The Writerly Habit

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

Ideas come at the most inopportune time...

So I'm sitting in British Literature today and I'm bored. Not that I dislike the literature, I just have issues with the teaching method. I just don't get a lot out of the class. Anyway, I've been trying to come up with ideas for a fantasy story. I love the genre but it seems any time I try to write I can't come up with anything that seems original. I've been so stuck.

In class, as my teacher is going on about some minutia, I have an idea. A flash, an image. Yes! It took me right to my opening scene and my main character. The mind is a funny thing. I've been stumped for an idea for two weeks and then, when I am busy, it comes.

That being said, I still have no idea where the story is going. I might just write the opening and see if the character "speaks to me." I've heard other writers say that. I have never experienced it though. Ah well. Back to work.

The Importance of Letting (Manuscripts) Go

This came up in a discussion with a friend of mine. She is unwilling to send her work out for publication. She is protective of it as she feels it is her best work. I understand this view as I used to be the same way. Then I realized something, as your writing improves your older work looks like shit. It's true. You think it's brilliant when you write it so you don't send it out. You either a) want to keep it for yourself thinking it is too special to let go or b) don't want to send it someplace for publication when you could have had it published somewhere bigger/better/whatever. So you keep it. Six months roll by and you read it again. Shock sets in as you realize it isn't as good as you thought. A year later, it is relegated to the island of misfit manuscripts.

I suggest, upon finishing a work you feel is brilliant that you let it go. Yep, send it out for publication. You'll save yourself some regret and might even get published in the process. At very least, you'll get some experience submitting work.

Book Review: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Today's book review was brought you by writer E.M. Samuelson and the letter Q:

There’s always one person in a crowd who would willing admit that they once groped a man in a club and later realized it wasn’t their date; that person is David Sedaris. In When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he mentions things like artificial bottoms, parasites, skeletons, spiders, cigarettes and art, managing to make such topics humorous and engrossing. Sedaris shows insight into the neuroses we’re all prone to using a wry sense of humor and a frankness that is almost uncomfortable at times.

I bought this book because it was recommended by a friend and I had an abundance of Border’s Bucks. I would buy another because David Sedaris writes an interesting, funny book.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Market Analysis

So I've recently come across Paperback Writer, a blog by prolific author Sheila Kelly (check the site for a list of books and pseudonyms). In my quest to read the blog from beginning to end, I've run across a post in which Kelly talks about how she reads for market analysis. It struck me as something very obvious...that I never thought about doing before.

I think this would be a good monthly activity. Get the top four or five books from the bestseller list in your genre and analyze them. I'm not saying pick them apart. I've read writing books that tell you to take a novel and deconstruct it. The advice is to summarize the events of each chapter so you can see the plot arc. I did that with The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey and it totally ruined the book for me. The magic of the story was gone.

As writers, we pick up a lot of this information just by reading. And where do you get the best instruction? By reading what sells. I think this will be my experiment next month, given I can squeeze it in between my Brit Lit II and IV reading.

The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book 1)

Waiting is Depressing

I have this list on my desk of journals I want to submit to. This is something I started with the new year. They are in order of due date and I cross them off as I get them done. To be honest, I don't really even think about them until a week or so before they are due. This helps me not feel overwhelmed.

At the same time, it is annoying to have to wait so long for responses. I have one that I sent off in August of last year. At the moment, I have four submissions floating around. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but for me it is. It's hard to keep writing when you have no idea how the work you are doing is being received. Or if it even was received.

I guess this goes back to the idea of inward versus outward approval. A teacher of mine once said that if you strive for outward approval, you'll suffer a lot more. You need to develop a thick skin. Be prepared for rejection. Be ok with letting your work go (i.e. submitting it). If you continually strive for outward approval, you'll always be dependent on someone else's opinion of your work. I need to remember that.

On a side note, I am feeling particularly lazy this morning. I have three submissions to prepare for the month (four if I push it) and homework to do. Instead I am thinking about playing some World of Warcraft until my husband gets up. What's that about? I'd love it if I woke up in the morning and couldn't wait to write. Does that actually happen or is it just in the movies?

Are you supporting your fellow authors?

The demise of literary journals has been at the forefront of the media for a couple of years now. As a writer, this represents the loss of possible markets for my work. Several journals have closed, others have turned to online only. It seems a lamentable loss but then I ask myself, what am I doing to prevent this?

In all honesty, I do not subscribe to any literary journals. Gasp! I know, it sounds terrible but I know there are many other writers like me. We complain about the loss of print markets but do nothing to stop it. I used to subscribe to One Story but canceled when it came time to renew. In my defense, I am an unemployed college student. Many of us are affected by the economic downturn. At the same time, I have the money to go get a cappuccino or amble down to Village Inn on pie rush Wednesdays. I just need to make a point to subscribe and support my fellow writers.

I am often of the same mind about used books. Often, I will go to a bookstore and browse titles, then go on Amazon to buy used copies. Buying used is economical, I agree, but doesn't count towards that author's sales or make them any money. I wonder how I would feel if it was my book? I'd rather people buy new....although I would be happy just to have them reading my work.

I'm not saying we should start spending a ton of money (most of us don't even have) on books and literary journals. I'm just saying that we should be aware of it and consider buying new or subscribing when we can.

Two Years and One Hundred Posts Later

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Followers of the Writerly Habit know that I have struggled with writing for many years. I often say that I have low ass-to-chair ratio. Sounds silly, but it's true. I don't normally have trouble writing, my problem is sitting down to get started. Even now, after two years of whining, I still find myself surfing the web and obsessively checking Facebook and my email. I don't understand why I choose such activities over writing but I do. Maybe it is because of the emotional nature of my work. I mostly write non-fiction and it is very personal. Maybe using these websites is how I brain-drain. It might be good for me to take up fiction too and see if that helps.

I do have to say that I write a good deal more than I did in the past. At present time, I have three works out for publication and a stack of pieces waiting to be sent. I have also recognized my need for deadlines in order to complete work. For me, it takes the form of creative writing classes or workshop groups where I am expect to produce work.

I have also resigned myself to my process. Sometimes I need to surf the web or crochet while I'm working out ideas. I need a certain level of distraction. The push is no longer on daily writing, but regularly producing work. It is a slight shift but an effective one.