by Jennifer AlLee
Like many of my friends, I’m a fan of do-it-yourself videos. You know the ones. They pop up on Facebook, Pinterest, and various other social media sites, and show us how to make something. It might be how to transform an old tire into a patio seat. Or how to make a fairy tale village out of three terra cotta pots, some succulents, and plastic miniatures. My personal favorites, however, are the cooking videos. Beef Wellington for beginners! The only deviled egg recipe you’ll ever need! Super-simple gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan brownies! The options are endless.
Yesterday, I found a video for Jiggly Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake. I watched with glee as a delicious dessert was created in just one minute and twenty-nine seconds. It was so fast, so easy, so…ridiculous. LOL At that moment, I realized that all the DIY videos are lying to me. Not only are they sped up, showing the steps faster than anyone could replicate, they also have everything pre-measured and ready to go. In addition, they have the miracle of editing on their side. If someone makes a mistake, they just go back and do it again.
My perception of how much I can do, how quickly I can do it, and how proficiently I can complete it, has been warped by the very things which are meant to inspire me.
How in the world does this relate to writing? I’ll tell you. In an effort to perfect our craft, we often turn to books, lectures, classes, and videos for knowledge and inspiration. These are all wonderful things that can help us on our writing journey. But sometimes, we focus too much on what other authors are writing and how well they’re writing it, rather than look at what we ourselves are doing.
Here’s an example. Let’s take a look at Fabulous Writer Alpha. She routinely publishes 3-4 books a year. She has a vibrant social media presence. Forget writing a thousand words a day…she writes a thousand words in an hour. Her How-to-Write books are highly recommended by industry professionals. In short, she’s the kind of writer you want to emulate. So, you read her novels. You read her How-to books. You imitate her productivity calendar and her daily schedule. You try to do everything just how she does it. And it’s a miserable failure.
What happened? If a specific approach and work ethic is a success for Fabulous Writer Alpha, why doesn’t it work for you? Most likely because you overlooked one very important fact: You are looking at the final result of everything she does.
When you read her novels, you aren’t seeing the time spent plotting, thinking, writing, deleting, rewriting, editing and generally agonizing over every page. When you read her How-to books, you’re not seeing all the misfires and mistakes she went through until hitting upon the method that works for her. You see where this is going?
It takes more than one minute and twenty-nine seconds to make a Jiggly Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake. And it takes lots of time experimenting, failing, refining, and persevering to become the kind of author you want to be. Gleaning information from other writers who have achieved a level of success is a great thing. But don’t hold them up as the standard you must attain. How you work and how you write needs to be based on the unique individual you are and what works for you.
I can say all this because I’ve done it. I’ve actually been at a conference and gone up to an author I admired and said, “I want to be you when I grow-up.” Because that author is a sweet woman, she smiled gracefully and merely said, “Thank you.” But I discovered on my own that her strengths are not mine, and vice versa. When I focus on my own talents, I’m a much happier, more productive writer.
So, I write my way. It’s not effortless and speedy like those videos. In fact, it can be pretty messy. But it works for me.
As for the Jiggly Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake, I’ve decided to skip it. But one of these days, I may still give the turn-a-tire-into-a-patio-chair project a try.
Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and grew up above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on Pandora. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. You can visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or her website.