I’ve been enjoying my writing of late. Now that I’ve had a bit of practice in reaching that final full stop at the end of a long book, I’m starting to review my writing style and apply the same concepts of continuous improvement that characterised my apprenticeships in academia, business, and game. So, I’ve been re-reading Teach Yourself Writing A Novel. It’s a good book. Maybe not worth the $169 some sellers are asking, but then again I bought it in Waterstones ten years ago for £7.99
Writing can’t be taught, only learnt. This is because it’s an art not a craft, and most of the progress is internal – inside your head. Consider this quote from the book:
“A novel comprises two aspects: the craft, that is, the mechanics of it’s construction, and the art, namely the quality of its construction. The mechanics of writing can easily be learnt: a page of diagrams can be memorised, a list digested. Quality, however, is more difficult to learn, for it can’t be reduced to a formula. Quality is the indefinable mystery of writing, the relationship between words which is as much the product of the space between the words as the words themselves. A good writer isn’t just a wordsmith, he is someone who can see quality in the world and can somehow translate that on to the page.”
Inquiring minds have probably already tumbled to my game here. It is tempting to see Game as a blueprint, a Mechano set with precise instructions to assemble. Once a guy has tried and failed with that attitude it’s tempting to now renounce Game as “robotic” or “unrealistic”. Like writing a novel, perfecting your game is about learning the rules and then finding the magic that hides between the spaces.
“Apprentices work under craftspeople so they can study their technique, and novel writing requires an apprenticeship just as much as furniture making. At first you find yourself copying other writers, certainly, this was so in my case: my first novel began as a pastiche of many different styles – from Jane Austen to D H Lawrence to Kurt Vonneguy. In the end it is vital you find your own voice.”
While strolling down a Marbella beach in January, Steve and I were chewing the fat of life. A thought came to me that I repeated aloud: “Steve, there’s a big difference between you and I. You’re a hunter and I’m a craftsman. This difference shows up everywhere in our game, our hobbies, and our approach to business.”
Daygame Mastery is a finely-honed artifact, the literary equivalent of a gothic cathedral (to one reviewer). The book is an expression of the same mindset that produced the London Daygame Model that it outlines – craftmanship. I admonish readers to pursue excellence and to admire any and all masters of their craft be it the engineering of a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport in real life or the lovingly optimised 3D engine that renders it on your Playstation 4. When you can appreciate the sights, sounds and tastes of excellence you can radiate with happy vibe.
“There are three qualities an aspiring writer needs in order to have success: luck, talent and hard work. Writing a novel requires stamina. When I began my first novel, I leapt into it as though I was running a hundred-yard dash. A few weeks passed and I found myself pausing to catch my breath. I had barely finished the first chapter. A novel, I realised is not a dash, but a marathon. A few months passed, and I realised my metaphor was wrong – a marathon, even at walking pace, can be completed in a day. Perhaps the writing of a novel was closer to an extended pregnancy. A few years passed and I realised that again, I had got the wrong image. Bar any mishaps, there is something inevitable about pregnancy. There is no such certainty for a novel. You could work on a novel forever without coming to its end – there is nothing inevitable about completing it.”
Herein lies the Player’s awakening as he progresses from the magic pill “let’s get this handled” stage into the ominous realisation of just how large a job he’s taken on. He’s grabbed the tiger by its tail. Having swallowed the red pill and accepted the fundamental principles of game (that your SMV can be raised, and your value delivery can be improved) you can’t unsee it. You’ve blindly walked into hell and can now do nothing but follow Winston Churchill’s exhortation to keep walking. In the Blueprint Decoded, Tyler likens it to clawing your way to the summit of a mountain and then as you stand atop, you can suddenly see a much bigger mountain over the crest – the real peak had been hidden from sight at ground level. Falling down a mountain is easily accomplished by the simple act of letting go. Climbing up is an active strenuous process. There’s nothing inevitable about it.
“Of the three qualities of luck, talent and hard work, it is the last with which you should make friends. The successful novelist is a stubborn, brave and single-minded individual. Antisocial, perhaps; misunderstood, almost certainly; confused and afraid at times, unsure of their talent, regretful of their mistakes, envious of their peers – a successful novelist may be all of these. But he is also a brave pioneer.”
The book then turns to a discussion of how to get ideas to write about.
“It’s a frustrating fact of the creative life that motivation alone isn’t enough to produce a work of art. We need a spark, a germ, a seed. A novel is not a machine – you can’t build one. A novel is more like a bonfire: you can lay as much firewood as you please, but without a spark you’ll get no heat.”
This is how it feels to grind out the sets on the streets. We know Game requires the homework – the laying of firewood – so you’ll read the instructional books, watch others in set and deconstruct them, hit the gym and so on. You’ll schedule time on the streets to talk to girls and begin internalising the method and sharpening your calibration. But at what point does it “click”? When do your results improve and the lays begin trickling through?
These things can’t be forced.
“Don’t resist being chosen. I see it a lot with my students: an idea tugs at their sleeve, but they ignore it because they want to write something more noble, or exciting, or intellectual. And generally the results are what you would expect: strained and artificial. But when students recognise the wealth of material they already possess, they can access their greatest asset as writers: their uniqueness.”
Now we’re talking about freedom through structure and of harnessing your creativity rather than forcing yourself into a cookie-cutter daygame robot with the “you look French” and the arm-folding exactly forty-five seconds into the set. While you’re laying the firewood by slavishly implementing the model – the imitation stage comes before assimilation and then innovation – always be alive to the ideas that spring to mind. Don’t ever fear going “off-model” when your muse presents you with an interesting direction to turn the set into a new direction. Just as a novelist has the ability to edit every word later, you always have the ability to open more sets. Take a chance this set. Game to the full extent of your ability and see where it takes you. Even if you get yourself in a tangle, you can reboot any time.
“How will you know if your story is any good? There is no way of telling, short of writing it, but try asking yourself these questions. How excited am I by it? Do I care enough about the issues it deals with to stay with it for six months, a year, two years? Don’t think of the market at this stage. At the beginning, the person you should be thinking of is yourself. Does the story appeal to you? It is you, after all, who will have to write it.”
Game is a hobby for the self-absorbed. You won’t get good by trying to please your fellows, or by trying to impress random people on the internet. You can’t worry about the other pedestrians walking past as you talk to the girl, nor can you really give much care to what the girl thinks. As you begin writing the story of your game it is all about you. You are the hero in your novel.
Later, you’ll need to give more consideration to the other protagonists and bit-part characters. You will have to sensitise yourself to the girls – how they think, what they want, how they react to you. But at no point will you ever subordinate yourself to other people’s interests. At the beginning of the novel, you’re staring at a lot of blank pages. You need to fill them, and that means grabbing your quill and dipping it in the ink. At that early stage the focus is on you – what do you want to write. Write the story you’d like to read.
So, I’m quite enjoying this Teach Yourself Writing A Novel book. I’m hoping it’ll help me refine my craft because that’s one of my sources of flow state.
Hunters will tell you it’s about chasing down the prey in the most efficient manner possible. Nihilists will tell you it’s about extracting the bang on whatever pretext. Both will work and if they appeal to your personality, have at it. When you dip into my work know that you are seeing a different personality express itself – that of a craftsman with an eye for detail and a joy for the process.
That’s the beauty of Game. The blank pages are just a platform upon which to perform your own play. The direction will be an expression of your character. In the beginning you may look to War & Peace or Fight Club but when the apprenticeship is over you’ll have something uniquely your own.
Now try re-reading all the above quotations but replace “writing” with “gaming”.