Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Give Yourself Royal Jelly, Part 2

This is part two of a series about basketball coach and writer David Thrope's metaphor of royal jelly. Click here for part 1.

Identify Your Strengths

When David Thorpe, author of the royal jelly concept, began coaching Udonis Haslem, he knew that the young basketball player had potential in the NBA, but not by playing the way he played in college. Haslem's gifts lied not in scoring more points than everybody else, but in rebounding, defending, and playing harder than everybody else. He gave Haslem a goal: finish in the top 5 in rebounding in the NBA's summer leagues.

Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
Udonis Haslem made it by focusing on his strengths
How did Haslem go from the star of his college to a role play in the NBA? Thorpe gave him a poster, hung in Haslem's bedroom, titled "Udonis Haslem is..." Together, they wrote adjectives that both described Haslem and would make him valuable to an NBA team

Make your own Udonis Haslem poster.

Only instead of "Udonis Haslem," write your name. Write ten adjectives about your writing that could get you published in today's environment. Start simple, and just write "I Am..."

Then, once you have ten adjectives, start writing a short story, flash fiction, or chapter with only those adjective in mind, and see what you come up with.

After they made it, they exploited their success.

My quotation from Jim Butcher in part 1 comes from the back of Ghost Story, and the last few books from the Dresden Files. It's a part of a multi-page advertisement placed in all of his recent releases. In other words, he's leveraged the strength of the Dresden Files series in order to sell and promote his "swords-and-horses" fantasy series, Codex Alera.

Point being, you don't always get your dream job in your dream scenario. Your first series that you've been waiting to write your entire life might fail completely. Insteady of running the same lap again, or giving up completely, Butcher reassessed his position, and tried experimenting with different paths to success. And when he finally achieved his dream.

The difference here is that artistic careers are longer than athletic ones, and we have more time to grow, to learn, and to achieve new things. While Haslem's career is winding down, Butcher is just getting started. He's already launched his first epic fantasy series, Codex Alera, and he's shown no indications of slowing down.

So learn from Jim Butcher, and experiment with different genres and styles. If you write fantasy, try a subsection of the genre you don't normally write in. If you write thrillers, try a romance. Even if it doesn't make you famous, trying new things will get you to develop skills that will come in very handy when you're developing subplots in longer stories.

Helping yourself develop isn't about self-belief. It's not about knowing you're the greatest writer of all time. It's about recognizing your strengths, and playing to them as often as possible. But sometimes, we have strengths that are lying dormant, just beneath the surface, and it just takes some creative practice to explore them. By trying new things while practicing old tricks, you might just find a different path to success than you ever thought possible.