Everything I know, I learned from Street Fighter IV

I’m not talking about a triple spinning uppercut–although I’d love to be able to do that in real life. But let’s start with some context

When I was eighteen and in college, there wasn’t much to do on breaks and lunch. So myself and a boy I hung around with would play arcade games. Street Fighter, as I recall. I’m dating myself horribly, but I have a point. I played for weeks. Maybe three or four. And got thrashed continually by my friend. There was a lot of specialized moves, hand eye coordination, and understanding of the game’s patterns of movement. Certain moves were called for at certain times, certain moves of your opponent needed certain defences, and some things you could do were simply unstoppable (a glitch in the system, and super annoying to the uninitiated). Anyway, I got beat. A lot.

Then one day, I didn’t. My mind and body clicked, and suddenly I was winning. In fact, I was thrashing my friend, because I’d found a couple of moves that were difficult to defend with the character he liked to use the most. I remember he looked at me and said. “It’s about time.”

I think a lot of things are like that. You learn and you try, and you learn and you try, and if anything, you seem to get worse. Then one day, something clicks, and suddenly you’re better than you were. Not that you’re the best yet, but you’re a level up. And it shows.

I believe that it’s the same in writing. I’ve felt it. Not in everything (I don’t have a book deal yet, and may never), but I found a year or two ago that my story pitches were getting more attention on website competitions. It had clicked with me how to write one. Not that my story ideas were always somebody’s cup of tea, but they were getting more attention. I’d leveled up.

I’m not sure if this is a craft tip, but maybe it’s a bit of hope for writers who are new and finding things frustrating. You can get better. You WILL get better. You just have to keep getting thrashed first. :)

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It’s close to one of my birthdays, and I have to admit to feeling a little bit of the blues the last week. On the writing journey, there are no signposts or guarantees that you’re going to get to the promised land, or even a friendly rest-stop. But I hope to shake this mood off soon and remind myself that I take joy in the writing, the creating, and getting better.

And maybe one day my ‘level up’ will be something more significant…

This image is a quick effort in Prismacolor. I tried to stay true to the low pixel original screen images, but I’m not sure how well it came out. A fun effort in any event.

Claws Around the Cage

I learned something after 2 years of hanging out on the SCBWI discussion boards. And the Blue Boards (when they were still separate). And occasional contests and… well, you get the idea. This is what I learned.

I was no longer learning much.

Because I wasn’t a newbie writer anymore. I was weighing in on random topics, gossiping, and helping people new to the boards. But not really improving my own craft. So I shelled up, became a hermit crab, and started making sure my limited free time either improved my writing, or WAS writing in some fashion*. It doesn’t replace writing. And hopefully never will.

So this is what I learned:

Limit your online time.

Limit the number of blogs you follow. Prune.

And limit the time you spend aimlessly wandering discussion boards and getting sucked into heated debates and critiques. Especially once you’ve moved up the learning curve and would benefit more from the insight of industry professionals (those who spend time on a professional polish, rather than the basic foundations of writing). You don’t have to cut it out entirely, but be careful it doesn’t suck up all your time**.

So build a cage, and put the laptop in there with you.

Then Write. Ruthlessly guard your time, and the value you get out of any writing activity. Learn new things. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

So what are you waiting for? Write!

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*yes, yes, I know that I have a blog on the topic of writing, which contradicts all this with great irony, but my blog has a stated purpose and time allotment each month, which I’m pretty firm about keeping.

**Fair warning: opinions vary, and this is just mine. The optimal approach to writing discussion board participation depends on what your priorities are. If fun and social interaction is what keeps you going down this thankless road, feel free to disregard! :)

For a general update, my short story is now up on OWW and I opened all my files on the Broken Detective (new title forthcoming), the old unloved story that I want to spruce up and put out into the world. A bit exciting and daunting, but hopefully this will be a fun detour for a few months. I still think it’s worth doing. We’ll see what the rest of the world thinks. :)

The featured image here is ink and black Prismacolor. I’m experimenting a bit to see if I can figure out a low maintenance style that would work well on the go, as I might consider a little bit of art in the Broken Detective manuscript if so. If I can make it convenient, it would make it a lot more likely!