Monthly Archives: July 2015

Read Until Your Eyes Stop Working

I have been on a binge recently. After reading Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, the realization dawned on me once again that I can devour books quickly if I really want to. It was read in about two days, most of one being spent inside while it rained.

I picked up the sequel, which is what made me want to read the first. An article featured on NPR had come up and I got interested immediately. He does an incredible job writing and being humorous as well as captivating the whole way through. Then again, it’s my kind of book, I love the social and scandalous when it’s done well.

After the first book, I had picked up another, just on a whim. “I can read a lot, I’m going to find all the books I was interested in.” Not to mention that I already, obviously, have a stack waiting for me to get through at home. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre that I’ve been meaning to read, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Dune, Beautiful Ruins, Ancillary Justice (and the next two books in those series, solely because it’s scifi, awarded, AND the author lives within five miles of me), The Glass Magician, Starship Troopers, The Secret Garden, The Giver…

The list goes on, and on… I want to get through them all, but I’ve picked up even more books from the library to read through by the time the date’s up. My reading list looks a lot like my writing prompt list: So many to keep me busy and yet it keeps growing faster than I can knock any off.

And I’ve been diving into articles online left and right like I haven’t before. I’ve spent hours just poring over long texts.

Of course, I mind none of this. But while I’ve been engaging myself in all sorts of things, time after time, week after week, I’ve been neglecting wordpress and those I follow on here.

I can commend myself for being a prolific reader in the recent days, but I keep meaning to keep up with people here, and it always slips my mind. Even if I do mail notifications for those I enjoy most, I’ve famously been bad at it regardless. Not just with these blogs, but also namely with the roleplay blogs that I had mentioned before. I’m even guilty of friends sending me stories and not reading them for days or weeks.

I am terrible. If I don’t see something, I’m not reminded of it, but even then, I can tend to be flaky for other reasons. Interest or a lack thereof, time constraints, or my head simply not being in the place for it.

With ease, I can dive into text and language. I can mosey around and find things. I like a lot of what I see with those I follow here, but a lot of my attention, especially in the beginning, was focused on putting out content and not really forging networks or connections with anyone else. Or doing so, but not strongly.

But, as my reading has encouraged and inspired me to read more books and more articles and engage myself more frequently, it’s also inspired me to work on other aspects, like the careless negligence of my followers, who are all parts lovely!

It has been nice, having the time and ability to indulge so often and so deeply. I must say that I love going back and forth between writing all day and reading all day. When I can lose myself in a universe, whether it’s self-made or someone else’s, I know it’s been a great day. I always end those days feeling productive, and my mind continues in a whirring daze until it shuts off.

Here’s hoping it’ll last me a while!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Storytellers Anonymous

On my desktop at work, I have a picture that has been there for the past year. This is what it is:

I think you should be able to enlarge it if you like, if you open in a new tab.

So, whenever I go on break, or I walk away from the desk, or I minimize my browser and anything else I have up on the computer when someone comes by, they see this. I’m always asked a bunch of questions when they notice it: Who is that? What are they doing, where are they going? What is that, a wolf?

The questions and the awe and the “Oh that’s awesome” happened so frequently that I considered for a while about writing a story to go with it, but I hadn’t jumped on it.

It happened last night, too. Someone saw the wallpaper that hadn’t seen it before, and the same thing ensued, but this time I stopped, and I asked her about it instead.

“I imagine that she’s looking off in the distance, they’ve been traveling for a while,” she said.

I could write the story. I could come up with something vast and complex as it is beautiful, a heartfelt prose about the bond between tiger and woman. About a magical trek across whatever lands it takes them to get wherever they need to be. Or, I could let everyone else pick their own imagination about what’s going on in the picture.

What are their minds filled with when they see it? What details stick out the most? Why are the end pieces on the rug glowing, and his necklace? Is that her necklace?

Anything can be a prompt if I want it to. For me, as time goes on, the more prompts I see out in the world. But for others, those who don’t write, or those who maybe don’t have much of a creative outlet, having a picture so vivid and eye-catching can help the wheels turning for no other reason than because they’re trying to make sense of it, figure out what’s going on.

I’ve thought about changing the wallpaper a couple of times. Really, I love it; it’s colorful and inspiring and has a fantastical touch to it, but it’s been a year and change and I wouldn’t mind something different. Then I realized, unless I found something just as captivating, it wasn’t going to generate the same reaction.

And I rather like making minds turn with curiosity.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Pick Brains, not Noses

Friends come and go, but profound websites that make you pause and read are forever.

One of my favorite websites these days has became brainpickings.org, which is choc full of all kinds of wisdom and from all over the spectrum of brilliance. From Franz Kafka’s heartbreaking and powerful letter to his narcissistic father, to a rare conversation between Margaret Mead and James Baldwin in a “rap on race,” that spans guilt and psychology and everything in between, this website has a plethora of food for thought to sink your teeth into.

Maria Popova, all on her own, brings to life some smaller, more private, intimate thoughts and details of the lives of the great artists and thinkers of all time. And, in my opinion, she does it so wonderfully.

No, I’m not being paid to talk about this, but I am definitely an advocate for some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in the past year and change. Learning things about writers who are widely known in one regard, which turns your head in the other direction, or pieces as provocative as the day is long. It’s become something I look forward to, every Sunday morning, something to help me forget the time or wind the long days down. Some things provide wisdom I didn’t know I needed to see so badly.

Really, I felt like sharing. If you’re into that kind of thing, check it out, grab a cup of tea and explore. Some of these pieces are bound to be long, but are well worth it.

-The Novice Wordsmith

“Angels, Demons, and the Writer”– Laurell K. Hamilton

Related to Sunday’s post about having a small voice and getting discouraged, this blog post just came out from Laurell K. Hamilton. Something I needed to see, and wanted to share, for those of us who have demons that like lurking around and telling us it’s pointless.

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/angels-demons-and-the-writer/ (direct link)

-The Novice Wordsmith

The Tiniest Voice

“What’s the difference between showing only me something, and showing a bunch of people on a different website?” Friend asked, a few days ago, after I’d had an upset about my writing not being viewed or liked on a bigger platform.

“If I show you, you give me feedback,” I told him. “You read it. When I put it somewhere else, it’s likely to be ignored, and largely, it does.”

If you recall this post, about putting your writing out in the wild, I had just started to get back into a couple of writing blogs somewhere. I have always been sort of cocky about my writing when it’s up against others, thinking that it’s more than decent and that people would like it. So, getting little to no traffic made me feel self conscious, and discouraged.

It comes with a well known frustration for me, of wanting to make some change, do something, and being unable to have much of an influence at all because my voice is so small that it doesn’t reach anywhere. Like talking to myself in a large house and expecting someone in the basement to be interested in my murmurings they can barely hear. Letting out something you’re proud of and it gets sidestepped, no one says a thing, no one manages to look that way at all, and then suddenly you’re deciding to stop and move on to something that doesn’t make you feel like a failure.

Friend’s answer to me, though, was that I shouldn’t be writing for anyone but myself, which is echoed in a year-old post I made. That, in the end, I need to like what I write. The only person that matters when I write something is me. If I enjoy it, nothing should stop me– screw everyone else; if they don’t care for it, fine.

Sometimes it just gets harder to hold onto the sentiment. It’s harder to be okay with just that, especially if you’re looking seriously into getting published. For me, I write because I enjoy it, but I also want to know that other people like it as well. It helps me keep going if I have an audience.

So far, my only consistent audience is a handful of people here, and Friend.

I can write for myself, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now robustly and I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning. When people get involved, though, it’s a slippery slope for me, and one I’m not entirely sure I like walking down, because even if I do some incredible things, it goes unwatched, unseen. It’s an empty course that you’re going on your own. Or you’re shouting out in the middle of a canyon that no one else occupies with you.

Unexpected frustration came from an infographic I saw, which was supposed to be inspirational. Rich and famous people, innovators, authors, who dropped out of high school or college and made a more than comfortable living, and when they made their money. I get that the message was, “You can do anything,” and “nothing should get you down,” but not everyone can reach that level, especially depending on the country you live in. More often than not, it’s going to be a huge struggle, and no one is guaranteed millions, or even any recognition.

Recognition is another huge chunk of my issue. My little existential crisis. No matter what I say in my life, how many people are even going to remember, or care? What mark am I going to make on the world?

For my writing, I don’t know. I’d like to publish. I’d like to see my work flourish, but I’m not sure it’ll even get very far.

The real understanding, I think, comes from seeing that and doing it anyway. You enjoy it, don’t let anything take the joy out of it for you. Don’t let people ruin it. No one else matters in this world. When everything goes to shit, those random strangers who liked your work aren’t going to do anything for you.

But the partner who supported you through it all, the mother or father or guardian or whoever, who was encouraging you when you were crawling through muck and upset, they will.

Even if my novels tank, no matter what kind of mark I make, as long as I enjoy the process and putting things together, writing it all out. It’s harder to block out, when you learn more about publishing and what will garner the numbers you want, tailoring to a group of people instead of how you see things.

It still gets to me that Stieg Larsson was dead by the time his books were published, and with a different set of names than he originally intended in the first place. He was so adamant about keeping the first book as “Men Who Hate Women,” and the publishers didn’t care for it, so it got changed.

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When you see or want one thing, and then you have to do another because it’s better for the audience, to get the numbers.

These two things just feel at great odds. If I ever get to the publishing point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. And, hey, it’s not like I have much knowledge of it, it could be a different beast than I’m imagining, but hearing about it during dentist visits and what I see from others.

Maybe I’ll just stick to writing for myself and Friend, and you lot. Things are much easier that way, and there’s less people to worry about pleasing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Storytelling: One Size Does Not Fit All

A couple of months ago, I was on my way out to get my hair done by a friend of mine, a stylist, whose salon happened to be thirty minutes from where I live. Being a new driver, and it being my first time going out there on my own, I elected to take streets instead of the highway. I’d gone through the directions in my head constantly since the night before, quizzing myself on where to go and where to turn and where not to turn, what to look for, etc. My sister had only driven us out there once, and it was with the highway, but she had helped me figure out the route without it, and I’d tried to run myself through the paces I remembered when she drove us.

So I’m driving, and it’s getting close to the point where there’s the highway and the way I take. She said, stay left, so I stayed left, and I got myself on the highway on complete accident, for the second time in my life, and freaked out.

Okay, pause.

I’ve told this story a handful of times. Once to the stylist friend, in a humorous tone, laughing at myself and the situation after I’d gotten through it, once to my sister, halfway into hysterics and worried like hell, and a couple times to other friends, highlighting the craziness and my exasperation with what happened.

I noticed, immediately after I told my stylist about getting lost and making my way safely to her chair, that I told the story differently to her than I did to my sister. And then again when I told it to friends, and Friend. Now, to you, this is cut and dry and I’m emphasizing different points.

Each person we talk to has a different understanding and view of us. We have a relationship with them that allows us to have deeper conversations, or it stays shallow and we don’t bother them with how we were feeling. That doesn’t come as a surprise, but it’s curious to consider. Shallow relationships yield shallow conversation and the deeper yield, of course, more robust explanations.

It was just interesting to note, because I’d never noticed it before. How could I be practically crying on the phone with Angie when I’m trying to navigate my way through a mostly unknown city and then turn around in fifteen minutes and laugh my ass off with Vicki about it?

Because I have a deeper connection with one and I don’t have half the bond as I do with the other.

And then I applied it to characters. Their comfort level with the other character in question greatly dictates what they have to say about the situation or event playing out. How guarded or cavalier they are about what’s going on with them, how personal it is, and who engaged the conversation also has a huge impact on how it goes.

It seems so obvious, when you think about it, it’s just natural, but then you observe it in your own life and it makes you stop in your tracks.  What you say to people is largely based on your relationship together and the trust you have with them.

Something to chew on for the weekend, I think. Or to put to the test with a variety of different characters!

😉

-The Novice Wordsmith

Basket Weaving for Fun: The Prose and Cons

In many of my posts before, I’ve mentioned character depth and development. Just pick one, there’s likely to be something about it. It’s something I’m constantly writing about it, mostly because there are so many aspects and facets to cover and help bring life to a character that is at first two dimensional.

Among their unforgettable facets, is what they pursue as a hobby. Consider that. Even the most alien of creatures has a hobby, don’t they? Unless they’re a robot with no emotional sensation, there’s bound to be something they want to spend their down time doing.

Whether it’s making art out of an unusual medium (bottle caps, broken claw shavings, old aluminum cans), or just having something to do idly (crochet, collections, coloring), or maybe it requires a lot of focus, getting their mind off of whatever their day held (musical instruments, DIY projects, leather crafting). Come up with your own, to fit the universe, or explore those that already exist.

Characters who go through retirement are twice as likely to have hobbies, just to keep them busy. Maybe they volunteer somewhere, or they’ve taken up pottery, or knife making, or magic. Or, one of my favorites that sneaked over into my life, putting together flower arrangements.

As with every other minor detail, hobbies have a place to come up along the story line. It’s a small mention, usually. Maybe their downtime is being encroached upon by a new responsibility and they’re reflecting on what they’ll lose the ability to do. Their cousin or father could say a word or two in the direction of what they’ve been doing when they aren’t busy with more pressing matters.

There exists the chance of overpowering the story line if you give too much time and energy to explaining what they’re doing, unless it fits with the way it’s going. Maybe a chapter or scene filled with thought and wonder, while their hands move about with a needle or they push off from a balance bar in a complicated dance move.

But let’s tuck away the idea of how to put it into a story first and look instead at how well they do. The usual start is a slow one, steady, bad. “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at it,” are the lovely words of Jake from Adventure Time, and I have to agree. However, there are others who manage to pick something up and are more than halfway decent at it on the first try. (Those people tend get a lot of hate, though, because how dare they be so great so quickly?!)

Think of it as if it were your hobby, in a way. Writing was simply a hobby for me when I was a kid, and I had an off again on again relationship with it for several years before it punched on hard and became more than simply a time-pass. It’s become a cultivated interest.

Watercolor and drawing haven’t had quite the same click with me. I’ve been wanting to be more prolific with them, but it doesn’t come as easily as writing. Painting was a great escape and outlet for me after the passing of my mother, however, and it’s always a wonder to see how colors play together, and to make my own art that I’m proud of.

Our main characters are an extension of life, and they live immortal in written or typed word. Whatever they find enjoyable when there’s nothing else imminent says a lot about them, as it would for us as the authors.

The meticulous and detail-oriented would find refuge in the ship-in-a-bottle. Free-spirits gravitate toward dance or paint or sculpting. Rule-driven may lose hours in the physical, such as running or martial arts. Creativity can abound in any of these, not simply limited to the arts, though there tends to be more room for it there.

I shouldn’t forget that video games are a hobby, too… Seeing as I tend to spend a lot of time doing them myself, and here’s something for every type of person there. An aversion to them, or a pull, still has something to say about the character.

Whatever it is that’s said, muttered, whispered, screamed or giggled, explore it, find it, away from the novel or the story you’re working on if you have to. Dedicate a small scene for it, all its own, independent of anything else, just to see how it fits, to see what they do and how they do it. Feel out the smaller parts of a bigger picture.

-The Novice Wordsmith