Monday, January 7, 2013

Let "Show, Don't Tell" Be Your 2013 Mantra

It's standard writing advice, right? Show, Don't Tell? As a writer, you hear those words so often, you probably want to pull your hair out and HERE is Mama Bitchstress saying them to you AGAIN, OMGWTFBBQ SKYLA??

As often the case, that which is true in writing also is in life.

I read this Cracked article the other day. Go check it out.

No really, I'll wait.

*two hours pass*

Right. I forgot to warn you Cracked is like a gateway to procrastination hell. (Second only to TV Tropes.)


Anyway, you'll notice in a lot of ways the article basically sounds like our Gothic Goddess giving advice, straight down to proclaiming the hippies as being wrong (those dirty, dirty hippies). But one of the things that stuck out to me was "What You Are Inside Only Matters Because of What It Makes You Do" on the second page.

Let this be the year you show what you are instead of tell.

If you are a writer, stop telling people this. Just stop. Stop and do. Spend a week loosely tracking how many hours a day you spend talking about writing/telling people you're a writer vs the actual motherfucking writing you DO. The former should not be greater than the latter.

Notice I say "write" and not run out and throw your shit on Kindle. Publishing doesn't make you a writer; actually writing does. Honing your craft does.

Are you querying? I can't tell you how many fucking cover letters I've read where the writer assures me the book is really funny. Again, our advice for life: don't TELL ME you're funny, SHOW ME. Write a query letter showcasing your sense of humor.  This is not rocket science.

And yet it is, actually, or feels like it. In life it's very easy to say you're something when your actions say something else.

But here's the thing: Life is not a YA novel and you are not the secretly awesome, compassionate, funny but shy girl no one notices. The Hot Boy is not going to one day zero in on you and see The Real You and defy social expectation by hanging out with you because he just "knows" deep down your amazing, kind heart by just looking in your fabulous probably-violet-coloured eyes.

What you think happens.
What actually happens.

Someone isn't going to notice you in life and then take you to the prom because you're SO AWESOME INSIDE and live happily ever after.

You don't become a better writer without writing stuff. You are not going to get a publishing contract without submitting stuff and showing stuff like you're an entertaining storyteller. You are not going to successfully network and make friends in this industry unless YOU make YOURSELF someone that other people will want to hang out with.

Sit down and make a list of everything you think you are. All of the various attributes. Now...what have you backed up with actions in the last week? In the last month? Writers, have you written anything? If you're compassionate, have you actually done anything for anyone recently? If you consider yourself gracious, have you thanked people for things? If you believe you're a good friend, have you reached out to anyone lately? Have your actions shown that you are the various things you think you are?

Because I can tell you, the world at large doesn't give a fuck who you think you are inside; what matters is what you do, how you interact, and what you contribute.

Don't answer the questions above. Don't think. Don't tell me. Simply do. Make this the year that you decide to show who and what you are instead of just tell people.

And be sure to make your actions evil.

Happy 2013: The Year of Eviltry. Now do the work.

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