The Writerly Habit

This blog is about my struggles to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

I just read an article in the NY Times about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (full article here). Amazon, HP, and Penguin Group is sponsoring the event. They are accepting only 5,000 submissions between now and 11/5/7. The winner will receive a publishing contract along with promotional support for their book. Nice!! You must submit your full novel manuscript, although it is the first 5,000 words that will be reviewed and judged. Readers will be able to vote on the winner, how cool is that? So, if you aren't a slacker like me and actually have a manuscript, head over to Amazon to sign up. Too bad it's before NaNoWriMo finishes.

Stephen King - NY Times


I just read an essay by Stephen King in the NY Times. He makes a lot of good points on the state of the short story including the fact that fiction magazines are relegated to the bottom shelf and how this illustrates a shrinking market. I've noticed the same thing...whenever I go to Borders I have to do the half bend neck crane to see the magazines on the bottom shelf. This is where they put the fiction magazines and the magazines about writing (include The Writer). Funny how Woodcarving Illustrated gets top billing. Is it really that much more popular?

It doesn't help that many Americans don't read books at all, let alone fiction. According to CNN Money, in 2004, the percentage of Americans that read fiction was 47 percent (full article here). That's pretty sad. When I was growing up, I thought everyone read. I was introduced to the Hobbit in the 7th grade and thought it no big deal (others later told me they weren't able to read Tolkien until they were in high school/college). Then I got to high school and found out that many of my classmates were illiterate. In a 10th grade English class, I was put in a group with three football players. I was amazed that they weren't able to finish the one required book for the project. I read it along with all three of the extra credit ones. I'd notice those same students never reading aloud in class and seemed to have trouble with the assignments. They were illiterate. This was a huge shock to me. How do kids get all the way through school without learning to read? Why would you not tell someone that there's a problem, knowing how badly that will hurt you once you are out in the real world.

But I digress, check out The Best American Short Stories 2007 which King edited. You should also read Stephen King's article. And no, I haven't done any writing lately. Things have been hectic lately; the art show is next weekend. That's likely an excuse though, we'll see.

Author Suicide

In the past few days I've been reading a lot about authors who have committed suicide. I've haven't really sought this information out, it just seems to have come my way. I was reading Mortified, when I came across an entry about The Bell Jar. I'd been wanting to read this book for a while, but my interest was doubled when this young girl wrote about how a woman stuck her head in the oven to commit suicide. I dug around a little bit and found out that The Bell Jar was actually a thinly veiled memoir...Sylvia Plath committed suicide by sticking her head in an oven.

Then there was the article on Hemingway, he put a shotgun to his temple and blew his head off. This reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson who, just a year and a half ago shot himself in the head with a shotgun. His most famous work was probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I have to ask myself, is genius worth the price? Or is this simply genius coupled with mental illness? Where do you draw the line between the two? Then again, there are plenty of famous authors out there that aren't contemplating suicide (I think). On the other hand, how many Hemingway's are there? I'd love to be a great writer, but would not want to pay this high a price. Just some thoughts...

Speaking of being a great writer, my writing isn't going so well. You've probably guessed. I've done a bang up job of distracting you though, wouldn't you say? I haven't written much. I keep telling myself that it's because of this blasted day shift and that once that's over I can spend many a morning and early afternoon wrapped in the bliss that only several well written pages can provide. Is that really it though? Don't I always have some sort of excuse? I hope not...I want things to be different this time. NaNoWriMo is coming up quickly so that will help. I'm going to spend the latter half of October outlining and preparing. I even have a four day weekend in November so that will help.



(Image of Hunter S. Thompson)

Hemingway


I just read an article about Ernest Hemingway's last home. It is undergoing some much needed repairs. It's sad to think that some in the neighborhood wanted to have the house torn down or moved. After all of his contributions to literature, you'd think people would look at the house and feel a sense of pride in living near it. Maybe it was that far into disrepair, to give them the benefit of the doubt. The Idaho home, is where Ernest Hemingway took his life in 1961 with a shotgun blast to the head. There seems to be some debate as to the reason why, but a family history of suicide doesn't help. It's sad that the home will never be made open to the public. I'd willingly make that pilgrimage.

For those unfamiliar with Ernest Hemingway, he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell To Arms, A Movable Feast, The Old Man and the Sea, and many many others. He was a Nobel prize winner, avid sportsman, and globe trotter. I was first introduced to his work last year during a creative writing class. We read Hills Like White Elephants. Before that, I'd heard of him but not read his work. I recommend that any aspiring writer check out at least one of his novels.

Robert Jordan

I've decided to start sharing news of the literary world with my readers (hello, is anyone out there?). Whenever I read something about an author, it's usually up for one day and then gone the next. Do they think no one reads any more? Or that all we care about is Harry Potter. Don't get me wrong, I like Harry Potter, I just think that if it represents our reading habits as a culture then that's pretty scary. Doesn't anyone read the classics anymore?

For those of you who don't follow the news, author Robert Jordan passed away of a rare blood disease on September 16th. Jordan was most famous for his Wheel of Time series, an epic fantasy spanning eleven volumes, a prequel, and a book on the world of the Wheel of Time. I remember a time, before Harry Potter, when the big to-do was whether or not you were reading Wheel of Time. You can read more about him here. You can purchase his books here Wheel of Time

Britney Spears VMA Appearance

After hearing all the trash talking, I watched Britney's VMA appearance. You know, I don't know what all the insults are for. Mind you, her dancing wasn't as high energy or intense as in the past (which would've been desired with the type of song she was performing) but I don't think she was sloshing around "dancing in the mud" as some have put it. This video contends that she broke the heel of her shoe during the performance, pretty convincing stuff and if it's true, she did better than most would have.

I think she has a beautiful body and has worked hard to improve herself. Ok, she's not a size zero, get over it. There is such a thing as too skinny. I must admit, her new single "Gimme More" is hot, can't wait until it's on Itunes and I can download it. All I can say is more power to her, I hope her comeback is a success. I normally don't pay much attention to celebrity stuff, but this girl has been through hell and I only wish her well as a person. It's sad how money can truly hurt people more than help them. This isn't to say I'm anti-money. I'd love to have enough to have actual flooring in my house, not bare plywood. And those leaking skylights and loose gutters, yeah I'd fix those too. But ah, such is life.

I know this has little (nothing) to do with writing but I wanted to get this out there.

NMH

Ok, I haven't gotten anything done since my last post. I'm going through another bout of laziness. On the plus side, I've been reading more and I'll be able to go back to nights soon. Yay! No more going to bed early. That'll really help during NaNoWriMo. Anyhow, that's all I have to report for now. I just wanted to check in...

Taking a Breather

I took the last two days off from writing but tonight I'm back on the bandwagon. I'm still working on the same short story. I'm also thinking of organizing a polish/finish an old piece writing meeting. We'll meet and workshop each others old pieces that have fallen by the wayside.

It's funny, after just two days, I've found it hard to start again. My rhythym is off. I guess the word of wisdom here is never stop. Write something every day, even if it's only a ten minute stint. I think that gets a lot of writers into trouble. They take a break from writing after finishing a long piece and then struggle to start again. I found that was true after I finished NaNoWriMo last year. If I would've kept up even half of that productivity...but alas I did not.

On a Roll

Okay, I'm on day four of my daily writing schedule. It's going well. I find the hour limit a little constrictive though. It keeps me from writing when I only have a few minutes here and there. I think it's just best to give myself credit for showing up to work and actually getting something done. Sounds good, now off to play some Warcraft.


Writing Reward Balance = $4

Another good day

Hey, I just finished up another hour block of writing. Yesterday, I jumped from idea to idea, not seeming to be able to find something that stirred me. Today I sat down and just started writing. I was able to complete a thousand words of straight writing. Huzzah! For me that's fantastic. I managed to start a short story that I will work on at my meeting tomorrow. It's a good feeling. Once I really get back into the swing of things, I hope to complete at least a thousand words during my daily writing hour.

Writing Rewards = $2

Try Green Tea

I just got to an interesting section of Peterson's book. She talks about how we set ourselves up for failure by sabotaging our mood when trying to write. Think about it, what do you sit down to write with? My guess is, some kind of specialty coffee drink. Whenever I write in a coffee shop I grab a caramel macchiato with whipped cream. And guess what, it's never a small. I plan on being there a while so I need my fuel. What about when I write at home? I usually grab a coke and some kind of fattening snack like cheese and crackers. I've realized that I need to find healthier ways to either elevate my mood (give energy) or release tension. When I drink a ton of sugar in the form of a coffee drink, I crash after an hour. The sugar gives me a temporary burst of energy, then I'm ready for a nap. So much for writing a lot. I'm only going to post a few of Peterson's suggestions here, really you should buy her book. I can't begin to do her justice here (at least not without copyright infringement):

-Drink unsweetened Green Tea instead of Coffee (this give you better energy without the "edginess of coffee, it also promotes weight loss) If you're feeling fancy, go out and get yourself a cool teapot and cup.

-Take a five minute brisk walk before writing (this raises energy for 1.5 hours with no horrible crash at the end)

-Take natural supplements such as bee pollen, ginkgo or ginseng (always consult your physician first)

One thing I also like to do to get me in the writing mood is listen to guided meditations. I have a cd called Inviting Grace by Tama Kieves that has guided meditations geared directly to writing. The only drawback is I often don't have the time to use them (or more truthfully I don't make the time). I'll get there one day.

On Tuesday our writing group will be meeting at Borders. I'm hoping this will give us a more focused environment in which to work. Also, I can order a pot of green tea there. They serve it in wonderful white ceramic pots. I'll post on that on Tuesday. I did go out tonight and buy stickers for my planner. It did give me a sense of accomplishment to be able to put the sticker over today showing that I had completed my hour of writing. I'm hoping to get my fiance to go walking with me before I write tomorrow. He's been out sick with a sinus infection, the exercise will do him good if it isn't too cold. Fall is coming up quickly. I love the fall, but am not looking forward to the following winter.

So my reward for writing an hour today is $1 toward a new book. I know, a buck isn't much, but if I do $2 I won't be able to afford the books I earn.

Writing Reward Balance = $1

Getting Better

Ok, the book has gotten a lot better. It has all of these exercises in it to help you find your ideal writing time/conditions and to realize that what the left brain wants isn't usually what the right brain wants. Today I managed to sit down for an entire hour to write. Mind you, I started several things but finished nothing. My writing brain has atrophied, it's going to take a while to get back into shape. This is a good step though. I'm going to go buy some stickers I can put in my day planner to mark the days I get my hour in. I may not have got a lot done, but I showed up damnit. Until next time...

Feeling Lazy

I had my writing meeting on Tuesday but got nothing done. We were all in a non-productive mood. I haven't read too much more of that book, it's a little scientific for me. Hopefully it will get better soon. On a happy note, my Sister is almost ready to submit a story to The First Line. I can't wait until NaNoWriMo, then I'll feel like I have to write. I'm done with my art work for the show in October so I can start focusing a little more on other things. That'll be nice. That's about it from me for now. Hopefully I'll have more to post soon. I might just head down to a nice coffee shop on Friday night. Mmm coffee. Anyway, I should be going. My fiance will be home soon and I've promised him some chicken alfredo pasta (so much for the vegan thing eh?).

Labor Day

So my writing isn't going as well as I thought. I didn't write anything on Saturday, but I did write about 4 pages yesterday. That's pretty good. Too much World of Warcraft I expect. I have a 66 Night Elf Druid on the Azuremyst server that I've become interested in leveling again. I'm hoping to have a character on both horde and alliance before the expansion comes out.

In other news, I went to Borders last night and bought a planner. It has a nice monthly calendar all the way through the end of Dececember 2008. I'm going to use it to write in my daily word count. Maybe that will help motivate me and also help me track what I'm doing. I also bought Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer's Block. Period. by Karen E. Peterson. She talks about finding a combined right and left brain to overcome writer's block. The tests in the first chapter were pretty interesting. You had to check off this top ten list of why you aren't writing with your dominant hand (I'm a lefty) then take a moment, and do the same thing with the other hand. A lot of my answers were completely opposite. My right brain is afraid I won't get published while my left brain is afraid that I will. No wonder it's so hard for an aspiring author. The last section of the book is a 10 day thing, I'm going to blog each day of that once I get to it. For posterity more than anything.