Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, February 03, 2016 14 comments
Photo credit: Alvimann from morguefile.com
I admit, this title is partially ripped off a post one of my Millennial friends linked on Facebook from a site called "Thought Catalog," meant to help folks feel less like a lost cause because, hey, they do this "adulting" thing with at least minimum competence. And they aren't starving or being carpet-bombed. Win!

Since only a handful of you lovely readers leave comments, I don't know how far to go in making sweeping generalizations about those who read this blog. However, I think the following is likely true if you've decided to stop by here today.

1. You have some degree of fluency in English.

Native English speakers, do you have any idea how blessed you are? English is one of the world's most difficult languages to master. Its grammar is difficult, its spelling and pronunciation seems to follow almost no rules at all, and its vocabulary is mind-blowingly huge.

People the world over are shelling out a fortune to have what you have. And believe me, even people with PhDs in English for whom it is their second language often don't write as well as a native-speaking high schooler. So to my teen readers, go you! You can write far more fluidly than the university English department chairs in many developing countries.

And visitors learning English, you are my heroes! Keep adding vocabulary. Keep reading. Keep working hard at your writing. You are doing something phenomenal!

2. You read books.

In fact, if you read at least one book in the past year, you're doing better than one out of every five Americans. (You can read more stats at The Decline of the American Book Lover.) You've likely heard the maxim about putting in 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, but have you also heard the related reading one? That reading about your field for an hour a day will make you an expert in seven years? That should tell you that this one habit can be a powerful force in your life.

Books offer many benefits over other forms of entertainment. Every little bit you do grows your knowledge base and vocabulary. Reading fiction has been linked to increased empathy.

3. You're interested in something besides celebrity gossip.

I blame Facebook for this being on my radar as well. In this video, a reporter went to a college campus and asked basic history and civics questions, like "who won the Civil War?" and "who is our vice president?" The kids overwhelmingly couldn't answer correctly, unless the questions were about a celebrity, then bingo! correct answers every time.

Since you're on my humble page rather than stalking a Kardashian, you are doing a lot better than most at developing into a multi-dimensional person. Go, you!

4. You're seeking to improve yourself.

It's far easier to stick to what you know than to try new things. But you writers are real go-getters. Yes, even those of you who agonize over every word. Who are riddled with self-doubt. Who won't show anyone--not even your cat--what you've written. Because you aren't content to stick to what you know. You are moving toward change.

5. You care about creating something new.

Our world is so fast-paced, it can be overwhelming or conversely fill a person with ennui. But not you. You have stories that demand to be told and you care about them. You're not content to passively sit by and wait for some great tale to come out of Hollywood. No, you're out there in the trenches with your Bic pens and  your laptops and your voice-to-text software dreaming up new worlds, new adventures, new imaginary people that will change readers' lives forever.

6. You have goals.

You might not have a clear sense where this germ of an idea is going, but you are following it to some kind of conclusion. This manuscript has been on your hard drive for a while and more than anything you want to type "the end" on it. You think one more editing pass is probably a good idea for this quadruple-revised and beta-read manuscript. You sent ten more queries to agents about a manuscript you love.

Wherever you are in the process, that you're IN process with a writing project is amazing. Did you know "write a book" is one of the most common "bucket list" items? If you've so much as dreamed an idea for one, you're on your way to something most people hope to accomplish at least once in their lifetime.

7. You have doubts.

Only those with serious psychological problems never have doubts. Doubts are a sign that you take yourself and your creative drive seriously, and that you are taking risks in what you try to write. Doubts make you dig deeper to find the true heart of every story, rather than settle on the first idea that popped into your head at 2 a.m. Doubt is a tool of a craftsman who seeks to continually improve.

8. You're seeking support among like-minded people.

Mentoring has been shown to be a vital ingredient to success. Even if you don't have face-to-face contact with writer-mentors, visiting blogs like mine can be a powerful way to connect to other writers, gain support and advice, and be an encourager to others as well.

Study after study of what makes people happy name "positive social connections" at the very top of their lists. So by networking on social media with people who care about the same things you do, you are also doing a great deal to become a happier person. How cool is that?

Any others that you would add? 

14 comments:

  1. What a sweet and encouraging post.

    Have yourself a pleasant week, Laurel.

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    1. Thanks! I think in the doldrums of winter, this is the kind of medicine we all need. Happy writing and reading!

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  2. So good! #5 is what I say to young people who tell me they want to write but are afraid they'll fail. Just caring sets you apart from most of the population.
    And nothing makes me fall asleep sooner than celebrity gossip. Soul-sucking, mindless...

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    1. Every failure gets you closer to success. That's one to remind them of, too. (Not sure who said it. Edison, maybe?). And I agree about celebrity gossip. I now can barely make myself look at Better Homes & Gardens because they've fallen into the celebrity trap too, and now have a feature on celebrity decorating. Ugh ugh ugh. The corporate overlords will only stop this if we consumers stop feeding the beast and no longer flock around celebrities.

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  3. #2 is important to me. People who never read books do not realize how good books are written. Once had a very intelligent student who read only Apple Pony books and her writing reflected that.

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    1. Can't say I've ever heard of that series. But when it comes to writing, there's definitely some truth to the programmer's maxim "GiGo" (garbage in, garbage out)--ingesting only mediocre works will not grow one's craft the way reading more challenging works will. But read nothing at all and and one will likely have NiNo--nothing in, nothing out.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Accidentally got a duplicated response. Sorry, Susan!

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  4. Love this! Working toward a goal is a huge part of growing as a human. Thanks for the reminder that we're doing okay! :)

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    1. In midwinter especially it's easy to become a little morose, so I thought it would be fun to do a riff of the post I'd seen elsewhere, as a lift for my writer friends. Keep writing, keep growing!

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  5. One of the main reasons for confusing pronunciations and spellings is how many words we have borrowed from every romance language and grafted into US English. Probably some from the Slavic languages as well. Even inventors last names.

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    1. English is sometimes called the thief of languages, because it has built its vocabulary by snatching words from other languages, and keeping their spelling and often their pronunciation as well, rather than folding in terms through a process of alteration.

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  6. It's good to know that doubts are healthy. :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You'll largely find an utter lack of doubts only in people with delusions or with personality disorders. So take heart in your doubts! They also show you're striving to continuously improve.

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