A lot of people like to talk about talent. Somehow you are either born with talent or you are doomed to only ever write meaningless emails and policy documents in a carpet lined cubicle. The “born with talent” hypothesis does tend to necessitate ignoring all the time and effort spent learning to: read, write, conjugate verbs and using a keyboard to hit your agent with. Clearly anyone born with talent doesn’t need anything other than to crawl out of the womb and sit down in front of a computer. Every great novelist started this way, publishing their first book not long after they learnt to walk.
The rest of us have to try hard, we have to work at writing. There are two types of try hards in writing: the try hard and the trying hard. So are you a try hard or do you try hard?
A TRY HARD
It’s fair to say that their are try hards present in every aspect of life. The attention whore, the rude guy, the politician; all trying hard. These are the people that are going through the motions. They are the continuously frustrating people in front of you in the ATM queue that take forever to withdraw $10. They are the person walking aimlessly in the shopping mall who suddenly stop to stare at their feet. Try hards lack purpose and drive, but most of all they seem to be everywhere sabotaging others efforts with their very presence.
In writing we are starting to see more try hards. The “I can’t afford an editor” and the “they wanted me to make changes, screw them” self published authors are great examples. Stephen Leather made the point that it seems odd that there is more talk of marketing than there is of writing in the self publishing world: the try hards at work once again. Their presence sabotages everyone else, except for those already successful, they exist in an altered plain of reality where beer is always cold and spending hours writing gives you sculpted abs, something every successful author needs.
Then there are those who are trying hard to make the most of things. This is what you do in order to achieve things: work. Now you may not have natural talent, ability or wads of cash that you use specifically for lighting cigars, but you are working at it. Hard work and effort directed at your writing craft, study on writing techniques, research on your story, general goofing around on the internet; all aimed at improving your skills. Trying hard isn’t just about the writing though, it is about bringing your voice to an audience. Are you really a writer if no-one has actually read your work? Are you really a writer if you have wads of cash specifically for lighting cigars?
Trying hard is all about putting the effort into the important stuff. Try hards are out to cut corners and impress everyone. The people who are working hard know that there are no short cuts – except that left at Albuquerque. Impressing people comes from a job well done, not by bragging to everyone about it.
Or of course you could just get a room full of typewriters and monkeys.
6 thoughts on “Trying Hard”
Wait… are they selling rooms full of typewriters and monkeys? :DSometimes it's hard to figure out which group you're in. I have a feeling I fall into the latter camp (trying hard), but then again, it's rather difficult to discern the line between stubborn genius and brazen stupidity–especially if the line is a tight rope between two highrises, and you're past the point-of-no-return. Should I even be on a tightrope? No damned idea, but it seems silly to question the situation when you're a hundred stories up. Besides, sometimes I wonder if trying so hard is not an indication of success but a symptom of imminent failure. I'd just rather fail for a hundredth time writing another failed book than spend my whole life succeeding in picking up the remote control and watching reruns.If the litmus test for trying hard as a writer is based on not having many readers, then I'm definitely in the running for trying hard camp. And if I have to burn a whole wad of money, I believe they have Monopoly on sale for 18 bucks here in the US, so maybe I'll just be the banker and fight off my grandmother when she sees me lighting up another rolled wad of orange 500s.As for the effort necessary to expend in writing, I think it ultimately boils down to what matters to an author. Does it matter if your work is ever noticed? Do you just want to sit around the Christmas dinner table and look your dad in the face and say "well, I published a book this year, so there!" Or do you write a book that you want to read over and over again without your old man even knowing about it?Even as a scientist–which I used to think was pretty damned important, I don't expect any recognition for almost anything I do anymore. Here in the US, this obscurity may even be a blessing in disguise–seeing as how the American public often villainizes research and intelligence. I just have fun thinking, investigating, creating, testing, and predicting. My favorite experiments, research, and products may never be used by anyone, but I put my hard work into my research because it pleases me–not my adviser, my project principal investigator, or even my sponsors.As a writer, in my infancy over here, I guess I do hope that readers will eventually find and enjoy my work, but I have no real expectations of any such success. I'm not trying hard to impress readers. I'm trying to simply make myself happy with my own productivity and accomplishments. And I'll probably never live up to my own expectations–in research or writing.Will that kind of drive translate into anything? In other words does it even matter if you're trying hard? I almost feel like it doesn't matter unless you feel like your time on this earth should mean anything whatsoever, and I don't begrudge anyone, even a politician, for thriving on a social network of stupid.All I know is that if I am the man withdrawing that 10 dollar bill in front of a line of other people in your scenario (whether they or I are try hards or trying hards), I'll still spin around and tell the rest of the line to suck my balls."Can't you guys see I'm withdrawing 10 dollars over here?"And they can rack their brains trying to figure out which group I fall into.
I find myself between the two groups as well. On the one hand I am diligently writing and have been for years. I'm trying to progress my craft and I think I'm now ready for the push to the big time. On the other hand are Mrs Palmer and her five daughters.How else can you describe the cover ideas, dreams of interviews and wax lyrical about marketing when I haven't even finished the first draft?Actually I might copy this post to Kindleboards and we can discuss further there.
What about the "trying, but not too hard" or the "trying to avoid doing anything?" Where do they fit into your sliding scale?
I think the "Trying, but not too hard" is the traditional literary author. They are somewhere between both categories and have been seen on screen portrayed by Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys)."Trying to avoid doing anything" are also known as dole bludgers or welfare cases. These guys often have a writing grant or advance for a book that is well past due.
You must be a writer, you obviously have no direct personal experience of money! You can't withdraw $10 from an ATM, they only dispense 20s and 50s. And huge wads of cash have gone plastic. Not good for lighting cigars – the toxic money fumes would spoil the toxic tobacco fumes…
Yes Liz, I don't get to take money out of ATMs. Two mortgages and a wife take care of my money.Most countries have gone to plastic money, like here in Australia. Americans do of course still fancy their cotton blends, it matches their jeans. As far as lighting cigars goes though, you really can't go past the affluence of using money, especially if the fumes are toxic. Poisoning those around you is, after all, a sign of corporate success.