Researching On Such a Scale

The Chronicles of Enoch is going to be a true Epic. It will have a cast of at least fifty (if not more) and will cover a period of approximately eight thousand years. That, in itself, is quite the challenging proposition. When you add a conspiracy or several, complex plots involving the military, the police forces, several religions, experimental science, and secret government projects….well, we are not even sure if there is a Kansas to be in any more, although we are sort of familiar with Kansas as a concept…
 
Let me give you a list of some of the topics we have covered so far;
 
  1. The Hebrew Talmud
  2. Kabbalah
  3. Sumerian tablets and carvings
  4. Doggerland and other antedeluvian lands
  5. Every conspiracy theory on Atlantis and lost continents
  6. Fluid dynamics, thermal dynamics, and high pressure fluid dynamics inversions
  7. Astronomy, especially regarding the Moon and Mars
  8. Terraforming and how it could happen
  9. Micro-electronics and experimental electronic theory
  10. Every religion which has ever existed
  11. The titular Books of Enoch and other Apocrypha
  12. Jewish exorcism rites
  13. Aviation history, space flight, experimental space technology, and theoretical physics
  14. The Atlanta and Georgia State Police Force and SWAT Division
  15. Child psychology and criminal psychology
  16. ASD and Aspergers syndrome
  17. Eurasian and North American mythology
  18. Ballistics, sniper theory and practises, bullet manufacture
  19. Chemistry and materials science
  20. Esoteric lore from several sources
  21. Misha of Jewish scripture and questionable sources
  22. Almost every conspiracy theory I could find (except flat Earth because even the ancients weren’t stupid)
 
I actually stopped because I don’t want to overwhelm you. There is a lot more and I am only on the first book of a five-volume series.
 
On Appearing the Expert
 
If there is one person who does this well, it was Michael Crichton, he truly did an amazing job of appearing to be an overnight expert on his subject matter. Whether it was genetics and dinosaurs, aviation and accident investigation, law enforcement, or ancient arabian literature and viking migration and culture, Michael’s books communicated a confident knowledge on the subject. One could read his books and not only enjoy the story but actually learn something. That is a rare talent and he remains sorely missed.
 
He was a remarkably intelligent man but he did not become an actual expert on every topic he wrote so convincingly about, he researched and made use of actual experts instead, which proves just how intelligent he was.
 
I think it is important, when setting your writing in real places, referencing real groups of people, places, and lore, it is important to give a sense of authenticity, a flavour of truth to your work. This, I feel, is vital in drawing your reader into to your story. There is that famous saying about ‘the best lies/legends contain a grain of truth’ and your story needs, I feel, to contain at least enough grains to quarter fill a small salf shaker or enough rice to set a fried egg on.
 
What about science fiction, you may ask? Good question.
 
I refer you to the Illium/Olympus series by Dan Simmons. He had a curious idea; combine the Trojan War with the science fiction of a terraformed Mars, involve actual Greek gods who were in fact posthuman superbeings, genetically enhanced humans, killer robots, advanced benevolent robots, Shakespearean monsters, and Lovecraftian gods. He added real theoretical science as well as decent historical research into the books and made them rather interesting indeed, while still keeping the fantasy and sci-fi elements alive.
 
My point is, research is king (or queen, or elected official) of writing; you need to add elements of reality into your unreality in order to draw people in. Even if they are not experts in the field, it is going to draw them in if done well.
 
Doing It Well..
 
In today’s world, research is no longer as challenging as it once was. I remember the good old days of researching my now-abandoned first novel in my teens. You had to go to a library and first find the section of the library your book might be in, then you had to find one which suited your need, take it back because it was no good, come back overloaded with others, then spend hours leafing through them for the information you wanted before getting distracted by something interesting you found along the way. Do not get me started on microfiche archives either!
 
Today, you have Google. With the few strokes of the keys, you have access to everything, even Wikipedia…
 
There are a few problems with that. The old addage of “if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t let them put it on there” is not, necessarily, true. For some sites yet but Wikipedia is publically editable. of course, they curate it now, but we have seem a few worrying and a number of hilarious results of such editing. They catch it eventually, I should know, my backlinks lasted a week…
 
So; you have to be careful in what information you use, myou need trusted sources such as academic ones or verifiable sources of information when it comes to scientific or academic stuff, as well as historical events. Accuracy is key because trust me, you will encounter that one person who will pull you up on a fact and you can be sure that they will leave a review about it.
 
Spend the time, is my advice, check your facts and, check them again. You’ll be amazed by the results. I know it’s hard but, until we are famous, we can’t court experts to interview or hire researchers to do it for us. I keep telling you that this job is no even remotely easy, do I not…
 
Of The Dumping of Information
 
Don’t do it. That’s the best advice I can give for you to follow. Dumping information is never good and dropping a pile of facts and figures on the reader’s lap is going to make them feel like they are reading a text book. I know you spent a long time researching it, built some impressive knowledge and thorough notes on the subject and, if you follow my upcoming advice, may use a tiny fraction of it directly but it will matter when you retain rather than lose readers.
 
  1. Use natural-sounding dialogue. Think Star Trek without the eleven syllable words and pseudo-science speak. Two colleagues just chatting about things such colleagues would naturally discuss under the circumtances. Look it how it sounds, how it flows and if it feels natural. Practise it with a friend and see how it falls off the tongue.
  2. Short bits of internal dialogue. Again, watch the flow, fragment it with thoughts, feelings, or actions to break up what we call a WOT (wall of text). Think how you think and, if it’s nothing close to that, then change it. You might be surprised to discover that most people don’t think in paragraphs, some do but most think in short sentences. A whole page of thoughts is a definite no-no.
  3. Exposition in easy to digest pieces. Ideally mix with the above, by way of short and concise explanation. Think of PBS or BB2 (or your local equivalent channel) science programs. They keep their facts short and to the point and intersperse music and action pieces. I recommend you do the same. Attention spans these days really are not what they used to be. I had to figure out a similar balance when dealing with Dr. Webb’s pieces in the ACARI facility in New Mexico and Asmodeus’ musings on the ICARUS program in Darkness Within as well as Kalshodar phsysiology in the Hegemony drafts.
 
It is all about practise, I’m afraid. It doesn’t come completely naturally and we have all suffered the consequences. Use the comparison to science and nature programs, it really does work if you visualise David Attenborough, Neil Degrasse Tyson, or Morgan Freeman speaking out your chunks of dialogue among the whistful nature shots and fancy special effects. If it sounds boring in Mr. Freeman’s voice, then you must fix it because next to nothing sounds boring with that voice; he could (British reference) read the Saturday football (not soccer) results and you’d actually enjoy it (American readers, enjoy the video below, I give you two minutes before you scream and run out of the room….)
 
 
 
So, Why Research so Much?
 
I’ve used this one before and I use it again.
 
WETA Workshop, the special effects company behind such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Bladerunner 2049, and District 9 are on record saying that there is a massive chunk of the props, details, and details they created in those movies that 90% of viewers will not even notice, consciously at least. Subconsciously though, it helps draw them into a fully realised world and immerse themselves in it because every item on every elf is a little different, because no orc’s armour is the same, or because Deckard sees adverts in the right kind of Japanese or Chinese everywhere.
 
It’s about the atmosphere it creates, how the nuggests you drop show that you know a lot more than that but chose, chose mark you, to keep them for another time. I work in Customer Service in a rather manic industry (online gambling) and have learned tone of voice and implied confidence go an aweful long way in inspiring confidence in the person on the other end of the phone. I am not a sports fan, I hate horses, and am blaise about football but I can make it sound like I know what I’m talking about because I’ve researched and trained myself to recognise key phrases in conversation. My customers think I’m just like them (I don’t gamble) and therefore trust my judgement and what I tell tell them. Remember popular business maxim?
 
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”
 
To continue from my previous point, people will trust somebody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about before they will trust someone who sounds uncertain. You could be giving them completely accurate information but it you do not sound confident, they’ll listen to the tone not the words. They ask for a manager and you put them on, the manager says exactly what you did but because they said it confidently and identified as a manager, the customer accepts it, humans eh?
 
If you mention a few juicy facts, handle their delivery well, make your characters sound natural as they speak, think, or experience them, then your reader feels confident that you know your setting and your job. They enter your world willingly and relax into the story. Anything that jars against the expectations you gave them will shatter their confidence and ruin their experience.
 
If you research well, have digested it, and somewhat understood it, this will be obvious in your writing because you will drop the right fact or comment right where it belongs. I had a scientist character of mine deliver a brief keynote speech on a certain topic to see how it flowed. It didn’t appear in any of the books and it won’t. The speech is mentioned in passing here and there, and a brief excerpt or two show up but the entire 20-minute speech itself (together with a Q&A session at the end) is buried in the texture of the story.
 
Conclusion
 
If you do not know it, learn. If you find the facts, look again. if your facts clash, keep looking. You are building a world so contrary opinions are going to exist however, make your facts solid before you use them.
 
Do not infodump or include overy-lengthy expositions that stop the story dead and advance it not at all. Think of Morgan Freeman narrating and do not, just do not make Morgan say something boring. He fought hard for that reputation, try not to ruin it for him.
 
Use what you have learned, digest it, and (using a popular revision techmnique) rewrite it in your own words to show that you understood it. Do not paste directly from your source or repeat verbatim unless what you’re adding is an actual quote or there is a very valid reason to do so.
 
Use what you have learned and your ability to paraphrase it to sound confident and reassure your customer that not only have they chosen well and selected an author who did their research but one who knows their trade and can be trusted to deliver. Don’t be lazy, we readers can spot it in an instant.
 
Remember when we were readers before we were authors. Remember what you love and hate in books you have read and try not to repeat any of the things you, yourself, hate. Respect the reader enough to ensure that they will not part with their cash for anything less than your very best work.
 
Respect them and they will see it and they, in turn, will respect you.

You May well be Good Enough

‘Can it be possible for a thing to be too perfect?’ asked Fulgrim. ‘Surely everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.’  ‘Great art isn’t about reason, it’s about what comes from the heart’ said Ostian. ‘You can work with all the technical perfection in the galaxy, but if there is no passion, then it is a wasted effort.’ ‘There is such a thing as perfection’, snapped Fulgrim, ‘and our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. Everything that limits us we have to put aside.’ Fulgrim, Graham NcNeill
There is a phrase I am seeing more and more often on social media today. It seems like a somewhat good phrase, it seems useful as perhaps a measure but a measure against whom?
“I am not good enough”, “I want to be good enough”, “you are good enough”; many variations thereof. It means you are either striving to, can easily arrive at, or have achieved some degree of minimum measure. Who is it though, that decides the measure? What is good enough?
I don’t want to be good enough, to me that sounds like admitting defeat…
The Pursuit of Perfection
It has often been said that the goal is everything is to achieve perfection, that one can do it. Our friend Fulgrim, in Graham’s excellent fall from grace biopic (or ‘Fulgrim goes down to Georgia’ as I’ve jokingly called it), devotes his life to achieving perfection in all things, he cannot accept the idea that he, with his mental, physical, and genetic advantages cannot achieve perfection.
We will stop there so that we don’t ruin a good story for one and because we have other points to make. We will come back to this one later, though.
Let us explore what ‘Good Enough’ means, shall we? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us;
ADJECTIVE
Satisfactory, adequate.
Adequate. Satisfactory. It feels like we have just passed a test and been awarded a gold star by some unseen authority. It feels like we received a participation trophy. It sounds like ‘Just OK’, think about that, do you want to produce an adequate, OK, mediocre piece of art or do you want to produce a great piece of art?
Now, the pursuit of perfection is all well and good but completely impossible to attain in a mortal lifetime. One can chase it, one can seek and fight for it but one must hold firm in one’s mind that to think one could ever actually be perfect in any way is inviting madness to settle themselves into the spare room and start going through the fridge.
Perfection is a moving target, the closer you get to it, the further away it moves. To think that you can catch it would be an exhausting and frustrating affair. It would also mean asking our friend insanity to sign a lease and start moving their stuff in permanently. Fulgrim fell because of this one of those famous – ah – fatal failures; pride.
In the Name of Love
What’s an obscure musical reference in the name of love? Our Irish friends had a rather valid point, though, in that excellent song. If you now have the guitar solo stuck in your head, you are very much welcome.
Pride is not, necessarily, a bad thing as long as you know when to let it go. This is either a skill you learn, or a quality you have; I haven’t decided what I think yet.
Pride, as regulars of my comments and blog know, is something I place great store in when it comes to our work. I have discussed with many of the ‘let the editors fix the bad grammar and spelling’ or the ‘language is constantly evolving so those old rules of grammar and spelling don’t necessarily apply because they’re changing’ brigade or similar groupings.
One must have pride in one’s work, pride to produce the very best that one is capable of. Equally, one would be, therefore, ashamed if people were to see my work as anything close to inferior. I pulled 9 books from Amazon and other outlets because they needed to be polished and they truly weren’t.
Let me use an example, for those of you who have children or intend to. Would you take your children outside in dirty clothes, dirty faces, and uncombed hair? Why not? You love your children unconditionally and, to you, they are beautiful even when covered with spew at 5am. Other people will just accept them as they are and anyone that judges you is a nasty individual who doesn’t understand.
There is a reason that we have whole websites dedicated to people who have a very ‘come as you are’ attitude to late night shopping at stores such as Walmart. I would at least make a half-hearted effort to look mid-way presentable under those circumstances even if I didn’t feel like it.
Some people might call that caving to social pressure but I call it pride. You see, those that know me are very much aware that I really have no interest in what other people think about me; I don’t follow the latest fashions, I wear clothes I’m comfortable in or that were thoughtful gifts. I style my hair as I like it, I go to work and do my job then go home. I owe nothing to nobody except my wife, family, and close friends.
My work does not follow trend or fashion either. I write what I want to write, in a style I’m good at writing in. I’m also going to make damn sure that my writing goes out into the world as well-presented – with its face washed and hair nicely combed – as I can make it.
The Quest For Excellence
It is said that, if you aim for perfection, you will at least reach excellence. Just because perfection is unachievable, there is no reason not to try, right? Now, many are confused by the dichotomy; why put all that effort into trying to achieve something you know you cannot ever hope to reach? While, you hasten to add, tempering your pride whilst also taking it in your work?
Well, nobody ever said that this was going to easy, did they? Let me try and explain how I see it;
  1. Take pride in the quality of your work. It’s your work and therefore your responsibility. You cannot count on other people to do your job for you.
  2. At the same time, do not let pride blind you; you might think your work is perfect or reaching perfection when it is actually a mess of clashing chaos Slaanesh would be proud of. Accept and listen to feedback because you’re too close to see flaws. Accept constructive criticism.
  3. It is a careful balancing act to be a writer; you do have to practise, we have to develop, and you have to make mistakes. You are learning not what is right in general but right for you as you develop your own style.
  4. Have the pride to know when your work is good and be able to tell the difference between constructive criticism and simple sabotage on your confidence. If you have sufficient pride in your work, you have the ability to recognise when it can be improved.
  5. If you aim for perfection, you will at least approach excellence. Know, however, when to stop; you can ruin a good scene or piece of art by over-improving or over-editing. I’ve ruined many portraits of Sable by trying to refine this feature or that. He ended up looking like an angry old man!
So; what does that mean? It means that this is a far from easy job that you learn as you go along. That is where ‘good enough’ comes from. If you focus on achieving perfection as your only goal, you will never finish because everything will have a flaw or two. I have re-read scenes I have written and gone on to self-publish the book they are in. I see flaws, better ways to say things, another way to take a thread, ways to make the jokes funnier but I have to leave them alone.
Remember every lesson you learn and apply it to your next book or piece of art. What I would call my first generation character portraits were, to me, quite good when I produced them. They were good enough for the purpose I had given them. They filled empty spaces on The Chronicles of Enoch generation one website. They gave people ideas of concepts.
But, I later decided, they could be better, they didn’t quite fulfil my vision. I could do better, and that’s the secret I’m leading you towards here.
You can be as Good as you Allow Yourself to Be.
Here it is, why “good enough” should never be; first or maybe second drafts might be good enough but you can do better.
Generation One of The Chronicles of Enoch Character Portraits were good enough but the current generation are much better. In some cases, the alterations were minor and nobody but me would notice them but they made the end result better. On other occasions, the old portrait was scrapped and a new one produced. The Stranger, oddly enough, had the most redesigns. The posture, attitude, background, and appearance of ‘him’ now perfectly represents ‘his’ character. The new Lucifer pleases me immensely, that expression and posture of barely suppressed rage and veiled threat sums him up rather well.
The hard part is learning when you can improve and when you need to start again as well as when you need to leave well alone. That is why most successful or famous writers recommend at least three full self-edits on a manuscript after first draft. I had a series of chats with Ian Irvine, a very successful sci-fi fantasy author and he does four or five quite often. His reasoning is this; yes, the publisher’s editors will fix things but he is obliged – by his own internal code – to send them the very best version of his work that he is capable of.
Editors are for fixing basic grammar and the odd spelling mistake or few that you missed. They are not for continuity errors, character flaws, plot holes, or for fixing a badly put together story. Your job as to give the editor as little work to do as possible. Might sound counter-productive if you’re paying them yourself and they charge by the page or by the word, right?
Wrong. If there is a lot to fix, then they might miss stuff because it gets lost in the mess. If you have fewer errors, they can pay those better attention and be more adequately focussed on how to fix them well. Also, said editor will like you and maybe start to offer you discounts as time goes by. Do not forget, many editors are readers, some of them are writers, and all of them have contacts they can put a good word to about you.
Also, be aware, there are agents on twitter and they watch…don’t you Jo?
Conclusion
Simply put, you need a combination of pride, humility, integrity, and grit to be a successful writer. You need to make sure that the world at large sees the very best version of everything you produce and you need to make sure you do everything in your power to make that so.
You might think that the “grammar police” on Facebook and Twitter are a pain but they are actually good practise. If you try to get out of the habit of allowing spelling and grammar mistakes unnecessary place in your ‘professional’ social media posts, you might allow them to wander innocently into your work.
You see, achieving excellence in anything is about discipline and, ask any former soldier, that discipline will, once you’ve got it, leak into every single aspect of your life. It won’t be something you can turn on and off on demand, it will become a part of your character.
Oddly enough, agents are not looking for the number of followers you have, the number of books you have self-published or the number of fans your work may have. They are looking for discipline. You see, when an agent offers you a contract, they are making an investment. An investment of money, of time, and of their reputation and they are making it in you.
They want to see that discipline I mentioned because, if they are to get long-term return on their investment, they need that, to be sure you’ll keep producing. The publishing houses, too, are looking for the same and want to hear the agent tell them about you in those terms. They are going to be giving you money based on future sales of your book, they would like to know they will recoup at least that much, that they can rely on you when necessary.
Take Neil Gaiman, for example, the man is rarely at home. He is always on the go, touring by himself or with Amanda and the kids, promoting, selling, show-running, getting involved. I can guarantee you that there are days that he doesn’t want to do it (and I think occasionally having a problem committing to my 1 blog post a day goal) but he has that pride and that disciple and he does it. Look how he almost died of flu in Australia but kept going. He is not alone.
Being a successful author of the kind you want to be does not mean having all the time in the world to relax and write, not always. Some successful writers are busier than you can imagine but, it will pay off. Look at Stephen King, he’s done all of that and now he’s relaxing, watching Netflix, and making snarky yet entertaining comments on Twitter (I love you really, Steve).
If you want to be Steve, you have to work like Neil and observe his work ethic. There’s a reason my emails to people like Anne Rice got the ‘too busy to answer you’ reply (though Miss Anne did it in such a lovely way and you can tell she wrote it herself which counts for something) when you send them an excerpt or hello request; they really are too busy! Their schedules would make a great many of you cry, believe me.
So; Integrity (be honest with yourself and as critical of your output as you need to be in order to assure your best possible work), Discipline (to make and stick to goals, to push yourself when you don’t feel like it or feel ‘writer’s block’ exculpating itself into either your mind or vocabulary), Focus (on what is important and on what to improve and when to stop), Honesty (with yourself and everyone you deal with), Excellence (never stop chasing it, not ever).
That is, indeed, it, although it is a process and that is why your will never achieve perfection. You can keeping improving and maybe catch a sight of it through the bushes and try to sneak up on it before it sees you but that time is much hard work away.

An Escape from Blame

As I mentioned in my previous article, passing on through it, humans don’t like to take blame. If something happened; either close by or far away, we let it happen one way or another. In fairness, before you all attack me, there are some things far away we can not really do anything about due to distance or circumstance but, in today’s Age of Information of everything is shareable, tweetable and so forth, as Obama started, we can continue in saying “Yes! We can!”.
 
Let us step backwards one moment though and come back from saving the world to beginning where what makes such a thing possible is begun. Let’s begin with this thought;
 
“Everything which ever happened to you is your fault”
 
Think about that for a moment, digest it, mull it over. Now argue with me! That’s right, you do not have control over what other people choose to do, how they are, the things they do. You are right but you can control how you react to those circumstances. I know ths is going to be a tough article because it is one which is most likely to upset a lot of people for a number of simple reasons. There are some things which we genuinely feel we cannot control but ask yourself to consider these scenarios first;
 
A friend of mine was brutally and horribly raped. I cannot even come close to imagining what that is like. Nothing I have lived can give me true understanding of what she went through. This same woman founded a local charity for helping other victims of rape move past the guilt, the suffering, the hate and rebuild their lives.
Another woman I know lost her husband of 40 years to cancer, she now fights for cancer research to be better funded and recognised.
A man who lost both of his legs climbs Mount Everest.
 
Alright; these are extremes but it does not change one simple fact; it is me who decides how I shape my future and how I look at myself. Look at this, I was in a long series of terrible, bad and downright awful relationships, ending with the one I left the US because of. She was controlling, abusive, nasty, hateful and all that stuff; mentally and physically abusive. I let her be. Here’s the thing, I read a while ago letters and emails and cards I had written to her, missives to myself as part of my therapy and my first thought was this “what a spineless little worm!” but this obvious invertibrate was me! I allowed her to control me and I allowed her to get away with all that I did. I did then and always do decide what happens to me and what I deserved. The day I decided that I deserved better was the day that I left No-one could make that decision for me but me.
 
So why, Alan the image from Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Museum clearly displaying the struggle for racial equality? Is this an article about personal struggle or a large struggle? Are they that different really? I experiecne what I allow, we experience what we allow. Surely you cannot say black people are responsibile for what white people did to them? In part yes they are. Why? Fear. Everyone fears to be the frst to stand up and go against the flow, the staus quo, the very tide itself. Ms. Rosa Parkes refused to move ona bus and they beat her. MLK refused to accept the status quo and they killed him. Various black and white people refused to accept division in the world and were harmed, beaten,. even killed for their refusal. Their resistance changed the world and, like that single stone they started the avalanche! By refusing to be beaten they gave courage to everyone else and the movement was begun! So, MLK, Rosa Parkes, Malcolm X and others decided to NOT let things just happen to them and look what they began! After they started others followed. Jim Crowe was destroyed, a black man became president, the N word is no longer acceptable. Why did no-one rise up before? They were surely afraid, they would be singled out and they and their family punished and even killed. It remained that way until along came someone for whom ideals, justice, RIGHT were more important than life itself. Such people are indeed rare and, while I say this I ask myself; would I be one to stand up in the face of tyranny knowing my life is forfeit no matter what I do? Knowing my wife and kids could be harmed because of what I say or do? I truly do not know there but I hope so.
 
But it boils down to this and I will ask you simply; what are you prepared to allow yourself to endure? What do you deserve to suffer? Can you end your suffering or make it matter?
 
Today’s society of share everything on Facebook or tweet it, compose a sad video on YouTube etc is all geared to denying responsibility for our circumstances;
 
My life sucks and and it awful, please pity me! What are YOU doing to make it better? WHAT is wrong with your life? WHY is it like that?
People don’t understand me and treat me awfully. HAVE you tried explaining yourself differently or better? have you tried asking people WHAT they don’t understand?
Everyone criticises me and is cruel. MAYBE criticism is good and your skin needs some thickening? WHAT are they criticising you for? HOW are they criticising you? WHAT are you doing about it?
 
You see maybe I’m weird, maybe I’m odd but I came out of that awful relationship I mentioned and, like I said she put me through the mill and I went through a significant degree of living Hell. When I got clear adn my family were talking to me they may well have noticed something strange; a reticence, an unwillingness to talk about it. Not due to PTSD, bad memories, denial or any of that. I was angry. I was incandescently enraged; not with her; she had behaved as she thought right but with me, myself, for allowing it to happen! I did not want sympathy, I did not want comfort, I did not want understanding. I caused that situation, I let it happen, I did not stop it earlier than I did.I had to make sure it would never happen again! It was me who drive my family sick with worry. Yes she did stuff to me but I allowed her to and I let me do it AFTER she had already shown me what she was; her nature. See look at this, if a dog bites me, I cannot truly be angry at the dog, it is his nature to bite when afraid. If I keep going to where he’s hiding knowing he’ll bite me, then I am to blame and, frankly quite stupid! You laugh but we have all been guilty. That job, those relationships, that family, those friends, that lifestyle, We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. Until it became enough, right?
 
What made Rosa Parkes decide not to move back on the bus that day? What made Dr. King start preaching as he did? What made Ghandi refuse to back down? Why did Jesus start preaching, John the Baptist? We may never truly know why but we do know one thing for sure; they did. We know they did and we also know this; we can too, even if our Big Moment is smaller, more personal, it doesn’t change the most important part of what saying “this shall continue no more” involves. The bravery; the sheer undeniable unshakeable faith in doing what is Right! Not everyone is brave enough and to teach and every last one of you who won your struggle; whether you changed the world or your job; I here today salute you! I salute you all! Here is the secret I can now tell you;
 
“It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what you think, period. Your struggle is yours alone, your victory, huge! Fight on and be proud you fought, but fight!”
 
Let’s be honest, everyone can post on Facebook and receive sympathy but very few can fight like lions to change their world and maybe other people’s. Very few, remember that.

Rolling With the Critical Punches

Criticism what’s it all about then?

“The trouble with most of us is we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism”

Well it is something we, as writers are exposed to daily. We may receive reviews, we may hear news, we have visitors to our pages, comments and conversations on Facebook. All the time. So what do we do with it?

I have seen it in it’s many forms and seen how it affects people, I have seen people fold and crumple under it’s pressure, I have watched them fail. I have seem others buckle, and start to crack only to take the strain and with a growl and a grimace push it off and turn it back. Without pressure there are no diamonds, they say, no steel. Of course there are caveats, there are two forms of criticism;

  1. Destructive criticism (it’s about argument and power, tear the other down to highlight your supposed superiority)
  2. Constructive criticism (try to help the recipient recognise their weaknesses so that they can improve and do better)

Now, we have a few things to consider here, some elements and things weather pressure, manage destructive forces better than others, the same applies to people. I, personally, am of the group who could not care less what people think about me personally but am smart and experienced enough to know one very, very important fact;

“I am not perfect and nothing I ever do will be”

Not ever, ever in my life will I achieve perfection in anything because no-one can, not one single living person can ever be perfect. Therefore, if someone can see something I cannot which I can consider and make my work better by taking on board, why would I not? Tell me, why? Someone walks up to me and explains how I can triple my income by working a little differently am I going to decide, purposely to earn less? Of course not, who would? As I mentioned previously, writing is a long and lonely road. We invest ourselves in our writing, we pour our heart, our soul, our passion into it. We are heavily invested in it, it is like a child of ours. To criticise our favoured child is to insult our very being! However, if our child is engaged in behaviour which can affect his future, her very life, must we not act to save that child? Let’s run with this metaphor;

We, as parents, bring our children into the world in suffering and pain. Some cost us more than others, the pain is more intense. We want our child to live long, be healthy and to be successful. This is all normal. We will spend long hours raising and instructing this child, suffering for him, suffering with her, to be sure they do well. We will often rebuke our child and show them a better path. We may see our child start to go astray but we kid ourselves, we may even lie to ourselves. Mine is a good child, incapable of evil. A day may come when another will tell us, this child is bad, this child did this, he did that, she was doing that, you did not do your job as a parent well, correct your child! We, of course bristle and react but as we sit at home in thought, looking at our child, do we ignore the signs which have been bothering us and see perfection or do we look deeper and see if we need to take responsibility now before it is too late?

Well that seriously did stretch the metaphor but you see my point, do you not? We, each and every one of us, want our work to be perfect, for people to praise it, for readers to be climbing over one another to read it. We want reviewers to fight for the right to sing of it’s virtues. This is our dream and we are, let’s face it, every one of us dreamers, that’s all part of the business..

There are serious dangers, especially in the world of self publishing, in which many of us live, a great many dangers of such arrogance…

I have my method and my discipline when I write. I write, I edit, I check, I edit some more, I edit again, I proof read, I edit again, I print it out and go through it with a fine toothed comb. I then have someone else read it without any prior view. I go back and edit again. I do not stop until my piece is so polished it shines! Why? This represents me, this is me, how can I put in so much effort and it NOT be my best? Well I am not prefect and I, too have let mistakes; typos, malapropisms, tautologies slip through, I am human (mostly) and I err because I do, we all do. However, when I have others point out my errors, what do I do? I accept them, I filter them, I apply that which I see as beneficial and in such a way, do I grow and my writing does too!

We must learn to accept criticism, to roll with it, to go with it and to listen to it. Once we can accept that we are not perfect and nothing we ever produce will be either, we are starting to learn. I welcome criticism because I want to be among the best and accept my lack of perfection also. What about you?

#criticism #critic #growth #improvement #perfection #imperfection #struggle