So November is National Novel Writing Month, and even though not all of our members are fiction writers, I think we should take part in it at least in an informal way. We can generalize this to National Write a Book Month for our Quillology Writer’s Group. I think we should challenge ourselves to finish that novel, put together that chapbook, start that memoir, gather up our short stories and start putting them into a collection, and, frankly, start writing on that new idea. Maybe we don’t have to actually partake in the website’s contest and activities (see here), but we can at least commit to our words and write on those novels, poems, essays, or stories.
I love months like this (April is National Poetry Month.) because these months provide us with some much needed incentive, inspiration, initiative to complete, or at least continue, our writings. I often participate in these months, but I never allow myself to feel so pressured that I can’t enjoy the writing. The completion is important, but the enjoyment of writing is what drives most of us. If we become so overwhelmed by the push to write a book in a month, then we cannot do what we love–just write. The months are meant to give us some inspiration and responsibility to our writing. We should take advantage of that!
Months like November give us that umph that we sometimes need to re-dedicate ourselves to our words. I hope each of us will take the time to do so. Who knows? Maybe we’ll all finish a book–whether fiction, non-fiction or poetry–and we can start submitting for publication. Wouldn’t that be incredible?
I hope you find inspiration in November. I hope you write. I know I will.
Greetings my beautiful writer friends,
As we all know, reading is one of the most prominent tools in our writing toolbox. Let’s face it, writing is our fire and reading is our fuel. We have to read, good and bad, in order to help improve ourselves in our craft.
Well, I was thinking we should do something a little fun. In your opinion, what is the worst book-to-movie adaptation that you have ever seen. You know the feeling: you hear that one of your favorite books is being turned into a film and you can’t wait for it to come out so you can see how Hollywood did your favorite story justice, then you leave the movie theater with a tummy full of stale popcorn and a heart full of disappointment.
Mine was Dr. Seusse’s “The Cat in the Hat.” You know, that awful excuse of a children’s film starring Mike Myers dressed as an obese cat which made you twitch and spasm in unhealthy ways. Yeah, that was mine.
So, what’s yours?
When I was reading the post Jax put up, this one stood out to me the most. I think this is hard for us to do. For many of us, our most productive hours of the day are during work or school. It’s hard to work around that, to play with the schedule a bit. Then, we’re so tired from our obligations that we don’t write afterwards or we’re too cranky to wake up extra early to write before. On top of that, we sometimes misconstrue our “productive hours.” I have known people who insisted on being “night owls” yet they were never up past 10:00 pm. Granted, they had to be up by 5:00 am, but a night owl stays up no matter what. I have also known people who insist that they’re the “early bird.” But again, they don’t wake until late morning. I think we have to be honest with ourselves about when we are productive. For instance, I love nights. Love them. I write prolifically when I can write at night. However, I have to wake up early during school, and we Clappers need our rest, me in particularly. So that means that I have to go to sleep early enough to get between 6-8 hours of sleep. If I have to wake up by 6:00 am, then at the latest I have to be asleep by midnight. That does not leave much time for writing at night. What I should really do is go to sleep at like 9:00 pm and wake up around 4:00 am, write and then go to school. But I am decidedly not an early bird. I hate, hate waking up in the morning. It takes me a good couple of hours to become “normal.” I mean, I can fake it, and I do, but if I wake up at 6:00 am, I am not myself until about 9 or 10 am. So, all of this is to say that it is hard for me to find my most productive hours and to find them available to me.
So, what am I going to do about it? I’m just going to commit to writing when I am feeling productive: morning, afternoon or night. If I happen to be at school and I feel productive, I will finish my school obligations, close my office door and then write while I’m there. If I wake up early, early in the morning and feel the words, then I will write even if that means no shower or no breakfast or whatever. If the inspiration comes late at night, I will just have to forgo sleep for a bit and just write. I can always nap later, right?
This is my pledge to me that I will write more. This summer I have been journalling and I just started blogging. I’ve written some poems and brainstormed some ideas, but I have done little fiction writing. So, I’m going to start back in on fiction in addition to all else. And I’m going to do it when I feel the productivity surging through my veins.
Link to source: www.copyblogger.com/better-writer/
Do you want to become a better writer? Silly question, eh.
The good news is that writing makes you a better writer. Just like practicing the piano makes you a better pianist, or riding a trail bike makes you a better biker.
A few weeks ago I asked a question on Write to Done: What Helps YOU Become a Better Writer? The suggestions the readers offered were so rich and varied that I decided to gather them all together for Copyblogger readers.
I think there is one guaranteed winner among the seventy-two suggestions – blogging. Writing a blog is an amazing way to sharpen one’s skills. As bloggers we have to produce words daily – even when we don’t feel like it. And we get instant feed-back through comments. As Leo Babauta points out in his inspiring story How I got 100,000 Subscribers: Lessons from Zen Habits, it’s the readers that help us improve.
Doing these things can help you become a better writer:
1. Become a blogger.
2. Use self-imposed word limits.
3. Accept all forms of criticism and learn to grow from it.
4. Read what you’ve written over and over, until you can’t find any more problems.
5. Show what you write to a trusted friend for feedback.
6. Outline. And then write to that outline.
7. Edit, and edit again.
8. Live with passion.
9. Be open, curious, present, and engaged.
10. Take a break between writing and editing.
11. Learn a new word a day.
12. Get the pen and fingers moving.
13. Write in different genres: blog posts, poems, short stories, essays.
14. Read grammar books.
15. Write without distractions.
16. Challenge yourself: write in a crowded cafe, write on the toilet, write for 24 hours straight.
17. Take a trip. Road trips, beach trips, bus trips, plane trips.
18. Watch movies. Can you write the story better?
19. Write. And then write some more.
20. Read, think, read, write, ponder, write – and read some more.
21. Read your stuff aloud to anyone who can stand it – including the cat.
22. Go back and cut 10% from your word count.
23. Talk to people.
24. Listen to how people talk.
25. Read lots of books. Both good and bad.
26. Make notes of your (fleeting) brilliant ideas.
27. Start your writing ahead of time – not hours before a deadline.
28. Listen to podcasts on writing tips.
29. Use simple, declarative sentences.
30. Avoid passive voice.
31. Limit your use of adjectives and adverbs.
32. When in doubt, cut it out.
33. Kill clunky sentences.
34. Be inspired by other art forms – music, dance, sculpture, painting.
35. Read your old stuff and acknowledge how far you’ve come – and how far you have to go.
36. Write for publication, even if it’s only for the local newsletter or a small blog.
37. Make writing your priority in the morning.
38. Keep squeezing words out even if you feel uninspired.
39. Tell everyone: “I’m a writer.”
40. Recognize your fear and overcome it.
41. Let your articles rest and then return to them with fresh eyes.
42. Comment on your favorite blogs.
43. Keep a journal to keep the writing juices flowing.
44. Use a journal to sort out your thoughts and feelings.
45. Keep it simple.
46. Practice monotasking. Set a timer for uninterrupted writing.
47. Watch people.
48. Get to know someone different from you and reflect on the experience.
49. Try new ideas or hobbies – the more variety you have in your life, the more likely you are to keep on generating good ideas on the page.
50. Read works from different cultures. It helps keep your writing from tasting stale in the mouths of your readers.
51. Rethink what is ‘normal’.
52. Work on brilliant headlines.
53. Check if your assumptions are right.
54. Join a writing group. If you can’t find one, form one.
55. Write during your most productive hours of the day.
56. Designate time to research.
57. Take time to muse and mindmap.
58. Map out a writing schedule for your project and stick to it.
59. Ask someone else to proofread.
60. Read Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” at least once a year.
61. Break out of your comfort zone.
62. Write at the scene. If you want to write about a beach, get a picnic rug and go write by the sea.
63. Go to the supermarket, the ball game, the class room, the building site. Make notes of the sensuous details, the atmosphere, the people.
64. Start with metaphors and stories.
65. Approach writing with gratitude, not just with a ‘must do this’ attitude.
66. Deconstruct and analyze books and articles you enjoy.
67. Know about story architecture. Many writers don’t. Which is like doing heart surgery or flying an airliner by intuition. Survival rates are low.
68. Socialize with other writers.
69. Stretch or exercise in between writing.
70. Make a note of ideas for further development before you leave a piece for tomorrow.
71.Use mindmaps for inspiration.
72. Take risks – don’t be afraid to shock. You are not who you think you are.
I have been seriously considering blogging recently. I read several blogs (friends and strangers) and really enjoy these. I love the snippet of life you get from a blog without the full commitment. I love the ideas and thoughts that others inspire in me with their blogs. I love being challenged by others’ blogs. So, I thought, “Why not start one of your own?” I didn’t have a reason why I shouldn’t. I journal, although that’s been put on hold this summer…mostly. With all the traveling and camping, journaling on computer hasn’t really been easy. I have been journaling in my private journal, but even that has been minimal. I just haven’t really been writing in any form much this summer. That is rare. Usually I am most vociferous in writing during the summer. I guess I just haven’t felt the inspiration much. Usually that means I’m about to move into major writing mode. Sorry everyone. That means I won’t be very social. We’ll see. Anyway, back to the blog. So, I’ve been considering blogging. I figure if I can be so affected by others’ blogs, maybe I should consider the effect my own could have. I also feel a bit like I owe a blog to those whose blogs I read. It’s not a fair exchange that I read their ideas, but don’t contribute. I have ideas. I have beliefs. I have love. Maybe blogging is the way I can spread these? It could be fun. It could be cathartic. It could be a disaster.
What do you think?
By Jan Allen
I hope you have been writing for at least 90 minutes each day of the break. And I hope that by now you have a crappy first draft. If not, we will start to hate you. “I know some very great writers… Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mention this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)” (Lamott, 1994, pp. 21-22). (…)
Please note: Reading about writing does not count as your 90 minutes of writing. Organizing your desk does not count as writing. Reading, typing, and editing your notes do not count as writing. Not even composing mentally while you wash the dishes constitutes writing. Writing is fingers on keyboard or pen to paper and producing. Even producing crappy first drafts.
Recall that one of the obstacles to writing is the fear that what we write will be terrible. It’s a common fear… as common as writing crappy first drafts. Think of them as a necessity. “If you try to write and edit at the same time you will do neither well” (Sides, 1991). You have to write before you can revise and edit to get the draft you want.
Lamott has a chapter called “Shitty First Drafts” that describes the necessity of writing without perfection or editing: “Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts” (p. 22).
She describes her fear of doing even this: “Even after I’d been doing this for years, panic would set in. I’d try to write a lead, but instead I’d write a couple of dreadful sentences, xx them out, try again, xx everything out, and then feel despair and worry settle on my chest like an x-ray apron. It’s over, I’d think, calmly. I’m not going to be able to get the magic to work again this time. I’m ruined. I’m through. I’m toast. Maybe, I’d think, I can get my old job back as a clerk-typist. But probably not. I’d get up and study my teeth in the mirror for a while. Then I’d stop, remember to breathe, make a few phone calls, hit the kitchen and chow down. Eventually I’d go back and sit down at my desk, and sigh for the next ten minutes. Finally I would pick up my one-inch picture frame, stare into it as if for the answer, and every time the answer would come: all I had to do was to write a really shitty first draft of, say, the opening paragraph. And no one was going to see it… The whole thing would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I’d obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft. I’d worry that people would read what I’d written and believe that the accident had really been a suicide, that I had panicked because my talent was waning and my mind was shot” (pp. 24-25).
That captures it pretty well, right? Especially for those of us who must work to manage perfectionistic tendencies, it helps to have as your goal today, “Write a really bad first draft.”
Many of us are better editors than writers. So we must first write without striving for perfection. “Just get it down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there is no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages” (Lamott, 1994, p. 23).
So this sounds exactly like me. Maybe we can all relate to this. I read it and instantly thought “I must get into that mindset. Stop being such a perfection-seeking psychopath every minute of your life.” I printed this out to go with my writing tools for when I just cannot pass the panic stage of writing. I honestly think it’s the hardest part for me to overcome. This helped me loads hope you guys enjoyed it.
Oh and in OKC at the Myriad Gardens there are performances of Shakespeare in the park. They do it Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00PM until July 9th. If anyone thinks it would be a worthy outing we should organize it. Hope all of your summers are going splendid!
I think for most of us, motivation is the biggest obstacle in our writing. Sure there are others–insecurities, fear, nerves, life, etc–but it seems motivation is top of the list. The only real writing I’ve been doing since school let out is journaling, which is good and helpful but not creative all that much. Now, I’ve been thinking about my stories, constantly, but I haven’t committed anything to paper. I want to; I need to. But I can’t find the motivation. This is a rare experience for me. I usually write rather prolifically. I write even when I know it’s crap. I write daily. I write. Since school’s let out, though, I haven’t been as diligent. I’m still committed, but a bit lost right now.
I wonder why that is. Why do we hide under motivation? Is it because it’s easier to accept defeat if we never really committed to something. If we don’t get published (if that’s our goal), then perhaps it doesn’t hurt as much if we know that we were not really motivated to write. Like it’s some sort of cop out. We say to ourselves, “Oh, I didn’t succeed because I didn’t have the motivation to succeed.” But is that true? Isn’t that tantamount to ignorance? There’s no such thing as the “I didn’t know so you can’t punish me” defense, so there shouldn’t be a “I didn’t succeed because I wasn’t motivated” defense for writers.
We’ve written on this blog about what to write (see here), purposes of writing (here), and writing support (here and here), but we haven’t really talked about how to write. So that’s what this is. How do we write? How do we commit? How do we motivate ourselves and others? Let’s start a thread about this. Sooooooo……
What’s your method?
I apologize for my lack of blogging. It’s taking me way too long to get the hang of this. I don’t have much experience with blogs, but I’m trying.
To show you guys how much I’m trying I started a personal blog as well. I’m not planning on giving it to very many people because…well…it’s personal, but I’m going to give it to all of you. I’m trying to make it as interesting as I can so I hope you don’t think I’m boring. I only have one blog so far since I just created it, but I would love feedback if any of you want to give it.
I am pledging right now to be more technologically involved with Quillology. I’m moving to Stillwater in less than a week and it occurred to me that this is the best way to keep in touch with all of you. I’ll still be at the meetings if at all possible.
FYI my first blog was about someone most of you know. (This is me bribing you to check it out)
Miss you guys!
Well, the semester has ended. Some still have grading, but for all intents and purposes, the spring 2011 semester is done. Whew. It’s always a bittersweet feeling for me to end a semester. On the one hand, I can write and read and travel more freely. On the other hand, I love teaching and love my students. I will miss them. Well, most of them at least. The good news is I can recharge and think about new activities. I like that, too.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I look forward to spending my time writing and revising my own work for a bit. We spend so much time during the semester–both as students and as teachers–reading and writing for others that our own creativity disappears for a bit. I haven’t written in two weeks, maybe three. Granted, I’ve been thinking about my stories, but I haven’t committed anything to paper. That’s a long time for me. Clearly this semester took its toll.
The end of the semester had so much creative buzz, though. The Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium was phenomenal. Really. If you didn’t come, you missed out. Obviously, I’m partial to the writers, but the artists, musicians, dancers and actors were all great as well. I mean, I was literally vibrating from all of the creativity. It was so great to see other peoples’ talents. I think we get so bogged down with responsibilities or with ourselves that we don’t see what other people are capable of doing. The Symposium allowed us to free the binds and let the creativity flow from one person to another. At times, there was standing-room only. Sure, many of those students were there because they had to be for class, but they still enjoyed it. At least most of them did. It was incredible. I can’t wait until we start working on another one!
Then we had the Open Mic Night at Sips. This, too, went pretty well. Okay, so there was one group of patrons who were utterly rude and disrespectful, but hey, what can you do? Otherwise, we had a nice turnout. Nine people read including two from the community. The rest came from Quillology. It was still cool to hear others’ works, even works I’ve heard before. I’m not a huge fan of Open Mic myself, mostly because I don’t write poetry, but I am a huge fan of supporting others’ endeavors. So that’s what I did. That’s what we all do. That’s what the writer’s group is for, right?
Quillology is going pretty strongly as well. We have a core group of about seven who dedicate themselves to the group. That’s pretty awesome. We’re evolving and that’s also awesome. The group is moving into how I envisioned it with its own added quirks, which I love. We practice writing and talk about writing and reading and soon will move into practicing critiquing. This is great.
All in all, a good semester. Have a happy summer all.
Well, we’re back from our conference and WE ROCKED!!! I can’t wait to present with these friends again. The audience seemed to receive our works well and I think we all felt really good about the panel and our own work. We’re all reading again on Friday at Howlers and Yawpers although I believe most of us are reading other pieces, which is also good.
So, why should we present? Well, as academics it’s important to continue our professional development, but as writers it’s important that we get our work out there either through conferences, festivals and symposiums or through publication. I personally am not interested in publishing. Don’t get me wrong; if I’m published, great. But I don’t write for publication. I write because I am a writer. I write because I have ideas I want to commit to paper. I write because I love words. If others read these pieces, great. If I just have them for me and my family, also great. So presenting my work is the best option for me. Plus it’s great exposure for the college and more importantly for me as an instructor. I learn so much when I go to conferences. I also build my ethos with my students. When they see me writing, they can see that I’m doing what I’m having them do, that writing doesn’t end with Composition II, and they see what we can do with words.
What can we do with words? I mean, we’ve all heard the saying “Actions speak louder than words,” but do they really? I know that’s not the case for me. My actions are often contradictory to my feelings, my emotions. But my words always express these truthfully. I can be in a horrible mood, but I can use my words to express how much I love someone. My actions, in this case, don’t act loving, but my words express that love. Then I think of politicians and other bureaucrats who use words to manipulate others. What does that say with what we can with our words? Obviously, words hold power, immense power. If used properly, honestly, with love, words can bring hope and happiness and health. If misused, if used to manipulate, words bring hurt. How do we reconcile this duality? On the one hand, words are completely duplicitous. On the other hand, they’re completely amorous and demonstrative. This power – both positive and negative – is what drives me to write, to teach writing, to read and to simply communicate. Words, like life, are complicated. Words, like us, have both the ying and yang that makes life interesting.
What do you think about words?