Re: Hemingway, “Sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Oh, Chuck Wendig, stop being so brilliant. Read the rest of his post on why the days when you don’t feel like writing are the days you MUST write here.

We fight that inertia, we fight the fear and the doubt by writing.

The words you write right now are words you can fix later.

The words you don’t write today are a curse, a hex, a black hole painted white.

–Chuck Wendig

Am I Really Just Lazy? (Or Can You Write What You Don’t Know?)

This is a question that has been plaguing me for the past few weeks…okay, okay…the past few months. I had a novel in the works–my first non-fantasy novel, in fact–I had an outline, I had a cast of characters, I could even see how the whole thing would come together. Then, I got stuck. I wanted to set my novel in modern day London. Blame Sherlock, blame my inability to write about Texas, but I just couldn’t imagine a better backdrop for a story with old family trees and political intrigue. 

There’s a slight problem. Despite countless hours spent binge-watching British TV, reading British novels, and occasionally thinking with a British accent, I haven’t been to England since I was about twelve. Over a decade ago (sidebar–what). I don’t know the neighbo(u)rhoods, the (s)language, the normal day-to-day feel of the city. The description that usually comes fairly easily to me feels stilted–it’s usually some version of cold and gray, even though my London experience was made up of blazing sun and temperatures in the 90s.

I don’t think it helped that I workshopped the first two chapters for class last semester. The feedback was so helpful and I’m glad I had the chance to receive critique, but I’ve never workshopped a novel before and I find myself “self-editing” as I write, which is a killer for my already tenuous confidence in the project.

I’m in a course this semester that’s all about archival research–I thought it would be helpful, and it could be, but after hearing my professor talk about the YEARS she spent just doing research for the biography she wrote, I don’t know if I could handle it. I’ve thought about re-situating the story in Boston or New Orleans, and Texas has been suggested. I have to admit, New Orleans is tempting. I don’t know a whole lot about the city, but I know more about it and general Southern culture than I do about London. There’s also the thought that a trip to New Orleans for research would be much more within the realm of affordability than a trip to the UK. In case you’re interested in what this mystery novel is about, look no further.

Tell No Tales

The family that schemes together, stays together

Clara’s life is not what one would call luxurious, but it suits her. After escaping the clutches of her power-hungry family at thirteen and living with her maternal grandfather, Clara is content to live out her life in anonymity—with no one the wiser that she is part of the powerful Lacey family. A “chance” meeting in a cemetery disrupts the plans Clara had for her life and she finds herself thrust headfirst into the intrigue and secrecy she fought so hard to escape.

“Is there a point to this whining?” you may be wondering (if you’ve made it this far) and yes, yes there is! 

This is a call to writers out there–have you ever started a project and decided to completely change something in the framework as basic and yet major as setting? Did it work? Have you written a story set in a (real-world) place unfamiliar to you? Did you do research, did you visit?

I hope these won’t be questions asked to the void–I would really appreciate and enjoy some discussion. 

The Failure of the Ego

Writer’s block is only a failure of the ego. – Norman Mailer

We discussed this quote last night in one of my classes and, while I’m sure I’ve heard it before, it was especially fitting for me at the moment. I’ve been working on a lengthier piece (I almost hate to call it a novel since all novel attempts for the past 11 years have tanked in one way or another) and I’m constantly trying to edit myself as I go.

This is certainly not good for the ego as the first step of revision is realizing everything you’ve written is terrible. Or, as Hemingway so eloquently put it, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Therefore, since the hit to one’s ego is inevitable, I might as well put it off until I’ve come to a point where I THINK the story is finished. Then, once I go back and revise, I’ll realize it’s all awful. But that will be okay, because it’s only the first draft. 

Happy writing, if you write, happy reading, if you read. And if you do neither–think about picking one up. I suggest reading if you enjoy your sanity. 

Writing at Night

Too many thoughts in my head.
Cacophony of characters crying out: “Breathe me! Tell me! Be me!”
Yawning, groaning, gaping plot holes that need filling; not enough shovels.
A knotted chain of roads and destinations; can’t find the map.
Too much cauliflower and not enough meat.
Dozens of half-animated corpses twitching on the table—not enough lightning to power them.
The ugly un-thing born of writer’s block and inspiration, of second guessing.
Of self-guessing, Of self-doubting.
Time for us all to go to sleep.

College 2.0

I remember  a little over 3.5 years ago I was applying to college, working on my essays throughout the summer at my mother’s demand.  As usual, she was right, because while my essays were finished by the time school began, everyone else was frantically working on theirs down to the wire.  To be honest, the essays weren’t that difficult–they usually had a prompt and most people could find some sort of canned response that would fit the question, whatever it was.  Maybe it’s hindsight, but I don’t remember being ridden with anxiety over it all.  I knew I would get in somewhere and I was fairly confident I would get into my first choice school–and I did.  The first semester of college was a dream come true in many ways, I found a wonderful group of friends that I have grown closer to over the past three and a half years and I did far better academically than I expected (I maintain that It was because all my classes happened to be pretty easy, not any brilliance on my part).  

Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I don’t really like “school.”  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy learning or that I haven’t appreciated many of my classes.  It’s more the whole process of taking tests and then the ever-present “filler” classes that we have to take to flesh out our degree plans and make us more rounded human beings.  That said, I decided to apply to Graduate School.  Maybe it began as a combination of sheer panic at the thought of graduating early, or the fact that the economy is terrible, or perhaps just a refusal to enter the “real world.”  Some of that changed when I got my job at the literary journal Callaloo where I have been working since May.  I realized I really enjoyed working in a “real” job, that wasn’t retail or food services.  I flip-flopped multiple times on the issue of grad school all semester to the point where I put off taking the GRE until the end of November.  So here I am, “at the end of all things” as Frodo would say, trying last minute to get all of my applications submitted by the deadline, which, inconveniently enough, is the same day I graduate.  I should have followed my Mom’s advice and gotten all of this together earlier, but if I have honed one thing to perfection in college, it is the fine art of procrastination.

What makes this more difficult than regular college applications? you may ask. There is this pesky little thing called a “Statement of Intent” or “Statement of Purpose.”  Just a little, 350 word statement that is supposed to encompass who you are, why you think you’re good enough to get into such and such program, and why you are unique.  Simple, right? Oh, so, so wrong. How do you say who you are, what you are passionate about, why all your hopes and dreams hang in the balance while still sounding professional, intelligent…sane…in 350 words. Or less.  To top it off, this Statement will be read by writers themselves, who will notice any comma out of place, any semi colon improperly used, any word that isn’t “just so.”  So no pressure. 

Everyone, aspiring writer or no, has had to write something in their life, so I think it can be said that everyone has probably experienced writer’s block at some point in time.  It’s more like trying to be-siege a castle that has 20 ft thick walls surrounded by a moat, teeming with alligators (or is it crocodiles?) with a boiling cauldron of very hot oil suspended above it.  And all you have is a word document and a blinking cursor.  Small weapons. I could psychoanalyze why I’m having such trouble with this personal statement, but I’ll spare you that.  Obviously I can wax eloquent on just about anything–even the inability to write, paradoxical though it may seem.  

Maybe it’s because writing this blog won’t determine the rest of my future, or maybe because I don’t have a word limit (however much you might wish I did) or a specified prompt.  And maybe that’s the trick, not to think that this 350 excerpt of “Who are you?” as the end all be all, to think of it as just a way to introduce yourself to people you may never meet.  It’s an interesting question, though, and one with which my generation seems particular concerned.  We are all about “finding ourselves” and the “journey.”  But maybe, all of that is actually a load of garbage.  Proof that life does not fit itself to our schedules, our daytimers, our 5 year plan.  It is a “journey” or more like a road trip–cheesy as that may be.  You’re going to get lost, or run out of gas, or blow a tire.  But you’re also going to meet new people, see things you’ve never seen, and make some memories you will never forget. 

Do I have a better feeling about how to write my 350 word statement of brilliance and individuality?  I’ll let you know.  If not, I can always just steal this one, right?

The Punisher: I leave this as a declaration of intent, so no one will be confused. One: “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” Latin. Boot Camp Sergeant made us recite it like a prayer. “Si vis pacem, para bellum – If you want peace, prepare for war.” 
Two: Frank Castle is dead. He died with his family. Three: in certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue… natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it’s an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment.