I read a lot of lithub. It's where I go when I miss literary analysis for literary analysis' sake.
It's also where I go to remind myself that writing is a process. Some articles fall into grammatical technicalities of the craft (like this one on semi-colons in Garth Greenwell's Cleanness, or this one on Lauren Groff's ability to create action without verbs). Others speak to the heartache and tenacity needed to survive your dreams of authorship (like the challenge that comes from writing about your own family in this article or a reflective piece about what running an MFA-bro parody twitter can teach you).
But nevertheless, lithub reminds me that writing is a craft. One that demands drafts that require redrafts that likewise need revision, beta-readers, editing, and the works. Worst (best?) of all? Writing relies on creativity as process and craft.
So many people think creativity is an inborn trait, that all we need to master is our command of grammar, and to push through writer's blocks because our creativity is ~innate~. But just like the analysis required of algebra, creativity is a skill that needs flexing.
As an amateur artist (and I use the word amateur here lovingly), I know to stretch my hand before starting a larger project. In drawing, painting, etc. there's the need to throw some sketches out first then get to the gritty. In a way, I'd compare this less to first novel drafts and more to writing for the sake of writing.
Here's the thing:
Not everything needs to be published.
Sure--that much I learned from my 40-week writing challenge (which you can read about here).
But take notes. Make observations. Try to detail them as exact and vivid as possible. I'd done these things in my own way, though never kept them compiled in a notepad. Instead, my notes just hopped from phone to phone, save for the years I wrote observations on my childhood desk.
So whatever your own challenge may be--40-week prompts, fanfiction drabbles, character sketches for the next great American novel--take 10 minutes a day to just write for the sake of word-making. (Yeah! Word-Making! Not even storytelling!) Write a sentence that indulges you, that most editors would snuff as pretentious or tell you is a bit of sentimental drivel.
Sketch a second of your life in that exact moment--the sun half-cast into your classroom or office--or play a small piece of your daydreams--how sometimes the skyscrapers outside your window look more like mountains splattered with stars on their trails.
Anyway, below the cut are some of my written sketches: an incomplete, ever-growing and endless listicle of my notes, observations, and one-liners...
A short post to give an even shorter update on my writing:
After grappling with the most pessimistic of my doom and gloom writer's anxiety, I've decided to put off looking at publishing.
...well...for now at least.
Of course I'd love to see Marry the Moon as a beautiful hardcopy or a well-worn softcover. I've pictured that illustration and can still see the sketches I'd lovingly drawn. Of course I'll never stop working and finessing Children of the Apocalypse--heck! I had a skype call with my illustrators this morning! Of course I'll keep toying with my more complex fairy-tale, Library of Untold Stories, all the ideas I'm pushing around in my head as I quietly research and accumulate info. Of course I want to write that book about Cyprus. About my family.
But the anxiety of trying to get published took something from me, and I need to get it back in the most authentic way I can.
So here's to 40 weeks of writing prompts. I can make them standalone pieces, fanfiction one-shots or mini-series, scenes for my characters that may or may not make it into final manuscripts.
40 weeks of falling in love with my voice again (no matter how vain that sounds). 40 weeks, the remainder of this year. It sorta fits into my New Year's resolutions, doesn't it though?
Create Art For Myself
As any creative will tell you, it's daunting to post our work in a public forum of any kind. Even more so when we don't get responses and feel antsy about our skill level. Essentially, though, I want to return to creating art for the sake of art. Art for myself, and finding value in that.
Below the cut, you'll find two different lists of prompts since I want to have options if a particular concept doesn't sit with me right. I've started this week's, and I hope to add my drawings back into the mix, too. Now the only question remains....where will I post them? 👀 (chances are fanfiction will go to Tumblr and all other pieces will stay private). Anyway...without further ado...
Writing isn't easy. If we talk about craft alone, then there are the usual frustrations. Plot-holes, weak characterization, melodramatic voice, stilted dialogue.
It isn't easy.
I sometimes wish I was young again, staying up late to read and write fanfiction. I didn't get a lot of readers on my one-shots, but I churned out more and more and wrote AUs and enemies-to-lovers and roommates/soulmates and self-insert and...and...
Of course...I also wrote my own fiction. Eva being the first character I can remember as authentically my own. I can still picture her. Bobbed hair, green dress, perpetually skinned knees from kickball in the sandlot next to the orphanage. She was fierce, protective, brash. I didn't have those words to describe her, being about six years old after all, but that's who I'd wanted her to be. When the inspiration for Eva's story pattered out, it was Sandris next, a dust-covered girl living in a fictional desert. Then after Sandris it was Giseline, and Kara, and back to fanfiction, and then--finally--Alpha. Laurie, James, Carmen, Donovan, Edelina, and Phin. These characters who I now shower with my own fierce, brash protection. (Thank you, Eva, for teaching me how.)
And then I took a break from them when my life fell apart in 2017. I turned to such self-indulgent writing that, ultimately, I know is worth more than a brief stint in publishing.
Eat Stars and Marry the Moon.
Arguably, this manuscript saved my life...and it's okay if literary agents or publishers don't care about that.
Dear Writer's Block,
Would it be a cliche if I said 'screw you'?
As any aspiring novelist will find out, there are a lot of rules in writing--and I'm not talking about grammar. If you were to google "how to write" you'd eventually come across nifty little lists with titles like "Top 10 Things a Writer Should Never Do" or "50 Writing Mistakes That Weaken Your Novel, Will Never Get You Published, And Leave You Wallowing In Artistic Depression." These tips are often so overly specific you'd think the author had taken an email from their own editor and transcribed it into a blog post; or the advice is so abstract you'd think it was a featured workshop from GuyInYourMFA.
Of course, there's some good advice, universal advice even. But sometimes well-meaning advice just leaves you stuck, frozen.
I think I've been writing since before I learned how to read--and I don't say that to sound #deep. I mean...I found a childhood drawing in one of my mom's hatboxes, and on the back of the paper, I noticed there's this series of unintelligible dashes that occasionally repeat themselves. Like there's some methodical order to the chaos.
When I asked my mom, she said that I had tried to write a book at age three. Apparently I didn't like the ending of a picture book she had read to me before bed one night...and I thought I could do better.
Fast forward twenty years and here I am with a manuscript that I should be revising . I'm tired, though; and this late-afternoon rain outside my window just sounds too peaceful. Warm gray clouds and humid summer air swirl slowly together. The whir of an electric bus hums in a muffled haze, while tires speed down slick asphalt. I want to make some tea, curl under my blankets, and watch a Disney movie in my pajamas (hey c'mon--I spent my post-work commute blasting Moana).
Yet instead of Moana, or Netflix, or a nap, I open my laptop to a blank document, hoping to wake myself up a bit...
They say that if you do what you love, then you never work a day in your life. But I disagree.
If you do what you love, chances are you're exhausted. Because oftentimes we have to work hard for what we love.
In my case, this means coming home after work and slapping myself silly until I wake up enough to chug out some revisions, edits, or drafts. It means writing everyday, even when words don't want to work. It means skipping family dinners so I can fix some plot-holes, means lesson planning from five to eight pm then writing from eight to midnight. It means a back-log of TV-shows I'd like to watch because my free time is spent on a "second-job" I'm trying to kick-start, means struggling against a headache because I've literally been thinking all day--"complex abstractions and the build up of thematic motifs as well as nuanced English-language semantics and Bloom's taxonomy for your students" thinking. Sometimes it means I schedule out my entire week, and the only "Me-Time" I've got is a two hour break on Thursday evening after martial arts.
(Isn't there some stereotypical millennial phrase for this? The side-hustle? Whatever.)
Between writing and my goal to teach ESL abroad by Fall 2018, I find myself cramming hours of work into the day. I'm trying to workout, learn a new language, practice another language, study CELTA and TESOL, write regularly, read style books, and revise my manuscript...on top of my teaching job ...on top of a social life...of self-care too, I guess. And I'm trying to do most of this daily.
God I want to nap.
But I also know that I'm happiest after I've written, like I've fallen into a new world that's given me space to breathe. I write, and it's uncovering faeries or chasing mermaids or looking for Neverland. It's cliche and it's crap and it's my lifeline, my sense of wonder in a world that can easily lose it's awe. When I write, things really do melt away. Who I am, who I was, who I might become. It all fades until suddenly it's just me and this steady click-clack of computer keys that mimics the tip-tap of raindrops on a windowpane. Maybe when I write, it's that I'm less and more than I've ever been.
Less fearful. Less anxious. Less hesitant.
More human. More alive. More magic.
And that's it...that's why I push through the exhaustion everyday after work, why I choose to edit drafts for an extra hour, put my novel's major plot points on index cards that I rearrange and tape on my walls--why I write even when I'd rather sleep.
I'm in pursuit of magic, and no one ever said it'd be an easy find.