How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, man, practice!

No one picks up a guitar and becomes Eric Clapton. No one grabs a pencil and becomes Leonardo DaVinci. No one picks up a basketball and becomes Wilt Chamberlain. And no one sits at a keyboard and becomes Charles Dickens.

Practice, man, practice!

I’ve been writing all my life — short stories as a kid, plays as a teenager, articles for newspapers and magazines when I got older, histories for role-playing games, legal briefs, blog posts … writing, writing, writing.

And you know what?  Most of that early stuff really sucked.

But I didn’t know it. I thought I was writing masterpieces.

It’s very difficult to analyze your own work. Everyone thinks their children are smarter and prettier than everyone else’s children. I look back on things I wrote even ten years ago and see the problems.  And I look at what I am currently writing and know I’m still not where I want to be.

But fortunately for me, there were guardians protecting me along the way. Back in the 90s, I sent some short stories in to the science fiction magazines and they were all rejected. I am so glad they were now, because as I read them today, I see that they were not that good. They deserved to be rejected.

The sad thing is that with self-publishing, people think they no longer need those guardians. They can write something and get it published without having to deal with editors and those who would turn them down.

I’m not talking about the writer who has already published many times who decides to self-publish something. I’m not talking about the author who sets up his own publishing house, hiring editors and copywriters and proofreaders who provide the function of the guardians keeping bad writing away from the public.

I’m referring to the average person who wants to be a writer who thinks that self-publishing is an easy way to make it and who instead merely embarrasses himself or herself by putting out something that should never have been shared with the world.

Please. I seriously have seen it happen too often with friends and others who have asked for my advice and then ignored it. If you’re just starting out, trust those who do this for a living when they tell you your work isn’t ready yet. And most importantly: Don’t get discouraged when they do. Because your next one will be better.

Practice, man, practice.

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