The Burden of Creativity

space-exploration-43327We creative types have a difficult job. Essentially, our job is to create something out of nothing. Our job is to be original. To stand out. And eventually, to not only find fulfillment in our creation but fulfill others with it.

For most creative-types, we strive to guide our audiences through an emotional journey. . .

I take that back.

We strive to control our audience’s emotions. Through our creations.

And the fact is, we cannot live without creativity. Creativity turns the wheels of the world.

The reason people go insane in jail cells or on deserted islands? Many will say it’s because of a lack of community and communication. That’s true to a point, but I’d like to add a third option to create a holy trinity of functionality: There is also a lack of creativity being given and received.

When we’re not creating, or thinking organically, or processing, we go stir-crazy. When we’re not being stimulated by other people’s creativity, we get bored, we lose interest in things, we lose focus of life in general.

After all, a single life is a creative force in process, is it not?

So back to us creative-types. We are more than just wayward wanderers, or left-filed players. We are shape-shifters, world-changers, earth-spinners.

 

We are the inventors of existence in that we create something out of nothing. We storytellers guide and influence people’s thoughts, actions, and decisions. We decide what is relevant and important.

But being born centuries late into a creative world, we are faced with a problem. We’re torn between exposing ourselves to creativity for inspiration and shielding ourselves for fear of the temptation to mimic.

As serious storytellers, we are charged with the task to explore uncharted territories. We don’t have the luxury of recreating a school for wizards, a son-hunting fish, clashing superheros with differing powers.

I see serious storytellers as space explorers, forced to venture further than anyone has gone before. The storytellers before us have claimed the nearest stars, those stories have been told and many have been well received. But now we must go further, push ourselves deeper into the darkness and uncertainty of space. It can be scary because what if we waste too much time on an idea, or a star, that’s going to burn out?

That’s the risk we take. But we’ll never know unless we test it. And if we let one story go untested, that just may be one less the story the world, or a life, can be influenced by.

Not What It Seems

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Since I was young I’ve had bad hearing. Thirty-percent hearing loss in one ear and forty-percent in the other. Something like that.

As a result I used to get words words wrong all the time.

For instance…

I thought there was an N in early: “Earnly.”

I used to say “supposebly” instead of “supposedly.” (Except I don’t know what sentences would require me to say that word, but if I said it, that’s how I would have pronounced it.)

I pronounced helicopter: helicockter. 

And if something was corny, I’d say it was horny.

A lot of times things aren’t what they seem. Your life could be heading in a direction completely different from what you expect.

I heard of a guy at work who got passed up for a promotion. Turns out the boss was holding out for a better promotion which he didn’t get because he let his performance slide.

I thought those spots on Michael Phelps were because he sucks at Nerf. Turns out it’s a form of therapy involving suction cups.

I once thought my highest aspiration was to be an author. Now I own my own company.

So take my advice with a great assault and remember that things are hardly ever what they seem.

And check out Endever’s serial novel, “The Underneath” if you’ve caught up with your Olympics viewing.

Writers: Don’t Forget the Sugar

My favorite drink of all time.

It can be ordered at a bar or you can make it yourself.

Drink too much of it and you can get too sick to move. Refrain from drinking it at all and you could suffer major health issues.

I require it every time I come home from work, or home from a walk in the hot sun, or after playing with the kids, or even waking up in a sweat in the middle of the night.

There are three ingredients: Water, ice, and a squirt of lemon.

I have nothing against alcohol – I just don’t like it. I’ve tried whiskey, bourbon, beer and we now have several half-full bottles in the kitchen. Just doesn’t measure up to my taste buds.

I do enjoy a cold V-8 or a glass of milk. I even love bloody Mary – virgin, of course.

But just give me a cold glass of water with lemon and I’m all set. alkaline-lemon-water

But forget the lemon and I just might throw the water in your face. That’s just nasty. It’s like nonfat ice cream, or sugarless gum. What’s the point?

Most writers can tell a basic story. Introduction, conflict, resolution, the end. Easy. But what about the lemon? What about the stuff that makes the banal taste of water sweet (or sour)? What about the flavor?

Are you taking your story one step higher to add that touch of emotion, or comedy, or deeper insight into your characters? Don’t give your readers sugarless candy. Deliver the goods.

Give us a reason to relate to your character by cleverly providing a backstory.

Give us reason to find your characters’ departure from each other heartbreaking.

If you have a comic relief, don’t recycle old jokes you’ve heard elsewhere before. Be original. Give us fresh, new material that we can enjoy.

The Infamous Three-Letter Question

why

My daughter is starting to ask “Why?” to everything that happens.

Most parents get annoyed by it, but I’ve decided to engage her, because I don’t want to stifle her curiosity, or give her any indication that asking “Why?” is at all a bad thing.

For instance, I showed her Disney’s The Muppets (2011) for the first time yesterday. “Daddy loves this movie,” I told her.

“Why?”

“Because it’s hilarious.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s so well written.”

“Why?”

“Because the writers took pride in their work and took their time writing it.”

“Why?”

“Because they wanted the movie to live up to the anticipated hype.”

“Why?”

“Because they had a lot to live up to in order to match the the Muppets’ legacy.”

“Why?”

“Because bad movies don’t add anything positive to the entertainment culture. But good movies contribute positively and bring new ideas to the table.”

And so on. I love that she’s asking why. It gives us loads to talk about. Who knows what paths the three-worded question can take us! But I’d better be careful because I have the propensity to make up things if I don’t know the answer.

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I have a “Why” for you. Why have we only had one J.K. Rowling in the last two decades? Why are good bestselling books so hard to come by? With as many people who are trying to become published authors, why do we hardly hear about breakout authors?

I have a suggested answer to these questions. Check out this weekend’s post I wrote about whether literary agents really are necessary to the publishing industry: Writer’s Cut Out the Middle Man!

Writers: Cut Out the Middle Man!

London - Buckingham Palace guard

London – Buckingham Palace guard

I came across this article by Chuck Sambuchino, “The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents.”

With all due respect to all of the contributors of the article, I must call a time out.

Since when did these agents’ opinions become the standard by which books are written? Who set them up to be the gods of the publishing industry who grants and denies access into one of the most coveted industries in the creative arts? And who, among you struggling writers, is still bowing down to these agents’ decrees?

Think about it. Hollywood, though far from perfect, produces a large handful of blockbuster hits a year. Though it’s not as often as we might prefer, but time after time audiences are introduced to breakout directors, actors, and other big screen talents.

Why, then, have we only been given one J.K. Rowling in the last twenty years? One Suzanne Collins? And yet, James Patterson (whose name is bigger than his skill) is still raking in millions.

Literary-Agents-Today-WEBIt’s these gatekeepers, these literary agents, who are locking the gates to the rest of you. You hang on their every word and piece of advice because they’ve convinced you that it’s by their opinions alone your writing career lives or dies.

In the article above, Cricket Freeman from The August Agency demands writers to not kill the main character off in the first chapter. Yet, I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, where that very thing occurs, and I’m loving it. One of the main character’s death at the end of chapter one propelled me to keep reading.

Laurie McLean from Forward Literary tells writers, “Damn the prologue, full speed ahead.”

Sometimes prologues are necessary. Especially to people whose tastes fall into slower-paced books.

Read the the tips and advice from these agents in the article and for almost each one you’ll find your favorite books break their exact rules.

Writers, it’s time to stop feeding the beast! If you’re a struggling author, you’ve no doubt spent countless hours trying to appease these self-proclaimed gatekeepers only to be rejected again and again and again – with no reason provided whatsoever!

Have you ever considered that their job is to deny your manuscripts, to keep the slush piles from reaching the desk of an actual publisher?

Think I’m crazy? Imagine if Brad Bird had written a query letter to a literary agent:

My book idea is about a sewer rat who dreams of being a cook in one of the finest restaurants in 1e20db52948b7d5b340921e8aa2e6126France. He’s a dirty, filthy vermin who convinces a garbage boy to act as his doppelgänger to cook the restaurant’s greatest dishes.

He’d be rejected five times to the moon and back and probably blocked from a majority of their emails.

I can go on, but I hope you get my point. That’s why you must cut out the middle man, because (with minuscule exceptions) a literary agent DOES NOT and WILL NOT take a chance on you! Why? Because you’re not James Patterson or his cousin. You don’t have a million and a half followers on you blog. You’re a nobody and literary agents couldn’t care less if you have the best idea in the world. They’re looking at names and reputations and resumes.

They’re not looking for ideas because ideas are risks. 

That’s why at Endever Publishing Studios, we put emphasis on ideas. We don’t leave you waiting for seven, eight, or nine weeks before getting back to you concerning your submission (while requesting you don’t query any other agents or publishers). We don’t look for perfection, because we know that it takes time and work to turn any idea into something wonderful and beautiful and, dare I say it, successful.

After all, that’s what we all really want in the end, right? Success?

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Think twice before sending out your eightieth or one-hundred-eightieth query letter to a literary agent. Don’t take their word as the gospel truth. If you feel like readers don’t see enough breakout authors in the industry, think about whose fault that is. Think about all the amazing books and stories we’re missing out on because these agents gave themselves the power to deem what readers should and should not read.

Take a look at my company’s submission guidelines and see if we might be a good fit for you. Yes, I realize our acceptance and denials are subjective as well, but we pride ourselves on our ability to limit that subjectiveness by looking at all submissions with an open mind.

We don’t ask ourselves what we like to read. Instead, we ask ourselves, could this idea contribute positively to the book industry? And if so, let’s make it better!

Editing and Critique Services Being Offered

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All authors are gods in their own eyes. We think our work is the greatest thing produced under the sun, until someone comes around and points out the many flaws in our “flawless” work.

Hopefully you’re not like me and require multiple people pointing out your flaws until you finally swallow the bitter pill of humility and say, “Yeah, you’re right. My work isn’t nearly as amazing as I thought it was.”

And I’m not just talking about bad grammar or typos, either. I’m talking about the overall structure of your story, and even the story itself. Maybe it’s a good idea, but the execution needs a major revamp. Or maybe the execution is brilliant, it’s just that, what’s the whole point? What’s the story arch? What’s this brilliant piece of work even about?

Because it’s hard to get honest and tough feedback from friends and family members, I’m offering editing services, proofreading, and/or critiques for your unpublished manuscript. If you are interested in having me look at your project, please don’t hesitate to get ahold of me at author.andrewtoy@gmail.com. At that point we can discuss pricing options and what exactly you’d like for me to do for your manuscript.

I have over five years of editing/proofreading/publishing consultations under my belt. And there’s a perk for choosing me as your editor – if I see enough potential in your manuscript, I just might consider it for publication under my publishing company, Endever Publishing Studios.

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Hope you all have had a great weekend! Here’s Lynn on submitting your manuscript to Endever Publishing Studios, LLC.

We’ve enjoyed what we’ve received so far, and a few submissions are up for serious consideration, but we’re still open. Happy submitting and good luck!