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How a novel about video games is changing how I write fiction

"Mindset" is a buzzy word these days, but I'm quickly learning it's well worth paying attention to, studying, and mastering as a writer.

Why? Because writing a novel is tough stuff. It takes focus, mettle, creativity, and discipline...all at once.

This week, I've been thinking a lot about the book I'm listening to, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, which is fantastic, by the way. The two main characters, Sadie and Sam, are video game designers, and as such, they are working to perfect their craft in the early parts of the book. There's a quote that, were I reading a hard copy I would have immediately underlined:

“There is a time for any fledgling artist where one's taste exceeds one's abilities. The only way to get through this period is to make things anyway.”

I think, as new writers, we all get to this point...where we fall in love with beautiful, bold, books, whose authors have the power to spin gorgeous prose and stories, and our attempts at something similar fall flat. Where our tastes exceeds our abilities. And, as Zevin says, "the only way to get through this period is to make things anyway."

It can be disheartening comparing the skills and talents of authors who've been practicing their craft for years or decades to our own. We feel like getting there is impossible, that there's no chance we could ever "compete" with them. (As if competition has anything to do with it!)

But I'll tell you what...the writers I see make it are the ones who do two things: they don't let the successes of others to get them down; and they become students and apprentices of the craft of writing. Writing takes practice. It takes belief in oneself. It takes a whole helluva lot of courage.

Short on skill? Make things anyway. Feeling disheartened? Make things anyway.

And slowly but surely, our abilities will catch up to our tastes.

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