Be so good they can’t ignore you.

This post, reviewing Steve Martin’s autobiography, made me think. While I’m not a fan of Steve Martin, what he said rings true: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Being good, according to Steve Martin, incorporates two things: narrow focus and finding the essence of what you do. In Martin’s case, examining what makes something funny.

Finding the Essence

I made a new notebook titled: “The Craft: the essence of story.” Or something similar that I thought sounded lofty and important at the time but sounds kind of lame now.

In this notebook, I look at books and movies that I enjoy and write down what works and what didn’t.

First entry: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, since I finished it yesterday.

A sample of things that I thought worked:

  • He presents us with tangled threads, promising that, by the end he’ll weave them all into a spectacular tapestry. And he keeps that promise.
  • Variety of characters and characterizations. They each sound different.
  • As a fantasy, his worldbuilding is interesting. Even goes as far as to make something that would be ordinary in our world–grass–seem exotic and strange.

And something that didn’t work:

  • Some of the action scenes lulled a bit. It doesn’t work to have pages of descriptions and then say “and all that took mere seconds.”

My second entry was on the bonus features from Iron Man 2. Yeah, the bonus features. I know. But they were fun to watch. Why? What made them work? What didn’t? Just taking the time to look at that revealed some interesting things about storytelling and the kinds of stories I enjoy.

With only two entries, I’m already improving the way I see the stories around me.

Narrow focus

Things I am eliminating (or have) to focus more on my writing:

  • Crafty things. Okay to make presents (I hate giving meaningless big box store gifts. I can’t afford the “Oh, wow!” stuff and everything else is just clutter). But I’m not going to be one of those crafty moms.
  • Excessive chores. YEAH, what a good excuse to get out of blagh housework! I have a list of essential chores to keep the house clean, but I’m not going to be Martha Stewart. And I’m okay with that.
  • Elaborate meals. I like stuff that’s simple and easy to cook. Fortunately, so does my family.
  • Entrepreneurship. This one is a bit difficult for me, since I spent a lot of time and effort building a potentially lucrative business (and learning how to do that), but I’m definitely cutting down on it. Maybe I won’t give it up entirely, but I believe enough in my writing to give up the potential money for the writing. Besides, most of the things I learned about entrepreneurship will translate into being a writer.

What I’m NOT going to eliminate, however, is my kids and the time I spend with them. I write early in the morning so I can get it done and then I put it aside so I can mentally and physically be with my kids all day. I’ve tried not separating my life so starkly, but I can’t. My attention goes to one or the other, and my kids are more important. After all, they are my day job. 🙂
So, takeaways: focus on writing, eliminate all that unnecessarily takes me away from writing, and be so good they can’t ignore me. Yes.

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