Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

Hi everyone.

I meant to post something last Monday, really I did.
And this Monday.

It's apparent to me now I need to go on an official blogging vacation until after my wedding in June.

When I come back, I'll have a post about Quality vs. Quantity since that question was raised in the comments by our lovely Gracia. (Thanks, Gracia!)

Have a wonderful month everyone! When I post again, my name will be changed! How cool is that?! :D

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Writing Myth #2

The Muse

Wouldn't it be great if there was a god up in the heavens somewhere who could come down, sit on your shoulder, and whisper the perfect words for you to write that would inspire man to great and glorious expressions?

If there were such a thing, it would be called a muse.

The Muse comes from Greek Mythology. Originally there were nine (some contend for three) of them. They were goddesses. Daughters of the gods who came down to us mortals every now and then to inspire great feats of art, literature, music, etc.

Many writers throughout time have written into their literature a small paragraph or more intended to beg that a muse would come down and help inspire their writing. Today, most writers just joke about it. "If the muse descends, I will make my deadline tonight." or "The Muse is absent. I can't write."

Whether or not the muses exist is not really important. What is important, is that every person who truly wants to be a writer must train themselves to write without the muse.

This is perhaps a myth that everyone's figured out already. I debated about whether this blog post would be useful, but yesterday I met a woman who works as a nurse. She said that she's always wanted to try writing a book.
Those words "always wanted" and "try" caught my attention. I couldn't help but think "If you've always wanted to, why haven't you done it?"
I also thought it sad that she said she wanted to TRY to write a book. I thought "You mean you haven't even TRIED to write?"

I hear plenty of people say that they've always wanted to be published some day. Or that they've always wanted to complete a book they've already started. But I felt a little sad that this wonderful person had never even tried. I doubt she ever will (though I hope I'm wrong).

Myth: Waiting for the muse, or for inspiration, is how all writers do it.

Truth: Inspiration is nice, but not necessary. Waiting for it can be fatal to the imagination.

Don't wait. Write today. Even if it's drivel.
I cannot say this enough. IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER........THEN GO BE A WRITER. DON'T WAIT.

Neil Gaiman once said he hears a lot of people tell him they want to be writers. In reply, he answers something along the lines of "If you're going to be a writer, you know you'll actually have to write, don't you?"
He said he can always tell the ones who are going to be writers by their response. They're the ones who nod their heads slowly and take him seriously. The other ones who aren't going to be writers just think he's trying to be clever.

Being an arm chair writer is not an option for me. I can't just read blogs about writing and publishing, read books about it, and tell my friends I'm going to be a writer someday. I need to actually write something. Even if it's trash.

The Carpenter Analogy

If I really wanted to become a carpenter, (just as much, let's say, as I want to be a writer,) what would I have to do?
Would reading lots of books about carpentry help? Yes. Would that make me a carpenter? No.
Would actually creating something make me a carpenter? No. It would make me a hobbyist. Would creating more than just a few projects make me a carpenter? Well, maybe. It's getting there. At this point, it's more about how much I choose to identify with the craft of carpentry.
But one consistent contributor to becoming a carpenter, as with writing, is PRACTICE.
Carpenter's don't practice with the good stuff. They practice with scrap wood.

Writer's have it easy. We don't have to spend money on wood. Whatever we practice with can be thrown out, but if it turns out being magnificent, well then we have something wonderful. There's no risk of failing if you just start out to practice. But every chance that it could turn into a success.
So why wait for the muse? There's writing to be done!

(Did I mention it's completely free? You don't have to pay for premium words or buy the really expensive materials in order to write the best story possible. Whether you succeed or fail, you loose absolutely nothing and will always gain from the practice.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Myth #1

Now that poetry month's over with, I have some thoughts that I've been gathering about the writing process for the past month I'd like to share with you.

Since Gracia brought the subject up in the comments, I've been thinking a lot about what makes us tick as writers.

I was listening to the podcast "I Should Be Writing" by Mur Lafferty awhile ago, and I heard Mur interviewing Neil Gaiman. It was enlightening, and because I listened to it, I no longer believe in writer's block.

Writing Myth #1: Writer's block doesn't exist.

If I am to be a professional writer (and I do want to be), then I have to tell myself that writer's block doesn't exist.

Dentists don't get dentist's block. Truck drivers don't get driver's block. Why should writer's get writer's block?
Most of us who write are of course writing for the fun of it. I mean, I certainly hope no one out there is saying to themselves "Gee, I want to make writing my career because I want to make a lot of money." (Because odds are you won't make a lot of money.) So we don't make it our job because we think it'd be a good paying job. We do it because we like it.

But at the same time, writing is work. It's hard, it takes time, and is an investment. So now whenever I'm tempted to say "I have writer's block," instead I think to myself "I just don't feel like going to work today." (And of course, the appropriate action is to go to work anyway, even when you don't feel like it. That's why it's a job.)

Neil Gaiman had an interesting idea to avoid feeling like you don't want to go to work (aka, to avoid writer's block....even though it doesn't exist). I'm going to try to put this into practice:

Have several projects going at once of different genres, lengths, themes, etc. because when you say you have writer's block, it usually just means that you've hit a snag on your current project. If you don't feel like writing a certain work, go work on something else. Then at least you'll always be writing and will never be blocked.

That being said, there are times when writer's need to take a break. Writing is hard work.
If I am writing a 100,000 word novel, that's 100,000 words that I need to decide which order they go in, which ones get cut, etc. That's at least 100,000 decisions. My brain can only handle making so many decisions at one time before my decision maker gets broken. Also, if there are a lot of little or big life decisions that I have to make, it's also harder to make decisions about my writing.

How to tell if you need to take a break from writing:

1. All your writing starts to talk about writing. Solution: Time to go out there and get some real life experiences to write about!

2. Your pets and/or family desperately need food. Solution: Put down the pen and bring home the bacon!

3. You can't remember when you last hung out with friends or had a good belly laugh with another human being (fictional characters, no matter how hilariously written, don't count). Solution: Host or go to a party or call up someone and ask them to hang out!

4. When people ask you how you're doing, you reply by telling them your word count. Solution: Try to familiarize yourself with normal conversation tactics again!

5. You start describing in your head (or out loud) everything you do in either story form or a soliloquy. Solution: Cut it out! *Reesha stared at her own words with a growing feeling of hypocrisy. "I think I need some tea," she thought.*

In all seriousness, only you will know when you need to take a break from writing. But that break from writing, IMHO, should never be writer's block. In fact, I've heard it's often best to take breaks right during the peak of inspiration, so that when you come back to your writing, you have something compelling to start you going again.

Tell all, wonderful readers!
What are your thoughts about writer's block? Do you believe it exists? What do you do to avoid it or get out of it? Or, what excuses do you end up making the most to avoid writing?
I usually end up playing computer or phone games and then realize I meant to spend time writing.