Parnell is the World's Foremost Writing Guru"
How to be Your Own Mentor
Rob ParnellA lot of people ask me how I manage to get so much done. I often wonder myself.
I was lucky. When I'd done schooling, I decided I didn't want to work for a living. Of course I had to - for a while. I did some pretty horrible jobs, gravitating from factory to office work because I noticed that the office workers seemed to get an easier time of things - and got paid more.
Of course I could have done the life journey properly and got a nice cushy career type job in a bank or a corporate company. It's not as if I wasn't bright enough. I was even offered a few positions like that. But, much to the chagrin of my mother, I chose not to do them - mainly because it seemed like a cop out. The easy option.
I deliberately chose the hard way - because I wanted to loathe the 9 to 5 I suppose. I'd watched my Dad living a life of quiet desperation for twenty years and I believed there had to be a better way to exist. Actually, I guess that's a kind of adolescent way of thinking - a rebel without a cause mentality. But at the time 'the hard way' seemed, if not fulfilling, then purposeful.
Getting a music career off the ground wasn't hard in retrospect, but it took more time than was absolutely necessary. When I was seventeen I sent a demo to EMI Music - which was rejected of course - and it took another ten years to eventually get signed to EMI as a rock artiste. I got distracted along the way - as tends to happen when you're young and think you have all the time in the world.
But even in those days I knew that finishing projects was what it was all about. A song is a not a song until it's written and recorded and in someone's office.
You can't get gigs without a demo - and because studio time is expensive I begged a home recording set up that stood me well for over a decade. Even EMI thought I had a 24-track studio I worked out of - which was actually a home 4-track in my bedroom. (Sorry to have to tell you now, Clive!)
I still do that now. Except technology is cheaper and smaller nowadays - so I have a 64-track set up in my house with guitars and keyboards and FX that make me sound like a cross between U2 and Beethoven on a good day. God - what wouldn't I have done if I had access to all these toys when I was a kid!
Fact is, when it comes to getting things done, writing is the same as music. No-one can take you seriously unless they see that you've completed a manuscript and are consistently sending it out.
Ideas and hopes and dreams are one thing. They can make you feel good - and they can take you a long way into the right mindset to be creative.
But in order to compete, you need to finish what you start.
I know many writers with great projects that they start and get bored with - or run out of time to progress - and then a year or so later start another project where the same thing happens.
It's natural. You brain is a marvelous instrument, capable of limitless creativity, but just like a child, it gets bored with the same old thing and will want to move on.
That's why you have to work quickly - or push through the blocks - to get a project finished before you get bored of it.
Many writers assume that it's their perfectionism that makes them work on a project over and over, taking years to feel some sort of satisfaction over the finished product. But this is to misunderstand how the mind works.
Basically, every three to six months, your brain has changed physiology. So in effect you're a different person two to four times a year. If you've ever tried to get a project finished by committee you'll know how hard it is to get more than two people to agree on something. It's the same with YOU.
Take too long over a project and you're merely handing it over to a newer you each time - and each time you'll review the ideas, or their execution, find them wanting, and most likely feel the need to start over again.
This is why you must finish at least the first draft quickly. Get it all down before the excitement inevitably wears off.
This is the real "secret" to success.
It doesn't matter whether a particular project is perfect or not. Finishing it is what counts. Only then can you know whether it works. Only then do you feel you are capable of other, larger and more complex commitments.
When I mentor writers, I like to make sure they're used to finishing small projects. Articles, short stories, even blogs.
Because the ability to finish is the revealer of character. Many writers complain to me that they feel unmotivated around the half way or three quarter mark of their novels. And nine times out of ten we can trace back the problem to their inability to finish even small projects.
It's not the work that's hard - it's the mentality that's wrong. The mindset wasn't pre-programmed for completion.
I think this is the real problem with the 9 to 5 mentality. There's a very real sense that work is never really over - and that there's always going to be more time.
When you're an artist, especially a working artist, this paradigm no longer applies.
If you want to be a paid writer, you need to get used to finishing what you start. Good or bad - you'll never know unless you can hold it up and say: "It's done."
Be your own mentor - and force yourself to get things finished!
Write down your goals, make time to work on them, and whip yourself - and your work - into shape. As fast as you can.
And don't forget to send your stuff out into the world.
That's where it will really begin to take effect.
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"Rob Parnell is the foremost writing guru in the world." Vin Smith, Midnight Bookworm
Copyright 2002 - 2010 Rob Parnell. All Rights Reserved.