likely to take action to get there. If you see the opportunity and believe you can get there, eventually, and you work towards it–you are more likely to see some success. I’ve seen this proven over and over–both in writing, but also in my former career as a headhunter. The candidates that went the furthest, who were tops in their field, were the ones that worked the hardest and were the most passionate–who found the work fun. It’s a great time to be a writer.

    • True in every human endeavor.
      Some humans are adventuresome, entrepreneurial, risk takers…
      Others… not…
      Examples abound. Writers aren’t the only ones who sabotage themselves.

      Look at every big success story in human history, every invention, and every giant corporation and you will find people who saw opportunity and jumped after it, heedless of the risk. Again, examples abound, household names and obscure ones both.

      No risk, no reward.
      Sometimes, like in writing, the risk is low and the range of rewards broad and high.

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