Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Confessions of a Crap Artist...

Back in High School I wasn't much of a writer. I had no innate talent. After a few months, I could figure out what teachers liked to read in essays, enough to get B+/A- grades. But it was a struggle. I remember classmates acing essays they'd written late night the day before, while I struggled to surface in B range laboring days in advance. I'd dabbled in short story writing, but the number of short stories written in high school were only a handful. I also wasn't much of a reader either. This trend continued into college. I'd managed to pass my AP English exam with a marginal 3 (out of 5), which allowed me to skip English 101 and move on to honors level literature classes, focusing on the Greek and Latin classics, Homer, Dante, etc... Now in the major leagues, my essay grades at that point dipped into C+ range but by some magic, I managed to struggle through these classes with B- grades. Again, my fellow classmates managed to pull A+ 'exclamation point' grades from quickly rendered essays written in coffee shops prior to class, the miserable bastards.

So, clearly not talented, why bother?

Time to digress into the depraved geek world of role playing games, specifically TSR's venerable Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1st edition, the old 1979 rule books, the new editions are for posers), Top Secret by TSR, and later on R Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2020. While I enjoyed building and playing characters, the most rewarding part was playing the referee (aka Dungeon Masters in D&D). The crossover between novel writing and constructing adventures for your friends is surprisingly similar. Instead of entertaining one reader for 8 to 10 hours, the referee has to entertain a group of friends for 4 to 5 hours (depending on the volume of Mountain Dew consumed). And one's friends tend to be as harsh of critics as anonymous strangers, maybe even more brutal in their honesty. I enjoyed RPG's unapologetically despite their stigma and when the pool of willing friends dried up, left to my own devices, the need to continue to tell stories remained. So at that point, my writing picked up as my RPG outlets whithered. 

A once wise physics professor I had in graduate school by the name Glenn Rebka (of the famed Pound-Rebka experiment... look it up, it proved gravitational red-shifting, totally badass) told me solving physics problems is a matter of longevity. Which, like any personal endeavor, rings true. When it comes to art, I've always admired the talent-deficient die hard, either too stubborn or oblivious to realize his short comings, but willing to work to get their stuff in front of people good-bad-indifferent. Their stories are much more inspiring than the talent-rich do nothings. The world's filled those cats... I'm guessing of course, as I'm assuming those classmates writing last minute A+ essays probably aren't writing last minute novels destined for the Booker Prize. So if they are literary geniuses, no one will ever know.

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