Monday, August 19, 2013

Why writers are (and should be) like sharks

A couple of weeks ago, nerds everywhere stopped the Batman versus Superman debate and came together for Shark Week. Before I started indulging in this week long geek fest, I was scared out of my mind of sharks. I could have added them to one of those lists of things that scare me. But no more. Thanks Shark Week!

Still, this one looks kind of creepy.

But sharks aren't exactly cuddly teddy bears either. When great whites are born, they immediately swim away from their mother because they know she's hungry -- and dangerous. Some species of shark babies even eat each other in the womb. Sharks learn to fend for themselves and kill or be killed before they're even born. Even mating is difficult for female sharks, who often have to be hunted and held down by the male. The female sharks I saw on some of these programs had huge scars down their backs as a result of this. And all for the preservation of the species.

Sometimes, being an unpublished, unagented writer feels the same way. We have to subject ourselves to pain and scarring -- getting our work critiqued, getting rejections, even major revisions or setbacks in a manuscript or hunt for a publisher -- just to keep going.

But sharks aren't just mindless killing machines. That's something else they have in common with writers -- both are tremendously misunderstood creatures. Sharks rarely attack humans with the intent of killing them. Most of the time, it's a case of mistaken identity. And the rare rogue sharks, the ones that go after humans and won't stop come hell or, um, high water...well, there are people who go after people like that too, are there not?

When I was in high school studying theater, our theater teacher told us that actors had to be like sharks.  Ever notice how sharks never stay still in the water like some fish do? They can't. They have to keep moving forward or they'll suffocate.

This applies to actors and pretty much everyone else, but especially to writers. We have to keep learning and growing, or our careers/crafts will come to a standstill. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I talked about baby sharks eating each other in the womb? Sharks are aggressive, but they sort of have to be. If they're not, they won't survive. Just like...writers!

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