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Ursula K. Le Guin says in her essay, “A Matter of Trust,”

“In order to write a story, you have to trust yourself, you have to trust the story, and you have to trust the reader….Before you start writing, neither the story nor the reader even exists, and the only thing you have to trust is yourself….the only way you can come to trust in yourself as a writer is to write….To read, to write, to practice your trade, to learn your job, until you know something about it, and know you know something about it.”

To write, you must read. Everything you read has value: articles, classics, research material, how-to books, the modern greats in all genres, even the worst piece of fiction a publisher ever had the disgrace to put on the shelf. Great, good, mediocre, and horrid, all that reading shows you what is good writing, what errors to avoid, and clues to how you can improve your writing through literary devices, facts, ideas, and simple common sense in grammar and spelling. Be open to those lessons. Some will sink in by osmosis. Some you’ll have to revisit constantly. The trick is to practice a lot. You’ll learn to apply these lessons, eventually, without overdoing or flubbing.

Ursula comments further that at some point, early on, you may think you are ready for agent and publisher. Don’t be hasty even if you think your first novel will be the best thing since flush toilets. Take a minute. Stand back and reevaluate with a critical eye, talk to a friend, a writing professor, a critique group, other writers. You think it’s good enough, you might even be correct, then again no one wants to believe their story desperately needs a hatchet and an early grave, do they?

However, knowing you don’t know anything can be just as bad as NOT knowing you don’t know anything.

“I know some very good writers who never finish anything, or finish it and then destroy it with over-revising to meet real or imagined criticisms, because they don’t trust themselves as writers, which means they can’t trust their writing. Confidence in yourself as a writer…you earn…by doing, you build it up slowly, by working at it.”

I trust my writing between blinding moments of self-doubt. I am my own worst critic. Then I read a published author’s work, and notice that though they were published, their writing is on par with an eighth grade education, and their editor must have been smoking crack even on the most basic of grammar points. Books like those give me hope, not only because I think that since they were published there is hope for me, but because I KNOW I can do a better job than that published author. I don’t think this is excessive pride; I think it is self-confidence in what I know I know, and in my knowing how much I don’t know still, which is just as important.

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One thing our visual design instructors instilled in us was the ability to be creative on demand. Design (graphic, information, way-finding, etc) is a business. You don’t have time to wait for the Muse to come in, she has to be on the clock. You might get a new client at 8am and have to present ideas for an identity overhaul by the scheduled lunch at noon. No, really, you’ve gotta do.

Sure, you’re going to get it wrong (that’s another post), but you have to present ideas. That means after the hour long meeting where you learn basically nothing you need to know and a lot about things that don’t matter at all (like the hair gel the AD – art director – just switched to) you spend an hour doing “research” (now that means googling, back then it was sitting in your chair, head in your hands, thinking “OMG, OMG, OMG, OMFG!” over and over), which leaves you two hours to do a hundred thumbnails, twenty sketches, and three or more comps (doing this on computer now means the hundred thumbnails – maybe – and then right to the comps). And don’t forget to include half an hour for paste up on presentation boards (or now, struggling with Powerpoint, merging with the sales materials being developed, and cursing BIll Gates’ name unto the seventh generation).

Think I’m being overly dramatic? Heh. You probably actually won’t get the assignment until 10 as the AD/Sales goes to get their second Starbucks. So, yeah, I gave you twice as much time than you really had. Now can you see why out of 24 or so fellow graduates, there’s less than 5 of us still doing this two decades down the road.

The best job related functions you can learn is 1) be quick, 2) be precise (spelling fluorescent “flourescent” on the presentation to the lighting company won’t keep the business, and your sales person doesn’t know the difference), and 3) get the work out (all this wraps up to being competent, it’s a rare job skill)

So, yeah, you can be creative when “cold.” This is why it’s important to be stocked with ideas and the creative pump primed by all the off-time research. Now, it’s always better to allow the subconscious to masticate on something for awhile. Yes, the end result will be better with that, and if you’re “inspired.” The trick is being able to get “inspired” at the drop of a hat. That’s a trick you learn by doing.

There are various group activities that can help you learn this trick. One is to have everybody in a group write the first line to a story. Then everybody trades and gets 30-45 minutes to spin out the full story. Now, more than likely you won’t get a full story written, but you should be able to get the frame of it out (the voice, the overall thrust, somewhere at about 500-1000 words). Then everybody shares what they got. This exercise works because you’re not invested in the story (it’s not “your” idea – well, it is, but you can fool yourself) and there’s a deadline, plus you need to share. You can see variations on the theme here (give everybody a character, a plot, a setting, etc, and have them write what they get in 30-45 minutes, pull a story from literature and write an extension/version/joke/etc based on it). Select any of the various “writing prompts” (Writer’s Digest, Writing Excuses, there’s several websites that have lists of them) and have at. After doing this several times you’ll get faster and better with it. You’ll also become more comfortable with being creative on the spot. It’s like calisthenics for the Muse.

This post? I have a list of blog entries for this concept (what I learned as a designer translates to writing). I looked back at that list about 20 minutes ago and this post is a result. I can be “cold” and still write/design. That’s what I learned.

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As I said, I have a BFA. That means a large whopping percent of my college career was spent in art classes. And while the other disciplines in the school had critiques less often (maybe twice a week), for the graphic design program we were critiqued on our output every single class. If you took a basic full load of courses that meant being critiqued at least two times a day Monday through Friday (sometimes 3 or 4 times a day). We critiqued thought processes, thumbnails, proofs, comps and final art.

One thing you notice about college is that the people you end up with the the junior level of courses is much smaller than those in the freshman level of courses. In computer programming that was because of General Programming II and Calculus II. In graphic design we didn’t have “weeder” courses. Every damn course weeded out those who didn’t have what it took to go on.

You may think I’m being overly-dramatic there, but these critiques were not gentle things. Usually once a week was the “did you really mean to put so much suck into this?” critique. Now student to student we were pretty light. However the teacher always got their say. Most where rat-ass bastards too. Sure, they’d help you in class, give you all the help they could outside class, but when it came to critique time, they would open with both barrels.

Seem cruel? Obviously you’ve never been in a client meeting discussing design work. The only thing better for us would have been to include mind-reading courses.

So after four years of that type of crucible you develop a tough skin. Or you drop out. By the senior year of classes if you haven’t developed the mental calluses to allow scorn and ridicule roll off your back you would probably need to see a psychiatrist to help with the cluelessness problems. In my “freshman” class we had about 300 students. I graduated with 24 in the winter (and I believe there were only 20 that spring). That’s what’s called attrition.

Some people have asked me why rejection doesn’t bother me like it does other writers. This is why. Sure it bothers me, but I get over it quickly and move on. In my critique group sometimes I want to tell the person critiquing me, “You’re holding back, damnit, tell me what you want to say!” Of course you can’t do that in the Milford/Clarion style.

See, there’s two different kinds of critiques. There’s the professional kind which talks about the work (art or writing), it may or may not include suggestions (“I thought you were going here…” or “I think this could be stronger if you…”). Suggestions aren’t necessary (although they do sped the learning process). This is the kind of critique that as a writer you should be seeking out. The kind that points out the flaws in the work, the things editors would toss your manuscript in the bounce file over. Of course, there are always differences of opinion (many of my later critiques with the Hamsters have extra notes on the hard copy that say, “so-and-so is correct pointing this out,” or “so-and-so is completely off base with this comment”). In that case you look at if the majority agrees you messed up the imagery, you’ll want to look at it. If the audience splits, or if only one person points something out, it’s author’s choice (which doesn’t mean ignore it, it means evaluating the critique and seeing if a change would make the story stronger or if it would lose something). And all these critiques, even the ones you think are most cruel, are an attempt to help you and your work be better.

Then there’s the other kind. The poisonous personal attack where the critiquer decides that it’s mostly a character flaw of the author for any problems in the manuscript. Ignore these people. Find a better group of critiquers. A critique about a piece of work is never about the person.

I think I related the story of my worst critique a long time ago (and it’s a post by itself). Nothing, I repeat, nothing an editor can say or do, nothing a fellow writer could say or do, could come close. The #10 has been set. Most others don’t get past #6 in comparison. I am invested in my work, and if you tell me my baby is ugly I’ll be upset. But it doesn’t come close to the inferno that was that critique (short story, it changed my life). Tell me that you don’t want to publish my piece. Eh. I’ve had clients tell me to my face my work sucked and they weren’t going to continue working with me/pay for it. Just giving me a rejection or telling me that this simile doesn’t work for you isn’t even close. This far down the road, there’s only one person that could get close to affecting me that deeply. And it’s not anybody in my critique group or any editor I submit to.

Unfortunately I don’t have much advice on how to get to where I’m at. It involves walking through Hell. Once you do that a little flame doesn’t bother you. And if necessary, you know you can do it again.

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This one is going to piss off a few people. To start off you need to know that I hold a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Akron Meyer’s School of Art. I have a lot of Art History floating around in my cerebellum, including a bunch that most people have never seen (History of Ephemera, anybody?). I can sling the wonderful magical words of art like a pro, because I am one. What I’m about to say launched a semester-long fight in art school. It took place in the sophomore level classes. That’s when the revelation took place as our instructors told us the dirty truth.

What we do isn’t art and we aren’t artists.

It may quack like a duck, and it may waddle, but it ain’t no duck. It’s a goose. What’s the difference between a duck and a goose? A goose can feed a family of four.

Yes, uproar, consternation, and a general “What you talking about Willis?” attitude pervaded the Graphic Design 200 classes. How dare they (the instructors, all working designers) say we aren’t artists? Well, Sparky, we ain’t. I’m not going to tell you what we actually are because you won’t like it, but we aren’t artists.

Now, the two year degree and the actual profession at the time were referred to us as “commercial artists.” What we created and sent to press (and even now when it’s bits on a disk or email) is called “art.” And we’re the ones people talk about when they say they “need an artist.”

Art isn’t what we do. We create communications. And there is a difference.

Right now there’s a subtext argument going through the ranks of SF/F/H about literature versus popular fiction. The whole Adam Roberts letter about the Hugos is an example. See, there’s those who feel we’re still artists and we’re making art. Art has “merit.” Art has “permanence.” When you’re creating Art it is to be expected that the great unwashed masses won’t get it, because that’s what Art is. Art needs to be appreciated. The struggle to produce Art needs to be recognized. Art works deep into the mind and massages out Truth and Meaning. Add in the mythos surrounding the long-suffering struggling artists and it makes those people struggling feel a little better about it.

And it’s a steaming pile that needs to be hauled out with a shovel.

You buy “Art” at auctions. I’m on the street peddling my wares. I go to the highest bidder (mostly), the one waving the cash in hand. And I’ll create something for them. I’ll create something that’s from them (and that’s what divides us from artists).

See, Art is individual expression. It can even be expanded to be the voice of a generation, but in the end, Art is a singular effort. If I’m creating a piece of “Art” that needs to mimic that it belongs to and comes form my client, it can’t be Art.

So how does this relate to writing? Well, it really comes down to what kind of writer you want to be. There’s the kind of writer that will do the things that College English professors will use as examples of literary form and function and that the National Book Award will recognize as a fine example of what people should be reading. Except the people tend to read all this trite piffle like Dan Brown, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Daniel Steele, Laura K. Hamilton, and all those low brow types. And they read it because the don’t know any better and can’t appreciate what true artistic merits all these other books that sell less than 5000 copies despite the rave reviews in literary magazine have by the truck load. Or do you want to be the writer that people actually read and enjoy, even if they only sell 5000 or so (I know quite a few books like that)? Do you want to be the writer than entertains and is accessible to the masses (which doesn’t mean you can’t do all those literary things, you just handle it in a different manner, one which usually doesn’t involve the “look at me I’m so clever” pee-pee dance)?

I’ll be the later, thanks.

Oh sure, my story will massage parts of you and might impart a little meaning. But with my massage you’ll get a Happy Ending(tm) (and, no, that’s not the literary term you think it is).

Art? I’m not creating Art. I’m making art. I’m drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. I’m putting out posters and pasting them up all over town. It’s my job and I approach it as work. And that’s the difference. It may look and feel like art, but it isn’t.

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One of the things I’ve gotten over since I started writing (I think this came in as either the second or third Big Writing Revelation(tm)) is saving ideas. At a certain point in the writer’s life, you realize that you’re creating crap, but that you have to go through that woodland crap to get to the glade of good words. And then like blue jays screaming through the woods come these gleaming moments of non-crap and you need to decide what to do. Now, this new stuff is good, having handled crap for long enough you know when ideas and words have that different feel to them. The new stuff fits into what you’re working on, but the rest of what that work is crap and you know it. Do you put these chunks of gleam into the crap making the gleam craptapulous or do you hoard your gleam until you get better and that gleam can shine with the other shinola you’d be producing then?

And the young writer, like a pack-rat dragon wondering when he’ll get his next hit of gold-plated meth, will think “I’ll hoard the gleaming things until the pile will shine forever.”

Resist this behavior. With all your might, resist. The only idea that shouldn’t be put into the story you’re writing is the idea that doesn’t fit. You can’t horde the good words, they don’t behave like that. And ideas, if hoarded, grow stale and die, losing their gleam. Then they begin to stink. The bright leaves flare and fade into the forest floor.

Here’s the secret though, just because you use it once doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. So throw that idea, or those words, into the big pile of crap that is the story. You might have to scoop them out later when you’re killing your darlings, or they might impart some shine to the rest of the load. They may even inspire you to polish up the rest of it. Who knows, it might make the story successful. Even if it does help your story get published, that still doesn’t mean you can’t use it later.

And if you stop the flow of gleaming ideas by hoarding them, then you get idea constipation. And the ex-lax for that condition isn’t any fun at all and ranks right up there with a unicorn enema. So roam through your woods plopping out the craptastic and the shinola with great glee and abandon. Soon you’ll see more shinola than crap. And eventually you’ll get to the editing point where you’ll be cutting the crap out instead of the gleaming parts to make the writing smooth.

Ideas work better when they can rub up against other ideas in a story. Keeping them herded off doesn’t help anybody.

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Let’s talk about the hero and the fatal flaw. No one is perfect, therefore the hero has to have at least one flaw to be overcome during the climax.

Hero + flaw = character arc = believable character.

But, how does the hero get to the point of needing to grow beyond their flaw? We need a catalyst to reach the next step in the equation.

Enter, the villain. For many stories there is no clear villain, therefore the hero falls flat, and the plot doesn’t advance, as if the whole idea is waiting for something—or someone—to push it forward.

Flawed hero + golden villain = growth opportunity

The Golden Villain
Your villain can be another person, the hero’s own self, a deity or other supernatural being, an animal, or the environment. In any plot structure, the villain’s job breaks into three primary functions.

1-Build plot tension by creating a clear need for the hero’s success
2-Further develop the hero by providing a basis for comparison, and inciting change
3- Be a focus for opposition and conflict in order to give the reader someone/something to root against; aka: inspire the need to annihilate (from 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close)

Theoretically, the more diabolical your villain, the more the reader cheers for the hero. If only it were that easy. Your villain has to be believable for the equation to work effectively.

Evil for evil’s sake does not a good villain make
Most of us can’t conceive of perfect evil or perfect good as anything more than ideals.

Mother Nature is impersonal, not malicious. Luck, ingenuity, and willpower, if applied correctly, can conquer the elements and environment, as well as animals, not to mention hubris and mishap.

As for deities, you’d think lightning bolts would be more accurate or their aim more precise. Whatever the case, the deity can be impressed, placated, distracted, or otherwise outsmarted.

Check your cinema, check your literature, check your history. Because we can’t imagine anything or anyone being more perfect than ourselves, we accord them our same flaws.

There are no perfect heroes; there are no perfect villains. Each has limitations, each has vulnerability, each has flaws, because we have them.

In a villain, these factors allow the hero the possibility of winning.

Traits of the Golden Villain
Conviction. Charisma. Leadership. Decisive. Follow-through. Powerful. Desire. Ambition. Integrity. Tendency to think in absolutes. Never wishy-washy. Intelligent.

Wait. From the above, I could be talking about the hero. That’s right; your villain is a foil for your hero. (see https://genrebender.wordpress.com/2008/07/19/characters-dimensions-and-foils-long/)

In one respect or another, each of the above traits can be admirable or detestable. If amplified, twisted, or misplaced, any trait has horrific potential.

For example, intelligence is a good trait in a hero. Intelligence denotes the ability to reason, to logic, to plan, and to discard morality. This last ability—with or without conscience—is what frightens us. A beast can be scary; a beast that just might be smarter or more cunning than me—as well as stronger, faster, more relentless, and more ruthless—is terrifying.

In my opinion, the more intelligent the character, the higher the stakes and opportunity for bad behavior. Besides, it’s hard to be a mastermind if you can’t reason your way out of a wet paper sack.

Mining for Gold
To get to the root of your villain, you are going to have to dig. This process works equally for all characters, not just villain and hero. When considering the following points, answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, why, how. Dig. Don’t shy away because the reader will know if you do.

1-Characteristics
What personality traits do you most admire? What traits do you most despise? Study both lists. Which ones are in your hero? Your villain? Any similarities?

BE CAREFUL. Neither your villain nor your hero can encompass all of what you listed. Yes, it will make them complicated, but you won’t be able to portray them all effectively. Pick a handful of major traits and explore them, then develop them into a memorable character. How?

Consider body language, behavior, speech patterns, quirks, and standard operating procedure (SOP). These behaviors, no matter how small, buff the edges, and add depth to your character.

Notice I say nothing of physical traits. Physical attractiveness or repellence is window dressing though it can serve motivation, goal, and plot. The question is, for your villain, which aspect will better instill fear, loathing, and abhorrence: the beauty that masks the viper, or the depraved disease-ridden leper?

2-The Prize and The Bane
What does the villain want? The villain must have goals and objectives, be that gaining a love object, power, money, knowledge, or a godhead. These wants can be simple or multi-layered. Drop the bomb: let the reader know precisely what the villain considers to be the gold nugget. Be specific.

What does the villain believe to be the bane of their existence? Be specific. Is this belief accurate? How does that figure into their plans? Their prize? What do they do to offset the bane?

3-Second Place is for losers.
As with your hero, your villain is driven to succeed in their ultimate purpose and intent. In my humble opinion, they can’t waver. What true villain would be happy with a consolation prize or a platitude?

Most golden villains deal in absolutes, but you still must quantify the scale of “winning.” To what ends will the villain go to achieve their desire? What line won’t they cross, if any? As long as the prize is won, can the competition live? Can there be compromise?

What will the hero have to do to thwart the villain? What will stop the villain in their tracks, and has the villain even considered this possibility, and/or made contingency plans?

4-Disgrace vs death
Delve deep on this point. Would the villain or hero prefer to die than not achieve their goal and live in disgrace? If not death, does disgrace need to be avenged?

Would the villain prefer the hero to die, or live in abject humiliation? Which of those would be the better goal, or does the villain even care? Perhaps disgrace first, followed immediately by death? At what point would the villain allow the hero to survive, and why?

5-Pearls in the past
The reader does need to understand the villain’s motivation, or at least that they have one. Nature can only go so far before we have to consider nurture.

The seeds of present and future actions, behaviors, and thought processes were sown in the past. Culture and/or heritage; socio-economic position; education; family and personal relationships—all have a place in shaping the character. Happy memories and tragic or emotionally scaring events also play a part. In a sense, your villain needs to have more of a past than your hero.

What event made a boy into the Jason of Friday the 13th infamy? Who was Count Dracula before his vampiric star rose? Why did a highly intelligent psychiatrist become Hannibal the Cannibal?

When considering the villain’s past, we can often come up with more than a few traits and flaws. However, if they see them at all, the villain can’t see those flaws as being impediments to their plans. Villains are just as self-deluding as the rest of us, so maybe they see those flaws as strengths.

Writing the Golden Villain
Readers seek a connection to your characters, and the characters are what will keep them reading even if, heaven forbid, your plot becomes predictable. If they don’t find that connection, your book is dismissed to the used book counter.

When writing your villain, you can take a direct approach and write in the villain’s POV, or you can have another character or plot device betray the villain’s motivations, goals, and objectives. This is a style choice on your part.

By writing in the villain’s POV, you can see if they come off as diabolical and nasty as you intended, or if they come off flat. In their POV, you can study their body language and behaviors, how they think, what they think, what they feel, why they feel. In their POV, you can make the villain real. This has value.

Even if you write in single POV, make an exercise of writing in the villain’s POV for a few important scenes. You don’t have to use them in the end product, but it can be instructive. It also takes extra time, but if you can’t find your villain’s voice, if you can’t make them multi-dimensional, this exercise might make a difference.

However you accomplish it, you have to know your character inside and out, what makes them tick. You have to understand them, the lengths they will or will not go. You have to understand the whys and the wherefores in order to relay villain’s dark glory to the reader. If you don’t get it, the reader won’t either.

Remember the villain’s job within your plot. The villain spurs the hero to overcome their flaw and to triumph over adversity. If the reader doesn’t understand the villain’s motivation, doesn’t see the logic behind it, and doesn’t understand the prize, your house of cards will crumble because the reader won’t understand the imperative for the hero’s success.

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Yesterday was spent doing family things. Specifically going to see my niece in her Senior Spectacular, which is a performance of high school seniors, mostly from the choirs. And let me say here, Skippy, you were fantastic. I really wish we could have seen more of your concerts an dI wish you the best where you’re going. You’ve allowed an uncle to be very proud of you. And I think I said this once, but let me say it again, you really get performance. And that’s a rare gift.

So, today I’m going to discuss performing. I have some experience here. Since I was in grade school I’ve performed in plays, written plays (for both church and for high school, and have been selected for performances), played in bands (concert, marching, stage, and a garage band or two) and performed guitar as a busker and on stage for my own high school’s talent shows. I’ve given readings, reports, was a certified organizational change management leader (at E&Y, don’t ask). I’m trying to be a successful writer. I’ve been in front of microphones, tv cameras, given personal interviews to reports, lead mobs, and written this blog for how many years.

All of those are performances, btw. Some of them you might not think of as performing, like blogging, but really it is. At a convention a few years ago, I signed up for a breakfast with John Scalzi where he held court with about eight of us on several topics, one of which was blogging. As John said (and to paraphrase here), “I’m always surprised at the people who think they know me (and Krissy and Athena) because they read my blog. The blog is only what I choose to show the world, so nobody sees the times Athena is being a normal 10 year old, or Krissy and I have a problem. So people get a distorted view of my life.” We then had a more indepth discussion of what successful blogging is. And just to be clear here, it always means telling the truth about yourself. It also means you don’t have to share what you don’t want to share. And so, blogging is a performance art. Just like public speaking.

So here is something you probably don’t know about me. I’m introverted. Not as deeply as some friends I know, but it’s still there. Another author (who will remain nameless here, but I’ve mentioned him before) I had the fortune to see at a conference “putting on his game face.” Afterward I talked with him and mentioned I noticed him doing that. He’s also an introvert. We shared a moment of connection as I told him I recognized the action because I do that myself.

This doesn’t mean we’re being false. But it’s a recognition that we’re about to perform. And now I’ll get to what that means.

To dispel some myths. The people you see performing are rarely the best at what they do. Performance is hard work, no matter what the movie/recording industry wants to portray about “talent.” As John Lennon Ringo Starr shouted on Abbey Road The White Album, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” Most people who perform are doing things they love to do. And when you love doing something you do it if somebody’s watching and you do it when nobody is watching. And you do it until you get blisters. And then you keep doing it. Nobody just walks up on stage and performs like they’re a star. Everybody who has karaoked has sung in the car to the same song. See how good they do up on a stage? The woman from England who took everybody by surprise? Yeah, she belonged to a choir and I’ll bet she practices singing as she walks around her house (or flat). And she does it because she loves it. Also, for those people who are out there performing in clubs and bars, they know they’ve all met people better than they are. People who don’t perform anymore. Perseverance is the name of the game.

And when those people are performing, they aren’t doing it for themselves. At least the good ones aren’t. Performing is about giving. Giving to the audience, the other members of the troop, to the art, to someone who may not even be there. As Stephen King says in On Writing, most authors are telling someone their stories when they write. For him, it’s his wife. He’s trying to impress her and make her laugh (and yes, his stuff is funny). That’s his goal. He tells the story about an author he knows who is writing to someone whose been dead for many years. Performance is all about the people you’re performing for. If all you’re doing is going up on stage and reciting a song, well, that’s a form of mental masturbation. Artist who are all about themselves rarely make it far, and their self-indulgence comes through their performance and leaves most people wondering just what the heck is going on and the performance goes flatter than three-day old beer. But those who go up there and give it all away, those are the artists you remember. I should state here that performers are (mostly) consummate liars. If you ask them, many times you’ll get the “All about me” answer. Watch them on stage, though, and you can practically see the energy flowing into the audience. And if it’s done right, the energy flows back.

And we do it because we love our audience and we love what we’re doing. When Jackson Browne sings, “So just make sure you got it all set to go before you come for my piano,” that’s what he’s talking about. You’ve all come out to see us. In some cases you’ve paid good money to do so, given of your time and energy. To give ourselves to you is the least we can do.

It takes a lot out of you if you do it right. That’s the whole satiric point of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.” If you’ve ever seen musicians after a show, they look rung-out. Because they are. Not only were they playing the songs, they gave of themselves to their band and projected that out to the audience.

So that’s the secret of performance. It’s not about the talent, the skill, and the ability. It’s about love. It’s about giving it all away and hoping it comes back. It’s about not worrying about saving something up for another night, because it doesn’t work that way. Pour yourself out into what you’re doing, give it all to one person or to twenty-thousand screaming people. It’ll come back. It’ll make the hair on your neck tingle to touch that live wire. And do it because you love something, someone, someplace.

And yes, I do this because I love you. Stop looking at me like that, you know what I mean. 🙂

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