The Education of Intern Sara: Lessons Learned from Kat Von D (& a bunch of other people)
Wanna Write a Book? Just Do It
When I was a kid, I truly believed that artists, particularly musicians, were magical beings that were given great gifts of talent that mere mortals could never possess. That’s what made them special and gave them the right to do what they did, make albums and tour. Although there will always be a part of me that feels that way about certain musicians (I mean, Stevie Nicks IS magical and always will be) but for the most part I know better. For one thing, I myself have worked in a very cool industry (television), on some very cool TV shows and I’m neither magical nor do I possess any special gifts that were granted to me by the talent fairy. I got to do everything that I’ve done because I decided I wanted it and I just started doing it.
That being said, sometimes we can’t help but feel that we should just wait for something to happen before we jump in and just start writing. Maybe we secretly want the talent fairy to come to us, but waiting for the talent fairy is like waiting for The Great Pumpkin. It’s just never going to happen no matter how long you wait. Sorry Linus.
In my television life, I made it a habit to make coffee-dates with coworkers and other amazingly talented people in order to learn more about the industry, learn about job leads, and just connect with people I admire. I’m a great fan of this and will tell you networking with people you already know is wonderful because you always learn something. I’m lucky that in my writing life, I have two mentor/friends, Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel, who I can go to in much the same way. My favorite coffee-date from my life as a producer was one I had with my friend Markie (not his real name). Normally, on one of these things, you catch up, (they are friends and acquaintances after all) you tell them what you’ve been up to and where you are hoping to go and they tell you how they think you can get there. Usually this involves a piece of advice, a recommendation or two on a resource you should be aware of or the name of a person you should connect with. My coffee date with Markie would prove to be different.
For one thing, I don’t think Markie and I ever even made it to our designated coffee shop. He pretty much just came to my office, sat down, and started talking. He told me he knew what I was looking to get from this conversation because at the beginning of his career, he used to do the same thing. And then he told me this story.
Apparently, the young Markie went to a producer/director type that he admired. He was expecting, what I was used to getting, a nice sit down, a coffee or a lunch, where wisdom would be shared and perhaps and encouraging word or two would be thrown into the mix (when you are lucky, you get those as well). Much to Markie’s dismay, all he got was this. “Markie, just do it!” At the time, Markie wasn’t necessarily thrilled, truth be told, he was kinda pissed. He had hoped for more than the words, “just do it.” It was a reasonable expectation but the guy just kept saying “just do it, “don’t talk about it, just do it.”
And with that story told, Markie turned to me and said, “It pissed me off at the time, but I’m going to tell you the same thing he said to me, Sara, just do it.”
And now, I was kinda pissed. Come on Markie! You know what I was looking for, why did ya do that to me? Well, that’s simple. It was the truth and he was a good enough friend to just say it. Sometimes you just need a friend to remind you to just do it.
I’ve always wanted to write a book and I’ve always planned on doing it. I figured it would be something I’d do in the future. One day, a couple of months back, I decided to just do it. I didn’t over think it, I didn’t even do the important preliminary work that I knew I needed (and still need) to do, and I just started writing. I knew that if I didn’t just start, that that feeling might pass and then I would be waiting for the talent fairy again. I’m tired of waiting for her. Besides, for all I know she’s probably on some never-ending hot date with The Great Pumpkin in Never, Never Land, never to return.
If my third generation advice hasn’t convinced you to just go ahead and start, here are two other reasons.
The talent fairy doesn’t visit tattoo artists. Here’s a really cool excerpt from Kat Von D’s book, Go Big, or Go Home:
One of the most common remarks I hear from people when they see on of my sketches or tattoos is: “I wish I could draw.” It’s flattering, but a part of me cringes at that comment simply because it isn’t true that they can’t learn to draw. There’s nothing special about what I do. Technically speaking, anybody can do what I do… Drawing well only requires practice, devotion and dedication, will and drive, and practice and more practice…Tests show that it takes the average mind approximately ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery of something… It sounds crazy but anyone can master anything if the so chose.
The sooner you start writing, the sooner you’ll get to be a good writer. You can’t improve on something you haven’t tried yet.
The talent fairy doesn’t visit dancers either.
I recently had the great honor of studying with one of the world’s greatest living dancers, Rachel Brice, a tribal-fusion belly dancer that I greatly admire. During her nearly weeklong dance/art training, we were given a lot of useful information but one thing stayed with me more than anything else.
While I know that Rachel has earned her talent, she is another person whose technique is so exceptional that you sometimes have to wonder if the talent fairy might exist after all, if she did it would be reasonable to assume that she’s made multiple visits to Rachel over the years. WRONG. It was clear in the five days of drilling, and musing about dance that she has worked hard, practiced hard and studied hard and continues to do so. At one point in our training we watched clips of dancers from many other dance genres and happened upon one dancer who was just beyond. That’s all I can say. He was just beyond. Rachel said one thing that I will never forget. (Paraphrasing here) You can’t fake practice.
In other words, you’ve either practiced or you haven’t and people can tell the difference. It was simple but profound, the time you put in, will be seen by everyone watching, and the time you don’t put in will be seen as well.
I’m certain the same is true for writing. You can’t expect to wake up one day and just know that if you write your novel on that special day, that the words will flow out beautifully and perfectly. It’s simply not going to happen that way. You are not going to get better unless you do a lot of writing and you won’t ever get there if you don’t start. So, if any of us hope to ever be great writers, we have to start by writing, work our way to being good and then keep on trucking until we attain our goals of being a writing genius. It all starts with telling yourself to just do it and following through.
So for anyone out there thinking of doing this writing thing, or anything, my advice, like Markie’s, and the dude before him, is just do it and for those of you already taking the journey, keep on truckin’.