A thoughtful look at how art does not require you to belong.
Happy Friday, everyone! I’m hoping this will be my last very quiet week on the blog, as I’m back from my travels and I’m plowing through an enormous backlog of work, but by the end of the long weekend everything should be all caught up and properly on track. Which gives you something of a hint as to my plans for the Memorial Day holiday. May you all have something a little more beach and/or BBQ on your calendar.
This past week I spent much of my time away handling some ongoing family matters, which means I was not on the internet very much. As a result, this week’s links are a bit sparser than usual. This does nothing to diminish their quality, however, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration or great things to read when you click through. Wishing those of you celebrating a wonderful long weekend, and a lovely regular weekend to everyone else. Enjoy!
Taking Your Notebook for a Walk: An A to K of Places to Write – A fun list of suggestions to get you out of the house and noticing the world around you.
How the Writer Edits: Julian Barnes – The author discusses his editorial process and how his approach changes from book to book.
Celebrate Short Story Month with These 17 Stellar Short Stories by Contemporary Writers – A great collection of titles available online.
8 Books (and Advice) to Give a Recent Graduate – Some less-obvious choices for the new grad in your life.
Dear Novel: On Breaking Up with Your Manuscript – A funny look at making the decision to set aside a project that’s not working.
Happy Friday! I’m on the road this week, so I’m bringing this to you short and sweet and hoping you find something here to kick off a creative, word-filled weekend. Quite a few of these deal with the writerly search for originality, and/or finding fresh inspiration. Wishing you wonderful progress on your current writing project, or maybe just a fabulous read that engrosses you for hours on end. Enjoy!
Nothing Works Until It Works: On Writerly Discomfort – A look at the pain (mostly mental) involved in the writing process.
The Hugo Awards – This year’s list of nominees. Now that the Nebulas are over, it’s time to turn your reading attention to the Hugos.
Jane Austen’s Ivory Cage – Peeking beneath the obvious story to find the darkness in Austen’s work.
Opportunities for Writers: June and July – A list of publishing opportunities, contests, etc. with deadlines over the next two months.
New Arabic Fiction: Five Contemporary Short Stories – For those of you looking to diversify your reading, to read more short fiction, or to just mix things up a bit.
Do Overused Words Lose Their Meaning? – On word trends and how words that once had impact start to lose it.
The Lost Gardens of Emily Dickinson – A look at the efforts to restore the garden that once helped inspire the poet.
Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been an insanely busy week here, so I apologize for being a bit quiet on the inter-webs. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and plow forward. And of course, with spring in full bloom here in the northern hemisphere, I’m aware that I, like everyone else, am struggling with a certain level of cabin fever. The birds are even now chirping outside my office window and it’s very tempting to just go play outside.
When I’m feeling this sort of pull, I resist it by reminding myself that the nice weather will still be there come the weekend… or whenever things quiet down to normal levels. Or I give myself lines in the sand; do everything on this list and then you can wander down the block to Starbucks for an hour of fresh air and caffeine injections. But it also helps to be engrossed in what I’m working on. The lure of a lovely day feels much less tempting if I’m reading a wonderful manuscript or helping make a project better. It’s all relative.
With this in mind, I’ve got a mishmash of links for you today that I hope help to combat your own cabin fever and allow you to put in a bit of reading and writing time. Plenty of things to think about and get you into gear. Enjoy!
Around the world in 18 science fiction and fantasy novels – A nice roundup for some serious armchair travel.
Interrogating Sentimentality with Leslie Jamison – On the line between writing that’s emotional and writing that’s overly sentimental or saccharine.
Download 67,000 Historic Maps – An open collection of high resolution maps available from Stanford University’s David Rumsey Map Collection. Great for research.
On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books – Most of us know this problem. An interesting look at an author’s experience with trying to apply the Marie Kondo tidying method to her bookshelves, proving that not all systems work for all people — or at least not precisely as intended.
Whit Stillman Returns: “Sometimes it’s good to blow through all your deadlines.” – The director of Metropolitan tackles Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship.
Authors, Get Thee to Social Media: Explaining the Rise and Rise of YA Books – Intriguing article with some great points about social media (though this is obviously not the entire driving force behind the success of YA).
Knausgaard in Chicago: “I Don’t Want to Write about Myself Anymore.” – The author known for his mammoth multi-volume work of autobiographical fiction talks about literary ambition and success with Sheila Heti.
Happy Friday! We’re heading into Mother’s Day weekend, so I hope you have some plans, whether you are a mother or are just celebrating your own or some other mother in your life. Whatever else is going on, it’s always wonderful to take a moment to tell the people we love how much we care.
Should you have some writing time set aside around all the brunch or lunch or other types of activities, I have some links here that I hope will give you a bit of a push. Writing involves some digging deep, some soul searching, some serious thought if you want to get down to its very foundations and figure out what makes a story tick, what makes your characters true. Or even just what makes you commit to the work to begin with. So take a few minutes to check these out, either over the weekend or in the coming week, and see if they give you a fresh outlook. Enjoy!
The Road to Extraordinary – On the pursuit of excellence.
Essential Books for Writers – Some great titles to check out, or revisit if it’s been a while.
How Mapping Alice Munro’s Stories Helped Me as a Writer – Thoughts on how to learn from the work of others.
The Poetic Edda, Game of Thrones, and Ragnarök – A look at what the popular books and HBO series owe to Norse myths.
How to Plot and Outline without Using a Formula – Jane Friedman offers some thoughts on the architecture of books.
The Perpetual Solitude of the Writer – The role of loneliness in creating intimacy with one’s characters.
Are you a writer? Do you aspire to be one? Whatever your current status and goals, you have a set of motivations that drive you. Perhaps you’ve loved telling stories since childhood and the ideas are piled up inside your brain, pushing you to let them out into the world. Maybe you’re a wordsmith who enjoys crafting sentences and creating a beautiful flow of text. Or maybe your motivations are a combination of things, such as a love for storytelling, a fascination with research, and a driving need to work a flexible job that you can perform at home or while traveling.
Whatever your reasons for becoming a writer, you likely have a list of things that motivate you — large and small — to sit down at your computer and work on your manuscript. There’s the bigger picture — which includes your desire to be a writer in general — and the smaller one, as well — which might be a combination of a challenging scene you’re dying to write and a deadline looming on the horizon. These things join forces to motivate you, to make you want to get down to the actual work of writing.
But what happens on days you don’t want to write? Days when you don’t feel like it? Maybe you’re not quite sure what comes next in the story, or you had a late night and just the thought of being creative makes your head throb. Or it’s possible your day job requires you to put in some extra hours this week, and the only way you can squeeze in your writing time is to stay up an extra hour before going to bed each night. And you really don’t want to do that.
It happens. No matter how much you love to write, no matter how strong your desire to succeed, you are only human, and it’s impossible for a human being to be highly motivated about something every hour of every day. This is where discipline comes into play.
Discipline gets a bad wrap in terms of the words we use. It tends to have more of a negative connotation these days, bringing to mind parents who believe in spankings, or long prison sentences. But somewhere among those numbered dictionary definitions is the one I need, meaning self-control, or orderly or prescribed conduct. Discipline is the thing that gets you to the keyboard when you’d rather not get out of bed in the morning.
People have two basic modes of conscious behavior: Things they do automatically, and things they think about before deciding whether or not to move forward. The things that come automatically didn’t always do so. Your parents reminded you to brush your teeth for years, most likely, before you truly adopted the habit. It probably took a few years of your childhood for you to get out of bed without prompting and get ready for school, but that habit helped train you for getting ready for work later on.
As an adult, you’ve developed your own set of routines, and it probably took a certain amount of discipline to put them in place. You may not always feel like hitting the gym, but you make yourself go because your health and fitness are important to you and because you understand the dangers of breaking that habit. Likewise, you don’t always wake feeling excited about going to your day job, but you go because you’re a responsible person who needs to pay their bills, and because your coworkers count on you. So where does writing fit on your scale? Is it something you do daily, automatically? Or is it something you think about and then decide to move forward, or not?
If you wish to make writing your career, if you want to be serious and professional about it, you need to treat it as you would any other important, nonnegotiable aspect of your life. Behave like a professional writer from the moment you determine that’s your ultimate goal. You don’t write because you happen to feel like it that day; you commit to writing because it’s important and you set the time to do it. Then you show up and do the work. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Don’t take time off simply because you’re feeling less motivated that day. You need to treat writing as a job if you wish it to become one.