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 castle made of nothing but air and talk and dreams. A castle ready to shatter if the wind blew too hard. A castle she needed to find.
The violin sticks stuck into the air like reeds swaying in a breeze. That was all it took for the magic to settle. We each held our breath, waiting for the music.
She saw the start of cherry blossoms beginning to dot the passing mountainside. Only briefly. A burst of fizzly pink against brown earth and blue sky before the train rushed by too fast and all was beige again, something sun splashed, waiting for its turn to bloom.
Not lanky. Not filled. Hair mouse brown and unstyled, frizzy lose curls that fell over his pierced ears. He towered above most and walked about with an unassuming, open smile and limbs swaying like a cartoon character's would.
The air beyond the bus arcade swelled in a haze of smog and pollution, but most of us didn't wear masks. Most of us, the whole lot of different-ness with British and American retirees anxious for a thrill or Thai mothers tugging children to open, waiting seats, we all clutched tickets and ambled through the mess of crowd to ask an attendent--again--if this one would be our bus. The woman beside me spoke little English but used what she could to help me find my own bus, shaking her head no each time a new bus pulled up and did not match my ticket. Beside her sat another woman, a backpacker who no doubt had mastered the art of Instagram influencers. She wore scarlet red and busied herself with a Sudoku app on her phone. She too would join the confusion, shaking her head yes or no and chatting with the woman about her itinerary. The lot of us made a good team.
I watched the little girl's hands shake as she tugged her mother's pant leg on the crowded train, and I ached--for a moment--over what it must be like to be so young and so scared.
Muffled children's laughter seeps in from the windows, mingling with the screams of construction noise. They're shouting on the playground, maybe bothering the little old women in charge of plucking weeds from the track. Further still, I hear the port and its commotions. Freight ships load with raw materials to be sent somewhere far away from this little corner of Busan. A high-speed train careens along its tracks and startles the families in nearby apartment buildings. Woven between each sound, like a single thread holding a hodge-podge quilt together, come the drums from students practicing upstairs. Hollow light-wood and rapid. When the drums slow, I find a rhythm in my neighborhood's everyday.