Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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Revisiting the Monster

23/09/2012

It’s taken me more than a year to readdress the subject of monsters in literature as I promised, but not because material is lacking or because I lost interest. In fact, I’m more interested than ever. My original goal was to present an analysis of characters widely recognized as literary “monsters”; since my first post, though, my focus has shifted. I’ve been working on my first novel and so I am more interested, and attuned to, the nuances of light and dark – the shades of gray – and cannot maintain a detached academic position. The darkness is seductive, and the truth is that we all have darkness as well as light inside of us. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Breaking Down Writer’s Block

27/05/2011

(First of all, I have to say that I am LOVING the WordPress updates, especially my introduction to full-screen mode — it really is a distraction-free way to write.)

Lately I’ve been feeling an extreme case of writer’s block, the major cause of which is the ever-present “List of Things to Do Besides Writing and Excuses Not to Write” (the title needs work). We all have that list, written down or saved to our smartphones or just looming in the forefront of our minds: meals must be made, children cared for (not that I have this particular list item yet), bills paid and other responsibilities fulfilled. Let’s not forget the other excuses as well: Family Guy is on, coffee time with the best friend is calling, and I should really make the effort to go to the gym.

Okay, okay, it’s not like I’ve actually made it to the gym — that list is good for putting off a lot of things…

At any rate, I feel like the need to write has been building up inside of me and without an outlet for all of my thoughts and observations I think my head may explode — well, mine or my fiance’s, since in lieu of writing I’ve taken to babbling at him about whatever crosses my mind. And still, despite the desire that is almost an ache, this is the first time I’ve sat down to write anything not work-related in more than a week…except for that letter I wrote to Josh. Can’t discount the power of handwritten correspondence!

Sitting here, it’s easy to understand why so many great writers are never discovered or published. They get caught in the undertow of everything else going on in this Great Big World and by the time it comes to write, they are wiped out from the stimulation. There’s so much to write about, and so little, and like eating one’s vegetables the idea of sitting down and going through the healthy exercise of letting everything out just seems like too much.

There is one underlying (or overarching) reason that my List gets in the way of my writing, and maybe you have the same problem: poor time management. Don’t get me wrong; in a professional setting I’m great at keeping track of what needs to be done and by when, and prioritizing tasks so that everything is done well. I keep appointments and am prepared for them 99.9% of the time. My time management breaks down, however, in my personal life. I think to myself, how can I juggle keeping house with planning a wedding and realizing my ultimate dream of starting my own wedding planning business, then balance all that with family and friends, snuggle time with FH, and reading and writing?

I wish, as I continue the inner monologue, that the hours of the day went on as long as I needed them, and that I felt strong enough and motivated enough to make full use of every single one of them instead of just feeling overwhelmed.

Well, writers and those who love them, it’s time to snap out of it — and here’s how I’m going to do it.

  • First, I’m putting the list to paper. Everything that I have to do, want to do, and think I have to or want to do is going on the list.
  • Next comes a long, hard look at the list. What is truly important and what can I let go?
  • After that, it’s time to put a plan in motion. In order to knock down the wall between my thoughts and my writing, I have to have a dedicated time and space in which to write.

The time to start is now; after all, The Knot tells me that I have 400 days until my wedding, and I hear that life doesn’t get any easier after you say “I do.”

Thoughts to try on: What’s your biggest cause of writer’s block? How are you standing in your own way, and what can you do to change that behavior today? And what in your life can you afford to just let go?

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We are now sitting in “The Writer’s Closet”

24/03/2011

So…I finally figured out my focus.

As some of you may remember, I mentioned earlier this year that I was going to be restructuring the blog around a more cohesive theme. It’s been a difficult process simply because there is so much going on that I want to record. However, despite participating in Post A Day 2011 my posting has fallen somewhat…short of my goal. Without having that unifying theme to define my work, blogging has by and large become less a labor of love and more just labor — and nobody wants to add more work to their load, right?

At any rate, for the last couple of days I’ve been mulling over an idea in my head based on the book reviews I’ve been doing for Vera at Luxury Reading. You see, there are other reviews on this blog that I did before I started my life as an “official” book reviewer, and I am in love with the idea of writing. I love the writing process, even the part that involves a brick wall against which all of one’s ideas slam and against which one often wants to slam one’s head. Writer’s block can be just as healthy as a steady rhythm, because it allows you to reevaluate. Then, the taste of victory is so much sweeter.

The blog is still in the construction phase, as I work with new themes to find one I love, but the central concept is set: friends and neighbors, you are now in “The Writer’s Closet”.

I will be writing about writing, mine and others. Sometimes I will post poetry or snippets of stories I’m working on; I will also continue to link to book reviews over at Luxury Reading and other reader blogs of interest, and to write separate book reviews of works that I come across on my own. As I said, I’ll likely spend a fair amount of time on the writing process itself, since it can be as compelling a subject as whatever the writer creates. I imagine that it will be a lot of hard work, but once more it is a labor of love.

Come into the closet, and enjoy!

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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

02/03/2011

Today is Dr. Seuss’s 107th birthday, and I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a man who, though departed, shaped the lives of so many children and continues to do so today — as evidence, I give you massive fixtures of his books and books written in his style in just about every store.

HuffPo rounded up Tweets of favorite Dr. Seuss quotes, and I want to share a few of my own — they may be repeats, but honestly I don’t care.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There’s no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own.
And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

(Okay, I just love the entire book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)

“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (So true…)

So, what are your favorites?

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What, are you writing a book?

14/02/2011

Boy, do I love blogging. I may not be the best at churning out a post a day, but on average I’m more than keeping up thanks to those days when I can put out three and four posts without breaking a sweat. Sometimes it’s just that nothing in the news catches my eye in that “Oh, I must blog about this” sort of way. Part of that, of course, is that I refuse to conform to one specific topic or another — but that’s my prerogative, as I have a lot to say about a lot of things. Regardless, generally once I get started with a post I don’t have a difficult time phrasing things just so and getting my point across.

Not so, apparently, with writing a novel. I set a goal two weeks ago that I would write no less than 40 rough pages per month, starting this month, so that by the end of 2011 I would have 440 pages of material with which to work. Thanks to my mile-wide procrastination streak, my unwillingness to shut myself off from the world (which seems to be the only way I can write for long stretches) and an uncooperative lifestyle, my grand total of pages thus far is… 1/2 page.

That’s right: I haven’t even pulled together an entire page of questionable writing to critique or shove into a drawer beneath other literary efforts. In my defense, I’ve started to go cross-eyed whenever presented with a pen and anything other than a puzzle book yet I clung fervently to my conviction that “writing it on a computer just won’t be the same.” I wanted that old-school feel of putting pen to paper, just letting the creative juices flow and going from there.

As it turns out, that way of thinking just isn’t compatible with my lifestyle. I spend 8 hours a day, five days a week with my nose stuck into two monitors, and when I go home I have at least an hour of computer time between making/eating dinner and having “couple time” with Brian — oh, and there’s that whole packing thing with which to contend as well…

(Side note: We sign our lease on Monday! Joy and rapture!)

Ahem. As I was saying, eking out an hour a day to spend writing is difficult enough, but perhaps I’m overcomplicating it with my insistence on using a medium that doesn’t fit well into my life. After all, I can access a computer almost anywhere — I have a laptop, I use a desktop at work, and if all else fails I can (gasp) pound out a few thoughts using my cell phone. So, perhaps instead of putting the ‘puter aside and picking up the notebook I should simply refocus my attention whilst using the computer — make it my friend, instead of my foe.

Using the computer, I found while writing today, is useful for other reasons. First, I am terrible at the concept of freewriting. The born editor in me refuses to let a weak or downright awful line go without some tweaking (in my case, several rounds of tweaking), so an hour of uninterrupted writing is pretty much impossible. I tend to settle for a few good-ish paragraphs as a happy medium.

Second, although I’m writing a novel I want the facts behind it to be as accurate as possible — down to the clothing my characters wear and the cadence of their speech. The Web, as we know, literally puts hundreds of thousands of resources at your fingertips and allows for on-the-spot fact-checking. If I’m going to describe an outfit I would rather pull up a page that allows me to get it right the first time than leave the corrections to the editorial process — what if, once I find an editor, s/he is unversed in period fashion and doesn’t think to question the small details?

Yes, yes, I know — a story shouldn’t be mired in the small details or else it is likely doomed to failure. A small mistake here and there may be excused. However, I am a perfectionist and if I want my central character to wear velvet, then I’m going to make sure that she’s allowed to wear it before I write it.

So…*le tres sigh*…I suppose it’s yet even more time chained to a computer for me. I do have two more weeks to pull 39 1/2 pages out of my brain, and this is one goal that I am not going to see fade into the calendar unachieved.

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The Writing Bug

24/01/2011

Obviously, I like to write. Why would I have a blog otherwise? I’ve had the writing bug for so long that it’s difficult to remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to weave words together to tell a story or make an argument, or put lyrics to the music in my head. I have an ongoing love affair with words that’s stronger than almost any other relationship I’ve ever had.

While I was packing some boxes in my room last weekend (countdown is 40 days!), I came across a “notebook” of poetry, looseleaf notebook pages bound in one of those pocket folders that has the brads in the center (its former use: AP U.S. History) with extra pages of favorite lines — mine and others — stuffed into both pockets. I was overly precocious, and I had an unnatural addiction to rhyming, so going over the poems I wrote during my freshman and sophomore years is as amusing as it is inspiring. I feel like Taylor Swift, only without the guitar skills or the record deal.

There are other poems in there too, though, poems I wrote during my college classes in creative writing and poetry, and they’re certainly worth a second and third look. What’s more, there are snippets of stories — a page here, a paragraph there, sometimes nothing more than a snappy line — and the urge to write a book returns.

The urge to write a complete novel is like the urge to have children, just as strong and consuming though in a different way. It’s the yearning to take a part of my soul and use it to create something entirely new, the product of myself but so much more than the sum of its parts. I want to see the stories that play out in my head play across the page, and I want others to feel the joy, anxiety, anger and fear that I do throughout. Simply loving the written word may not be enough, but I’m not merely being conceited when I say that I am a pretty damn good writer and that such a skill is not, I believe, one that can be picked up through classes and lessons. You can tone it and shape it as you would a muscle in your body, but one is either born knowing how to write…or one isn’t.

I need to stop making excuses. I need to go back to carrying a notebook and jotting down my random thoughts before they escape. I need to take an hour a day or three hours over the weekend, any committed chunk of time and just write without the distractions of family, friends or Facebook. I need a goal, and here it is: a week to brainstorm, then no less than 12,000 words a month (about 40 pages at 300 words/page) of rough copy from February on. By the end of the year that will give me 440 pages, and my secondary goal is to get at least 110 polished pages out of the draft. If I can accomplish that, then I’ll be well on my way to fulfilling one of my longest-held dreams.

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