Writing Under Fire

Firing

Have you ever had so many thoughts firing off in your brain that you thought it might explode if you didn’t put some of them down on paper?  Then, when you finally get them all out, all you want is a good nap?  Yeah, that’s how I feel today.

There is much going on in the writerly world here this week.  The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes put out a call for applicants to take part in a Business of Art workshop to be held in March.  I think this is a great idea for any writer and something we talk about frequently in my writer’s group.

They will be covering –

  • Portfolio Basics and Presentation Packages
  • Branding, Marketing and Promotion
  • Legal, Insurance and Financial issues
  • Money and Time: Grants, Fellowships, Apprenticeships and Residencies

There will also be time for performances, readings and exhibition.  Application to attend is competitive in the sense that they are only taking ten people in each of three tracks – performing, visual and literary.  I, of course, would like to attend the literary one.

I would really like to be writing for a living in a couple years but I need to grow my audience in order for that to happen.  I’ve already started making a little money from my writing and I need to know how to handle the financial side of things when that grows, both tax wise and other.  I intend to finish Biomalware this year and whether I go the traditional publishing route or e-publish, I will need to work on marketing.

Of course, this all threw me into application mode with re-working my artist’s statement, my writing resume and my statement of intention to attend the workshops.  There’s also choosing which pieces to include in my writing sample.

Then, last night, a few members of my writer’s group got together to work at the local coffee house.  A couple people read some pieces for critique and the poem got me thinking about whether I could write something to read on Saturday.   Of course, just putting that intention out there got my brain going on the idea of writing a poem and, before I knew it, the ideas were hitting me on the head.  I’ve been going all day on a poem that kind of rants about partisan politics.  (It’s something I’m a little fed up with.)  So I think I’ll have something to read on Saturday.

However, there are half a dozen things for work that are really demanding my attention as the deadline is fast approaching.  It’s all a little overwhelming and the idea of a nap is sounding better and better.

I had thought of writing about voice today but that seems like a little more than I can handle so I’ll leave you with this thought.  I just finished an excellent YA novel called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  The voice was very strong and immediate, told in the first person and spot on.  It’s told from the perspective of a young woman who has been imprisoned by the Nazis and is writing her confession in exchange for less torture.  (I highly recommend it.)

You can either just write and write and let your voice develop, or you can find out what elements affect voice and then deliberately pick the ones you want to create a particular voice.  The first sounds easier but the latter is probably a sign of learning about your craft so that’s something I’ll be working on in the near future.

Sometimes I think the real problem is that I don’t know what I don’t know.

Sometimes I feel like a pretender.  Am I a writer or am I just playing at it?  I know Maya Angelou once wrote much the same.  I feel like putting myself in a class with other writers is somehow being vain.

At the same time, I know what I want.  I want to write for a living.  I want to be a writer.  I am a writer.  I never feel so alive as when I am.

Okay, off to work on my book presentation for Wednesday so I can write late tonight.

May the muse grant you thoughts that fire your neurons in new patterns.

Why Do We Write?

Power_of_Words_by_Antonion_Litterio

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I mean, I want to, but my mind seems to resist the idea.

Is it fear? Of what? Of failure? Well, we’re all afraid of that. The truth is that no matter what I write some people are going to like it and some aren’t. I think what I’m really afraid of is disappointing myself. Not feeling that what I’ve written is good enough, in my own mind.

As I was driving home the other day, the thought occurred to me… I don’t have to do this. I have a good job that pays my bills and is, in itself, satisfying. I’m not writing to make a livelihood or meet a deadline.

So why am I doing it? Why do I write?

Someone, not long ago, asked me that and then told me that a professor had told him what the “right” answer was. Really? There’s a “correct” answer to that? I don’t think so. I think there’s a personal answer.

I write, in part, because I like to write. It’s fun. I like to play with words, like some kids like to build castles with sand. I’d say that’s reason enough.

I write because I have something to say, a story to tell, either that I think will interest someone out there or help them in some way.

I write because it’s how I make sense of the world and how I express my outrage or joy. I think much better on paper than out loud.

Okay, yes, and partially because I like the rush of getting positive feedback from people who read it. Last night I read a short story in writers group and everyone thought it was okay but one person really liked it. That was enough.

This year I’ve taken the mantra “write the story you want to read” to heart. I don’t know where I first found it, but I have it written down on a scrap of paper. I don’t think I have the skills yet to really do that. Sometimes I get a glimmer. Other times I read books others have written and despair of ever reaching those dizzying heights.

I think – perhaps I need to read more, learn more, write more. Or perhaps I’ll just never be that good.

Still, I know that I can’t try to write like someone else. That simply doesn’t work in the long run. But how do I create a distinctive voice all my own? Is it already there and I can’t hear it because it’s the voice that’s inside my head all the time?

I know, occasionally, I write something and think – oh, that’s nice. I like that.  And that’s just plain fun.

So, why do you write?

Character Motivation

Heated Discussion

Heated Discussion

 

I’m told that people like the honesty in my writing but figuring out what is honest can be difficult, like trying to figure out what people mean with the words they choose and their motivations. Sometimes even they don’t know.

As humans, we are prone to ascribing motivations to people that may, or may not, be true. “Well, he said… but what he really meant was…”

Likewise, “Did he really mean what I thought he meant?”

As authors, we have the power to ascribe motivations to our characters, but we shouldn’t forget this ambiguity. Characters may not be sure of the motivation of other characters, they may ascribe motivation incorrectly and our characters may not even know their own minds.

We get to help them discover it.

And sometimes we have to step back, stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to be clever and just take things at face value.

At times like these, it can be nice to just sit down and write a story where events happen and we don’t have to ascribe meaning to them. We don’t have to try to figure them out.

People will usually try to ascribe their own meaning to the events anyway, as you may have experienced at one time or another.