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Monday, 20 June 2011

Can too many book editors or artistic opinions spoil the creative brew?

The idea behind this blog article can be adapted to anything, whether you're writing a story, or creating art, or creating anything artistic - but since I've just finished my first novel and everybody wants to be my editor (which I'm thankful for), I'll use a book as an example.

Say you're writing a book (if you're confused because you are not writing a book, read the above paragraph again).

You've put a generous proportion of character development. Put a sprinkle of romance in it. A dash of action. Two cups of intrigue. You've mixed it around, and have let it sit. It is now ready for you to put it in the oven and have people look over your story.

We are still talking about writing a book right? Yes, and I'm glad you bared with me with my over-the-top extended metaphor. Are we talking about a cook book? No, forget the whole cooking thing. Then why did you start talking about cooking? (Excuse me, I'm just having one of my multiple personality moments.) I'm hungry.

Where were we? I have been sidetracked... a feature of this unedited blog apparently.

Now you've got people looking over your work, critiquing and giving advice. Question on your lips is, or sign-languaging hands for those who cannot speak... can you ask too many? Survey says... The plain and simple answer is yes but no but yes but no - to quote a few television shows in one mash-up sentence.

It's great to get different perspectives and ideas (and grammar checks) from willing participants, but the caveat on that is that they are the cooks, and you are the chef. The iron chef with the iron fist.

You use your cutting knife (probably iron too) adding some suggestions and cutting others. So although they are integral to the editing process, do not change your story if it doesn't feel right to you. Or change your artistic vision. Or your art piece. Or whatever.

It is ALWAYS your work, not theirs... however this leads me to...

Two words of warning.

Well, two points of warning. I couldn't summarise each point in one word.

One, don't take offence to what they say.

Everyone has different tastes and sometimes they'll have an opinion that you don't have. That's okay. Doesn't mean your books sucks, or that is must be changed to their liking. (They'd probably tell me enough of the cooking analogy Daniel. You should really have got this blog entry edited. In which I'd answer, "I'm hungry and I don't know why.")

And then there will be people who just never like your work, or the fact you are doing that work. There are many reasons people won't like what you do, and none of them are really ever about you or your work. For example, I find people often tell me I can't do things when they really fear that it will reflect badly on them and what they have achieved in their lives.

And, as I always say (to myself in the mirror with the door closed), if you want to be something different or more than those around you, you have to think and do differently than them. So thinking differently to those around you is the first step in moving forward.

Don't get me wrong, your editors will always (most likely... probably... maybe... perhaps) be well meaning. But subconsciously they won't want you to make them look bad. Success and being different scare most ordinary folk.

And that leads me to my second point...

Two, don't fight over what they say.

It's futile for one. They probably think what they're saying is correct no matter what you say, but more importantly, you should never have to justify your reasons. Does Lady Gaga defend her cigarette glasses, or Michael Jordan ever defend why he wears Nikes, or Charlie Chaplin ever defend why he never spoke? (I hope I'm making you laugh as much as I'm making myself laugh!)

Point being, because you're a genius, or a genius in the making, you don't explain - that's for critics to ponder. Just ask me why I can think that and watch me not justify it because I'm a mother flippin' genius - and so are you - yes, you.

Always thank them for their advice, but you don't have to ever say you'll take it all on baord!

Thank them, use what you want, don't use what you don't want. You may ask them for clarification, but don't go to war with them on why your artistic idea is right and their opinion is wrong. It's an easy equation.

Y x (A + T) x (G - R) = S

Y = Your Work
A = Ask
T = Thank
G = Good Advice
R = Rubbish Advice
S = Success, or sexiness personified

So don't go to war with your editors. Just thank them, and don't take it personally because your art is all about YOU.

(On a side note, if a young Hitler's art pieces had been more accepted we may not have had War World Two so... case in point. And who knows, Ghengis Khan was probably spanked when he did finger painting at pre-school.)

And take a look at it from your editor friend's side of the table. If they feel attacked for opening up with their opinion they'll never give you advice again (and I need people to check my spelling and grammar).

These two points are hard to follow, especially since you've put your soul into your story, but essential to a writer or artist.

Last Thoughts...

Never worry about whether people will like what you've done. I have always found that if you throw yourself completely into your artistic expression, are passionate about it and making it the best possible piece, and love it with all your heart, the world is a big enough place that there will be plenty of people who will support you.

On a side note, one month until my novel is out! :-) Just in case you are one of the people who are going to support ME and buy it!

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