Monday Challenge: First Steps

STFU n00b.

I’m starting something new this week: I’m going to learn acrylic painting. I draw (mostly ink and markers) and I used to dabble in watercolours, but this will be a new experience.

I expect it to be messy.

Being a beginner at something is both exciting as hell and frustrating as trying to explain superhero retcons to non-fans.* Exciting because: new thing! I will make all the things! And they will be great! Hey, do you think this paint is poisonous? Frustrating because: why does new thing not come out like I imagined? Why am I not great at this right now? I AM GREAT AT EVERYTHING.

It’s probably for the best that Snowman’s working a lot of hours this month.

There’s a great scene in the Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker in which one of the main characters, a nobleman in hiding, has to sew something for the first time ever. Because he can’t reveal his ineptitude for fear of being discovered, he can’t ask for help. So he instead looks at the materials and the tools and works out what sewing is from the first principles. It’s a very funny little scene in the middle of what is a near-constant storm of grimness**, and it gives a great look at learning to do something for the first time ever.

We all have to start somewhere with skills. I’ve been learning to code in Python for the last couple of weeks, and, boy, was that eye-opening. And I expect that acrylic painting will be the same.** Writing sure as hell was: a mixture of thrill and frustration, interspersed with moments of brightness and wild inspiration.

Or, if you want a relatively universal example: remember having sex for the first time?***

Monday Challenge, in honour of my upcoming +2 Art Skill: Write about something trying to do something for the very first time. Awkwardness, frustration, wild inspiration, and all.

*”No, see, it’s fine because in this timeline, she’s really that girl’s sister, except they were both exposed to Zorg radiation, which made them think they were the same person….”

** But with less of a possibility of creating a roboctopus army.

***Spoiler alert, virgins: it’s gonna be awkward.

Fresh Meat: Guide To Getting Started With Writing

Singapore Zoological Gardens White Tigers.

You came into the wrong neighbourhood, motherfucker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Ditch the haters. We deal with enough fucking nay-sayers in our lives. They will slowly steal every shred of joy you have now or ever will experience if you let them*. So do not let them. Don’t tell them what you’re doing if you don’t want to. Do it for you, not for them. And work on getting rid of those people because, seriously, what a bunch of fucking downers.

2) Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things. This goes for the established writers, too, but when you’re just starting the possibilities are endless. So try stuff. Try genres, or post-genres, or genre mash ups. Write haiku. Write lists. Hell, if you’re feeling really weird, write blog posts. It’s all new, and it’s all fair game. Have at it. You never know what will strike just the right chord in your heart-meats.

3) Learn. Have a read through some writing books. Or find some blogs on the topic, not unlike this one. Take some of the advice, try some other things, ditch whatever doesn’t work for you. But do read about it, because one, you can learn a lot that way, and, two, reading about writing can inspire you.

4) Find A Posse. Do people still have posses? Is that still a thing? Or have we switched to another collective noun, like cluster or bushel or pantheon?**
Whatever it is, find your people. Not the haters from number one; I mean supportive people. They could be people you know in real life. You might even have friends who are writers. Or you could check out a local class or writer’s group if you have the means to get to those events. But even if you find yourself on the side of Suicide Mountain without means of descent, you can always look online. Or so I assume, since you’re reading this. Check out forums, websites, and online groups, and find your siblings-in-arms.

5) Be Okay With The Suckage. When you first get started, you’re going to suck. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s necessary. It’s how you learn.
I have manuscripts that are so cringe-inducing I can barely look at them, but I keep them around because I like to remember how far I’ve come. And because sometimes, even in that pile of shit, you’ll find a diamond. Sometimes the proto-writer has good ideas, and those are worth hanging on to. But the skill and the craft, that takes time. So learn to be okay with sucking at it for a while, and you’ll have a lot more fun. Which bring us to…

6) Enjoy It. You’re embarking on a creative endeavour, and no one should do that without joy in their heart. Sometimes it gets buried under frustration and the endless slog of zero drafts or editing, but it should always be there. So when you’re looking down the long exciting precipice of a new thing, don’t forget to enjoy it.

*Theories differ about why. My personal favourite is that they’re actually aliens from a planet that is running dangerously low on fun and joie-de-vivre, so they become parasites in order to survive. Weird? Maybe. But I find it more fun than the alternatives.
**The plural of me, like tigers, is an ambush.