Monday, April 13, 2015

Level Up

This was the fourth and probably last year I attended Teen Author Boot Camp, a young author's conference put on by local author group Writers Cubed. The first time I went, I was fifteen and still struggling to write two notebook pages a day. Now I'm eighteen, interning with a publishing company and I have seven completed novels under my belt. Seven. My goal was six by graduation. I go to enough author events that I was recognized by three different authors that day without having to introduce myself.
The keynote speaker was fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson. He talked about his own writing, and surprisingly, a favorite video game of his, Spelunky.

As  I understand from Brandon's explanation, Spelunky doesn't do lives. Once you die you die. Back to level one. There are no power ups either. So even though its dungeon crawl design is similar to many video games, it's ridiculously hard.
He hated it, but of course he had to beat it, so he kept playing. And eventually he made it to the top. He came to realize that even if he couldn't upgrade his character, he could upgrade himself.
Writing is the same. Brandon Sanderson has hit the NYT Bestseller list six times. He writes eighteen hundred page books and people buy them. He travels around the country appearing at conventions because everyone wants a piece of him. But he didn't let the fame go to his head, and he didn't have this "lonely at the top" mentality either. Instead, he said one of the most reassuring things I've ever heard. He wrote something like eleven novels before he got published. Once he hit it, he hit it big. But he said that if he were to die at the computer, if his family found him with his face in the keyboard, nose on the T key, spewing one letter across fifty pages, and that was his hundredth unpublished novel, he'd still be okay-because those novels helped him upgrade himself.
I was a runner-up in TABC's first chapter contest, and part of my prize was free author edits on my writing. So I went home, flipped open my laptop, and started typing up the edits.
And then the screen went black.
It turned out to be nothing more than a harddrive error, so after a few hours of frantic button pushing, virus scanning, and file salvaging, I was good to go. But for half the day I was worried I'd lose two complete novels that hadn't been backed up in their latest form. I've come close to this kind of crisis before, and this wasn't the worst time, but I spent several hours on the brink.
However, I never fell into despair. I remembered what Brandon Sanderson said about upgrading yourself. So even if I don't get to read back over my pride and joys, I still have the fruits.
I think this is good advice, not just for writing, but for life. You can never measure your self worth by possessions acquired, connections made, or awards won. It's all about the upgrade.

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