Know Your Rights: 7 Terms Every Writer Should Learn

The Literature Effect

It’s every writer’s dream to see their work in print. To have spent years of their lives putting together the perfect work or months coming up with the perfect idea for publishing or syndication and finally see that hard work pay off with an acceptance letter. It’s an exciting moment to be sure. So exciting, many writers might just sign on the dotted line without looking into what’s written before it, causing a writer to unwittingly sign away that same creation they poured their heart and soul into. Industries have done this for decades, especially in comics where the legendary legal battles dwarf any battle Superman has faced. The simple truth is any entity you might sell your work to is a business. A business that won’t shy away from legal trickery. Writers are probably the most underappreciated people in the entertainment world. The same people who’ll put your work…

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When Writing Isn’t Enough: Finding Time to Write While Working

Kristen Twardowski

Roman Coins Even ancient Romans needed money.

The idealized vision of a writer includes a person who can dedicate his or her entire life to the craft. Sitting at home or in a coffee shop spending days writing paints a pretty picture but is not realistic for most writers. James Patterson may be able to earn upwards of $80 million per year but the income for most professional authors in the US is below the poverty line. $8000 may be a nice chunk of change, but it is hard to support a living, breathing person on that amount. That means that most writers have to have another day job that may or may not be related to writing. And that means that most writers have to find time to write while still working to keep a roof over their heads and food in their fridges.

Over the years, I’ve approached writing while working…

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The Beautiful and Terrible: Summary and Analysis of Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History.’

photo source: http://black-cashmere-cigarette-smoke.tumblr.com/

Good books, the kind that you enjoy, that you carry with you so as to pass time on the bus or train; that keep your mind occupied, but don’t do anything to change your perceptions of what literature can be, are common. Great books, the kind that you set aside time to read, that fill you with joy, and you recommend to your friends at every opportunity to do so, are rare … And then there are the scarce gems, the works of art that consume you, draw you in, keep you up at night, and leave an imprint in your mind that lasts years after you have finished them. “The Secret History,” by Donna Tartt, is such a book. It is a book both intimate and epic, and concerned with the beautiful and the terrible; a book that examines man’s relationship with the divine, as-well-as man’s relationship with one-another. It is on one level, a taught, brisk thriller, and on another, a meditation on the inherent fragility of youth and friendship.

The narrator is Richard Papen, who, at the age of twenty-eight looks back on a year he spent at Hampden College, a prestigious (and fictitious) liberal arts college in rural Vermont. The story begins in Richard’s hometown of Plano California. Of his upbringing, Richard says: “When I think about my real childhood I am unable to recall much about it at all except a sad jumble of objects: the sneakers I wore year-round; coloring books and comics from the supermarket: little of interest, less of beauty … my father was mean, our house ugly, and my mother didn’t pay much attention to me … and since all this had been true for as long as I could remember, I felt things would doubtless continue in this depressing vein as far as I could foresee. In short: I felt my existence was tainted, in some subtle but essential way.”

Richard’s mediocre existence is quietly interrupted one Christmas, when, while digging through his closet, he finds a brochure for Hampden. After several weeks of traveling back-and-forth for admissions interviews, and sneaking behind his parents’ backs, Richard successfully transfers to Hampden. During his first few days on campus, Richard has run-ins with an attractive and close-knit group of students: Henry Winter, a trust funder from the midwest and the group’s unofficial leader, Francis Abernathy, a closeted homosexual who dresses mostly in black, orphan Charles Macaulay and his beautiful twin sister Camilla, and Bunny Corcoran, socially repugnant scion of a Kennedyesque New England family, desperately trying to maintain a facade of wealth and privilege. Drawn in by the group’s mystique, Richard wiles his way into their elite Ancient Greek class, taught by the charismatic Julian Morrow.

For the Fall semester, Richard enjoys an idyllic academic life, filled with lively discussions about art, literature, and ancient philosophy, as-well-as cocktail parties, and croquet matches at Francis’s country house. Everything changes after the group return from winter break. After learning that Henry, Francis, Charles, and Camilla have purchased one-way tickets to South America, Richard confronts his friends and discovers that they have become murderers. During the fall, the group enacted a ritual to honor the god Dionysus, in-which they consumed hallucinogens and accidentally killed a local farmer. The group manages to cover up the murder until Bunny discovers their secret and begins extorting money from them. In a drunken state one evening, Bunny tells Richard about the murder (not realizing he already knows). Richard tells Henry, and the group decides their only option is to kill Bunny.

The group follows Bunny on his Sunday walk in the woods, where they push him into a ravine. That night, an unseasonable snowstorm hits the college hiding Bunny’s body for ten days. A manhunt is launched, drawing in the FBI. The group manages (with great difficulty) to dodge accusations made against them until Bunny’s death is ruled an accident. After attending Bunny’s funeral, the group returns to Hampden, where tensions between them fester. Richard learns that Camilla is in love with Henry.  After Richard tells him about this, Charles, who has had an intimate, incestuous relationship with his twin, becomes violently jealous and goes on a drinking binge that sends him to the hospital. Richard and Francis take him to the country house to recover. Shortly after that, Julian discovers a letter from Bunny about the farmer’s murder and  flees Hampden in horror. Charles escapes from the country house and returns to Hampden with a gun. After shooting Richard in the stomach, Charles has the gun taken from him by Henry, who shoots himself in the head.

After the incident, the group scatters, with all the surviving members dropping out of school except for Richard, who goes on to graduate school. Francis’s grandfather forces him to marry a woman he doesn’t like; Julian is out of the country, Charles moves to California with an older woman, and Camilla finds herself stuck caring for her ailing grandmother.

 

From the very beginning, “The Secret History” makes a concerted effort to blend classical mythology and philosophy with contemporary fiction. Richard’s first line of narration after the prolog “Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of life, exist outside literature?” pays tribute to the majesty of the ancient world and elegantly sets the tone for the novel. The ‘fatal flaw’ dates to the work of Aristotle and refers to an imperfection in a protagonist’s personality that causes them to commit some error in the arc of their story. In classical literature, these errors are often made in complete ignorance of the consequences that will inevitably follow them. It is here, in this lack of regard for any moral retribution, that Richard can find a kind of forgiveness for his crimes and those of his friends. Richard never expresses any guilt about the things he has done, not because he believes they were morally justified, but because they were meant to happen. Richard talks about himself and his friends as characters in a work of fiction, with the events surrounding them being part of an already written plot, and themselves powerless to change them. He recounts these events with a casual lucidity, and describes the “fatal flaw” of his story, which is, in his words, “A morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”  

“‘We don’t like to admit it,’ said Julian ‘but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people such as ourselves more than anything. All truly civilized people – the ancients no less than us – have civilized themselves through the willful repression of the old animal self … And it’s a temptation for any intelligent person, and especially for perfectionists such as the ancients and ourselves to try to murder the primitive, emotive, appetitive self. But this is a mistake … The more cultivated a person is … then the more he needs some method of channeling the primitive impulses he’s worked so hard to subdue …  It’s a very Greek idea … Beauty is terror … and what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks and to our own, than to lose control completely.’”

Not only do Richard’s friends share his longing for the picturesque, but they find it augmented by the speech from their professor. And if this desire is intrinsic to the characters’ true natures, as Julian suggests, then it was inevitable that they would abandon the trappings of civilization and immerse themselves in the sublime beauty of their own raw, animalistic nature. What’s more, any damage to outside parties – such as the murdered farmer – is negligible, as it is merely the residue of contriving to achieve a higher level of being. And just so we are sure that the characters’ immorality is not just a mere lapse in judgment, Tartt shows us the group’s decadent behavior transcend their academic and spiritual pursuits, and bleed into their personal lives. Tartt maintains the integrity of this depraved atmosphere by never judging any of her characters. While we read about the group drinking excessively, snorting cocaine, engaging in incest, and plotting the murder of one of their friends, the novel never takes the time to remind the audience that what the protagonists are doing is wrong. Rather, it assumes we already know we are watching people do things they shouldn’t be. Instead of forcing us to learn a lesson about restraint and prudence, the book asks us to simply observe.   This lack of condescension in storytelling is one of the qualities which I feel marks Donna Tartt as a great writer, with another being her ability to compress grandiose moral and philosophical themes into such a small setting.

All the major scenes in “The Secret History” take place indoors, and rarely involve anyone outside the six main characters. In the first half of the novel – before Bunny is murdered – this creates an atmosphere of intimacy. The characters’ discussions have all the weight of history behind them: Homer, Aristotle, Virgil, and Dante guide them on epic journeys through life, death, and human nature, without ever leaving the comfort of their tobacco smoke-filled dorm rooms. With the murders and their subsequent investigations, this intimacy turns to claustrophobia, and the cozy confines of Hampden and Francis’s country house become less of a comfort and more of a trap. As rumors of the group’s bizarre behavior around Bunny’s murder begin to surface, and they become a target of the investigation, we feel every bit of pressure they are under. And even after they are ruled out as suspects, things only become worse, as their close-knit relationships turn from a blanket of protection into a crucible of frustration and anger, causing them to turn on one another, and ending in the self-imposed exile of their mentor and the suicide of another one of their own. This landslide of tragedies proves just how fragile the bubble Richard and his friends had built around themselves was. Hampden and Julian’s class was the substantiating force in their lives, and with the former ruined and the latter taken away from them, the members of the group become lost in the world. This exchange between Richard and Charles exemplifies this:    

 

          “‘I wish we didn’t have to go back to Hampden tomorrow,’ (Charles) said.”

“‘I wish we never had to go back,’ I said. ‘I wish we lived here.’”

“‘Well, maybe we can.’”

“‘What’”

“‘I don’t mean now. But maybe we could. After school.’”

“‘How’s that?’”

“He shrugged. ‘Well, Francis’s aunt won’t sell the house because she wants to keep it in the family. Francis could get it from her for next to nothing … I mean, all Henry wants to do when he finishes school, if he finishes school, is to find some place where he can write his books and study the twelve great cultures.’”

“‘What do you mean, if he finishes.’”

“‘I mean, he may not want to … There’s no reason he’s got to be here, and he’s surely never going to have a job.’”

“‘You think not?’ I said, curious; I had always pictured Henry teaching Greek, in some forlorn but excellent college out in the Midwest.”

“Charles snorted. ‘Certainly not. Why should he? He doesn’t need the money, and he’d make a terrible teacher. And Francis has never worked in his life … He’d like it better here. Julian wouldn’t be far away either.”’

 

We see that the members of the group can picture no way of living differently from the one in which they are currently engaged. This is an attitude shared by most people in college. The first four or five years of one’s adulthood have a lasting transformative effect on the rest of their life. It is for this reason that college can be both a blessing and a curse, as it provides a safe environment for us to experiment with different ways of looking at the world, and cultivate new tastes and attitudes about how we wish to conduct ourselves in the future. The flip-side of this is that the environment can be too safe, a bubble of semi-adulthood in which we get only a taste of the real world, with few chances to experience the full range of consequences that come with our mistakes. A person can become so used to this, that when the time comes to enter into real adulthood, they feel overwhelmed. Tartt’s novel not only captures this feeling but magnifies it to mythic proportions. From the very beginning, Richard makes clear his dissatisfaction with his upbringing and desire to live a greater life – a life defined by beauty.  He believes Campden will be the gateway to such a life, and devotes so much energy to cultivating an image of the college as a perfect haven of beauty and intellectualism, that even long after the image has shattered and he has left Campden, it remains an integral part of his life, saying: “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”  

“The Secret History” may not be to everyone’s taste, but those who are susceptible to its charms will find themselves fully enraptured in a novel unlike any other, one that blends style with substance, and makes you belive that true beauty comes with pain. 

The Importance of Hobbits: An Analysis of the Work of J.R.R. Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien is considered to be the founder of modern fantasy literature, mostly due to “The Lord of the Rings.” Although “The Lord of the Rings” is a remarkable work of creativity and imagination, the success, and reverence awarded to it by its admirers has eclipsed the brilliance of its predecessor “The Hobbit.” Beginning with a simple line of narration scribbled on a student’s paper while Tolkien was a professor, “The Hobbit” tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, one of a race of short, hairy, man-like creatures known as hobbits, who enjoys a simple life in a rural village. One day, Bilbo’s quiet existence is unexpectedly interrupted when the wizard Gandalf shows up on his doorstep with a band of twelve dwarves, who hope to enlist Bilbo’s help in liberating their ancestral home from a ferocious dragon named Smaug. Bilbo reluctantly agrees, and along the way he and his comrades fend off trolls, are befriended by elves and beasts, slay monsters, outwit goblins, and become soldiers in a devastating battle of five armies, from which they emerge victorious, but far from unscathed. Less expansive, but no less captivating than its successor, Tolkien’s flagship work both introduces readers to what can truly be considered a modern mythology, and tells a tale of adventure containing universal statements about the inherent destructiveness of war, the effects of experience on character, and the human spirit’s enduring need for mythology and heroism.

From his earliest days, Tolkien understood what it meant to endure hardship and loss. After losing his father at the age of four, he suffered the death of his mother three years after the two of them were disowned by her family when she converted to Catholicism (Green, J.R.R. Tolkien). But the event which undoubtedly had the deepest effect on Tolkien was his time spent in the trenches of World War I. Other artists who fought in “the Great War” used the experience as inspiration for their work. The most famous being, of course, Ernest Hemingway, whose time spent as an ambulance driver and war correspondent was reflected in his books ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’ On his experiences in the war, Hemingway soberly reflected: “Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates (Croft, 2002).” What made World War I especially brutal was the juxtaposition of modern technology with antiquated fighting techniques. Soldiers on opposing sides faced each other in the same kinds of battle formations which had been used for centuries, but fought with mechanized weaponry, thus resulting in casualties so numerous the numbers remain incalculable. Soldiers would spend months at a time in crowded, muddy trenches where it was almost impossible to ward off infection and disease, then march across the dreaded “no man’s land,” where they were exposed to artillery shells, nerve gas, and machine gun fire. The most tragic part of this experience was that engagements would usually end with little to no new territory being gained by either side. While not a straight allegory for the war, much of the imagery Tolkien infused into “The Hobbit,” and later “The Lord of the Rings,” is certainly reminiscent of his experiences. Landscapes such as the Desolation of Smaug that were once “green and fair” are now bleak and barren and littered with the corpses of the dead. Bilbo’s loss of dear friends gained over the course of his journey is another element Tolkien borrowed from his biography, writing in the Introduction to the second edition of“The Lord of the Rings,” “it seems now often forgotten that to be caught by youth in 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead (Croft, 2002).” The hardening experiences of war are certainly not lost on Bilbo Either. While the hobbit is not young – he is what humans in this world would consider middle-aged – he is very childlike in personality and behavior. At several points in his journey, Bilbo complains about the uncomfortable conditions he is forced to endure and longs for the security and familiarity of his hobbit-hole. Even the Shire, essentially a hole in the ground, is symbolic of a womb (Matthews, 1975), with his being torn from it and forced into such dangerous situations, representing the end of his infantile existence, and the beginning of adulthood.

The hardships which Bilbo is forced to endure melt away his soft and callow nature, and bestow upon him the maturity needed to achieve his destiny. The first transformative incident in the story takes place when Bilbo and the dwarves must pass through a network of mountain tunnels lorded over by goblins. AT one point Bilbo is knocked unconscious and gets separated from the dwarves. In this underground scene, the hobbit displays unprecedented courage for the first time, choosing to face the challenges of life rather than withdraw from them. The danger at this time is Gollum. Once a hobbit himself, Gollum stumbled upon one of the legendary rings of power and was corrupted by the dark magic held within it. By tricking Gollum, Bilbo acquires not only the self-esteem needed to fulfill his responsibilities as a mature and trustworthy leader, but also gains the ring which will help him to complete his mission (Matthews,1975).

By the time Bilbo returns to the Shire his change is complete. The hobbit who left home without even a pocket handkerchief has conquered his fears and doubts, becoming a war hero with a magic ring and bags of gold. Even the great wizard Gandalf comments, “(something’s the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were (Sullivan, 1985).” This image of someone who is sensitive and inexperienced enduring the horrors of war and emerging stronger on the other side raises an interesting question: why, when so many other artists were made cynical by their experiences in World War I, did Tolkien choose mythic heroism for his subject matter? First, we should look at who Tolkien was before the war. After the death of his mother, the young Tolkien became a ward of Father Morgan, a Catholic priest and family friend whom he both feared and respected. During this time he studied medieval languages, mastering subjects years ahead of him, and even inventing his grammars. Tolkien continued his pursuits as a student at Oxford, studying Latin and Greek. But it was the languages, histories, and mythologies of early Britain and Northern Europe that truly captured him (Green, J.R.R. Tolkien). Tolkien Borrowed liberally from Nordic myth and lore to create Middle Earth, with many motifs and character types being shared by the two. Gandalf the Grey is heavily inspired by the god Odin: both are wanderers often described as “an old man with a staff, . . . a long gray cloak, and a white beard;” and perform extraordinary feats of magic. Gandalf’s friend Beorn who fights in the shape of a great bear is reminiscent of the berserker warriors of Viking legend who were consecrated to Odin, and the Eagles Gandalf Summons to the Battle of the Five Armies were sacred in Norse myth to Odin. Another significant motif is that of the ring. Magic rings were prevalent in Nordic lore. Warriors would wear silver or gold arm rings to signify the sanctity of the oaths they would swear to their liege-lords. The ring in Tolkien’s work as well as in the Germanic mythological tradition which inspired it encircles the universal dualistic principle of Good and Evil. Most importantly of all, the primary story arc of “The Hobbit” centers on a decidedly Northern quest for dragon’s gold and culminates in the slaying of the dragon Smaug by Bard, a human hero. (Brunsdale, 1983).

What does this have to do with Tolkien’s experience in the war? Quite a lot. A very enlightening quote from Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” where he says: “taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood, and quickened to full life by war.” Meaning that his choice of fantasy as a means of self-expression grew out of a desire for escapism when faced with the horror and devastation of war (Croft, 2002). Having been exposed to the wanton brutality of mechanized combat, the scholarly and sensitive Tolkien returned home convinced that the evil powers of industrialism had been set loose in the world and that mankind had the ability to pacify the forces of darkness through a renewed interest in myth.

The epics and romantic poetry enjoyed by Tolkien were created during a period when Europe’s dominant military aristocracy was the driving force of Western culture. “Beowulf,” “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and other stories made sense in a chaotic world where the poor lacked the means to defend themselves, and thus depended on heroic figures for protection. But with the rise of the middle class towards the end of the Middle Ages, and the inundation of scientific thought brought on by the renaissance and the enlightenment, the heroic ideals of the ancient world were resigned to irrelevancy. This attitude was carried into the early twentieth century and made it difficult for “The Hobbit” to receive recognition as a serious literary work. At this point in history, adult fiction was dominated by naturalism, realism, and modernism. Authors like Joyce, Faulkner, and Woolf used experimental techniques and stream-of-consciousness narration to craft stories about imperfect characters navigating the challenges and ambiguities of modern life. Novels like “Mrs. Dalloway” and “Ulysses” rejected battles between the armies of good and evil, and focused instead on those being waged within man’s psyche. Fairy tales and fantasies written during this period were viewed as children’s stories, or dismissed as lowbrow entertainment, much like pulp detective novels. Even science fiction, such as the work of H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley had to reflect contemporary issues. Because of these factors, “The Hobbit” initially Succeeded only as children’s literature. It was not until the 1950s and 60s that Tolkien’s writings began to earn the fame and recognition denied to them in previous decades. Children of the baby-boom generation who had grown up reading tales of Middle-Earth found inspiration in Bilbo’s exploits, and hoped to display the same fortitude in their fight against the pointlessness of the Vietnam war. Indeed, the various forms evils which Tolkien feared had been set loose upon the world were still at large, and heroism was still needed to combat them. It was the idealistic simplicity of Tolkien’s mythology, along with the hope that courage could triumph over the greed of a corrupt establishment that afforded “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” the success needed to spearheaded them into the twenty-first century, where they enjoy a lasting cultural relevance which many of their author’s more serious contemporaries failed to achieve (Green, J.R.R. Tolkien).

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit …” One wonders what Tolkien thought when he wrote this opening line on the back of a student’s paper. Was it simply an interesting phrase he scribbled down so as to not forget it, or had he finally found the perfect opening line for the masterwork that had been brewing in his mind? While Tolkien hoped that the “The Hobbit” and its successors would reach a wide audience, there is no way that the author could have even imagined the iconic status his stories would achieve. What was criticized at its publication as cheap entertainment for children has grown into its own mythology, enticing legions of fans throughout the world and across generations.While many today scoff at those who enjoy fantasy, dismissing their literary preferences as immature escapism, there is an undeniable appeal to the beauty of Tolkien’s work. On the surface, the tales of Middle Earth are exciting adventures, but if we dig deeper, we find a richly and intricately crafted tapestry containing lessons and ideas which are intrinsically significant to us as human beings. There are great challenges we must face, and although we may not be ready when the call comes to face them, it is our ability to persevere through hardship that makes us strong. We may lose pieces of ourselves, and be forced to say goodbye to loved ones along the way, but true heroism always endures.

 

Works Cited

Brunsdale, M. M. (1983). "Norse Mythological Elements in The Hobbit." . Mythlore 9.4, 49-50.

Croft, J. B. (2002). "The Great War and Tolkien's Memory: an examination of World War I themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.". Mythlore.

Green, W. H. (n.d.). J.R.R. Tolkien.

Matthews, D. (1975). "The Psychological Journey of Bilbo Baggins." . " A Tolkien Compass, 29-42.

Sullivan, C. W. (1985). "J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit: The Magic of Words.". Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children 's Literature. Children 's Literature Association,, 253-260.

 

What To Do Now?

    I haven’t posted anything in the last two weeks, partly because I couldn’t think of anything to write about, mostly because I’ve been distracted with moving on to the next stage in my life. In a month I will head off to a four-year college to complete my undergraduate study. While I’m eager to continue my journey, I don’t feel ready. Even though I’m 23 years old, I don’t feel like an adult. I’ve never had a job or been on a date, I only have five hundred dollars (cash) to my name, and I still don’t have a driver’s license. And yet, I am placing myself  within a hair’s breadth from adulthood.

   It’s my own fault. In the five years between graduating high school and now, I could have taken care of all these things … but I didn’t. It would be easy to excuse myself by saying I was busy with my studies at community college – easy, but incorrect. Community college was not an arduous journey, the only reason it took me longer to complete than the average student (four years) was that I almost never had a full course-load. This should have freed me to get my life in order, and yet, I didn’t. Everytime I was presented with the opportunity to prepare myself for the future, I said: ‘The future isn’t my problem; let Future Me worry about the future.’ Well, eventually Present Me became Past Me, and Future Me became Present Me. And if there’s one person who’s always screwing me, it’s Past Me.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe being what I need to start my life is placing myself into a situation where I won’t have an excuse not to.

Fear of the unknown.

  The rest of my life seemed so much more enticing when it was far away. Now, as I prepare to enter the next stage of my life, what a few years ago couldn’t come fast enough, is now coming at me so fast, that I feel the force of it hitting me will be strong enough to turn me into dust.

   Where do I want to live? How should I plan out my career path? When and how should I go about finding a wife, if at all? What do I want my wife to be like? I thought I knew the answers to, these questions, but now that it’s time to do that, I’m just not sure. It’s like taking a test at school; you think you answered every question correctly, but on the ride home you start thinking: “Question 17! Was the answer A? Did B make more sense?” It’s the paradox of choices: there are so many, and they all seem equally attractive, that you’re afraid to pick just one. But I’m not afraid of making the wrong decisions; not afraid of finding my dreams unfulfilled; I’m afraid my dreams will come true, but not be what hoped they would. My dreams won’t be dreams anymore, they’ll be a reality, and reality is always disappointing; reality is out of your control. I only know how to dream my dreams, I don’t know how to live them. As long as my dreams are unfulfilled, I know who I am; I don’t know who I’ll be after I achieve my goals – that’s what I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of the unknown.    

Starting something new

Beginning  a new piece of work is one of the most intimidating tasks a writer can face. After devoting gallons of blood, sweat, and tears to one project, one can feel so drained that starting something new is beyond your abilities as a being of crude, organic matter to accomplish. Indeed, the creative process is so taxing on emotional, mental, and even physical energy, towards the end you wonder if you are even capable of repeating it. And even if you are able to muster the will to embark upon a new endevour, you’ll sometimes feel as though you are comitting infidelity by diverting your gaze from one idea to another.  These feelings are perfectly natural for an artist to feel, as creative people have stronger instincts for self-correction than most; it’s not uncommon to want to spend as much time as humanly possible with a piece of prose, picking it apart sentence-by-sentence and word-by-word, pruning and nurturing it until blooms perfectly; it’s also not uncommon to become so devoted to your work, that you consider installing a catheter into your body so that you won’t have to waste precious seconds walking to and from the bathroom.

But, if we want to accomplsh great things as writers, sometimes we must ignore our instincts and think rationally. And when we do look at writing rationally, we realize that spending too much time on one piece of work can cause us to become too accustomed to certain characters, settings, and ideas, and force ourselves into a creative rut. We need to be open and flexible, otherwise our creative sensibilities may be come dull.

About me

I am a prince of eagles,

A lover of fun;

Silver in some things,

Gold in just one.

 

Amateur philosopher,

Student of life;

My prose is my child,

My pen is my wife.

 

Art, literature,

Beautiful girls;

I want everything and nothing,

just to live in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does my writing suck?

 

Self-doubt is something every writer or artist experiences; we spend hours every day devoted to our craft – most of the time when we don’t feel like it – cranking out words and phrases, hacking and bludgeoning at mental marble, trying to set free the angels of our imaginations. We pace back-and-forth in our rooms, muttering to ourselves, running our fingers through our hair, digging boogers out of our nostrils; anything to avoid sitting down and ruining the beautiful images stored up in our heads by transforming them into profane and imperfect language. No matter how productive we are on any given day, we will more than once during the creative process, have episodes in which we feel inadequate; our approach pedestrian; our prose labored; our ideas cliched and derivative. We go to the bathroom to rub a hot towel on our face, then look at our reflection in the mirror and say to ourselves: “You are pathetic; everything you’ve done today is a mockery to the craft of writing. I f you continue, you’ll be spitting in the faces of all the great artists you claim to admire. You should have listened to your guidance counselor, and majored in graphic design, because then, at least you’d be doing something useful for someone.’

“So, how does one deal with this?” You may ask. Well, the first thing you have to do is relax. Accept that, as an artist, you are naturally self-critical; it’s in your instincts to compare yourself to others in your discipline – how would you have discovered your craft without the ability to recognize good work when you saw it? The important thing to do is not fall victim to your good taste. Show your work to someone you trust to give you an honest opinion and ask them specific questions about the aspects of your work you’re unsure about: as someone viewing from the perspective of a reader, their opinion of it will be untainted by a creator’s bias. And if you are having doubts, it may help to listen to them if they sound reasonable; if you feel like your idea has been done before, try to think of a unique way to present it. Three years ago I was writing a story about a socially awkward boy in college trying to win the affection of a beautiful girl. I knew it wasn’t an original premise, so I decided to make the protagonist completely delusional about how in love he and the girl were; the story ended with the girl tearing the boy apart in front of everyone, and it became the funniest piece of work I had ever written.

But, the most important advice I can give for how to deal with self-doubt while writing, is to keep writing. Things that confused you may make sense once you have finished your work. If not don’t worry; the first or second draft is never perfect, just keep working on it; and if you’ve done everything can, and you still aren’t satisified … look at it this way: it’s better to have a whole bad story than half a good one.

 

 

 

 

Coming back to writing.

This week, I did something I haven’t done since the fall of 2013 – I devoted serious amounts of time to writing  a story. Over the last few months I’ve brainstormed ideas for stories, and done prewriting and outlining for my novel, but the last few days are the first time in almost three years that I’ve actually worked on a draft of a piece of prose. Yes, I admit it, I’m a writer who doesn’t write regularly, but that isn’t rare. Any writer who says they never have difficulty finding time or motivation to work on their craft is either lying, or has mastered some form of unholy blood magic which allows them to jettison any and all irrelevant thoughts or sensation from their mind and synthesize brilliance out of thin air (while effective, excessive use of blood magic may result in watery eyes, dry skin, and psychotic fantasies of violent bestiality).

Writing is hard. Sitting down in front of a computer or notepad, with nothing but your own thoughts to keep you company can feel like self-inflicted torture on the worst of days. There are periods when ideas come flowing out of you like liquid gold, when you are so consumed by creative purpose, that you feel as though the Gods have deemed you’re work to be of such supreme importance that they send the muses down from Mount Olympus to perform fellatio on you; when you are willing to forgo all food, drink, and bathroom breaks in order to finish the last few sentences of your masterwork about a man who eats some bad Chinese food, and hallucinates the Buddha giving him life advice – but these days are few and far between. In truth, you spend sizable stretches of time staring at the blinking cursor, sucking on the web of skin between thumb and index finger, trying think of the best way to describe a character’s hair, or whether or not you should include a reference to an esoteric poem you read in World lit. class. You stand up, rub your eyes with your palms, then look over at the clock to see an hour has passed and you’ve only written two sentences. These are the times when you’d rather be taking a walk outside, sitting on the couch reading, or getting to work on that sink full of dishes.

I’m talking about having writer’s block. I don’t like admitting it, or even saying the word out loud, but that’s what it is. How do you deal with it? Well, the simple answer is, you write. Write anything that comes to your mind, even if it’s only vaguely connected to your idea; even if you know it’s bad. Write it, because at least it’s something. The reason I suffer with creative constipation is because I pressure myself to create masterpieces in one sitting. I feel like the worst thing a writer or artist can do is romanticize their craft. If you convince yourself that you’re a conduit for God, then you’ll find yourself saying things like: ‘The juices aren’t flowing today, I better try again tomorrow, maybe I’ll be inspired then.’  You have to make your juices flow.  

Treat writing like any other job, don’t do it when you feel like doing it, make time.To accomplish this, I have invoked the power of day planning, adopting a set schedule: wake up at eight thirty, make my bed – doing something constructive puts me in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day, even if it’s something small – do twenty push-ups, go jogging for about an hour, come home, do the dishes, put in a load of laundry, eat breakfast. I do everything I need to do that isn’t related to writing done first, that way I can focus completely on writing.  From eleven o’clock to five o’clock is writing time. By the end of the day I rarely finish more than a page and a half of text, but I always finish feeling satisfied that I’m just a little bit closer to completing my work.