After looking at Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction more closely in my last post, I thought I’d take the first one to consider today.
Information used to be difficult to come by. Before written languages, oral tradition was the only way to communicate ideas and stories. Written forms of communication allowed for external storage of ideas, and facilitated the dissemination of those ideas,
Now we live in a world where instantaneous transmission of ideas is common. What I wonder is whether there are ideas that aren’t worth sharing. That “waste people’s time”, so to speak.
Vonnegut, I believe, was saying that a writer should choose words carefully and craft a satisfactory story. Not so much worry about wasting time as just being expeditious in the writing.
But as to stories or writing wasting time, I doubt that you can waste someone else’s time by putting your ideas out there, provided that they are original ideas. It’s an extension of communication, and your audience will find you.
Or they won’t. Maybe no one reads what you’ve put out there. And no one’s time is wasted. But you’ve put it out there.
Consider Van Gogh, who for his entire life lived in poverty and relative obscurity, as well as some notable infamy. Had he felt that his paintings were a waste of time for others to see, he might have given painting altogether.
We just don’t know how our work will be received, and we can’t self-impose our own limitations. Doing so would be wasting our time.
This blog is shipping. It’s a continuous reminder to me to get the work done. I’m at a point where I can now write every morning. I write here, and I write in my other media (at this time a novel, which I started during NaNoWriMo, but which has been a holdover).
Work completed isn’t much until we get it out. Really, it isn’t completed until you put it out. And it’s scary to put it out. There are times when I’d rather not see the finished product.
I do some work in improvisational acting, and that’s instantaneous shipping. That’s getting up, creating a scene (doing the work) and performing it in front of an audience (shipping), all in one moment. Terrifying!
But doing that, it’s helping me here. It’s helping me everywhere. Because in improv, as in any other work, it’s okay to fail. Maybe one project lands flat. Flatter than flat. Just put it in the dungheap and move on.
Seth Godin has a graph of shipping that looks like this:
Original post here.
This is specifically for the publication of a book. But it applies to any artistic medium. The Y-axis is the joy you feel for the project, and the X-axis shows time passing with each milestone. I think data point 6 is even lower than what’s shown because fear can take hold. That resistance.
But it’s so important to ship. To accept that fear. That fear is a gift. It’s your body telling you that what you’re doing may very well be important. So don’t stop now. Accept the gift, and get your idea out there.
I’ve been doing my radio program on musicals and local arts for about a year now. I think it’ll be a year next month. For it, I’m always playing around with different recording techniques, looking at new equipment such as microphones and audio interface. I’m not optimized for recording.
And yet, I get it done. It may not be perfect, but it’s complete. And every week I ship a new episode – because it’s airing on the radio. So it’s likely been one of the most important teaching tools for creating my art that I’ve been a part of recently.
After the video game broadcasts gets off the ground, my next goal is a podcast with another recording friend of mine. But since I usually lay out my laundry on this blog, I’ve not a clue what we’ll be talking about yet.