Writers Should be Like Sam Hinkie & Trust The Process
In 3 years, when Lebron is old and the Celtics realize they can’t win a point guard who is shorter than Wonder Woman, the Philadelphia 76ers will be in a title game. Unfortunately, only in articles like this one and SBNATION, will the man responsible be praised for the move. He certainly won’t be paid for it and I doubt Sam Hinkie will be invited to the championship party in Philly, but he should.
In professional sports there is ALMOST never a good reason to lose, and in writing there is never a good reason to write poorly. Both are the golden rules of being ‘successful’ but what if you need to lose to get better, and need to write some shit to get better? What if losing and being shitty is part of the process to become great?
In basketball and even football, they try to keep teams from being consistently the best. There is a drafting process where the shittier your team is, the better the new player pic you get. There definitely is a moral quandary of losing on purpose, but there is nothing wrong with playing young guys so they can get better for the future. By doing that, you know who can become great and you also know whom you have to add in the draft to win a championship. It’s not about losing on purpose, it’s about playing to be better in the future.
For writers to become great they have to be willing to write badly. Now many writers will scratch their head at this statement and think I’m full of shit or a total hack. Many of them will point to flash fiction pieces and short stories where the writing itself is excellent, but if you tell them to write even a novelette or novella piece that has great story structure and story causality, fully realized characters, top notch dialogue, and great language, they’ll be surprised how hard they would struggle to pull this off. Focusing on plot causality, story structure, character development, and dialogue that is good and makes sense for the character, while still writing great prose is really fucking hard.
All those characteristics mentioned are your superstars in basketball terms; it is superstars that take you deep into the playoffs. If a writer is great at plot and story causality, but not good at creating fully realized characters or their dialogue is atrocious, they are going to be an 8th seed and lose to the Cavs—in writer terms get published by a micro press that barely anyone will read. Hell, a writer could do all those things well but their language could be mediocre—you’ll get published by a big press and make some major fans, but you are just the Boston Celtics of writers who will never hold up to the Cavs or even the Bulls.
But you can get better, and I can say this for myself, because I have definitely gotten better.
I’ve become a pretty good storyteller, but I still have a long ways to go before I can be championship ready. By focusing on incorporating all those superstar qualities in my writing and accepting it could be ‘bad’ at first (thank god for drafting), I have been strengthening all those technical aspects, along with my language. There is no way around, it is all about practice.
Yes, we are talking about practicing.
Working with editors, an agent, and getting feedback I’m learning the most important skill—how to serve readers and still enjoy writing, while embracing the process.