As Below, So Above

This morning, the internet gnomes presented me – among other things – an article by Austin Hackney on three big mistakes he made on his writing journey. My first thought was that they would good advice for any writer. My second was that they were good advice.

I recommend reading the entire article: however, if you only want the headlines, his three mistakes were:

  1. Submitting or publishing work that isn’t ready yet.

  2. Self-publishing for all the wrong reasons.

  3. Doing many things to do with writing, but not writing.

On the face of it, all very authorial. However, the wider issues niggle at almost everyone:

  1. Rushing toward the goal: maybe you’ve never published a story before it was ready; but have you ever started running every day then impulsively signed up for a half-marathon? Or read some books on a new piece of software, then applied for a job that has it as a should-have? Confidence is usually better than cowardice, but not if it isn’t based on an honest appraisal of how good we are.

  2. Judging methods on the wrong criteria: if you want to get a pumpkin to the other end of a field as fast as possible, then a catapult is a good method; if you want to get a pumpkin to the other end of the field as safely as possible, then it isn’t. If there are several ways to do something they will each have different advantages and disadvantages, but no one of them is likely to be the best method for all circumstances; so consider what you want and what resources/costs you can spare before choosing.

  3. Stage business: in theatrical terms, business is the group of small gestures an actor performs and is divided into necessary (things that support the plot, such as taking a gun from a drawer before telling another character to hand over the letter) and interpretive (things that support the audience’s mental image of who the character is, such as hunching slightly to suggest the character is scared of another). When trying to achieve any goal there are things that need to be done and things that create an image but don’t achieve the goal themselves; for example, a runner needs clothes to run in so buying something suitable advances toward the goal of running, but going shopping for running gear when you already have some makes you look like a runner without actually moving your closer to the goal.

What examples of specific advice that also applies widely to do you have?

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One thought on “As Below, So Above

  1. Three things it’s helpful to think about at some point: time, money, expectations. Time may be the most abundant resource (depending on what else you do with it besides writing and publishing). Don’t spend large amounts of money unless you actually have a good reason to do so. I would never recommend going into debt in your writing/publishing adventure. Finally, have a talk with yourself about what you really expect — sales in the dozens, thousands or millions, becoming a celebrity writer, keeping your brain active, connecting with a few like-minded readers? It’s crucial to be honest with yourself about this, because it can make the difference between feeling like a failure or a success.

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