Kyle de Waal, Guest Contributor
The deadline to enter our annual Student Novel Contest is August 15, 2015—in 3 days! If you’ve been holding back, afraid to submit your novel, Kyle, a longtime student with The One Year Adventure Novel, challenges you to think about the contest in a different way:
Monday night, some friends and I, went to see The Classic Crime, because they’re awesome (one of my favorite bands) and they were in Kansas!
It was fun.
But as we know to expect with medium-sized bands, they rounded up some local acts to open the show for them. You probably can imagine the type. One band had formed something like a month before; another screamed “We practice in our mom’s garage!” with everything they did. (I didn’t catch most of their lyrics because they seemed more interested in guitars than vocals, so perhaps they were literally screaming that. I’ll never know.)
The local acts got better as the show went along, but it became increasingly obvious to everyone—audience and bands alike—that we were all there for the same reason. The Classic Crime was playing. The bands repeatedly admitted that everyone was there for that, and they didn’t seem too bothered about it either.
The screaming guitars really made an impression—obviously—but what really struck me was how much fun everyone seemed to be having. Sure, they were missing notes from time to time, and several of the singers didn’t seem quite aware of what their voices could and couldn’t do, but they were having fun.
They’d formed a month ago, and they were OPENING FOR THE CLASSIC CRIME. Of course they were having fun. They got to go on stage with real musicians and perform. Of COURSE that’s fun!
Did they look terrified? Yes. But did they look like they were having a blast? Also yes.
And of course they looked extremely amateurish compared to a band that has been together for over a decade, because that’s just how music goes.
The last time I saw The Classic Crime live it was at an all-day music festival. Ten bands, one day, ending with The Classic Crime. And what struck me then struck me last night too.
It takes time to get good. It really does. I have yet to be blown away by a band that comes on stage and admits that they formed a month before. The longer a band has been playing together, the better they get.
It takes practice. There’s no doubting that. Any art form you want to master will demand time and deliberate practice. You have to push yourself, stretch yourself. It takes work.
But you know what? Just because it takes practice doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun until you have mastered it.
Sometimes you can perform before you’re perfect.
Sometimes you can have fun.
Of course, as a community of writers, our performances tend to look a little less dramatic than going on stage and gyrating with a guitar (hallelujah!). As a writer, you need significantly less stage-make up.
But it’s no less fun. Our performances look like posting chapters on the forum, or clicking “Send” after attaching our writing in a message to a friend. Our performances look like submitting.
Submitting is one of those words that carry a ton of weight in writing communities. Because, chances are, we’ve felt that pressure before. Whether it was emailing an agent or publisher, or even just entering a contest, you suddenly have that moment of, “I can’t fix this any further,” and you feel like a large bag of tears.
I have been there. You probably have too.
And with the contest coming up in a few days, I want to suggest that if you’re going to submit, have fun while you do it. And if you’re on the edge about submitting, do it.
It may not be perfect yet. You might screw up the drums a little, and maybe it will show that this is your first effort. Maybe your book needs a little more editing than you have time to give it.
That’s okay. Have fun anyway.
You have permission from your audience to rock imperfectly for a while.
If there isn’t any fun in it, why do it? There are lots of other meaningful things you can do with your life. If you’re not going to let go and have a blast with it from time to time, isn’t that a little bleak?
It can be fun. You can choose for it to be fun. (There’s even a cash prize now? I guess? Cash prizes sound like fun to me.)
So go out there and rock and have a blast and maybe you won’t be perfect. But that’s okay.
(Just get back to practice once it’s over.)
Those of you who are on the OYAN student forum, can find his contest-winning novel, Project Theta, in the 2011 contest showcase.