I worked for a couple of years with an actor named Chris. He was gangly and thin, and had a face that, in the words of my film teacher, was great for television. Chris went to an intercollegiate festival his senior year, and most of his teachers expected him to do well.
Did Chris Protect His work?
He didn’t. In the competition, he did extremely poorly, and came home in disgrace.
Chris, when I knew him, was one of those nobodies who could have been a somebody. He was not a blistering comet of talent, but he had sufficient aptitude and sensitivity to get himself places professionally, with a measure of hard work and strategic planning.
How Did He Fail To Protect His Work?
After I had known Chris for a while, he started working on a Shakespeare speech for a competition. Chris, in preparation for this speech, had not read the play, and did not understand anything about the character’s relation to any of the other people in the play. He was convinced that he would do well anyway.
He did not do well.
How Can I Protect My Own Work?
What is the purpose of this story about my acquaintance Chris? Well, I will tell you. Some time before I closed up my theatre business and moved away, I collaborated with Chris on a small directing project. He had studied acting; he would, I was sure, have the sense to function reasonably well as a director when I was not present.
I came back to see how the project was going later on. It was an unfortunate mess. The actors had zero protection. I was engaged in damage control for weeks afterwards.
You Should’ve Paid Attention To His Lousy Work As An Actor, Victor!
When you present any kind of creative work for public consumption, you risk exposure, ridicule, and outright abuse. There exist in this world unpleasant people who gleefully take advantage of vulnerability and weakness. When you write fiction, you create of yourself a great, throbbing target, and the assholes of the world lob poisonous arrows at you.
Isn’t That An Exaggeration?
If you are not prepared for attack, you may not have a pleasant experience as a writer.
Let us get down to brass tacks, as it were, and look at four things you need to have in place in order to protect your work.
The Four Things You Need:
- Clean your goddamned transitions, for the love of all that is holy.
- Remember that the most vocal critics are so creatively blocked that they’re marinating in a toxic stew of self-hate and jealousy; no exceptions. Anyone who is tearing you down or making barbed remarks about your work has poisoned their own creative process and lacerated their potential.
- Build an impenetrable shell of reducible ideological armor over each piece of work; if you cannot deliver a brief, unassailable quip about the message of the piece, keep the work to yourself.
- Disengage your personal self from the work; this is essential.
Starting with no. 4, how, you might ask, can you disengage your private self from the things you write? This is an oft-neglected aspect of yogic philosophy; the self is a brilliant, expansive coalescence of light that exists slightly behind your physical form. When you divorce your understanding of yourself from your visceral experience of life, you become able to make more informed choices, and your priorities tend to organize themselves (because the impermanence of mortality becomes clear).
Yogic Philosophy, Huh?
Many, many–in fact, shall we go ahead and say all? All amateur creatives feel that their true selves are inextricably incorporated in their work. They think they have woven their true souls into the words, or into the music, or into the dance. They genuinely, in their most secret hearts, think that they are different to and better than professional creatives, because, in their way of thinking, they “really mean it.” It, in this case, being the act of creation.
Now, let us move towards no. 3, and examine the white shell of impenetrable energy required to protect legitimate creative work. (In this case, your fiction writing.)
Many people I have known would grow quiet and enraged at the use of my word, “legitimate.”
“All creativity is legitimate,” they might say or think. Their minds would close off, and they would feel thoroughly superior and educated in their hearts.
Not to burst your benevolent bubble of superior integrity, but there are creative exercises that are destructive, toxic, and inherently manipulative. These malicious acts of creation I would not class as legitimate.
Illegitimate, or dastardly pieces of creativity are like destructive bombs, or like poisoned darts. As such, they require no protective shielding. Their expression is often as exposed and naked as possible, to ensure maximum penetration and disruption of the intended audience.
The Protective Shell
How to create this protective shell? This is impossible to do without an internalized moral framework. Fear not, dear internet stranger, you already have one, ready-built in your unconscious mechanism, and tweaked by life experience. To draw the moral framework to the surface, think for a moment of some childhood wrong you endured, and allow yourself to get steamed about how unfair it was. Ta da! There is your internalized moral framework! When you lay your moral framework (this is what you believe about fairness, good/bad, and right/wrong) between the writing and the audience, you have your protective shell.
The protective shell is white and impenetrable because internalized integrity burns very hot, and coalesces a plane of hard energy just outside your vulnerable areas. Terrifically-bad people will attempt to talk you into taking apart your own energy, because if you don’t take it down, they can’t get in at your true self.
We come now to no. 2: the soured character and distorted creativity of lame-ass critics. When a person has rejected and deformed their own ability to create, to dream, and to imagine, they begin to starve to death in their personalized energy zone. In order to survive, they feed on unprotected creatives. To use the creative impulse to destroy a pure impulse, or to gnaw on the exposed soul of a beginning writer, is to destroy your own ability to make anything worthwhile at all.
When you remember that people who attack you are literally dying in their souls, it becomes easier to let their attacks and undermining criticisms roll off your shoulders.
An Example Of Soured Creatives:
I am excessively attractive, to the point of being one of those sizzling-hot people who irritate failed actors. I know it sounds like I am really tooting my own horn here, but without this preface of my personable qualities, this story would not make as much sense.
Long ago, when I had not learned about family dysfunction, and when I thought that all attractive people were treated like home-grown sex workers by their families of origin (don’t worry, I escaped after much drama), I worked for a couple of women who were directing a show.
Gee, those women hated my guts. I was perhaps sixteen at this time, and did not realize that two of the teenagers in the show (one of whom was supposed to “belong” to the first director’s progeny) were pining after me.
One day at rehearsal, the first director told me to adjust one of my lines (I was supposed to say “coffee,” but we had some water on the stage). Being an obedient performer, I gave the line as directed the next day, when the second director was there.
You would have thought I had sacrificed a baby goat on the stage and yodeled as I flung the blood over the set dressings. The first director was there, and she sat beside the conniption-having second director with a smug smile on her face.
What Happened Next?
The show was so-so in performance, and one of my heart-broken admirers got together with my best friend by way of consolation.
Wow, Victor, That Story Was Really Long
My first and second directors were upset that I was hot, talented, clever, and responsive. They wanted to tear me and my creative ability apart because they were divorced from their own inherent abilities to create original material.
There are a lot of people like this. When you create original material, people of this ilk are going to pop out of the woodwork and try to cannibalize you and destroy your ability to create.
Gosh, Victor, You Sound Pessimistic!
If you choose to see the vitriol of sour-grapes as an inevitable response to authentic creativity, you can see it as a compliment, and as a definite sign that you are doing something very right.
No. 1 (Hooray, The End!)
And now we shall look at no. 1, where I exhibit poor judgment, and swear excessively. Clean your transitions, and keep them clean. Messy, slow, disorganized transitions are just the worst. Look after your transitions, and don’t waste your reader’s time and energy. Keep them clean.