ThisÂ post, reviewing Steve Martinâ€™s autobiography, made me think. While Iâ€™m not a fan of Steve Martin, what he said rings true: â€œBe so good they canâ€™t ignore you.â€
Being good, according to Steve Martin, incorporates two things: narrow focus and finding the essence of what you do. In Martinâ€™s case, examining what makes something funny.
Finding the Essence
I made a new notebook titled: â€œThe Craft: the essence of story.â€ Or something similar that I thought sounded lofty and important at the time but sounds kind of lame now.
In this notebook, I look at books and movies that I enjoy and write down what works and what didnâ€™t.
First entry: Brandon Sandersonâ€™sÂ The Way of Kings, since I finished it yesterday.
A sample of things that I thought worked:
- He presents us with tangled threads, promising that, by the end heâ€™ll weave them all into a spectacular tapestry. And he keeps that promise.
- Variety of characters and characterizations. They each sound different.
- As a fantasy, his worldbuilding is interesting. Even goes as far as to make something that would be ordinary in our worldâ€“grassâ€“seem exotic and strange.
And something that didnâ€™t work:
- Some of the action scenes lulled a bit. It doesnâ€™t work to have pages of descriptions and then say â€œand all that took mere seconds.â€
My second entry was on the bonus features fromÂ Iron Man 2. Yeah, the bonus features. I know. But they were fun to watch. Why? What made them work? What didnâ€™t? Just taking the time to look at that revealed some interesting things about storytelling and the kinds of stories I enjoy.
With only two entries, Iâ€™m already improving the way I see the stories around me.
Things I am eliminating (or have) to focus more on my writing:
- Crafty things. Okay to make presents (I hate giving meaningless big box store gifts. I canâ€™t afford the â€œOh, wow!â€ stuff and everything else is just clutter). But Iâ€™m not going to be one ofÂ thoseÂ crafty moms.
- Excessive chores. YEAH, what a good excuse to get out of blagh housework! I have a list of essential chores to keep the house clean, but Iâ€™m not going to be Martha Stewart. And Iâ€™m okay with that.
- Elaborate meals. I like stuff thatâ€™s simple and easy to cook. Fortunately, so does my family.
- Entrepreneurship. This one is a bit difficult for me, since I spent a lot of time and effort building a potentially lucrative business (and learning how to do that), but Iâ€™m definitely cutting down on it. Maybe I wonâ€™t give it up entirely, but I believe enough in my writing to give up the potential money for the writing. Besides, most of the things I learned about entrepreneurship will translate into being a writer.
What Iâ€™m NOT going to eliminate, however, is my kids and the time I spend with them. I write early in the morning so I can get it done and then I put it aside so I can mentally and physically be with my kids all day. Iâ€™ve tried not separating my life so starkly, but I canâ€™t. My attention goes to one or the other, and my kids are more important. After all, they are my day job.Â
So, takeaways: focus on writing, eliminate all that unnecessarily takes me away from writing, andÂ be so good they canâ€™t ignore me.Â Yes.