Writing: The Struggle is Real

Writing, when it comes, is a glorious waterfall of emotions and glory. The feeling is one I can hardly describe. But there are moments, times, days, weeks, months when you become beaten. Slapped. Kicked. Beaten with a bat, run over by car. Shot. Stabbed. Trampled by a stampede.

It’s a moment when you sit down to get to work and there is a void. A great nothingness. Thus begins a struggle with an invisible foe. It feels like it’s you against a black hole. It sucks you in and you can’t quit it. You stand no chance.

It’s nothing. Nothing.

Nothing.

So you try to turn your thoughts away from the typing part of writing, try to focus on other things like notes. Research. Something.

Still. Nothing.

Punched. Spit upon. Scarred, cut, wounded.

You’re not sure you can go on. You try desperately to trick yourself into it by turning to music. That trusty playlist you’ve been building up with music to help inspire and guide you. So you listen. You listen. You listen still.

HOLY MOTHER OF NOTHINGNESS.

There is no end in sight. She has her hands around your neck, strangling and digging her fingernails into your skin. She looks deeply into your eyes and you can see her smile. She grins with delight. She enjoys your bitter end.

A tear escapes your eye and trickles down your temple. She’s on top of you now, crushing your chest. It’s getting harder to breathe. You can feel your life force giving in to her desires.

But then…

What is this? Could it be? No, surely not.

But, ho! It is!

A thought.

A glorious, wondrous thought. A beautiful thought. An idea. Perhaps the thing you’d been missing all this time. Your eyesight returns from the blackness. You can see that wretched woman’s smile fade from her eyes. You grab her arms and pull them apart, her hands unlatching from your neck.

Somewhere in the distance opera music plays, reaching its crescendo. A triple forte.

You look her in the eyes, you tell her to go. You have an idea after all. You toss her across the floor, she springs up on all fours like a cat. Her back hunched, she hisses.

“Not today, old maid!” You scoff at her. “I’m a writer, and I have an idea. A wonderful, glorious thought.”

You sit down at the desk once more. The opera chorus sings in triumph now, louder and louder. You pick up your pen, your weapon. You shall die by it, by gum. You put pen to paper and suddenly…

An organ crashes. The chorus halts.

An overwhelming feeling. A dark, heavy feeling. It bears down on your back like an Acme anvil. You physically begin to cave under its pressure, its weight. Can it be? No. No. YES! It is!

It’s been done before.

HOLY MOTHER OF BACON BITS.

You look to your old adversary. Her eyes smile once more. She let you believe it. She led you to this outcome. It was her all along. She was merely toying with you, like a cat with its trusty toy. Fooled. Again.

“Well played, milady.” You tell her. “Well played.”

You write a blog post instead. Screw her.

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#writers-block, #writing, #writingtips

Fwd: Spotlight on Ava Marsh — Bibliophile Book Club

A short read about researching some taboo topics that makes you think about your own research methods as a writer. Hop over and give it a read.


Ava Marsh's book cover for Untouchable.

Ava Marsh’s book Untouchable.

Today, I am thrilled to have the lovely Ava Marsh joining me on the blog with a brilliant guest post! About Ava: Ava Marsh grew up in Margate, Kent. A former broadsheet journalist, she now works as…

Source: Spotlight on Ava Marsh

 

#characterization, #research, #writing, #writingtips

On Writing (Part 5): Have more than one Good Idea per Story

(originally shared on Ello)

When I was younger, I used to think one solid or good idea was enough to carry a story. With time, I learned that to be very, very false. Having one good idea is not enough to carry a story. For example, Hitchcock’s film Saboteur ends with a climactic action scene atop the Statue of Liberty. Now, imagine if everything leading up to that was a series of lame ideas leading into that one good idea. Now, you see the point. Continue reading

#writing, #writingtips

#writing, #writingtips

On Writing (Part 4): Oh so Stylish

I can recall back in high school and college that style was discussed as if it was some strange magic. Only those with the certain mixture of blood could actually achieve true style. And to do that, you had to write so many words, every day, for years and years, before you could unlock the magic inside your veins.

I would like to speak briefly about style, and also dispel the notion that style is magic.

What is Style?

I could cheat and steal someone else’s definition, but I’ve always found it’s better to learn about something through experience and then write your own definition. The definitions others give you should serve as starter points, but should not be the end of your learning.

Style is a collection of habits. Habits can be changed. Some habits are bad, some good. Some good can be abused.

A writer’s style is really just the sum of their experience, collected into various habits they developed through their writing experiences. The good habits are the things you hold onto in your writing, that always seem to help and keep you going further in your writing. The bad habits are the things you frown on after you’ve done them, and you shrug them off (I hope). But even the good habits can become abused to the point that your writing becomes repetitive or formulaic. When that happens, people may begin to tire of your works, because they know what to expect every time you write something new. Sure it’s new, but you never stray from your habits. And those habits are making up your style.

If you’re smart, like all things, you’ll continue to grow and mature your style. Don’t think of it as something you achieve, and then coast. No, instead always be looking for ways to create new good habits, ditch bad habits, and try not to fall into a rut with your habits. Habitual behavior can be… well, habitual.

Style is not Magic

So many things in life seem like magic to us until we pull back the magic layer. When we decide something is magical, we call it talent and claim we don’t have it, and then we decide we cannot do it.

Because. Magic.

But style is not magic. No more than music is magic. No more than acting is magic. No more than writing is magic. And yet, I’ve been told style is not obtainable by everyone. I’ve been told I was too young to have style (that was a long time ago). I’ve been told it takes years and years of writing EVERY DAY, and even then there’s no guarantee you will obtain it. It’s like obtaining style was on par with that wretched ring in Lord of the Rings.

No, style is not magic. It’s like acting, and almost everything else, it just requires hard work. Sure it takes time, sure it takes practice. That doesn’t mean only certain “snowflakes” can obtain it. I would have appreciated it more in school, if English teachers and professors would have focused on encouraging us to just work hard and develop good habits. Instead, style was magical. I had a woman ask me after a show once how I had done all of the various voices I had done through the course of a three and a half minute song, and I thought about the long version. The long version of the story was that I spent months practicing sentences, half sentences, and words in different voices and inflections. It took a long time, and it was very repetitive, but I eventually was able to perform a three and a half minute song with like 20+ different voices. It wasn’t magic, it was hard work, but there she was staring at me with a beaming smile and gleam in her eye. And I knew she was one of those who believed it was all magic, and I opted on the short version. I told her, “Well, I decided early on to commit to crazy.” Her smile faded and she looked confused, and I walked on. It’s not magic people, it’s not talent, it’s work. Hard work. With hours of practice.

I always cringe when someone tells me they’re writing a book, and I ask them how much they have done, and they tell me they’ve been outlining it for ten years. Ten years of outlining without doing any writing is like preparing for a performance by spending ten years writing the sheet music, but never putting a band together and practicing said music.

You’ve got to exercise the demons and grow. Your writing will never mature, never get better, if you don’t work your butt off.

If you came here looking for Magic, maybe this will satisfy that need.

What do you think? Do you have style? What’s your view on style? Has your writing matured with age? It should. Read something from ten years ago, bet it sucks in comparison to what you can do now. At least, I hope so.

#writing, #writingtips

Self-torture is not an act of attention

I suppose it’s been said a thousand times, but some folks feel like self-torture or self-mutilation (such as cutting) is an act of attention. But as someone who is bipolar and knows several folks who are also bipolar, let me take a few minutes to talk about self-torture.

If you’re wondering how a post like this would have anything to do with writing (since this is my blog for my writing), think about this: we write characters. And characters, if you play your cards right, should be like real people. Fictional, but realistic. Well, for the most part, sometimes we’re just writing comedy or pulpy stuff and being real doesn’t necessarily have to count for the popcorn style of stories.

Self-torture starts within and can stay there, too

In the image for the post, I gave the Oxford definition of self-torture, because from my perspective I think it really gets to the heart of the matter of self-torture. It states that self-torture is “the act of inflicting pain, especially mental pain, on oneself.” In my experience, and from what I know of others’ experiences, all self-torture (even cutting) starts internally, mentally.

Whether you’re tearing yourself down, feeling worthless or a burden on others, and that manifests itself into cutting or attempted suicide. It’s starting within. It starts inside the head and works its way out, or not. In my case, it typically stays in. I self-torture myself internally, and at most sometimes that affects my health. I can have stomach cramps, or possibly even a panic attack, if I keep torturing myself internally over something. I’ve never taken to cutting, thank goodness, and suicidal ideation has only happened once (and once is enough, so I’m hoping that never happens again).

Badgering, the constant nagging

But you see the thing of self-torture isn’t that people want to try to draw attention to themselves, it is typically a result of badgering themselves for one reason or another. Sometimes they are badgering themselves because they feel guilty about something or like a failure, or they could be badgering themselves for things that haven’t happened or did happen but they keep replaying in their minds.

And again, when I say self-torture, I’m not just talking about physical cutting or torture. It can be a simple badgering of the mind. A constant nagging inside, beating yourself up, dunking yourself through the water-boarding of your mind.

Really, self-torture is not an act of attention, but rather an act of aggression against one’s self.

How self-torture, bipolar, and being aware has affected my writing

As a general rule, I think everything in life affects my writing. All the phases of life, all the characters I meet. All the things learned or unlearned. And being diagnosed bipolar, becoming aware, and having that writer and actor’s gift to analyze I began really examining myself. Kind of the old “write what you know” saying.

I can definitely see where in some of my more recent stories, I’ve become more understanding and better at writing introverts. I am actually an extrovert myself, but being bipolar means I have my moments where I have no desire to be around people and can become very antisocial. Is that the same as being introverted? No. But as I’ve analyzed my behavior more, I’ve become more understanding of introverts.

I’ve also started weaving in bits and pieces of myself into characters. I have a short story I’ve been crafting about an introverted UFO hunter, who has a lot of anxiety. This was a story I had started to work on before my diagnosis, but post-diagnosis I was able to start over and make him a much more believable character. And focusing in on his anxieties, which is something I have, it gives me a platform to talk about those things through him.

#bipolar, #characterization, #depression, #self-torture, #writing

On Writing (Part 3): Narrative Should be Confident

A common thing to do with narrative is to have doubt, lack confidence. I catch myself doing this sometimes. I think it’s OK for characters to have doubt internally and express that through narrative, or dialogue. But sometimes that doubt bleeds through into narrative. The narrator’s voice should be confident, and harbor no doubt.

Typically this is notable when a statement is made, and then immediately taken back.

Example 1: John was a good looking man, at least to most, who knew how to get what he wanted.

Example 2: Stacy walked down the black corridor, which was more of a dark gray.

Statements like these have a tendency to: a) cause confusion, and b) add very little to the narrative. Is John good looking or not? Is the corridor black or gray? Just tell us, Ms. Narrator.

Instead of spending time going back and forth on one detail, pick one and describe it. Decide John is good looking and describe the features that make him such. Decide the corridor is black and describe what that means.

Side note: I’m talking about non-first-person narrative. First-person narrative is character driven narrative, so doubt in the narrative would be totally subjective to the character you are writing.

Narrative that struggles with the details is really an indication of the author’s internal struggle

I really believe that when the narrative struggles with the details, it’s an indication that the author is struggling to decide herself. Narrative that can be confident, to-the-point, and not beat around the bush has the potential to create the vision the author wants.

You, Author, are telling the story. So tell it. Don’t be that guy trying to tell someone about something that happened once who struggles over what day of the week it was when something happened…

"So, it was Wednesday... wait, no, it might have been Thursday. Yeah, it was Thursday, because we had our product management meeting that day. Yeah, so, I was sitting here, and she was sitting there. No wait, I was sitting here, and that was the week we postponed the product management meeting because of Stacy's baby shower. That means it was Friday, and I do reporting on Friday, so I was probably in my office. Well, anyway, it doesn't really matter when or where it happened. But I'm telling you, it was hilarious."

And it wouldn’t be appropriate discussing confidence without Julie Andrews.

http://vimeo.com/76689371

What do you think? Should narrative be confident? Have you noticed this in your writing? Have you never thought of it before? Sound off in the comments.

#writing