I've been writing since I was a wee lass. No, really. My mother let me dictate my first story to her when I was about six. Once it was all typed, it was maybe a page long. It had all the elements of a great story - lovable main character, conflict, and resolution. It was about a girl who wanted a horse, so she saved her money to buy one. One day she went to town and the horse she wanted was gone. So she asked the ranch owner who bought the horse and went and told the new owner that she wanted the horse. So he sold it to her.
See? All the important elements. Of course, it's not something I'd want to read today. But that's the great thing about honing a skill - it gets better with time. Like aged wine. Of course, even liquor can turn sour if aged in the wrong way. Which is why I use this analogy and not one about things getting better with practice. I think as artists we sometimes forget a key element: there's such a thing as too much refinement.
We take painting classes, join writer's groups, ask for critiques and beat our heads against the wall when we can't make everyone happy. We forget a key element - all the technique in the world won't help you if there are fundamental flaws with what you want to create. And if there is something there worth seeing/writing/creating, don't buff the shine right out of it.
What made me think of, and decide to rehash this argument that most of learn the more we create? I was reading old work. Stuff I created before I ever found other people to critique my work. And comparing it to other pieces I've created over time. Some with all the wonderful 'technique' I've learned, others with only a little of it. Three snippets are below, maybe they're in the order I created them, maybe they're not. Which one is oldest? Which one has the knowledge of my peers applied to it? Have I really come full circle or have I improved with time? Rhetorical questions, I assure you. But something to think about when you examine any of your own art. And please, for the love of Loki, don't edit these ;-)
A hot wind whipped through the air, tugging at her hair and stinging her cheeks. She squinted, trying to make out any recognizable shapes in the dust filled wasteland. The heat beat down on her, blistering and hot even though she couldn’t locate a source for the intense temperature. She felt like she was in an oven, suffocating.
“Do you see what the two of you have done?” a voice yelled in frustration. Her hand flew to her mouth when she realized that she had spoken the words herself.
“I did nothing wrong,” a female voice replied. “I was merely trying to keep humanity from destroying itself.”
“It’s not my fault,” a male voice countered. “None of this would have happened if either one of you had listened to me.”
“Stop it,” she screamed, covering her ears with her hands. But the echoes of the two voices still filled her head; murmuring and bickering.
In the blink of an eye the light around her flickered to a vibrant yellow, electromagnetic magic striking temperate ice water and causing him to hiss in pain. The momentary distraction was enough. Her hands moved to the small of her back and her head whipped back, skull catching him in the jaw. Dropping to the ground, her leg struck from beneath her skirts and knocked his feet out from under him. She stood with a twirl, her hands bringing two well hidden daggers into view.
Pushing back to his feet the moment he hit the ground, he mentally chided himself for thinking he had her this time. His long blade left its scabbard at the same time the sunlight glinted off her shorter pair. “Lightening? That’s new.”
“Only to you.” A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She struck first, stepping inside his reach and slicing from the side.
The feint to get him to guard his left arm was familiar and he moved into the blow rather than deflecting it. He brought his dagger up from the right to block what would have been a wicked puncture to his kidney. The blade missed his skin, but sliced cleanly through his orange waistcoat.
She slid into the beige leather, skirt riding high on her thighs. “I thought you’d never ask. There’s a coffee shop not too far from here that’s open all night.”
“I know the place.” One of Kali’s favorites. He shut her door and moved to his own side of the vehicle. Turning the key in the ignition, he tossed the car into gear and pulled out of the parking lot. He cast a sideways glance at the woman next to him. “How’s it going with the whole voices in your head thing?”
She shrugged, her cut-off white T-shirt rising higher on her flat stomach before falling again. “They’re pretty much quiet now. Though occasionally I get an odd flash of memory that isn’t mine but is. Today it was when we stormed Versai.”
He rolled his eyes, but a smirk had replaced his irritation. It felt good to banter with the goddess, even though he felt a little guilt that he enjoyed it more mixed with Elle’s unique perspective than he had when she was just Kali. “No, you stormed Versai. I watched your back.”
The carefree laughter that filled the car reminded him how young portions of her psyche still were. She shifted in her bucket seat, tucking her legs beneath her. “No, you watched her ass.”
“Best view on the battlefield.” He winked at her.