A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...
Posts tagged "writing"
Dec 06, 2013
It’s a cycle. You start a story, and it’s stupid. You don’t have any ideas. You’re washed up. Finished. And then you get a sliver of an idea, but it’s kind of dumb. Ugh. Then you start working it, and it becomes, oh, maybe. Alright. Yeah, I am going to finish this story. I did finish it! It’s not terrible! [Then] you don’t have any ideas. Is that what life is? It’s just a series of enacting the cycle. Lately, it’s become kind of wonderful to say, ‘Yeah, so now I’m at the point where I don’t have any ideas. Is is a crisis? No, it’s not a crisis. You’ve been here before. And maybe even you could enjoy that moment when you’re bereft of ideas… The goal would be to keep enacting that [cycle], live to 190, and put the period on the best story ever.
Dec 02, 2013
The insight I offer you is this: there’s no one process, and as soon as I imagine some approach to generating work is foolproof, it becomes suddenly worthless to me, and I have to start all over again.
Any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of [my] odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don’t have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses.
Nov 28, 2013
‘The true artist,’ Wilde wrote, ‘is known by what he annexes, and he annexes everything.’ One of the most naturally gifted intellects of the 19th century, Wilde nevertheless had the modesty to know that without a commitment to literature his genius would always be an adolescent. If Melville depended upon the Western epics to augment his adventure and provide the language-stimulus for his own literature, Wilde, like Emily Dickinson, seems to have needed no adventure at all, only reading. Many novice old-timers get ensnared in that fallacy, confusing their having had a full life with their ability to write a fully functional novel, while whippersnappers of every ilk spend a summer in the Orient because they believe that being in an interesting place will make them interesting people. Think of all those dippy authors’ bios which proudly declare that X has held dozens of jobs, from the esoteric (circus clown and train conductor) to the painfully quotidian (bartender and construction worker), as if having worked at peculiar and menial labor — or, worse, as if simply living in Brooklyn — ipso facto deems him a skilled writer. It does not.
Nov 27, 2013
Nov 25, 2013
Every week, Bob Schneider emails an invite-only group of musicians (several of them Grammy winners) with a challenge to write a song containing a certain phrase. If, by the end of the week, they don’t meet the challenge, they’re off the list.
The primary factor stopping people from finishing songs is the critical voice in your head that says it isn’t good enough. Then there’s the part of your brain that thinks every idea you have is wonderful. Those two are in constant battle when you’re writing. With [the songwriting game], you simply have to turn it in. If it’s bad or mediocre or half a song or maybe just a good idea not realized in a workable way, it doesn’t matter. Even the worst songwriter in the world, forced to write a song every week, is going to write some good songs from time to time. Law of averages.
Schneider has written a song a week for 12 years. More on the challenge here.
You get up and, first thing in the morning, you do your 500 words. Do it every day and you’ve got a book in eight or nine months.
— Vaclav Smil
, on how he’s published 30 books (3 of them in the last year)
Nov 21, 2013
Nov 19, 2013
There’s no method. There’s no formula. If you really proceed a sentence at a time, if you pay attention to the sentence you just wrote and look to it for the clue for what to do to the next sentence, you can inch your way along to what may be a story. This wouldn’t have occurred to me starting out, for example, when I thought you wrote one sentence, then just looked out to the world trying to snag the next one. That’s not how it works. You look back at what you gave yourself to work with. Sharon Olds said something beautiful about sometimes thinking of her poems as instructions for how to put the world back together if it were destroyed.
Marie Myung-Ok writes about getting writing done while being on the internet:
I work via slow accretions of often seemingly unrelated stuff. When I complete that unwieldy, puzzling first draft, I spread it out on the desk like a soothsayer viewing entrails, and try to find patterns. If asked, I might pretty up my process and call it bricolage or intellectual scrapbooking, but it really is merely the result of a magpie mind/brain, one that flits from one shiny thing to another. While I still work in my plodding way, the ever renewing bits of information in my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr feeds provide endless fodder, like going shell collecting on the beach on a normal day versus the day after a hurricane when the ocean has burped up every interesting bit of stuff imaginable.
I like this bit about using social media as a warmup to the “real” work…
One of my lifelong superstitions is to never talk about any work when it’s in progress — lest its essential energy leak out into the atmosphere rather than the page — but I have no such inhibitions doing unrelated, throwaway writing while I’m writing. In fact, I find that posting a tweet or a Facebook status update can be a nice little warm-up, mental knuckle-cracking before getting down to the real business.
…but I would make the case again: you don’t really know what’s Big Writing and little writing. Something that starts as a throwaway might turn into something else later. Writing is writing.
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