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6 Writers Who Accidentally Crapped Out Masterpieces
Entered on: April 8, 2009 12:33 PM by Jackzilla
One of my Facebook friends posted this and I thought it was a fun read:

NEWS 627 - 14 Comments
From: Jackzilla Entered on: April 8, 2009 12:49 PM

Ohhh, this one's pretty good too (same site... CRACKED is back!):

5 Ways 'Common Sense' Lies To You Everyday

Ok... back to work...

From: Ross Entered on: April 8, 2009 1:06 PM

I love this bit:

OK, now to be fair, Victorian England was a place and time where pictures of nude children were actually considered pretty cool (apparently, it wasn't terribly uncommon for parents to send out photos of their kids' wieners with the holiday newsletter)

Cracked always has some great top 5/10 lists...

From: NickNick Entered on: April 8, 2009 2:02 PM

Watership Down was a story made up for the authors children as well.

Also, I find myself extremely frustrated because there is "formula" to follow for success as a writer.  You just keep pouring shit out of your mouth onto paper until finally, someone happens upon it and deams it brilliant and then anything you do is golden.


From: Ross Entered on: April 8, 2009 2:07 PM

I don't think anyone seriously thinks there is a formula for success at writing or for anything else for that matter.  Most of the writers I respect say that the only "formula" is practicing, writing all the damn time.  Over time, you suck less and less.  (again, something Johnnybells  refuses to understand)  It's true that you have to get discovered, and that part is somewhat driven by luck, though.  But only a rare few reach commercial success without having the requisite thousands of hours of practice.

From: RobotSpider Entered on: April 9, 2009 9:00 AM

I've been reading a lot of stuff on the various iPhone reader apps, and I just want to throw in a plug for the editors out there.  I've read some really good stuff that, unfortunately, read like the author didn't even read it over before 'publishing' it.  These aren't fan-fics or anything like that, they're books that I could have purchased as print or digitally.  It ranges from misspellings and grammar (they're, their) to just using the wrong word--not a poorly-chosen word, but a word whose definition isn't even in the same ballpark as what they're looking for. 

Obviously, it's still about the author.  And if the editor is doing their job, you won't ever know they were there.  Just a thought.

From: The Bone Entered on: April 11, 2009 12:02 PM
NickNick said:

Also, I find myself extremely frustrated because there is "formula" to follow for success as a writer.  You just keep pouring shit out of your mouth onto paper until finally, someone happens upon it and deams it brilliant and then anything you do is golden.


If that were the case Fatty would be heralded as a literary genius by now.

From: Ross Entered on: April 11, 2009 5:54 PM

Well, to be fair, that's almost the way Professor Gerry described him...

From: BigFatty Entered on: April 12, 2009 12:55 AM

I was waiting for these comments.  Knew they were coming......

From: John Entered on: April 17, 2009 12:00 PM

As far as the thousand hours of practice thing goes all I'm saying is you can take a group of people and have them practice anything for one thousand hours and one of them will still be the best. Talent also counts for something. You can practice boxing for thousand of hours and not be anywhere near the likes of Muhammad Ali, sorry there is more to it than practice alone.

From: Ross Entered on: April 17, 2009 2:18 PM

Well ok, I agree with that.  I think when we have these discussions, we often talk at cross purposes.  We both can usually (albeit eventually) agree with the other's main point, but we seem to stress different things.  The question to me is, which tends to be more important, practice or talent? Of course it somewhat depends on the activity, but believe it or not, there are people who research this very question, and for the most part, they are overwhelmingly in the camp of practice.  I was just reading about this in Skeptic magazine the other day in fact.  I'll have to dig it up, but it was written by someone who is considered the foremost reseracher in this realm.

I'll allow this much: it appears to me, based on my own observations (and hence I'm not trying to say it's science) that when you're at the outer edges of ability, both positive and negative, that environment and practice tend to matter less.  For the few people at the extreme ends of the spectrum, practice doesn't affect them nearly as much as the rest of the vast majority of people.  I think you probably agree with this.

But for the vast majority of people, practice and experience are king.

But what to do with this information is where we differ markedly.   To me, understanding how people in general work is much more interesting than how a select few work.  Understanding how to improve myself or people I care about is a much more enriching experience, especially if I can put it into practice.  I think focusing on what makes Muhammad Ali naturally talented is a waste of time, as if you could possibly know anyway. Note that I would still maintain that what made Muhammad Ali so great is more due to how hard he trained than whatever extra natural skill he had.  To turn your own phrase around on you, all the natural talent in the world by itself won't make you into Muhammad Ali, not even close.

The fact of the matter is, in the vast majority of cases, your natural talent at something is not nearly as good a determinant of how well you can perform at it relative to others as your level of experience with it.  This isn't my opinion.  This is backed up by copious research.

I also think it bears making a distinction between being "the best" at something, like Muhammad Ali was, and being an expert at something.  I seems that, to you, Bells, "the best" is what you prefer to focus on, whereas I do find that interesting but apparently less so.  I prefer to focus on what it takes to be really good at something - an expert. 

So I know how many people on Jackassery inexplicably seem to disdain linking to supporting documentation, but I'll leave it with this one article, and this particularly germane snippet:

And I stretched just a little... there is some thought that to be, literally, THE best in the world at chess, or the violin, or math, or programming, or golf, etc. you might indeed need that genetic special something. But... that's to be THE best. The research does suggest that whatever that special sauce is, it accounts for only that last little 1% that pushes someone into the world champion status. The rest of us--even without the special sauce--could still become world (or at least national) class experts, if we do the time, and do it the right way.

I also believe that the researcher, K. Anders Ericsson, is the guy to whom I was referring above.

From: John Entered on: April 17, 2009 2:58 PM

Interesting article, I never thought of it quite like that. Most of us are just too lazy to be world class including myself. True champions have a will to win and a dedication that goes beyond other talented competitors. This is one component that seperated Ali from the rest. I watched an interesting documentary called the 5 laws of Muhammad Ali which basically listed the 5 things that made him the greatest heavyweight boxer in history. It came down to an uncanny mix of talent and determination that the makers of this documentary thought had never been seen before and may never be seen again.

From: Ross Entered on: April 17, 2009 3:09 PM

What I find most interesting about the debate, in light of what the research seems to indicate, is that it appears that what you call talent and I call practice aren't necessarily distinct.  Since the kind of "deliberate practice" is what the experts say is the secret to being great, it could be that the desire, and perhaps even the mental ability, to practice in that way is at least partially innate.  So while it might not end our debate, I think it shifts the focus some. 

From: John Entered on: April 17, 2009 3:20 PM

Indeed it does, more food for thought. There is a special sauce but it might have more to do with how good you are at practice. I remember you once saying that most people don't know how to study and in the same vein most people don't know how to practice in a way that they continue to get better once they reach that amateur status.

From: NickNick Entered on: April 17, 2009 4:14 PM

You're both right and are actually agreeing along the same principles, like you said earlier Ross.

To illustrate in a way that I can relate to.  You can have an individual who is highly creative but without the proper schooling and training, it's wasted.  It needs to be refined and honed and focused.

Applying this back to the original debate.  I still think there are an awful lot of good, if not great authors out there that never made it because outside circumstances just didn't fall into place for them and the same applies to the opposite.  There are crappy authors who have been given a chance because they were in the right place at the right time.


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