Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Liberating Power of Subjectivity

Recently the good folks at Iron Butterflies Project featured the story of my failed playwriting class. It's always fun to get featured somewhere, and I was grateful to get to share my story. But one of the best parts for me this time was the conversation with some of the colleagues who had been in that class with me.

These friends are some of the most talented writers I've worked with. But it reassured me to find out I wasn't the only one who had struggled in that class!

Since that conversation, I've been thinking a lot about the subjective nature of writing--and how liberating that truly is, in the end.

Image credit: Juliet Tang, Shift

Majoring in English is an adventure. There are no rules that can't be broken, no formulas that must be followed, no expectations that can't be turned upside down, no answers that can't be challenged.

You have a lot of freedom.

But it sure makes a perfect GPA difficult to achieve, because no matter what you write, it won't resonate with everyone.

For example, one of the colleagues I spoke with pointed out a monologue I had written in that same playwriting class . . . which ended up winning an award in our university's literary journal.

I didn't think that piece would go far. The teacher had required everyone to submit something to the journal, and my monologue--truly a rush job, compared to my other work--was just the first thing I had ready before the deadline.

But a few weeks later I got an email from the journal's managing editor, who said how much he loved my piece and how it would shine as the only work of drama his staff had chosen to publish. The following month, the staff invited me to read my piece at the journal's launch party--after the actor they wanted to hire to perform it fell through.

So, in front of colleagues and professors, I got into my character, an aging piano salesman forced into early retirement, and read my monologue.

The audience applauded when I finished. And on the way back to my seat, I carried a certificate that essentially said, "Yes, we like your work, so stop doubting and keep writing!"


But in my class? The monologue got a C.

Not everyone will see the same work the same way. As a writer, I've had to learn to be okay with that.

Look at the millions of Harry Potter fans around the world. Over twenty years since the first book was published, the series remains a cultural powerhouse.Yet there are people who don't like Harry Potter.

Now look at the negative reviews of Twilight. It's a story people on the Internet love to hate--or at least love to meme. Yet by 2010, the series had sold more than 100 million copies (note that this number has since had eight years to go up even further).

An example; I withhold my opinion.
Image credit: Know Your Meme

And it's not just books. I can't tell you how many movies I love that most people didn't (Solo, Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within, that Super Mario Bros. movie they made . . . ).

My point?

It's easy to get bogged down in perfectionism.

I naturally want everyone to enjoy the stories I create. And that idea crippled me when I thought it was possible.

But here's the thing: Not everyone is going to like what you create. And that's nothing against you.

It doesn't mean you're not talented.

It doesn't mean you haven't made something amazing.

Maybe my reader isn't into the genre. Maybe a certain plot point doesn't work for them. Maybe they don't identify with the main character.

Granted, it's my job to make my work as effective as possible for everyone who reads it. What are alpha and beta readers for if I don't act on their constructive feedback?

But embracing the idea that not everyone will love my work has given my writing new life. It empowers me to write more dangerously--faster, freer, and, dare I say, better.

Because no matter how small the audience . . . there will still be an audience.

I've learned to write to them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Warped Plastic #28


Staying cool in the summer is a common endeavor for everyone, including Lego minifigs. I've always wondered how swimming actually worked for them, though....


More Warped Plastic

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Peculiar People #8


I'm back today after taking a challenge from the president of my church to log off social media for a week! I'm rather proud of myself: with the exception of answering a couple of private messages (a social media gray area) and what I had to do as a social media representative for my employer, I completely stayed off social media all this past week!

It's been liberating and empowering, and I've had a great chance to reflect on how I use the Internet and social media and what I can do better. But it's also good to be back. It'll take some time for me to get caught up with notifications and things, but for now, as promised, here's a fresh comic straight from Mormon life!


More Peculiar People
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