Tag Archives: writing

Identity: Author vs. Writer

This is a question which has probably plagued the minds of anyone who does any sort of writing with any amount of seriousness, especially those of us who have written books in the past. Do I call myself a writer, or an author?

I’ve always favored the descriptor “writer” when referring to myself, though to my understanding this is oft regarded as the less formal, more hobbyist title, “I like to write things” vs. “I write books for a living” (I always interpreted the word Author to be a capital A profession). So given this, I wasn’t sure why I like the term ‘writer’ better. I certainly take my writing seriously, and while I have not made a career out of my writing, I do have published books (self-published, but published all the same) under my belt. For me, while it may never shape into a career, it’s my sole passion and I’ve certainly never used the word “writer” to diminish my status.

I think it’s the fact that Writer just looks better on paper, gets straight to the point, says out loud, in your face: I WRITE THE THINGS. And there’s a certain amount of satisfaction I get out of that. Just last year I made a Facebook page for myself and after waffling only a fraction of a second, chose the ‘writer’ description over ‘author’. There’s also the fact that I write poetry in addition to novels. I’ve always thought of the word “author” as strictly limited to novel-writing, and if novels are my passion, poetry is my soul, and I couldn’t just leave it out in the cold like that. “Writer” also seems to suggest someone who is constantly writing, consumed in the act of it, whereas “Author” seems more concentrated on “having written”, having credits to one’s name. I’m technically both, but I feel much more connected to the act of writing itself, producing new stuff, than I do to my past work.

So, great! Why are you telling me about this? It’s just that now I’m thinking about it critically, I’ve begun to wonder if I made the right choice for myself.

Before sitting down to write this, I went and did a simple google search for the difference between the two terms, which turned up a lot of interesting but varying and ultimately inconclusive takes on the matter. Here are some of the common ideas:

  • Author: someone who has published works to their name. Also, one who is the originator of their own ideas and plot. Treats their craft like a career, but also spends perhaps equal time promoting past work to what they do writing new material.
  • Writer: someone who writes anything, either as a hobby or for money. However, when paid, someone described as a writer is often doing work that more commissioned in nature- think Freelance Writer, Technical Writer or Ghostwriter, anything with an expected outcome they do not dictate themselves.

At the end of this research, I had to conclude that “Writer” is simply a much broader category that refers to a much broader range of people, which is what attracted me to it in the first place- it gave me more perceived ‘freedom’. I write. Therefore I am a writer. But I am also an author, and a poet- these are more specific types of writer, and I’m beginning to think of them as less confining than helpful, defining. I am an author, I am a poet. These are my areas. I’m willing to bet there are tons of people who are really extremely multi-faceted, for whom the phrase, ‘writer’, no qualifiers attached, is more helpful than harmful- but for me, I’m starting to find it’s a bit misleading.

Is this vague way I categorize myself the reason people sometimes come to me with a ‘great project’ in mind that I could take? In my head in these instances, I’m thinking, ‘by god, of course I will not write your novel for you, I only write my own. I will not write that article about something I am not equipped to write about, in fact, I will not volunteer to write anything I’m not absolutely passionate about- in other words (I’m fucking terrible, but) anything that was not my idea in the first place is pretty much out of the picture, I suppose unless I’m pitched something I really REALLY like (I’m starting to feel like this post could be called ‘why I’m shit at making any profit from writing’, but maybe we’ll save that for another day). But when I’m a self-described writer, how are they to know? How are those who don’t me as well to know what type of writing I do, or take on- if I’m an author, a freelancer, a journalist, a poet…? I’m unintentionally muddying the waters by leaving things false possibilities wide open. I guess, to be completely honest, I’ve thought of ‘author’ as a snottier term, but even so, I must admit I’m pretty fucking snotty about what I will and will not write, so perhaps even in that light it fits xD.

At the end of the day, neither term is really ‘better’ than the other in truth, it all depends on what is most helpful/useful to the person defining themselves. I’ll probably keep ‘writer’ up as my Facebook descriptor, seeing as you can’t make yourself both an author and a poet to my knowledge, and I honestly still prefer the term, the look of it on the page, but now I feel like I have a better grasp on the terminology. I’ll always be a writer, or, one who writes. It’s just time to get a little more specific when the situation calls for it.

Has anyone else had this dilemma before? I know there are other people who write novels who tend refer to themselves as simply writers (like I’ve been doing until recently), and I know there are even some who feel they’d like to identify as an ‘author’ but aren’t published, or don’t feel they have enough merit to their name to qualify. It’s an interesting topic for something you’d think would be so simple. Where do you fall in the spectrum/what is your own understanding of the difference between what it means to be a writer versus an author?

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New Year’s Resolution Time! {2016 edition}

OH HEY. Long time, no see, blogging world! I started last year by writing down a list of my resolutions for the new year and at that time I promised a check in of sorts around the end of it. So this post is going to be both addressing last year’s resolutions and how well I did in keeping them and putting up some new resolutions. LET’S SEE HOW I DID.

Last year’s resolutions:
1. submit writing more places: I actually did really well at this in the first few months of the year. Before 2015, my poetry hadn’t seen much more than the inside of my filing cabinet, and now it’s been published in a few excellent journals online. (you’ll eventually be able to see a list of places my poetry appears on the MY POETRY page here, once my ass gets around to it). I wish I’d kept this up for the whole year, but alas, I did not.
2. keep up with this blog: once again, after the first few months, this one went to the wayside (as you might’ve been able to deduce from the complete lack of activity on here).
3. read 100 books: I don’t even want to talk about how hard I failed here. I not only didn’t make it to the goal, but I read less than I’ve read any other year since I started listing my yearly books read (nearly 10 years ago, before I was on goodreads). My grand total was 21. I WEEP.
4. Eat healthier: didn’t take this one seriously until the end of the year, when I’d had it with feeling like total shit all the time, some of which could be attributed to my total shit diet (who knew? lol) and now I do a bit better with it. Not much to report, I’m no health guru by a long fucking shot, but hey, sometimes I snack on fruit instead of cupcakes so I don’t think I failed utterly here : )
5. Get dressed every day: nope. Nope. noooope.

Now, to be fair, 2015 was astonishingly successful in some ways that never showed up in my resolutions. I 1: finished the first draft of one novel and wrote an entire first draft of another novel, 2- began driving on the highway. This is a big breakthrough for me, as I’ve always had a lot of anxiety surrounding driving and highway driving in particular. 3- summoned the courage to participate in open mics for poetry and a couple book promotion events. These things are SUCH A MAJOR WIN for me.

Now, instead of going straight into listing my 2016 resolutions with bright-eyed and bushy-tailed vigor, I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to something I ordered completely on impulse this year along with a new wall and desk calendar, which is THIS BOOK (pictured below and available for purchase here  by Lisa Jacobs )

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I waffled about whether to buy this for a while before getting it, but MAN am I glad I did. It starts off with a section for review of the past year, filled with prompt questions, then moves on to plans for the new year, and then the final section is set up like a monthly planner in order to keep track of the stated goals, complete with a midyear review section and quarterly reflections. The questions are so pertinent to my craft too, which I was a little surprised at- I don’t know why, though, writing is after all a ‘creative business’. It’s so well-organized and thorough that it helped me put my thoughts in order in a way I’ve never done before. I always thought ‘sure, I know what I want to get out of this year’, but this book really is effective in peeling back vague ambitions to reveal concrete goals (also, may I just say that when the author uses her own workbook every year, you know you’ve struck gold). If you work at anything creative with any real seriousness and struggle due to being completely in charge of your own schedule/fitting that around the rest of your life, this is for you!! (I wasn’t paid to advertise this book, I’m just hella enthusiastic, guys.)

Okay, anyway. One of the things the Your Best Year 2016 book prompted me to do was to actually write out not only the things I failed at last year, but WHY it was that I failed and examine how not to make the same mistakes again.

For example, when I planned to submit more writing, I ultimately failed due to giving myself too much of a structured schedule to follow for submissions/hours spent working in general. When an event would come up in my life and I missed a day, everything went to hell because of this bizarre brand of perfectionism. This has been a character flaw of mine for a long time, something I’m trying to erase this year. When I planned to keep up with this blog, I did really great with weekly posts, until I got over-enthusiastic and decided I wanted to try and post 3 times a week instead of one. Don’t remember that? That’s because it didn’t fucking work. I tried to do too much and the stress on my mind burnt me out before I got too far at all. When I planned to read 100 books, I failed because I wasn’t being serious about placing restrictions on any other type of media that would get in the way of enjoying reading. Once I got down to the root of the reasons I missed the mark here, I was able to make some clearer 2016 resolutions.

So, without further ado, here they are, my new and improved resolutions for 2016:

  1. Get the rough draft of a book I’ve had laying around edited and acquire an agent. – The biggest, most daunting goal, probably, and the one I spent the most time mapping in Your Best Year. As a self-published author, I’ve had little experience with traditional publishing, but I want to give it a shot for the first book in the rough trilogy I finished last year. The rough draft of the first book has been finished for nearly a good four years now and this has always been something I wanted to ‘try doing eventually’ but never initiated. Game on!
  2. Limit time spent online unless it’s for work purposes – this resolution helps out my “read 100 books” goodreads challenge goal, which I’m giving another go-around this year. I know if I successfully limit my time wasted doing god-knows-what-I-do to eat 500,000 hours a year online, I will read more books in my spare time as a direct result (I’m not a TV person). It will also kill off my biggest distraction to getting writing/editing/you name it done. Your Best Year gave me the excellent idea of giving myself a little chunk of time faffing on twitter, instagram, youtube, wherever as a reward if I spend a bigger chunk of time devoted to working and keeping away from checking my phone.
  3. Show up at office as many days as possible- This one’s exciting mostly because for the first time I have a real office space, separate from the place I sleep, and even five days into the year, it’s really helping. I’m not going to give myself a stringent, impossible-to-follow schedule. Instead I’m going to endeavor to 1- wake up at a reasonable time. I do my best work earlier in the day, and 2- show up for however many hours or tasks I’ve allotted that day. Even if it’s a day I have to be at my other, paying job, I want to get in maybe an hour in the morning.
  4. Get a chapbook of poems together- The original resolution was going to be something more vague like “get back into writing fresh poetry”, but I came out with this one instead. I’ve always wanted to pull a collection of poetry together, and a chapbook is a great place to start. Over the past few months, I’ve been attending poetry open mics and I’ve been honored to meet and hear and be inspired by so many amazing fellow poets, and yet… I still feel blocked when it comes to my own writing. If I resolve to have a chapbook out this year, I will HAVE to write new things.

That’s about everything! Well, there are more small goals, but these are the major writing-related ones at least! If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks, I wish I had a cookie to give you because you really deserve one. What’ve you got planned for 2016? Do you enjoy planning resolutions out or do you like to take it as it comes? I’d be interested to know!
Until next week!

{C}

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I survived Camp NaNoWriMo- April 2015

Okay so this post is a little late. And by a little I mean A LOT. I finished Camp Nanowrimo April 30th, and here we are on June 10th. But better late than never, eh?

For a long time now I’ve had some thoughts/reflections on my first experience with Camp NaNo I wanted to get down. So here goes.

Starting out, as I detailed in my week one post here, I was having a lot of anxiety about my story not being good. (I’m proud to report now at nearly 50,000 words, I’ve been able to tell my internal editor to bug off loudly enough where this isn’t the case anymore).  So that wasn’t so great. What was great about that first week was the fact that even despite my doubts, I was able to stay on track with my word count. Great! I thought, I’ll write a blog post for each week chronicling my journey! It will be stressful but epic!

Clearly this did not happen.

By week two, I was crashing and burning. I would get up to write and only get a few hundred words in some days, while others I would ignore my writing schedule altogether and distract myself with other things. This caused a good deal of mental anguish for me, considering I am the type of writer who likes to stick religiously to a routine- once I deviate, even once, I start to feel like I’m slipping, and it only becomes easier to deviate again in the future, and again and again.

Tie that to the fact that towards the end of May, I was going to a Harry Potter convention in New Hampshire- MISTI-Con 2015, which turned out to be one of the best times ever and which I’ll have to chronicle in a later post. But even mid-April, convention nerves were setting in. On top of that I kept thinking of how I would continue to write during the convention (I didn’t, nor did I for most of May). Basically, it was just another excuse to stall, to wallow in the fact that I’d lost control of my plot and didn’t know where things were going.

Just when I thought I might give up on Camp NaNo for good, I realized I could change the word-count goal for the month. I switched from aiming for 40K to 30K. Okay, I thought, I can do this, surely. I took a couple days to plot instead of write, and suddenly I had more than a good idea of where everything was going. Then I went to change my goal again, and realized I couldn’t anymore! Realistically I knew I could still finish, with just a little catch-up. And I did! I felt a wild flash of triumph as I went from feeling sure I could lose to stepping over the finish line the last day of April.

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Here are the pros and cons as I saw them after completing Camp NaNo:

Pro: It’s a well-needed kick in the pants, much like NaNo OG. Have a project you’ve been thinking about doing forever but never got around to? Now’s the time!

Pro: You can have whatever goal you want. This is especially helpful, I think, if you’re trying to finish a novel you’ve already started or edit one you’ve finished.

Pro: VALIDATION. It’s amazing just how typing in your wordcount and seeing that arrow creep closer to the bullseye in the target affects the mind 😉

Pro: The virtual write-ins were incredibly helpful near the end for me. I wish I’d done them all the way through. Something about writing with others present doing the same, even if it’s online, makes me more productive than I probably would have been alone nine times out of ten. Plus it’s just fun to hear what others are writing during the talking breaks 🙂

Con: I actually didn’t like the fact that you could edit your goals until a certain point (I think around the 20th?) I feel like knowing I could do this made me more lax about the whole thing.

Con: There was definitely less community. Granted, I didn’t take advantage of the forums, but there weren’t any official meetups like there are with NaNo proper. Also, my cabin this year around was a little dead so xD

As you can see, the pros are double the cons. NaNoWriMo in all its incarnations is really such a wonderful idea and I’m thankful to everyone who pitches in to make it possible each year.

Currently what was my April Camp novel is less than halfway done, and I can’t see finishing in June, though YES I will be working on it steadily. I am considering doing Camp NaNo in July and making my goal finishing whatever’s left of this book to finish by then. If anyone else did camp in April or is going to do it in July, let me know! What’re you working on?

{C}

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Week One

Just a week ago, I set off on a new writing challenge: Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, Camp NaNo follows the same concept as NaNoWriMo in November, except 1) it’s held two times a year and is much less formal and on a smaller scale in terms of participants, and 2) unlike during NaNo proper, when the goal is pretty solidly to write 50K words within the month, in Camp NaNo, your goal can be whatever you want to make it. Whether you wanted to write 25K on a project you’ve already started, work on edited something you’ve finished, Camp NaNoWriMo is a great chance to kick your ass into just getting on with it already and making time! This year is my first year doing Camp NaNo, so I’m thinking I’ll write at least a couple blog posts through the course of it to detail my progress.

I decided to write 40,000 words (just a little under normal NaNo standards) in a new book, the third in the fledgling trilogy I’ve been working on, so that once I’m finished, I can edit them all in one go. 40K will equal out to about 10K words a week, which is doable but also requires dedication. When I’m working on a novel, I generally like to write about 10K/week to keep the world alive and urgent in my head, so it’s a pace I’ve done before and one I’m comfortable with.

But boy, did I ever not feel ready this time around. I wanted to get this slightly outlined, and it’s not at all outlined, I thought. Maybe I should wait until July’s camp session and do it then.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES. Knowing myself, I wouldn’t have had anything more accomplished or felt any more ready had I waited until July. So, I woke up April 1st feeling like the biggest April fool ever, and stared at my computer screen after making a new document. Luckily, I’d left myself in a pretty good place to pick up after book 2, so I got my first 650 words super easy. I felt encouraged, and for once like what I had down was pretty good (so rare for a lot of us, I know). I was even excited for day 2.

Day 2 and 3 went well, but that was probably more due to the fact that I had work those first three days, and only got down around 500 words before working all day. It was when I hit my days off, and I had all this time, and a lot of catching up to do, that things got more difficult.

I would say the best part of NaNo so far, with one week gone and 10,000 words under my belt (can it be that much already??) is that the story hasn’t come too hard so far. I’ve tried plotting ahead a little, which is unusual for me, and at some point soon the story’s about to be a BITCH because I will hit a black hole of HOLY FUCK WHAT NOW, but at this very moment in time: we’re good. We’ve got material, and we’re slowly rolling on.

The worst part is that I honestly doubt everything about most of that 10,000 words. Am I getting across what I want to get across? Are my characters consistent and as alive as they were in the last two books? It’s a clusterfuck of self-doubt. I often think I’m repeating myself too much, using too many adjectives, putting in scenes I don’t need, etc. etc. And as someone who does  not like to do MAJOR editing if I can help it, this concerns me.  Basically my frame of mind here at quarter mast is this: I’m so shocked the words are coming to me this easy! Wait…are the words coming easy only because they’re shit? They’re shit, aren’t they? xD

A couple of things that have helped me write so far:

  • Giving myself little, mini time limits. Or, super-long word sprints. Word crawls, if you will. “I’m going to write 500 words FOR SURE in the next hour, no excuses” And then 500 the next, and the next, ad nauseum. I’m usually really good about enforcing this time of thing on myself, since realistically if you’re writing religiously, 500 words is so little to write in an hour…but I’ve always been on the slower side and I am always taking time out on twitter or to procrastinate, so I always JUST make the time limit and feel that little rush of exhilaration. If I have time left in the hour, I’ll get up, listen to music, get something to eat, anything really- just to take a short break as a reward.
  • THIS MUG.
    (lately I have been loving the NaNo mugs- I got one back in November too. I LOVE the design on this one, I bought it as soon as I saw it, in March, so that I’ll have it all month to write with :D)
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               glorious fuel receptacle

Is anyone else doing Camp NaNo this month? Maybe in July? I’d like to hear about whatever projects you have planned!

{C}

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journals, diaries, and poetry, oh my!

I’ve always been a little obsessed with handwriting journal/diary hybrids, books where I’d talk about my day and daily dramas and then suddenly launch into discussion of some bigger, deeper theme out of nowhere. I started when I was around 11 or 12 and continued (albeit very intermittently) into my twenties.

I’m a very all or nothing type of person- I’m either doing something 110% or I’m not doing it at all. (so if I ever miss posting on this blog, expect not to hear from me for another year. JUST KIDDING…I think). Journals were no exception to this rule. I wanted my entries to be daily, though of course they never were. All my old journals are full of maybe 3-7 day periods where I’d write daily and then a silence that could last days, weeks, or even months before resuming again. Sometimes I’d even try to summarize everything that happened for these silent gaps in the next entry, usually precluded by a “It’s been FOREVER!!” (It’s at the very least, amusing stuff, especially the teen journals. Ah, the teen journals.)

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                 proof of the damage!

As I went through college and beyond, the gaps between my journaling increased. I have years that are not recorded at all, where others I’ll experience a burst of activity and then drop off the face of the earth again. I also fell in and out of love with journaling. Sometimes I was really enthused about it, while others I felt it only served to make me realize how uninteresting my life was. I also noticed that as I got older and life obviously became more complex as a result, I became less honest in my journals, which was upsetting to me. Journals were supposed to be a place I could come and be completely honest with myself, not to skip around anything I didn’t want to face head on in order to make better, more nostalgic reading for myself when I came back to them later.

Last year, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to write some in a journal every day, a sort of final challenge to see if I could do it. For a while (nearly 3 months) it went well, and I managed to get something down every day, even enjoyed it the majority of the time. But one thing I’d failed to account for was that it did take time. I liked to handwrite all my journals and my insistence on doing it every day was taking away from the success of another one of my goals: to write poetry on a regular basis. I write poetry in the same way I write journals, by hand, and a lot of the time when I was done with my journaling, especially if the entry had been emotional or particularly deep or searching, I found my well all dried up when it came to poetry. Not only that, but some of the entries in my journals became downright poetic when I really got going on something I couldn’t really articulate.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this strange melding. In fact, back in 2012 I wrote an entry in which I wondered if poetry and keeping a ‘diary’ weren’t so different as I’d first assumed in terms of purpose. Being that I valued poetry more, I started to wonder if maybe I should make poetry my diary of sorts, and write daily in some poetry book rather than a journal.

From September 10th, 2012:

Poetry is like pouring out feelings you can’t even put into words, and that’s what I like having a diary to be about too, but I don’t know…if someone were to read a diary, they might be hurt or troubled by what they find- but with poetry…poetry is always under the guise of art. The words are not straightforward, so even if you write something in the heat of hateful feelings, it might be construed differently by the very person it’s about. It might be enjoyed by them, and then, assuming the poem is for poetry’s sake as well, long after your angry feelings pass, you can still love the poem, unlike how you’d be ashamed of an angry journal entry. Because poetry is beautiful, and transcends something base inside, so that sometimes in the act of writing it we come to reconcile our emotions and achieve insight into the deepest reaches of ourselves. Poetry can be therapeutic indeed.

Of course every poem I write is not so personal as a diary entry, and every diary entry I wrote was certainly not poetic (HA) but I had a point. The similarities were there, and if I had to pick one to spend time on, I wanted it to be poetry. (I’d also like to note I think it’s funny how concerned I was over people reading my journals…as far as I can tell, there wasn’t anything catastrophic in there…though I suppose I understand my point xD)

When I journaled, I felt like a lot of what I wrote as boring, and I always felt like I missed writing about the real ‘good stuff’. With poetry, the only things you take from life are the ones that strike you in some way, the moments that seem to glow with a special sort of luminescence. So while my poetry will never tell me what I ate yesterday morning or what test I passed or what inside joke I created, it will take me back to the memories that matter most upon reading, memories  only I can fully unlock. And as a bonus, it will hopefully be something completely new and different to each reader who sees it, as any good piece of art is.

Do I still journal? Occasionally, but only when the spirit moves me. Poetry has by and large taken the front seat in my handwritten life ;).

I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you next week!

{C}

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Fanfiction: a tribute

“There’s a time and place for everything, and I believe it’s called ‘fan fiction'” ~ Joss Whedon

“Fanfiction isn’t copying- it’s a celebration. One long party, from the first capital letter to the last full stop!” ~ Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing

In my teen years, I used to write fanfiction. In fact, fanfiction was pretty much all I wrote. I’d started some original stories before my fanfic era, but for a good three years of high school, those stories went on a perpetual hiatus while I occupied other peoples’ worlds.

Fanfic is to some the lowest category of the low; it’s embarrassing to admit you write it, and it exists for fanservice purposes only. But for me it served another purpose as well.

All writers are big readers. At least, every writer who feels the calling to write in their bones, is a big reader first. I went through a lot of periods where I wasn’t writing, but one thing was constant: I could never stop reading. If I go a month without reading a book, I feel wrong. Weird, like there’s a piece of me missing, a phantom limb itching to be scratched.

I was falling in love with other people’s worlds and words long before I ever found or fell in love with any of my own. Sometimes my love of another person’s creation would get to such gargantuan proportions where I’d think There is NOTHING I could write anywhere near as good, as perfect, as beautiful and enticing as I find this story. There are no characters I could create to rival these. Of course, I still feel all these feelings when I read things I love, like I could never measure up, like I’m burning from the inside out with jealousy at the same time as I’m savoring every minute of the tale. And that’s what we want as readers, isn’t it? A story that not only gets us so fully immersed we forget when our last meal was or what time of day it is, but a story that we might resent just a little because we wish we’d written it ourselves.

Through all of my teenagerhood, I had one such crush on the Harry Potter series, (I mean, don’t get me wrong, that fire’s still burning, but there was a point when it was an absolute inferno ). Not a unique obsession, I know, especially considering I am the “Harry Potter generation”- I was Harry’s age when the books picked up and Harry’s age again when the last one came out. There were (and are!) HORDES of people writing fanfic for these books, and I was one of them for a few years. I’d been having problems with writer’s block and my writing changing and growing and not knowing my exact style or voice so well anymore, and then on top of this I fell so much in love with J.K. Rowling’s world that I stopped thinking about my own worlds entirely. I could never write books like these, I could never write characters as vivid as these.  But even though I had generally grown to fear all writing, I still felt the itch to write *something*. So I wrote fanfic.

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the Potter books, holding a prominent place on my shelf 🙂

I wrote either angst-filled fanfic or silly, cracktastic parodies for the most part, and while most of the time I felt weird about not writing anything original (in fact, I can remember wondering during that time if I’d ever feel like writing anything original again), I also started to notice the good it was doing me. Fanfic took my mind off of world-building. I started writing with a world already pre-built, conditions already set, and a whole cast of side-characters to choose from, already fleshed out to an extent by canon. This left me to focus on story and characters. Whether I was writing an original character or shading in one from the canon in my own interpretive way, whether I was making up my own story or doing a parody or parallel plot to a pre-existing story, I was able to focus so thoroughly on these things without having to worry about building a foundation first or having a place for these characters and stories to roam. All of my stories today are very character driven, and all of my favorite stories were always character driven as well; I think fanfic helped me to achieve this quality I emulated. And because fanfic was not a place to take yourself too seriously, I felt I could relax a little more writing it, which allowed the words to flow.

There’s fanfic out there that’s pretty ridiculous. I might even say the majority of it is pretty darn ridiculous, including most of what I’ve written in the past ;). But it’s damn FUN. As a reader, it’s a virtual playground, and as a writer it helps you to concentrate on and exercise areas of your writing. It can even help you to find and strengthen your own voice at the same time as you try on and imitate the voices of others. I know writers have differing opinions on this, but if someone were to write fanfic based on my work, I can’t help but think that no matter how bad the writing, how out of character the characters, I would be pretty darn flattered. Because I know the feelings that inspired me to write fanfic, and those are feelings I think every writer hopes someone someday will feel about their books.

I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you next week!

{C}

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Writer’s Block- does it really exist?

Almost two years ago, I printed out this pile of exactly one hundred poems I’d typed up . The poems included were written over the span of the past three years (so, since 2010 or so) but the overwhelming majority of them were actually written within the 2012-2013 year. ONE YEAR.

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A highly attractive pile of paper!

Flash forward to present day and these poems have been read over and sorted, once, twice, five times, and there’s a hefty pile I consider Not Exactly Quality. There’s another, slightly larger pile that I considered workable/submittable, and lately I’ve finally been getting around to actually submitting them places. Of course, now that I’m actually submitting, I find the ‘acceptable’ pile has shrunk yet again, and the ‘I really love this, it needs to get out there’ pile is even smaller.

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Several slightly less attractive piles                         of paper!

Why, you may ask, am I showing you piles of paper? What’s my point with all this? Why, I’m so glad you asked! WRITER’S BLOCK is my point.

For nearly two full years after college ended (when I was no longer being prompted or assigned poetry) I hadn’t written a thing due to writer’s block. Nothing I thought of seemed good enough, and when I had a good idea I couldn’t find the right words. Eventually the fear of that blank page and of the desecration of the Ideal Poem I held on a pedestal in my head led to an extreme creative drought. Writer’s Block got me, and it got me good.

Then, something miraculous happened, and that something is this: I sat my ass down in a chair, took a journal and started writing poetry. I wrote for fifteen minutes, and I surprised myself. I didn’t completely hate what I wrote. The next day I wrote for thirty, and the going was a lot harder. Then I scrapped the time idea and set myself page goals, trying to write a full page, front and back, in my poetry journal every day. I told myself I was not going to go back over anything I wrote there for a while, that I wouldn’t edit or even reread anything- anything went, single lines that popped into my head as I was going, a scrap of this, a scrap of that, disjointed stanzas, you name it. As long as I fulfilled my page quota and had one new page of raw material every day, I was playing by the rules. AND IT WORKED. So simple, yet somehow it had taken me years. And it wasn’t the first time I’d gone through this cycle; I didn’t even have ignorance to fall back on. I started feeling so much regret over the time I’d wasted not writing any poetry. If I wrote 100 rough poems in a year, how many could I have had in the space of 3 years? If I had 25 I was in love with, how many would I have to love in 3 years?? Obviously I’ll never let this happen again, I thought. But I did, again and again. The only thing I can say for myself is the dry spells weren’t quite as long.

There are those who say writer’s block doesn’t exist, that all you need is hard work and dedication to write every day and you’ll never experience it again. Then there are those who say NAY, that fabled beast is real and it will eat you alive! Who’s right? From my own experience, I’ve personally come to believe that the truth is a bit of both extremes, as is often the case. Writer’s block does indeed exist: just as being super inspired and having the words flow out of you like no one’s business is a real and euphoric experience, having everything move at a dead crawl and hardly being able to string a sentence together, feeling ‘blocked’ in other words, is equally real. No amount of schedule and dedication has managed to make it go away and never come back. I’ll be in the middle of a novel and suddenly I’m having an astronomically difficult time hitting my quota. I’ll sometimes spend nearly the whole day doing what is normally only a few hours’ work.

BUT. On the occasions I did triumph and wrote through the block, I found that it usually only lasted about a week tops, and at the end of the day, I felt REALLY good that I’d got the words out there, even if they were probably shit. Contrast that with the months (or years!) of feeling blocked that come from backing down and letting the fear build every day, each day making that wall in my head a little higher, and there’s a clear winner in the field of strategy ;).

I don’t think there’s any doubt as to whether writer’s block exists, I think the real question is whether we’ll let it get us, whether we will let it win and force us into a dry spell, or keep writing through it. I’ve let it win SO many times, more times honestly than I’ve been the victor. But I’m trying not to let that happen anymore. I think it’s likely, looking over the pattern of the past, that I will- but I’m aiming to prove myself wrong.

“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”

– Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

-Lili St. Crow

{Hope you’re well and see you next week!}

~ C

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