by Lillian Csernica on September 6, 2013
In Japan there’s a superhero known as P-Man. He wears a green Spandex bodysuit, white boots, and a helmet with a visor. Classic Japanese animation superhero. His mission is to teach little kids about all the virtues of good character. Politeness, Punctuality, Propriety, Perseverance, etc. I’ve met P-Man, and he’s really cool. I don’t know who was wearing the suit the day I met him, but that man was really good with all the little kids who came running up to him. The Japanese love children anyway, and I imagine the actor inside the P-Man costume had a great time with that particular role.
Think about this for a minute. A superhero whose mission it is to champion the cause of good character. These days, that could be considered a superpower in and of itself.
What do writers need to build strong character, to keep going in the face of all the stresses that confront creative people?
PASSION — Write about what matters to you. What makes you angry? What makes you cry until your head throbs? What makes you so happy you think you’ll explode? Whatever gets you all stirred up is a good source. Tap into it. Let it carry you along. Hot, fresh, passionate writing is what every editor wants to read. The saying, “If you can’t read it, you can’t write it” proves the importance of passion. Westerns do nothing for me. Therefore I am not going to spend the time and effort trying to be the next Louis L’amour.
PARTICIPATION — Get out there and DO things! Yes, the classic picture of the writer’s life shows us sitting alone in a room in front of our keyboards for hours on end. Some people are born with enough sound and fury packed into their minds that they can spin dozens of stories without any further input. Most of us need and would benefit from getting out into the world and gathering all the sensory impressions that will bring our stories to life. Every day, do one new thing. Volunteer. Go find a coffeehouse in a new part of town. Wander around a nursery that’s full of flowers you’ve never seen before. Learn how to play Go or Sennet or Chinese checkers. Gather the raw material that will be woven on the loom of your imagination into the raw fabric of the tapestries we call stories!
PERSEVERANCE — Writing success is in many ways a war of attrition. The people who rise to the top in their particular genres are often the people who have been writing in those genres longer than anybody else. A lot of people give up along the way. A lot of people never finish what they start. A lot of people don’t take the time to really learn the art and craft of writing, so they just keep pumping out poor quality that never sees the light of day no matter how many times they send it out. Having said that, let me make a plea for quality. Sure, we’re all each other’s competition, those of us who work in the same genres, but don’t we all want to see good stories out there? Don’t we all want to know that the competition is doing its best, so when we do sell a story, the victory is that much sweeter?
So. Love what you do. Do what you love. Keep doing it, over and over and over again. Even if we don’t land on the Bestseller lists or get lucky and hit the Hollywood jackpot, this is still a nourishing, gratifying way to live.