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My Never-Ending Project Is Now Finished

Luc's writing projects

Talk the Talk 2006

My First Published Book–and Publisher Problems
My first published book was Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures, a dictionary of and guide to subculture slang in the U.S., appearing in bookstores in 2006. I received a small advance and an education in traditional publishing. My publisher’s royalty statements tended to be late when they came at all, and they didn’t appear to be very consistent or accurate. Eventually the publisher put out an entire separate printing, a hardcover version, that they neglected to mention to me–or pay me for. I didn’t know about it until I walked into my local bookstore and saw a bunch of copies of my own book. “Hardcover?” I said. “This was never released in hardcover!” Of course, it had been.

I did eventually get paid some of those royalties, but as the book came to the end of its life cycle and it started appearing on bargain tables, I turned my thoughts to rights reversion. Reversion is when a publisher assigns all of the rights for future editions of the book back to the writer, whether due to a prior arrangement, out of the goodness of their hearts, or perhaps as a peace offering to a writer whose book they have published in a separate hardcover edition without his knowledge or permission. Whatever the reason, Kindle books were starting to make a splash, and I wanted to make a proper Kindle edition of Talk the Talk.

The publisher did, kindly enough, agree to revert the rights for the book to me, and I started on an updated edition that I could release in paperback and for Kindle, figuring that I could probably have it out in a month or two.

Out with the old
Two and a half years later, I’m finally finished with that new edition: after a long time spent editing, updating, programming, formatting, checking, and tweaking, and with a cover based on a design very kindly donated by my talented artist cousin Nicholas, I’ve approved the proof, and the book is available for order.

The new edition is Talk the Talk in as ideal a form as I can imagine. The original edition was beautifully designed, with a sort of Soviet Rodeo aesthetic throughout and I thought it was very snazzy, but unfortunately it was also difficult to read and wasteful of space. Because of that design, I had to cut out a lot of material out from the original edition. I was also concerned that it wasn’t too comfortable to read in large sections (for people who wanted to do that), however pretty the design was.

interior of the original 2006 edition

interior of the original 2006 edition

In the new edition, I’ve dispensed with the Soviet Rodeo design (which I probably wouldn’t have had the rights to use anyway) and made the book much clearer and more comfortable to read. I restored a bunch of material that I’d had to cut out of the original, and removed a section the editor had really wanted that I didn’t feel belonged in the book because it was more popular culture than subculture (I’ve made the original version of that section, on hip hop slang, available for free on the book’s Web site at www.subculturetalk.com). I added some new sections on subcultures like geocachers and scrapbookers and painstakingly sourced and included well over a hundred photographs illustrating people, concepts, and items from the many subcultures in the book.

Talk the Talk 2nd editionThe old edition is 5″ x 7″ and 422 pages. The new edition, which I really like, is 5.25″ x 8″ and 620 pages. The ebook is much less expensive than the original, and the paperback costs a little more than the original did.

Shouldn’t I Feel Triumphant Now?
Completing the book doesn’t feel real to me yet. It’s true, I didn’t work consistently the whole two and a half years just on editing, expanding, illustrating, and formatting this book–but I did spend many months at all of that work. Everything took much longer than expected. Once the Kindle eBook was finally ready in January, I figured it would be a walk in the park to use the database system I had created for the book (which automatically managed cross-references, synonyms, indexing, and alphabetization) to output a paperback version. Many, many working hours later, I realized it wasn’t so simple: I needed to spend a lot of time defining and perfecting formatting for all of the different kinds of information in the book, including “see also” terms, synonyms, warning symbols, terms, definitions, examples, photographs, subculture introductions, table of contents, index entries, photo credits, and a lot more. Also, I was very, very picky: I tried to do everything in the best way I could devise.

There had briefly been a Kindle edition of the first edition put out by my original publisher: someone there had apparently forgotten to tell someone else that the rights had reverted to me, and they had just dumped their original layout into a file that made a terrible eBook. I contacted the proper authorities when that appeared and had it taken down, partly because they no longer had a right to publish the book and partly because I thought their electronic version was a mess.

Thew edition, however, has been available for Kindle since January, and the paperback went up for sale today; it will start appearing on Amazon next week.

It’s Hard to Stick With Hard Work
I tried starting several new projects while working on this book, but after a short time on each I always forced myself to stop and go back to finishing Talk the Talk. After all, the book was already “finished,” money lying on the table ready for me to scoop it up–at least, that was the idea. In any case, if I’m going to commit to a project, it doesn’t make sense for me start conflicting projects, no matter how appealing they may be, and no matter how much drudgery needs to go into the current project. Trying to do two such projects at once would only delay both of them. Still, from all of my other writing during this period I now have two mostly-completed non-fiction books in progress, a novel I started and set aside, and many completed short projects (flash fiction, short stories, and plays), some of which were published or produced in this period. I also published a collection of science fiction and fantasy short-short stories called Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories and a previously completed novel set in my native Vermont, Family Skulls.

Was This a Good Choice?
I’m proud I stuck with Talk the Talk, but it may have been stupid to do so. After all, the amount of work I had to put into the new edition was hugely more than I expected. I’ll have to sell at least a thousand copies to be adequately compensated for all the time I put into just this edition, and that’s getting nothing yet for the value of the book as it existed in the first edition.

When I started, I can’t imagine how I could have known how much labor was going to have to go into releasing this second edition. Given what I didn’t know, the choice to go ahead was obvious. If I had known the amount of work involved, I’m not sure I would have proceeded. Fortunately, I can enjoy having the book out in this form now regardless of how much time and effort it took.

Will I Be Able to Sell It On My Own?
I do have a promotion plan, one that’s quite different from what I’ve done with other books to which I own all rights, but it’s kind of hit-or-miss: it might bring many, many new readers or fail utterly. After all, I don’t have the ins that my previous publisher has. If you have any recommendations for reviewers, magazines, Web sites, or radio shows that might enjoy the book, please comment or contact me through the contact form. If the book gets extra exposure because of you, I’ll send you a free, signed copy.

interior spread from a digital proof of the 2nd edition

interior spread from a digital proof of the 2nd edition – click to enlarge

To my great frustration, the original publisher never sent the book to any reviewers or promoted it as anything other than a writer’s reference. It is a useful reference for writers, but I’d argue that it has even greater value as a surprise-packed thing to browse through for fun; Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing.net agreed, calling it “The kind of quirky thing that is endlessly fascinating and full of odd insights into worlds you never suspected existed.” Still, they did get it into bookstores and offer it through their book club, and by my best guess (recall that the royalty statements had some problems, so I will never know for sure) they probably sold about 10,000 copies–no amazing feat, but the book earned a good deal more than its advance, even though by my reckoning they never paid me some of the money I was due.

What have I gained?
I think there’s some real benefit in having seen the project through to the end, even if the payoffs turn out to be greatly diminished (they might) and although the work was many times longer and harder than I had planned or expected (which it certainly was). What I’ve learned through years of studying motivation and productivity has paid off well in helping me finish this project, and now I can reap whatever rewards may come: I know that I’ve persevered and conquered a difficult task. I know that this strange and arguably fascinating little book won’t vanish, out of print and inaccessible. I can even hope that the book finds a real audience–whether of original readers who want the updated and improved edition, new folks who never saw the original, or both–and that it will actually start helping support my family, as the small advance I received from the original publisher did in 2005 and 2006.

Most amazingly to me, I can now move ahead to my next book project with a clear conscience. Ironically, it’s very likely that finishing these next two nonfiction books, which are each probably somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 complete, will take less time for both together than Talk the Talk: The Slang of 67 American Subcultures, 2nd edition did for the one book. Heck, I probably could have completed a couple of novels in the time it took to revise and put out this book, especially since I could only work in certain situations due to the need to use the database I’d set up. The idea of just writing in a Word Processor is intoxicating–although both of the non-fiction books, as with most of my large non-fiction projects, are in Scrivener, which is not quite as accessible as, say, Google Docs.

It’s strange that completing a major project should feel more like something I need to recover from than something to celebrate. Still, maybe I’ll start connecting with some new readers, in which case there may be a celebration after all, a little further down the line.

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The Help: Kathryn Stockett Achieves Resounding Success After Years of Rejection

Projects

Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, has become my new favorite example of the power of persistence. She certainly hasn’t made me forget about Jo Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers before finding a home at Bloomsbury, but Rowling got representation from the second agent she tried, while Stockett reportedly got at least 45 rejections for The Help before even finding an agent (see this article for a bit more on that).

If you don’t happen to be involved with publishing, I should explain that even after an author finds an agent, the agent then has to submit the book to publishers, so even finding an agent can be a long way away from getting a book published.

The Help is an engrossing, insightful novel about black maids and their white employers in the American South in the early 1960’s. I finished reading it (actually, listening to the audio book, which is very well performed) the other day, and it has taken its place among my favorite novels for its involving story, entertaining style, and heart. As you may know, Stockett’s novel has been made into a hugely successful movie and has sold millions of copies. After reading it, I found myself hoping that it had to do with direct experience, that Stockett was one of the children who were raised by the kinds of maids we get to know in the book. This turns out to be true, although Stockett is about a decade younger than the children in her novel.

Try, Improve, Try Again
Flying in the face of Robert Heinlein’s famous advice (“You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order”), which reportedly even Heinlein himself didn’t quite follow, Stockett kept making changes and improving her manuscript as she received rejection after rejection, though she doesn’t seem to have been at all immune to the painful process of having a work you’ve slaved away on repeatedly turned down and spoken ill of. This brings to mind Harper Lee’s process with To Kill a Mockingbird: she edited that novel over a long, laborious period with her editor, Tay Hohoff. While we know that there are great successes that come out more or less great from the beginning, others, clearly, are crafted over time.

It’s tempting to think that when many agents or publishers reject a book that later becomes successful, that they’re simply foolish or short-sighted. This can certainly be the case, as with the book publishers who said children would never read a book as long as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or the editor who told Emily Dickinson that her poems were “generally devoid of true poetical qualities.” Sometimes, though, these people are just being truthful about work that doesn’t fit for them, or are responding to something that isn’t yet fully realized, a diamond in the rough that as far as the rejecting party knows may never really be cut to its proper shape.

Does persistence always pay off?
So should we take from this that, like Stockett, all we have to do is to hang in there, keep trying, and success will eventually come? I would suggest that the complete answer to that is “Yes and no.” Persistence seems to be a very important quality to have if we want to be successful at anything great. Actually, maybe “persistence” doesn’t quite cover it. Maybe the word I’m looking for is devotion, when we don’t simply show up, but put our whole selves into our efforts.

With that said, persistence alone isn’t necessarily going to get us anywhere. The Help is reportedly Stockett’s first novel, but she has a background in writing and editing, and most of the published novelists I know wrote at least one other novel or a lot of short stories (sometimes both) before selling a book.

Diamond in the rough or practice project?
So it is possible to stick with a project too long. With that said, I’m not sure it’s possible for us to stick with projects we really believe in, profoundly, for too long. Practice is essential to developing great skill, and realistically, some of the projects on which we set all of our hopes will eventually turn out to have been practice projects: practice books, practice jobs … even practice relationships.

Other projects need improvement. There’s no such thing as practice parenting if real kids are involved, so despite any past mistakes, all we can hope to do with parenting is to improve ourselves and do the best we can going forward. Some books just need a lot of editing or rewriting. Some businesses need a new direction to survive or thrive.

How do we tell the difference? That’s the hardest part, of course, but the keys seem to be

1) We are most successful when we pursue goals we’re passionate about
2) Failure and rejection are not, in themselves, evidence that we’re on the wrong track
3) If we continue backing one specific project or effort, we need to be open to improving it if the opportunity presents itself, and
4) Experience and insight sometimes show us that a previous attempt is no longer worth pursuing.

That last point is tricky, but the core of it is keeping in touch with our passion for our work. If that passion has died away because we come to see that we can do more or better, than that’s all right: it may be time to start a new project. If we’ve simply been worn down by not achieving what we had hoped for, though, the danger is of giving up too soon. Success is sometimes a long road, but personally, I’m inspired by the example of people who, like Stockett, have followed it to its end however long that takes.

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Codexian Writing Quotes: James Maxey

Writing

Continuing my series of quotes from writers I know through the online writing group Codex, here are some memorable thoughts from James Maxey, author of the Dragon Age trilogy and the superhero novel Nobody Gets the Girl. James’s latest feat, which floored a number of us at Codex, was writing the first draft of a novel (the sequel to Nobody) in a week. The resulting book, Burn Baby Burn, can be read in its first draft form as a series of blog posts on Maxey’s Web site. More on this particular accomplishment will show up in a week or two in my “Brain Hacks for Writers” column on Futurismic.

James is quoted often on Codex, so I’ll be breaking up the large selection of his quotes I put together into two or possibly three posts.

Swagger when you lie.

If the WRATH OF GOD couldn’t make this character give a sh**, I don’t know what might.

The worst novel you ever put onto paper is better than the best novel you are walking around with in your head.

On the other hand, I may be underestimating the appeal of my main character, a homosexual, drug-addicted, Republican, vivisectionist zombie. Sweet merciful Jesus, I wish that last sentence was a joke…

Momentum matters!

I can’t sing, play an instrument, dance, paint, sculpt, or act. So, in my early years, I drifted toward writing as my claim to some sort of creative ability simply because it seemed like the easiest talent to fake.

But a completed novel is always going to be haunted by the novel it might have been.

If you have affection and enthusiasm for your characters, then the readers will follow you into some very dark places.

If you and your partner find yourself co-owners of a project that gets optioned for a motion picture and I hear you complain about it on this forum, I will personally drive to your house and slap you about the head and shoulders with a rubber monkey until my envy is abated. And I can be very, very envious.

If anyone wants to power a time machine, the deadline for the first novel you ever sell from a proposal has amazing time acceleration properties. I can only imagine that committing to a whole series must propel you straight into old age.

My motto is, little by little, the writing gets done.

Is Batman really making the world a better place by wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants and clobbering muggers with boomerangs? I think that having your characters learn the wrong lessons from their private tragedies is the key to making them interesting.

… the key to writing a good novel is to first write a bad novel. You’re just piling clay onto the wheel at this stage. You aren’t spinning the wheel to turn it into something until the second draft.

But, I don’t yell. I write. I turn our presidents and judges and televangelists into dragons and I send heroes (or, more frequently, anti-heroes) out to slay them.

Look, I’ve had it up to here with people dismissing all Yellow-Eyed Beasts from Hell as “evil.” The idea that Judea-Christian labels for morality apply to creatures from the pit is an outdated, human-centric view of the world that I hope we, as a society, are finally outgrowing. Baby-eating and stabbing people with pitchforks may seem taboo to most Americans, but what right to we have to impose our values on the denizens of the underworld?

For me–and I can’t speak for anyone else–my formula was stupid stubbornness. I kept plugging along despite rejection letters and harsh critiques because I was too dumb to understand that I really was no good at what I was doing and it was time to give up and move on to something else.

The one thing you can do is buy a lot of lottery tickets, metaphorically. Every short story you write might be the one that wins you an award. You never know. Any book you write might be the exact book that a publisher is dreaming of publishing. Productivity is key.

If Jesus himself were to tell me the sky is blue, I’d argue the point. I mean, sure, sometimes the sky is blue, but a high percentage of the time it’s black, or gray, or white, or any of the zillion shades of pink or purple you find in the bookends of day.

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Writing and Martial Arts 1: How Do You Like Your Chances?

States of mind

I know a small but fascinating group of people who are both successful writers and accomplished martial artists, and as these are both areas of great interest to me that I practice on a regular basis, I was very curious to know what connections some of these friends drew between the two disciplines.

The first post in this series comes from my good friend Steve Bein, who is a martial artist with 20 years of training, a professor of Philosophy and History at SUNY Geneseo, and an award-winning fiction writer. His first novel (a thriller about modern crime and samurai history) comes out in 2012.

Steve has this question for you: How do you like your chances?


I was told as I entered my Master’s degree program of a plan to streamline graduate education.  We could dispose of the GRE, of long hours spent walled in by stacks of books, of area exams and dissertation proposals and all the rest.  We could weed out everyone who needs weeding out by collecting all of the applicants to a given grad program, lock them all in a concrete room, and tell them to bash their heads against the wall.  The last one to quit gets a PhD.

As education reform goes, this plan isn’t half bad..  I like my chances in this system.  It certainly would be easier to get a PhD in this system than to get one the way I did, with all that old-fashioned writing and test-taking and such.  But then, I’ve been in the martial arts for about 20 years.  I learned some things along the way, things about physical and mental punishment, about perseverance, about sheer mule-headed stubbornness when perseverance gives out, and most of all about extinguishing the desire to quit.

Most writers could use some lessons on these counts too.  Show me a successful writer and I’ll show you someone who has learned these lessons already.

Writing will bring its share of mental and emotional punishment.  Count on it.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m escaping the frustrations I’m having in working out the plot to my next novel.  (Don’t worry.  I’m only allowing myself 20 minutes of escape.  Then I’ll go back to that for 20 minutes, then come back to this.  My sensei taught me not to quit, but tactically speaking, he and I both recognize the merit of retreating in order to launch a new attack from a different angle.)

There is good reason for a writer to feel frustrated..  99% of people who submit work never get published.  Of the 1% who do, less than half get a second publication.  Of those, only a handful make enough money from writing to make protein a regular part of their diet, and even they tend to collect more rejection letters than acceptance letters.

We have a similar formula in martial arts.  For every 10 students who begin a martial arts class, only one still comes a month later.  For every 10 of those, only one is still training a year later.  For every 10 of those, only one earns a black belt, and for every 10 black belts, only one goes on to teach the art.  A sensei is one in 10,000.  A writer who doesn’t need to hold a day job is more like one in a million.

The more I write, the more I learn that the pains of this art go beyond the mental and emotional.  I’ve developed neck problems and chronic eyestrain headaches.  Writing cost me my 20/20 vision.  I now need yoga exercises to be able to write for any length of time.  As it happens, it was martial arts that led me to yoga, but that’s not the important part.  It was martial arts that instilled in me the discipline to actually show up to yoga classes, to actually do the stretches every day, and to actually keep on writing even when it’s uncomfortable.

Charles Brown, the former editor of Locus, once shared some grim but sagacious advice with me (well, me and everyone else in that year’s Writers of the Future class).  He said if you’re a writer, one of three things is going to happen to you: you quit, you die, or you get published.  I thought, I like my chances.  I’m not going to quit.  My sensei drilled the quitter out of me.  That only leaves death and publication.

You can read more posts by Steve Bein on the multi-writer blog It’s the Story at http://itsthestory.wordpress.com.

Photo by JimRiddle_Four

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Mental Schemas #11: Lack of Self-Control

Handling negative emotions

This is the eleventh in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

A person with the Lack of Self-Control Schema has trouble with facing anything difficult or holding back impulses. Such a person might tend to avoid difficulty, pain, or responsibility even when the consequences are much worse than what’s being avoided. They might act out, choose rashly, react without thinking, or follow any desire that takes hold. Another common expression of this schema is having trouble putting up with boredom or frustration long enough to get something done.

To put it another way, the burden of the Lack of Self-Control Schema is that it prevents a person from working toward lasting happiness by sometimes keeping their focus on immediate gratification.

People with this schema generally don’t feel like they’re acting the way they want to: the impulsive actions feel (not surprisingly) out of their control.

Often, a person with a Lack of Self-Control Schema grew up in an environment where parents weren’t around enough or didn’t put enough effort into helping the child learn self-control. This schema can also arise when parents themselves have self-control issues, leaving a child with no ideal of self-control to follow.

Overcoming a Lack of Self-Control Schema
Unlike other schemas, Lack of Self-Control isn’t closely linked with specific broken ideas, but the approach to overcoming it is similar: the important skill to learn here is to recognize when the schema is kicking in and insert conscious thought between the impulse and the action. The key understanding to have along with that skill is that lasting happiness is different from immediate gratification–that doing exactly what we want whenever we want can actually be pretty miserable sometimes. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for light-heartedness and spontaneity in life, only that longer-term thinking often pays off much better.

So if you have this schema, you might have a habit of reacting immediately. To overcome it, the new habit to create is to notice when the schema might be kicking in, stop yourself, think for a moment about your real goals and priorities, and focus on the things you want long-term instead of immediately.

For example, you might be in a conversation with someone you care about when that person says something thoughtless that is painful for you. A Lack of Self-Control schema might tell you to lash out, to insult or embarrass that person. Someone overcoming the self-control schema might still feel the urge to do that, but would stop and think something along the lines of “Wait: I care about my friendship with this person. If I start a fight over this, that could make ongoing problems for me and deprive me of my friend. Even though I’m angry right now, I feel better imagining the two of us getting along instead of imagining us fighting. Why don’t I try to just let go feeling offended about this, as a contribution to the friendship, or else tell my friend how I felt about what was just said and have a constructive conversation about it?”

The Lack of Self-Control schema is sometimes paired with another schema. For example, the Subjugation Schema, which we’ll talk about in the next article in this series, can lead a person to suppress emotions for a long time, after which they burst out uncontrolled. In these cases, while work on self-control will also help, progress on the other schema will relieve the pressure and intensity of the self-control problems.

Photo courtesy of MIT Open Courseware

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Where Are All the Other Beginners?

States of mind

When I first started exercising seriously and consistently, in 2005, I chose to run: it was free, convenient, and uncomplicated. I had recently moved to Jacksonville, Florida, a place where you can run practically every day of the year if you avoid the afternoon deluges in summer, and I lived in a quiet neighborhood near the river. Mercifully, this being Florida, my potential routes were dead flat. So everything was lined up in my favor, but one thing did make me nervous: the lack of fat people. There I was with my 75 extra pounds (down to 14 extra now, thank you very much), and there were all the runners, who collectively looked like they ate nothing but skinless chicken breast and celery-flavored air. Why were there no out-of-shape people out there running with me? Did that mean that it wasn’t possible to do it if you were out of shape, that I was doomed to be a failure as a runner?

Before these thoughts got too far, however, math came to the rescue, a particularly handy bit of math that explains why, whenever we start something, it’s often really hard to find anyone who looks as incompetent or ill-suited as we are.

Being a Beginner Who Sucks Is Normal
Part of that effect is just the fact that, when we begin at things, we’re generally bad or not well-suited for them, since as we progress, we become better and more well-suited. Being a beginner means not looking as cool as the other kids, whether we’re talking about playing violin, studying Taekwondo, running, programming computers, or raising children.

The rest is that math we talk about. Let’s compare beginners to veterans with some made-up numbers that nonetheless show real and useful information.

Quitters
First, how many people begin something and then soon give up? It varies a lot by area, but it’s a lot. Many of our fellow beginners are vanishing after just a few half-hearted attempts.

Veterans Do More of It
How much time do beginners spend at tasks compared to veterans? It’s unlikely that a beginning violin player will be able to spend six hours a day practicing like some advanced students and professionals. A beginning runner can’t run nearly as long a time, as quickly, or as far as a veteran runner. Beginners at the dojang (Taekwondo gym) where I study have access to up to 3 classes a week, while more advanced students have their pick of 8 of them (on average, I do about 4-5 classes per week).

Beginners Vanish
And what portion of a person’s total career at something are they a rank beginner? A person might run seriously for 10 years and only be a beginner for the first 6 months, and the numbers for many other activities are similar.

The Only Beginner In the Room
So beginners who stick with the activity they’re starting might on average do 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount of that activity each week that a veteran will do (let’s say 3/8 as an estimate), and they will spend perhaps 1/20 of their career as a beginner. All of which means that for every hour of a thing a beginner does, we might reasonably guess there are 53-1/3 veterans out there doing that same thing. If you walk into a gym as a beginner and there are 20 other people in that gym, by these odds it’s unlikely that any one of those 20 people will be as out-of-shape and inexperienced as you.

Although, of course …
With all that said, those numbers are just estimates, and there are complicating factors: for instance, a whole lot more people start going to a gym than keep going to the gym, so in fact the gym numbers may not be quite so daunting as 53-1/3 to 1.

Get ready to suck!
But the upshot of all this is that beginners stick out, look bad, and are often alone doing it–but this is all just a nerd gate (a term coined by cavers, who use it to describe an obstacle that only discourages people who aren’t committed–it’s one of the terms in my book Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures). While there are sometimes ways around standing out as a beginner (for instance, taking a beginners-only class), the fact of the matter is that beginners often look silly and may tend to feel they won’t belong.

This is just a phase to push through. However awkward or difficult something is at the beginning, the only way to get really good at anything is to keep working at it (and there’s good science to support that statement!). Some runners started out skinny, and some violinists started out as four-year olds, when playing a barely-recognizable, ear-torturing rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is considered proof of utter genius, but the rest of us poor slobs will just need to suck for a while whenever we start something. And then, magically, we’ll get better and not suck, and people will look at us and say “Man, they must have always been that great at it!”

Photo by Martineric

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