Monday, June 7, 2021

A Cure for Writer's Block: Plunging the Past

Getty\USA Today

Reportedly, Ralph Ellison said:

The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.

And Ellison's quote reminded me of a previous post, where I shared that Sylvia Plath reportedly related:
Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. 

Hence, one should never suffer from writer's block, unless one suffers from amnesia or, God forbid, dementia. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Writer's Guilt

In a Life magazine piece (May 24, 1963), James Baldwin shared with Jane Howard:

[...] if you’re an artist, you’re guilty of a crime: not that you’re aware, which is bad enough, but that you see things other people don’t admit are there.

This Baldwin quote reminded of a conversation I had with a colleague about The Allure of Nymphets, which is the book I was writing at the time about nympholepsy in pop culture. 

I shared with my colleague that I was writing about an episode of HBO's and Jonathan Ames' Bored to Death where, in a effort to seduce a writer, Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman), a Saint Ann's High School student pretended to be a NYU student.  

After fleeing the half-nude nymphet and her distraught father through a bathroom window, Jonathan realized that he left the copy of a movie script behind. 


When Jonathan went to his best friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis) for advice on how to get the script back, Ray advised Jonathan to simply call the dad and ask for the script, which was reasonable advice, but Jason reminded Ray:
"She’s only 16-years-old!"
"You didn’t sodomize her did you?" Ray asked.
"No.” Jonathan responded.
"That’s too bad." Ray said despondently.
When I shared with my colleague, who was a fan of the show, that I was shocked by Ray's question and response, she said that she didn't remember that scene. 

I suspected that she was lying, and Baldwin's quote raises my suspicion. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Spare Time Novelist

Cosmopolitan's op-ed editor Jessica Goodman shared "How I wrote a novel in my spare time: What, like it’s hard? (Uh, yeah. It’s really, really hard.)"

Despite working "40+ hours a week (in the middle of a pandemic, no less)", Goodman was able to publish the YA thriller They Wish They Were Us, which I first read about in Arts|Fiction section of The Pennsylvania Gazette (Sep|Oct 2020). (I'm currently on page 168 of 327.)

How did Goodman do it? She shared:

First, I found my motivation

After complaining to a friend, she got real with me: “Do something or stop whining!” She was right. I’d never write the book if I never made the time to, well, write the book. Seems obvious, but I needed to hear it!

Then I made a plan

I started writing every morning before work from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and in four-hour chunks on Saturdays and Sundays.

Honestly, it’s my expert-level snack game that helped get me through (Wheat Thins + Nutella = fuel + happiness).

I learned to deal with rejection

I started pitching my draft to literary agents in February 2018—and got rejected more than 15 times.

I found my rhythm

We sold the book in late 2018, but I didn’t slow down then—or when my book hit shelves. Now my early-morning hours are dedicated to my next novel, and I’m still juggling that with my day job.

Thus, after Goodman was told “Do something or stop whining!”, she began writing from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM - Monday through Friday and in four-hour chunks on the weekends. After she completed the novel, she persisted, despite 15 rejections, until she found an agent. And almost immediately,  she began working on her next novel. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Writers Are Most Alive While Alone (i.e., Introverts)?

@introvertdoodles

James Baldwin wrote in the essay “The Creative Process” (1962):
The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.

Per The Paris Review's "The Art of Fiction No. 151, Martin Amis said, 

"The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when he is alone."

And we related previously that Jenn Granneman shared on the blog Introvert, Dear that John Green, The Fault in Our Stars author, opined: 

“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” 

Of course, there are a number of writers who are not introverts (e.g., Hemingway); thus, like Baldwin advised, they must actively cultivate the state of being alone to attain the state of feeling alive.



Monday, April 19, 2021

Fill Empty Pools with Words


Reportedly, Bethany Ball, the author of What to Do About the Solomons, said:
Writing a book is like having an empty pool in the yard and every day going out and throwing in a cup of water to fill it.

This is a good analogy - even for New Yorkers. Although, some writers may throw in more than a cup per day, one of the keys to writing, after picking a topic that one is passionate about, is consistency. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Writer's Ability of Extended Concentration

Reportedly, Joyce Carol Oates opined

First requirement of the writer is the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Second, more urgent requirement, the wish to do so.

However, it appears that Oates may have put the cart [i.e., the ability to concentrate] before the horse [i.e., the wish to do so]. Does Patricia Highsmith and Malcolm Gladwell have better writing advice?

Patricia Highsmith, the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, related that self-amusement is needed to concentrate for long enough to write a book:

The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself. If you can amuse yourself for the length of time it takes to write a book, the publishers and the readers can and will come later [إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ].

And Malcolm Gladwell advised that a writer has to possess a desire to tell a story:

You need to have a desire to tell the story. You need to be personally invested in some way. 

Thus, it appears that if a writer is self-amused and\or is invested in his or her writing, then he or she will (organically) have the ability to concentrate consistently and for long enough to write a book(s).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Write to Entertain or to Inspire?


It's not uncommon to hear writers (e.g., Nabokov) say that they don't aspire to inspire the minds and lives of their readers. In other words, they solely write to entertain. 


However, per Allegra Goodman - the winner of the Whiting Award for Fiction (1991):

A true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work.

Maybe the solution is to write to inspire by entertaining the readers. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Write About What Fascinates and Electrifies

Per AdvicetoWriters, Warm Bodies author Isaac Marion advised:

Please don't write to appease others. Not the market, not a demographic, and not your family. Write the story that fascinates you in the way that electrifies you, and ignore everything else.

And I would add that writing about topics that "fascinates" and "electrifies" the writer will make writing, not easy, but a lot easier. 

And this advise extends beyond writing. For example, if you workout, not because you want to live a long and healthy life, but you hit the gym three times per week to be attractive to the opposite sex, you may come off as needy, which is not attractive. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

I Love [What I'm] Writing [About]



S.C. Gwynne, the author of Empire of the Summer Moon - New York Times Bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, was asked by AdviceToWriters

What’s your advice to new writers? 

Gwynne replied: 

[...] I would say the most important thing is to discover what you want to write about.

And I would agree with Gwynne, because writers don’t particularly love writing, but they love what they write about.


Sunday, February 7, 2021

THE PARIS REVIEW'S "Eat Your Words" | Food in Literature

 


The Paris Review's website has an Eat Your Words category that's described as: "Cooking up recipes drawn from the works of various writers", which reminded me that I'm not the only writer who enjoys reading about food in novels. How about an example from Nabokov's Ada:

The classical beauty of clover honey, smooth, pale, translucent, freely flowing from the spoon and soaking my love's bread and butter in liquid brass. The crumb steeped in nectar.