Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why the Dark Side Is Necessary

Everyone likes being told that they're good at something. I mean, sure, sometimes we get a little nugget of self deprecating hatred that chants NO STOP TELLING ME I AM AWESOME AND LET ME BE EMO. But generally? We glow. We primp. We bounce and dance and think YAY.
And things are good. You're in the middle of a land with purple skies and cute boys and there might even be some really cute, cuddly animals. Every piece of praise sends you a little deeper inside of it.
But. Somewhere, off in the glowy, sparkly distance of praise, you will find a thin, glittering line.
And once the praise pushes you past that line, the skies get a little bit darker. The boys aren't quite so cute. Those cute little animals suddenly have really freaking sharp teeth and they are totally willing to bite into your leg and possibly try and eat it.
You have just passed the line from the world of 'I am Awesome' to the illustrious land of 'Oh, crap.'
Suddenly, you realize that you have problems.
Your pretty story? Yeah. There's a plot hole. A big one.
But no one noticed.
Or if they did, they were too nice to really say anything about it.
And that, you realize, is a big, big problem. If you have been gathering glittering praise, then you would think that someone, somewhere would have hit you with a big pile of muck. They would have had to. But . . . you can't remember that. You're too busy living in the glitter world -- but your story isn't glittery yet.
You've been taking bad advice; advice that tells you that you are perfect.
Because come on. Unless you look like Alex Pettyfer and have the brain of Einstein and the social skills of Oprah, you probably are not perfect.
(Why, yes. I did see the need to give you visual aid. Don't you just love that about me?)
A while ago, I helped edit someone's story. This person informed me that he wanted my honest opinion; I was told to write my good thoughts in green and my bad thoughts in blue. I was told not to use all green because surely, somewhere, I could find a couple of flaws. Out of annoyance of being bossed around, I used purple.
And I was mean. I edited and ripped and tossed my friend into the 'Oh Crap' land.
But here's the thing;
You have to be able to live in both worlds. And you need to be able to handle that.
I think we all need to live in the land of 'Oh, Crap' at least a couple of times. We NEED someone to shove us into it. We need to see those stormy skies and pray we don't get hit by lightning and despair because our hair is now ruined for the day. But most of all, we need to find the strength to pull ourselves out of that world.
I was on Inkpop, as a lot of you know, and got my story into the Top 5. I know,  that doesn't seem like that big of a deal -- but it meant a ton to me -- and that was a world that can easily toss you onto either side of the glittering line. But as you start to  climb higher, and as you start to gain more and more 'status' (and I hate saying it like that, but it is weirdly true; people are much nicer now that I have a star by my name) and people start to get afraid to tick you off. They tend not to tell you when you're writing crap.
And so you don't get to grow. You are stuck in the glitter. And while it's a pretty place to be, what with all those hot guys (or girls, if that's your thing), you aren't ever going to grow there.
I guess it's the purpose for beta readers. But more than that, it's the importance of having someone who isn't afraid to knock you on your butt.
You need to become aquainted with the flying and glittering and shimmering world of Pretty. But you need to know the other side too. If you don't, than your ego starts to build and build and build and you won't be able to listen to any knocking-on-butt advice. The friend I edited for? They stopped writing. They said that they had realized they just were never going to get better.
And that is so not cool.
They'd gotten too accustomed to the sparkly world. The emo one was too much after being so firmly lodged in the glitter. And . . . well. That sucks. It sucks because everyone is not that hot a writer when they start out (except for freaking Maggie, who has been funny and smarmy from the first freaking document she sent me) and you have to, just have to, be able so see that someday, you will get to the glittery world. And you have to see that you can get there, that it's possible, and that if you sweat and bleed and drink a lotlotlot of bad-for-you-but-heavily-caffeinated drinks, you can get better at writing. It takes time, and since writers are naturally self deprecating folk, that can be hard. But you can't give up when you see the coming storm.
 But, on the other hand, you need to see that storm. If you haven't been pelted with its obnoxious rain of evil, you won't understand just how awesome the pretty drizzly stuff in the glitter world is.
I mean, how can you understand how pretty Alex Pettyfer is without having seen the trolls? The ones with big green fingers and huge noses and eyes like rotten oranges? And it'll make you like the cute little animal a ton more when you realize that it doesn't have razor sharp teeth.
Plus, just think about this; when you've clawed your way back over the glittering line, you'll have a story that totally deserves to live in a sparkly world.
Things become more valuable when you have to fight to obtain them. I've been residing in dark emo land for the past few days, staring at Altered and thinking ohmygodmyprettystoryjustturnedbackintoaroughdraft. And it is not a pretty world. I have been so used to getting good comments about it that when I got the revision letter tearing it to shreds, I felt like someone had smacked me. But it was kind of a good feeling; like, okay, the praise means twice as much because obviously they don't have a problem pointing out the bad stuff. If I can pull this off, then maybe, I think, it'll be okay to reside in the glitter world for a little while; after all, I've seen the other side.
(Dude, that felt cheesy.)
What think you?
More later.


Maggie said...


Gah. I am a bad friend-writer-person. D:

(On a side note: I write smarmily? I don't even know what that means, but it sounds pretty good! Even though we both know it isn't true. -glares- But thanks!)

(Oh, and I still have mixed feelings of pity and anger that Friend quit writing after the feedback. Eh.)

I agree with this. Everyone should be kicked back into their place after so much big-headedness. Except for me, because I honestly love sparkly world too much to care if people actually hate my stuff. Ahem. Lookit! See pretty Taylor on my arm? With the purpleness shining over us? And out pet giraffe? (Giraffes are cute and fuzzy too, okay!)

Sam said...

Maggie: -grins- I wasn't referring to you, dear one. That was just a random example. And you do tell me the bad things too. (And you haven't read the rewrites yet, btw. They are not so hot.)
Smarmy; like snarky. But I didn't want to say snarky.
And you do too live in dark world occasionally. -glares-
I have mixed feelings. Mostly frustration. Friend expected to be the next best thing since JK Rowling on his first try. It's unrealistic and it makes me sad.
And if you get a giraffe, I get a panda.

Anonymous said...

the visuals, yes I love you for them.

And this blog post was awesome