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I pre-ordered a copy of Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve last week and had a chance to sit down and read it when I was house sitting for a friend.
Before I begin my review let me just say this is not one of those “YOU CAN DO IT!” books where you feel exhilarated and motivated after you read it. This is one of those books that starts by pumping you up, then it hits you in the gut with your own failures by showing you all the times when you could have been successful with your art, but weren’t.
This makes book makes you reflect on all of the missed opportunities you had. It confronts you with your sloth and cowardice. That’s what it did to me. The worst part is that Jeff Goins doesn’t write to offend or accuse. He is a competent writer with an academic style, using historical narratives from many different artists to make his points. In many ways this book feels like a book of history.
The book strikes a cord.
Essentially, Real Artists Don’t Starve debunks the myth of the starving artist. The person who must suffer financially for their art because they have no audience to sell too, or the market is too crowded and depresses prices, or whatever reason society offers for why artists aren’t well off.
Jeff Goins breaks the book into three sections. Mindset, Market, and Money. Goins covers everything from defining patrons and finding mentors to giving you permission to steal liberally and knowing when to sell out.
This book is cogent, thoughtful, and intelligent.
Jeff Goins redefines what a mentor is and what a patron is, for our modern audience. He makes the elegant argument that genius happens in groups. After reading this book, you will be compelled to re-evaluate your art, but your approach to the business of your art.
See, too many people have accepted the lie that to be a great artist you need to sequester yourself in a cave with your art tools and slave away in obscurity. That the only way to mastery is to abandon the world, normative society, and your loved ones so you can dedicate yourself to your art.
At the same time, the renown artists crave for can only had if artist leave their cave. (And, Goins has a word for those artists who say “I don’t
crave that stuff. I make art for me.”) How can the world enjoy your work if you never tell us about it? How can you earn a living as an artist if you never know your worth?
The Lies about Art
All of the bad mojo, the misconceptions and outright lies about art and business of art are confronted here in a nice volume just over two hundred pages. I read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself fist pumping in the air at times while sitting in shock during others. It is that good.
I really enjoyed all of the historical research Jeff Goins did for this book. He had anecdotal stories from artists as varied as Michelangelo to
Earnest Hemingway to Dr. Dre. He talked about Paris in the 1920s and Silicon Valley in the 1980s. He showed me the business sides of artists and struck a cord.
Right now there is no paperback copy. You can get it in hardback or as an e-book. If you consider yourself an artists, or know an artists, get this book. But be warned: Your conceptions about art will be challenged and you might find yourself re-evaluating some of your life choices. I know I did.
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Writing can be a solitary action. You can go to conferences (Pike’s Peak’s Conference is coming up!), join a critique group, get invited to book release parties. They are all fun. However, your job as a writer is to plant your butt in a seat and put words on the screen. For a lot of people, this can be very hard.
Today’s blog on historical fiction won’t have a lot of suggestions on how to put words on your screen. There is no secret to writing. If you say you are a writer, then you’re going to have to sit down and write.
There is a fallacy that writing requires inspiration at every turn.
There is a fallacy that writing requires lots and lots of talent.
There is a fallacy that writing requires an unburdened mind so you can concentrate.
None of these things are true.
All you need to write a book is a kernel of an idea and the intestinal fortitude to write it. Everything else you can learn along the way.
Is it going to be hard? Yes.
Will you get frustrated? Absolutely.
Will you discover knew deficiencies in your writing that you’ll have to correct? Count on it.
Will you probably poor blood, sweat and tears into a story you realize isn’t very good? Uh huh.
But that’s the process isn’t it? You have to go through this journey yourself in order to find the story that’s inside you. The only way to do it is to do it.
Enough badgering. Here is what helps me.
Because I use Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat outline, I plot out every scene I’m going to write for a novel. Those outlines show an emotional high, an emotional low, and a conflict. (Remember, every scene you write must have some sort of conflict in it.) Because I have these tools, (or crutches, depending on your point of view,) I can write out a scene. Then I can write another one. And another one. Eventually I have a book because I’ve outlined all my scenes.
I may decide to change something while I’m writing it, or I can go back and re-write. (more on that later) But at least I have something on the page.
Here’s another hint. Writing is a muscle, so use it every day.
If you can’t do this, I understand. You’ve got a life. Maybe you’re a full time student. Maybe you run a business. Maybe you’re fighting a disease like Cancer. I get it. But let me say this.
The world needs your story. Make your story a priority in your life. Carve out time, if only twenty minutes a day, and write.
Over a month, a season, or a year, you will write your novel. All you have to do is create a habit of writing. If you do that, over time, eventually you’ll have a completed manuscript. (Which is more than most writers have!)
So how do you do that?
It’s like brushing your teeth. You set a time of day and write. You make a writing place where you are in the habit of writing. The time is up to you. 4:30 in the morning or 10:00 at night. Whatever helps you. As for the place, it can be your kitchen table. It can be in your moved out kids converted bedroom. It can be in the tool shed. I once knew a college professor who had to write a book, so he would go to a set number of coffee shops and rotate. The time and place are up to you, it’s the habit that’s important.
Another hint: Flex your muscles by upping your daily word count.
When I first started writing I could barely write 1,000 words a day. It was exhausting. This was in 2013, the first time I participate in NaNoWriMo. That first week was killer! I knew I had to get to 1667 words a day, but I was exhausted! Things changed week 2.
By the end of the second week I was writing about 1700 words a day.
By the end of the third week I was averaging 2100 words a day.
By the end of the fourth week I was averaging 2300 words a day.
Now when I write, I get mental fatigue at about 3000 words, on average. So my advice to you is push yourself. Where ever you’re at when it comes to word volume. Tell yourself you will write 250 more words today than you usually write. If you average 500 words, try to write 750. If you write 2300, write 2550. Average that out for the week. Then, next week try to write 250 more words. I promise you that your daily word totals will go up.
Final hint: Write what you wanna write first.
Fellow writer and author James Vincett gets a scene in his mind. It’s like an itch he can’t reach. So he’ll put that scene down on paper. Then, he’ll get another scene in his head and write that one down, too. He’s written the fun stuff, first.
Once that is written, he’ll outline and write all the stuff that comes in between. For James, it’s an intellectual exercise in trying to connect two scenes together in a coherent and cogent way. It works for him.
As for me, like I wrote above, I outline all my scenes before I write. There are some I dread writing and others I really look forward to. I make myself write the mundane stuff first. I then reward myself by writing the cool stuff I wanted to write all along! Try it. Maybe it will work for you.
I am sorry I wasn’t more helpful. I’m sorry that all I could do is come up with some suggestions to help you stay motivated. However, this is where your metal is tested. Are you really a writer? If so, then write. Write every day, if you can. Get some progress under your belt. Even if you only write a page a day, that is better than no pages at all. Remember, the worst page written is better than the perfect book in your head.
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