November 28, 2017
By Art Holcomb
I’ve been a writing teacher for a very long time.
I started in the 1990’s with a small group of students and, today, I teach classes and seminars in-person and through the internet to people throughout the U.S., in eleven different countries in four different languages.
And, unfortunately, I see the same problems everywhere I go.
What we do, as writers, is separate and lonely. We write and dream and hunger for the kind of information and guidance that we need to move forward – to level up, as we talked about last time.
I think you are some of the lucky ones – because you’re here . . .
You found Larry and StoryFix and you’re beginning to see that not all craft information is the same.
There are some sources, like StoryFix, which are dedicated to getting you what you absolutely need to learn your craft and thrive.
It would be fantastic if every site could be like this one.
But the internet can be an unending stream of junk information which, at best, is weak regurgitations of classic insights and, at worst, is misleading and harmful.
But that’s even not the biggest problem.
The absolute worst thing I’ve found is that many writers are led to believe that this never- ending diet of craft McNuggets is all they need for success. That this diet of informational fast food is enough to move them to the next level and show them the path to achievement in writing.
This is simply not true.
This is misleading.
And you deserve much more.
How I began here.
I came to Larry and StoryFix in 2011. I was already a successful working writer. But I was so moved by what Larry had to say that I sent him a note, telling him that I thought he was on to something very special with this site and his books.
He was kind enough to invite me to guest post and I have need here off and on ever since.
What made this possible is that we were of a very similar mindset.
What drives us both are these two separate concepts:
- The need to get real craft information into the hands of writers ready to hear it – and actually use it – and…
- The need to fight back against the well-meaning but damaging information that fills the internet.
So – here it is.
So that there is no misunderstanding about where I‘m coming from, here is a list of what I believe you REALLY need for success as a writer – what I call the Six Pillars of Success:
- High Quality Craft Information
- A constantly available Mentoring Relationship
- A short Feedback Loop
- Real, Effective Accountability
- An ever-improving Process
- Access to Deep Writing
Pillar #1 – High Quality Craft Information
There is a reason why Aristotle is revered amongst writers.
Why Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee are honored names.
And why you come back to StoryFix – and Larry Brooks – time and time again . . .
Because we all are thirsty travelers crossing an unending desert.
From an informational and craft standpoint, the internet – your main source of information about writing – is filled with hacks, tips, secrets, and top-ten lists, all from well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) writers wanting to share their knowledge with you.
Here are some standards by which you could judge any piece of information you’re considering.
- Is it MEANINGFUL? Does it make sense to you on a craft level? Is it there to make you writing better or is it touted to make your writing easier? Is it appropriate for your level right now? Does it sound like the writer is trying to impress you, rather than seriously help you?
I’ve been writing all my life and one thing has been as true today as it have seen for the last 40 years . . .
Good writing is not easy. It is troubling and difficult.
Why? Because it is meant to be.
And anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.
All art must come from some deeper place, and the talent that you seek does not lie on the surface. Like gold in the ground, it requires hard work and digging to access. This frankly is because all good things are hard to achieve.
If you find writing to be easy, simple, breezy and completely enjoyable, it’s very possible that you’re not even scratching the surface of what you can accomplish.
- Is it VALUABLE? Will this information lead you to write something that is unlike anything you’ve ever written before? Can it help you to get published and build an audience? Can you instantly see that what you are able to do with this information is as good as what you see in books, movies, short stories and stage plays? When you share your work with others, are they clearly moved by your words?
Whether it’s for publication or merely for exercise, will this information help you to become a better writer?
- Is it RARE? Quite simply, will it help make your most recent piece of work the best thing you have done to date? Is it clearly, and instantly better?
That, in a nutshell, is what you want in all the craft information you are considering.
Whether you’re getting the information from a post, a book, or a seminar like one of mine, you want to be ever moving forward. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you can already recognize the difference between information that tells you something that you can really use, and something that simply tells you something you’ve heard many times before.
So, you need to develop some real radar about what is useful and what is not. In the weeks ahead, we’ll try to help you develop that sense, and teach you to fill your individual tool boxes with valuable tools and insights.
Next time, we’ll talk about Pillar #2 – The need for a positive mentoring relationship in your life.
Until then, just keep writing.