Gear does not equal “Better”

In addition to being a YA novelist, I am also a photographer.  I have been shooting fairly regularly for about 28 years, having started with film cameras and eventually making the jump to DSLR and now to Mirrorless.  I belong to multiple groups on Facebook for photography and one of the things I see a lot from newbie togs is this:

“I’m getting a new camera!  What should I charge customers?”

Most of the time, this question comes from photographers whose skill sets are not elevated enough to be considered “professional” – their photos are inconsistent, they don’t understand lighting or posing, etc.  They have craft to learn before they should be soliciting paying clients.

And today, I thought to myself, as writers, do we ever say, “I’m getting a new word processor for my laptop! Should I sub my book to agents?”

It’s a little laughable, isn’t it?  Writing and Photography have a lot in common.  They are creative fields that require technical skill – you could have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t express them on the page . . . well, we all know how that goes.  And photography is similar – you can have a great eye for composing, but if you don’t understand how the exposure triangle works, you may not get decent images despite “seeing” them in your mind’s eye.

Yet, photographers think better gear translates to better photography.  I’ve yet to meet a writer who thinks a better computer or better writing program (Word vs Scrivener, for example) will translate to better writing.  Better writing comes from practice.  Better writing comes from taking workshops on craft, and learning how craft and structure work together, and how dialogue, narrative, and action interact.  Better writing comes from being involved with critique groups, and getting feedback, and revising for improvement.  Better writing comes from being open to that feedback, and allowing yourself to look for imperfections in that “perfect” baby.

I know of writers who, after participating in NaNoWriMo, are so pleased with their rough draft that they immediately start sending out queries to agents.  Anne Lamott called the first draft the “shitty first draft.”  I believe her.  Even if you get a completed rough from a month of frantic writing, you still need to mold it, shape it, and better it before trying to send it out in the world.

So when you’re writing, always remember it’s great to get the first draft down on paper.  But the first draft is just that.  Revise, rewrite, review, repeat.  Because as clichéd as it is, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.”  Don’t try to skip steps in the process. The process results in a sellable product, and isn’t that what we all want?

New computer or not. 😊

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