Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing 101: Fooling Yourself, Fooling the World, Playing the Fool

April 1 is a day for fools, and that makes it a great day for all writers everywhere. It was Shakespeare who said that all the world's a stage, and the people in it are only players (unless you believe in the Shakespeare authorship controversy, but let's not get into that debate just now). As a writer, you're pretty much always doing one of three things: fooling yourself, fooling the world or playing the fool. So today is really a day for you.


Everybody Plays the Fool

I don't mean that offensively. Remember, I am also a writer -- and a fool. It takes a fool to believe that your own words are so very important, millions will want to read them. Read them, hell. They'll want to own them, to memorize them, to study and repeat them and love them. It takes a fool to scoff at rejection letters, to daydream brand-new worlds into existence...to make oneself vulnerable on the page. So today, be foolish when it comes to your writing. Foolery can be even stronger than bravery.

  • Fooling yourself: To even dream about becoming an author, you've got to fool yourself a little. You can't be discouraged by the reality that millions of people have written books, and want to sell millions of copies of them. You can't think about the fact that agents receive thousands of letters a week, and readers are constantly inundated with book promotions. You can't be overwhelmed by the massive task of creating an entire book out of blank pages and your own mind. You've got to fool yourself, and tell yourself that none of this stuff is really that hard and that you can do it. This gives you the necessary stubbornness to forge ahead, and actually get it done.
  • Fooling the world: Once you've got yourself fooled that you can become an author, your next task stretches before you: fooling the world. You see, you've got to make them believe it, too. Plenty of authors use self-publishing to create entire careers overnight. They begin writing a blog, publishing books and creating social media profiles online. If they work at it every single day, they'll collect followers and (with luck) book sales. This is what's known as fooling the world, and if you're a huge fool you can be really successful at it. 
  • Playing the fool: When you are an author, you are primarily an entertainer. Think about your origins. Once upon a time, writing as we know it didn't exist. But ancient men who painted on cave walls absolutely had a form of storytelling. We know, because we can see the stories unfolding in the images they left behind. Your roots as a storyteller extend back even further than the bards who traveled from castle to castle, telling their stories before live audiences. Today's storytellers entertain in a different way, but make no mistake about it: they entertain. In order to be an entertainer,  you have to be playing the fool some of the time. You might have to be funny, or serious, or thought-provoking, or ridiculous. It's all part of the author package, and always has been. 

So what I'm saying is, if you're an author you've got a little bit of foolishness in you. Let it shine, for today is your day. Fool really means dreamer, and this is what all writers really are.

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