“Study! Do your homework! I used to always tell you, do your homework. Get footage! How the fuck are you going to know how to be great if you don’t study GREATNESS?!” ~Tracy Morgan, 2012
Well, here we are. Closing out a third year of writing and telling narrative. This year was a very, er… MIXED year. I won’t really get into that, but I think it was successful in some choice aspects. The first book of The Twisted World came out, and we’re well on our way into the next book with hopes that it will also be out this summer.
Tracy Morgan, although a comedian (but nonetheless related), makes a great point that should catch your attention. In this interview he was making some comparisons to sports, but it also applies to storytelling. How, exactly, do you plan on being great if you don’t study greatness?
Why would you expect to be a fantastic storyteller if you can’t be bothered to study what came before? As a storyteller you derive your ability to tell stories not from your own work, but from the work of countless storytellers who came before you. Not just storytelling, but almost every other career aspiration is built upon the works of the previous. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good storyteller WITHOUT studying prior work; that’s a fallacy. It all had to start somewhere with someone being completely inexperienced (and with no precedent), RIGHT?
What I AM saying, is that it’s going to be a lot tougher than it needs to be when you don’t look at everything that came prior. Being able to look at and analyze the work of others is your ultimate boon. You can see what they did wrong, and you can see what they did RIGHT. You can take a fantastic basic premise, and expand upon it. You can grow it, evolve it, turn it into something brand new and exciting. Look at the best in our field (and I’m not talking about our flash in the pan here today, gone tomorrow storytellers); study and figure out what they did to become so noteworthy that their work now precedes them in reputation.
You can, and almost anyone can, become a GREAT storyteller if you take the time to slow down and pay attention to all the works of story already around you. This coming year, I want you to focus on doing EXACTLY that. Go forth, and study greatness. Watch movies of all kinds, even the stuff you don’t like. Read books that you normally wouldn’t read. Play games you wouldn’t normally play. Take notes. LOOK AT THE GAME TAPE.
When we come back next year, we’ll definitely be more active again as we wind up towards The Twisted World Verse II and other smaller unannounced projects.
Have a safe and Happy New Year. Hell, I know I need it.