Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let Go

I had an idea not so very long ago. I was going to create a website that was a one-stop shop for advice. I love taking online quizzes that promise to tell me who I am and to give me insight into my personality (come on, you do it too); quizzes like this and this. I'd make my website as scientifically accurate as possible, and it would be huge. Think: Facebook for advice.

I bought a domain name, borrowed a book about PHP and MySQL (coding languages: don't even ask), and downloaded Joomla through my GoDaddy account. And then I started messing around, trying to teach myself how to build a database-driven website, one where people from all over the world could plug in some answers to a series of questions and then be told the answer to the most basic human question of all: Who Am I?

And then I gave up on it. Not because it was too hard (it was too hard, but whatever, I tend to be attracted to impossible projects) or because I'm a flake, and not because I had a crisis of confidence. I stopped because teaching myself a whole coding language started to impinge on my writing time. For a while I was able to balance building the website with giving time to my family and my writing, but I knew that at a certain point, I'd have to choose one or the other: website or writing (ignoring family isn't an option for me). And I didn't want to be put in that position.

The Takeaway

I despise stories with a moral at the end. That being said, here's the moral of my tale: if you're going to be a writer, then be the best writer you can possibly be. Mark Zuckerberg didn't build Facebook while also writing a young adult werewolf novel while also playing for his dorm's softball team. If David Fincher's movie is to be believed, he just built Facebook. Actually, it seems he didn't even go to class much: he just built Facebook.

He. Just. Built. Face. Book.

If writing is just a side thing for you, then by all means, keep practicing your back hand. Stay up till all hours teaching yourself Italian. Be my guest. But if you're a writer, then push all of that other crap aside and just write. And write and write and write. You're not selling yourself short, OK? This from a guy who's never published, I know. But the reason I've never published--and I believe this deeply--is because I've allowed myself to get sidetracked by lots of non-writing pursuits that never went anywhere.

Most of us writers (if you listen to Isabel Myers and that Briggs chick) are INFP's. Say what you will about personality tests (and that first link up there is a link to an unscientific test based on Myers-Briggs methodology, so it may be helpful for you), but I think the MBTI is fairly accurate. And it says that INFP's (which most of us writers are) tend to have their head in the clouds. Tend to daydream. Which is good. But too much daydreaming can lead you down lots of dead-end roads.

So learn from my example--and focus! Because the world needs your stories, now more than ever.

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