I watched this video: http://vimeo.com/24715531 and it made me think of my gap. It’s a good thing you don’t see how long, physically and in time, the gap actually is. It’s like skiing, to me. You have to be young enough when you start that you can’t see how stupid it is to strap on planks and fall down a mountain. It’s a lot easier to teach a child how to do it and have fun than it is to teach an adult the exact same lesson. It’s so much like writing. Learning to write as an adult shines a spotlight on your shortcomings and there is a shortage of safe places where you can try and fail and learn from your mistakes. Kids can sing and dance and draw without being “good” at it. Adults have to be good at things from the start, and writing is like any other skill. Knowing what you like and not being able to reproduce it is frustrating!
I didn’t start getting paid actual spending money for my writing until 2007. My goal had always been published before 25. I made it by a couple months, but then got stuck in a bad rut.
One of the things I regret is little support I was given as a child in my writing. My parents were terrified I was planning to be an artist and they wanted me to have a realistic goal for supporting myself while I was writing. They had a lot of faults, but they seemed particularly set on making sure I knew how bad I was at this thing I wanted to do. I’m sure they were afraid I would fail, but even at 12 or 13 I was certain there was some element of them being afraid I’d be successful, too. Mom gave up her dream to be the first female CEO of CIBC to have kids, I wasn’t allowed to be successful either. My dad bought me a computer to write on back in 1988, but not until after I’d been writing with an electric typewriter for two years. At 21, he helped me send my latest book out to Tor, but told me there wasn’t a chance in hell it would sell.
I knew there was no statistical chance that book could have sold. My parents never told me how good I was at writing, because I wasn’t good and we all knew it. My character was a walking, talking cliche with a cliche sword, a cliche horse and a cliche enemy. It was a perfect example of what was original was not good, and what was good was not original.
A couple years later, though, I discovered fanfic. If a royalty check is a steak cooked exactly to your liking, fanfic is the pizza burn on the roof of your life. Time=money as much as money=time, and it’s really easy to get everything you need from writing through fanfic. There was no money in it, of course, but it had lots and lots of immediate feedback. I had never had a willing reader before. I’d never met a community of writers before. Fanfic brought me Dvorah. I regret nothing for all the years I “wasted” “just” writing fanfic. I learned so much and I respect writers who are completely happy doing what they are doing. Writing is a hobby. Some people like Sunday bike rides and some people shrink their testicles to win international competition. Neither are riding a bike the wrong way. (side note: There is a wrong way to write fanfic, but it’s the same trap as pro-fiction — attention is owed)
Devo changed my life in as many ways as my wife has. If I hadn’t met her, I might not have been on the path that allowed me to meet my wife. My writing improved by leaps and bounds. Devo is the best, not just because of the tools she has given me, but because I can please her by being true to my own voice.
Ideal readers help navigate the gap, but the only way out of it is writing.