Monthly Archives: October 2013

There’s Always Tomorrow

I’ve…
mowed grass
washed dishes
run a mile
taken a spin class
done yoga
and folded clothes…
all in the name of procrastination.

Why? Because it was easier to procrastinate then suffer a headache from the blinking cursor on an empty document. I’ve done everything from writing a literary analysis two hours before class to writing 23,000 words in twelve hours for a novel writing class. When it comes to writing, the one thing we hate as writers is coming to the conclusion that we can’t go any further.
I, however, am not the only person who suffers from writer’s block and who has a unique way of handling it. Truman Capote, for example, began his day in bed or a couch where he would set a notebook against his knees as he drank coffee, tea, or sherry. If drinking and lounging all day isn’t your thing, maybe you should take the Jack Kerouac way and write by candlelight, never letting the flame go out until the writing is finished. Or, if sitting at home isn’t your thing, you can always do what Maya Angelou does and check yourself into a hotel with a room equipped with no potential distractions such as TVs or radios and only take with you a legal pad, thesaurus, playing cards and a bottle of wine. If none of those options are satisfying, you can incorporate naps into your routine to help reset the mind much like William Gibson does to help him write. No matter what you do, writer’s block will always find a way back into your life.
There are, however, tips to help with writers block that I found in the article, “Ten Top Tips to End Writer’s Block/Procrastination,” by Dr. Bill Knaus. To avoid a lengthy drawn out paragraph about tips, here are Knaus’s top ten tips with my helpful commentary:
1. Look for your procrastination trigger.
a. Triggers can be cellphones, Facebook, TV, and iTunes.
2. Adopt a reasonable perspective.
a. Like 23,000 words in twelve hours is insane. Try one-month 23,000 words.
3. Prepare to think independently.
a. Think about your work and only your work. Never think about what others will think of your writing.
4. Map your cognitive-emotive-behavioral writing procrastination process.
a. This simply tells you to outline your work and stay on course so procrastination doesn’t creep up on you unexpectedly.
5. Decide when to start, and commit to that time.
a. Stay firm in your decisions and keep with it.
6. To boost your motivations, set up a reward and penalty system.
a. Reward: Publishing your work. Penalty: Failing miserably.
7. Expect inertia and prepare to meet that challenge.
a. When things start to slow down, don’t walk away, keep on writing.
8. Distinguish between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ start.
a. Why can’t you start? Can you start but won’t because you think the project is hard, time-consuming or unpleasant? Be optimistic and anything is possible.
9. Plan for re-write.
a. Even if you hate it (like me), rewriting will only make your work better.
10. Rather than viewing yourself as stuck in a writing procrastination rut, focus on the free-will element of writing.
a. In other words, we’re not procrastinating, we’re just trying to find the right words to use.

When it comes to the art of procrastination, I have it mastered, but when it comes to writer’s block, procrastination just puts fuel on the fire. I’ve thought of many things I can do to help with writer’s block and procrastination, and the only thing I can come up with is taking a nap. Thank you, William Gibson.

Until next time,
Keep writing.

Tammy

The Writer’s World

      I want to give you advice on submitting work and how to get your work into the world, but I’m not an authority on the matter. I’ve been writing for three years, and I’ve yet to submit a piece of work to the outside world. I’m not afraid of rejection; I’m afraid of the wait. I’m not a patient person, but if I were I’d probably know a few things about submissions. Until I get my hours in, here are a few people that know a lot about submissions and how to stay organized when doing it.
      Becky Tuch writes in her article, “The Submission Styles of the Rich & Famous,” about writers and their submission techniques. My favorites from the article are David Bauman, Patrick Nathan, and Evan Simko-Bednarski. Even though these writers have a specific style for submitting, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. These are just some helpful suggestions from some interesting writers.
      David Bauman is ‘the dad poet’ as he states in his very humorous biography on his blog. So, how does he deal with submissions? His reply to Tuch was simple. “He writes, “Doutrope has helped me organize my submission process, and made it fun. As for fees, value is in the eye of the submitter.” As a broke college student, submission fees are nearly impossible to meet. When it comes to submissions, I agree with Bauman when he says the value is in the eye of the submitter. If I believe my work is worth it then I’ll do just about anything I can, even if that means raiding my piggy bank. As for Doutrope, we have to take Bauman’s word and check it you for ourselves.
      Patrick Nathan does things a little differently when it comes to submissions. He writes to Tuch and states that “I’m all about the spreadsheet…I color code active subs, unsent subs, and “can’t send yet” subs…If I want to send work to a mag, I do, regardless of how long it *might* take. The bells and whistles of avg [sic] response times, stats, etc., turn me into a nervous wreck. Better off w/o them.” When it comes to organization, I’m OCD—at least when it comes to alphabetizing books and DVDs. When it comes to writing, I could use some organization. I have folders for everything, but eventually the folders become overwhelming, and I need a simpler way to control my submissions—this is where Patrick’s style comes to play. Plus, who doesn’t love color-coding things. I know I do, and if you love his idea for submissions, you’d love his Tumblr.
      My last and favorite submissions style comes from Evan Simko-Bednarski. When asked by Tuch how he gets his submissions out into the world, he replies “Cry, write, cry, repeat.” I can’t think of an easier way to handle submissions. I’ve never cried over my writing, but I have cried while writing. I have a feeling however that after I start submitting things, I might come around to Evan’s style of submitting. For more information about Evan, a Brooklyn-based editor and journalist, visit his site.
      Each writer has a unique style of submitting his or her work and no one way is the right way. These are just some of my favorite organizational, emotional, and easy ways of going about it. But whatever you chose to do, don’t stop getting yourself out there, or in my case, start putting yourself out there.

Until next time,
Keep writing.
Tammy

The Visual Art of Writing

We all have a style. It may not be the best, but it works for us. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste in different styles of writing. I don’t like straight narrative style writing. After taking fifteen literature classes, the last thing I want to read is a 15-page short story single-spaced fifty-paragraph manuscript, which is why I look for new artistic styles of writing. Some of my favorites are Mitch Albom, Don Winslow and Charlie Huston.

I’ve recently read Mitch Albom’s novel, Timekeeper, it’s one of my favorite best sellers today. The style is different than most. Albom bolds the sentence of every new paragraph with line breaks between them as shown below.

 

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Peter Landers goes more in depth with a review on the intertwining of Albom’s novel and how he never can write just one story at a time. I, however, was more interested in the way the text looked and how it worked than the intertwining of the stories.

Like Albom, Don Winslow tends to flip flop between characters when telling his story in Savages. Winslow is exceptionally good at using language. If he doesn’t make up abbreviations, he’s using modern slang in a quick paced style of writing as shown below.

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Gill Miller has a post, “The Learning Curve,” that describes Don Winslow and the progression of an author’s style overtime. He mentions that if you were to read an author’s collection of books from the start to finish, then you will slowly see their progression in style.

An author, whose writing I appreciate throughout style progression, is Charlie Huston. Huston is the one author that made me interested in writing style because his book, The Mystic Art of Erasing All The Signs of Death, didn’t rely on quotation marks to signify dialogue and his sentences always tended to start with a hyphen as shown below.

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I’ve never seen a book like this until my senior year of high school. It used a different style from classic literature and I was captivated. There was a subtle art in what he was able to create without identifying dialogue. If there’s one thing I appreciate most about Huston, it is that he opened my eyes to new styles of writing that were both interesting and visually appealing.  To learn more about his style of writing and his technique, you can read this interview.

Style is all about technique and creativity. If you can imagine it, then it’s possible and that’s what these writers have managed to do. They give you a reason to appreciate the art of writing and when you think about it, isn’t that what we all try to do?!

 

Until next time,

Keep writing.

Tammy

I Hate You…I Hate You Not

      As writers, we all start out with an imaginary nemesis. If it isn’t one of your triplet brothers kicking your butt in a second grade-coloring contest, it’s the graduate student showing you up in a creative writing workshop. Creativity is hard and finding things that stand in your way will happen on a daily basis. All you need to do is find a way around them.
      Rebecca Makkai, author of “My First Nemesis,” has a nemesis just like the rest of the writers in the world. Her first nemesis being the girl that beat her in a seventh grade writing competition, but she doesn’t let it go to her head. As she later finds out, the writer she secretly held a grudge against was a decent writer and deserved her admiration. Because in the end, when the guy at the bookstore hates her work without having read it, she realizes that even she is someone’s nemesis. It’s impossible to be good at something and not have an archenemy because someone will always envy your position even if you’re a writer for a mediocre magazine.
      Writers will have nemesis among writers, but our real nemesis is our own writing. In “A Writer’s Nemesis” by A.M. Dunnewin, she describes that the writer’s nemesis lies in self-doubt, writer’s block, and unnecessary criticism. The cure as she explains is reading. “Take a break. Read. Listen to music. Take a walk. Don’t think so much that you let self-doubt strike. Don’t give yourself that chance.” The goal isn’t to crank out a new novel every six months to a year like the contemporary writers today, the goal is to put out the best you have to offer and if you run into a writing nemesis, find a way around it and move on. Because writing is hard to do and if it isn’t, then you’re doing it wrong.
      Like Makkai and Dunnewin, a writer’s nemesis is their own writing and the goal is to appreciate others work for what it is because they work just as hard if not harder than you. My final advice: Pick a nemesis (writer’s block). Read a book. Write ten thousand words. Move on.

Life is too short to worry about other writers, but it’s never too short to start writing.
Until next time readers,
Tammy