So, if you've followed my Twitter stream at all, you know that I'm a writer and filmmaker that is involved in helping others to promote themselves. I've worked with a lot of people in the industry (both publishing and film/television) and there are some things that I've noticed about those that are successfully working in their artistic fields and those that are not.
We all know that talent is important. We feel it. We know that quality matters. Of course. Problem is, we can ALL point to absolute crap that's been published or filmed. Then we look at our own stuff and think that it's at least as good as any of that. So then we're in this weird place where we flip flop between arrogance and insecurity. Our stuff is good enough to be out there, but we haven't had the success we want yet. Our judgment must be compromised. Or we're jinxed. Something.
Thing is, talent does matter. It just doesn't matter the most. Dedication, consistency, persistence, determination are all things that ultimately may be more important than talent alone. I've seen too many people that I didn't consider to be talented succeed and continue succeeding, that I have to believe that talent is only one variable in the formula for success.
Oh, here's something else for the talent purists out there. Talent can increase. When Kim Basinger started her acting career, it was as a Bond girl. Her performance was less than memorable. But she was attractive, she was dedicated, she was determined. She persevered, and eventually got to the point that she won an Oscar. She worked out her problems and hangups on the big screen, by doing the work.
All of us have voices in our heads. Negative voices that scream that we're not good enough, we'll never make it, we're dooooomed! I've already said that talent isn't the determining factor in success, and I think that most professionals would agree with me. What seems to me to be the determining factor is whether we can manage our self-destructive tendencies. Can we corral our inner demons that are constantly screaming silently at us in our heads?
What keeps us from being the kind of people that demonstrate all of those scary, scary qualities I mentioned earlier? You know. Dedication, consistency, persistence, determination? Do we exhibit all of those traits? And if not, why?
I've found that most people that we typically think of as "lazy" or "procrastinators" are actually just scared. They've got voices yelling at them that if they really TRY and then fail, they've truly FAILED. FOREVER!! Easier to just sit back on their heels and engage in a little self-destruction. When we put it into those clear terms, of course they don't want to do this, but in the moment, it's easier to just... lose track of time.
There's another trap. It's the "push forward at all costs" trap. This group realizes that hard work is necessary to succeed, so they will kill themselves, working without sleep to get their work "finished". Problem is, it's never finished. Once they get close, they either start working on a new and exciting project, or go into OCD mode, polishing, polishing, polishing... and never getting it out there.
Neither way works all that well. The successful authors, screenwriters and filmmakers out there work consistently, putting time aside everyday to work on their passion projects. Most started out doing this while holding down at least one full-time job. No excuses. Put it on the page. Five to ten pages a day of writing is a good goal to work up to. That's about what professional authors do, and that's what we want to be, right?
But the most important part is actually writing. Putting fingers to the keyboard and pounding out words. Yes, craft and structure matter, but getting craft and structure is, once again, secondary to ACTUALLY WRITING!! The voices in our head will come up with all kinds of reasons to keep us from doing it. If we realize that it's just our fears creeping in, and that the only way to become whole is acknowledge those fears and work through them, we can find consistency in our work. And joy. Joy is good.
One final word. Patience. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Now go out and create!! And as you create, remember that the time will come (and actually is probably now) when you will need to promote. And we'll be right there ready to help you.