Thursday, December 30, 2021

For Writers, Reading is Working

We've done a number of posts about the importance of reading for writers. For example, we shared that Lisa See advised:

Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.

Consequently, while reading, even for pleasure, a writer is (organically) working on (improving) his or her writing. 

Thus, Jennifer Weiner, the New York Times bestselling author of That Summer, reportedly fittingly advised:

If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Does It Pay [Well] to Be a Writer?

Concepción de León posted on the New York Times "Does It Pay [Well] to Be a Writer?" (Jan. 5, 2019). In the piece, de León wrote that in 2017 the median income for full-time writers was $20,300 and for part-time writers it was $6,080:

Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.

According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

And de León shared that, unlike in the 1900s, today's writers need to supplement their incomes (e.g., teaching):

“In the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle-class living just writing,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, citing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever. Now, most writers need to supplement their income with speaking engagements or teaching. Strictly book-related income — which is to say royalties and advances — are also down, almost 30 percent for full-time writers since 2009.

de León attributed the decline in writer's pay to a decline in freelance journalism and "Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market":

Writing for magazines and newspapers was once a solid source of additional income for professional writers, but the decline in freelance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors to write for pay. Many print publications, which offered the highest rate, have been shuttered altogether.

The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market, Ms. Rasenberger said. The conglomerate charges commission and marketing fees to publishers that Ms. Rasenberger said essentially prevent their books from being buried on the site. Small and independent publishers, which have fewer resources and bargaining power, have been particularly hard hit. Book publishing companies are passing these losses along to writers in the form of lower royalties and advances, and authors also lose out on income from books resold on the platform. 

de León reminded me of Jerry Saltz's New York article "How to be an Artist [e.g., Writer]" where Saltz wrote that an artist slash writer should not feel bad about the likelihood of being poor, because one should not write to be rich: 

Lesson 20: Accept That You Will Likely Be Poor

Even though all we see of the art world these days are astronomical prices, glitz, glamour, and junkie-like behavior, remember that only one percent of one percent of one percent of all artists become rich off their artwork. You may feel overlooked, underrecognized, and underpaid. Too bad. Stop feeling sorry for yourself; that’s not why you’re doing this.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Writer or ReWriter?

Should writers refer to themselves rewriters? I ask because writers often spend more time rewriting than writing.

John Winslow Irving, the author of The World According to Garp, reported shared:

Rewriting is surely three-quarters of my life as a writer, and it may be the part of my life as a writer that I value the most or have the greatest confidence in. Fine tuning, fine tuning, fine tuning—I love it. 

In the end, rewriting is writing; thus, writer is a fitting (job) description. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Writing Style & Design

Terry Pratchett, the English novelist, who may be best known for his Discworld series (41 books!), reportedly, in terms of writing drafts, advised:
First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11.

Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape.

Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair.

In other words, the first draft is a brain dump, the second draft is a deletion of the frivolous, and the third draft is an addition of style slash design.  

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Three Vital Matters for Writers: Journaling, Reading & Writing

Madeleine L'Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time, listed three vital matters for writers: journaling, reading and writing

First, if you want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you. Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair and what you think is unfair. 

And second, you need to read. You can't be a writer if you're not a reader. It's the great writers who teach us how to write. 

The third thing is to write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it's for only half an hour — write, write, write 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Three (3) Reason to Write

Based on previous posts, I'm listing three (positive) reasons to become a writer. (Of course, there are more, but let's stick to three - for now.)

1. Write to inspire by spreading (positive ideas)

Allegra Goodman, the winner of the Whiting Award for Fiction (1991), saidA true writer opens people's ears and eyes, not merely playing to the public, but changing minds and lives. This is sacred work.

2. Write to avoid ennui and depression 

It has been reported that Michael Crichton, the famous author of works like Jurassic Park, advised: “Working inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you are interested, keep working. If you are bored, keep working.”

3. Write to increase tenacity slash self-control 

We learned from Danielle Steel's Glamour profile (MAY 9, 2019): The author has written 179 books [...] To pull it off, she works 20 to 22 hours a day. (A couple times a month, when she feels the crunch, she spends a full 24 hours at her desk.)

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Write to Spread Ideas & Messages

lvcandy\Getty Images

Hugh Prather wrote in Notes to Myself

“If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire is not to write”

I disagree with Prather, because like Seth Godin related, the desire should be: "[...] marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority [via writing]."

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

Writing is difficult, and one will have a difficult time finishing a book if he or she isn't energized by the idea of spreading and delivering a dear message.

It's similar to reading a non-engaging book, because it's difficult to read a book that isn't delivering anything - not even entertainment.

For example, if you don't find stories about Brooklyn based conflicted writers engaging, you're going to find it difficult write about them and\or read and\or watch The Tenants.

And any writer, like Nabokov, who relates that he or she doesn't write to spread an idea is (possibly) a... 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Are Writers Narcissistic or Altruistic?

Mary Karr, the award-winning poet and New York Times best-selling memoirist, reportedly opined:

All writers are narcissistic [...] No one can sit in a room by themselves for 12 hours a day thinking about what they're thinking and not be a little more self-focused than the normal person. You're definitely on the far end of the [racist] bell curve. 

And per Poetry School, Sylvia Plath said: 

I think writers are the most narcissistic people. 

But defines narcissism [ nahr-suh-siz-em ] as an: "inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity."

And this is how the Mayo Clinic defines narcissistic personality disorder:

Narcissistic personality disorder [...] is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. 

Thus, I would disagree with Karr's and Plath's assessment that (most) writers are narcissistic. I don't think that (most) writers possess "excessive self-love" and have "a deep need for excessive attention". 

On the contrary, I would opine that (most) writers are altruist, because they "sit in a room by themselves for 12 hours a day", because they desperately want to share their art (with the world). 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

"American Horror Story: Double Feature": Write Under the Influence

On American Horror Story: Double Feature (s10e04), Belle Noir is on a self-financed book tour for her self-published romance novel, Martha’s Cherry Tree, which is a "[...] racy retelling of the
George and Martha Washington story." 

In chapter 17, Martha discovers that George has been in one of the maid's bed, "little innocent" Penelope, but instead of confronting George, Martha seduces the maid by: "[...] kissing her hairy warmth between the young maid's legs."

(Maid [ \ ˈmād \ ] noun : an unmarried girl or woman especially when young : VIRGIN. [Merriam-Webster])

Although, Noir was informed, "You're a good writer," there were (only) four bookworms at the reading, and Noir (only) sold one book. Consequently, she took a pill that would super enhance the quality and speed of her writing; thus, Noir wrote a 400 plus page novel in one night, but the pill had horrible side-effects. 

If a writer doesn't want to end up like Noir or, say F. Scott Fitzgerald, we advise writers to, like Voltaire, write of the influence of coffee but, unlike Balzac, not too much. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

BIG BROTHER (2021): An Case of Joy [Versus Misery]

In the above GIF from Big Brother (2021), Derek F., Azah, Tiffany, and Hannah  are experiencing extreme joy; so much so, that their bodies, literally, couldn't bear the weight of the emotion. 

Derek F. braces himself on the designer sink. Azah and Tiffany drop to their knees. And Hannah looks quickly for a place to sit before plopping onto the bed. 

But interestingly, the body can react to joy and misery in similar ways. It's not uncommon to see people react to, say, the news of a deceased loved one by plopping, bracing and/or dropping to their knees. The main difference is that misery is often coupled with crying while joy and laughter are often couples. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Write to Escape Boredom\Depression

It has been reported that Michael Crichton, the famous author of works like Jurassic Park, advised: 

“Working inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you are interested, keep working. If you are bored, keep working.”

And I would add that being bored can lead to being depressed, but like Crichton (indirectly) advised, a key to avoiding depression is to work slash write. 

It may be counterintuitive, but if you don't feel like writing, force yourself to write, because creating will often propel one out of boredom and depression into inspiration. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Fake Pandemic Introvert vs. Real Introvert

Dahlia Gallin Ramirez's "Fake Pandemic Introvert vs. Real Introvert" New Yorker piece (July 21, 2021) shed light on the rise of fake (pandemic) introverts. 

In one of Ramirez's examples, a fake introvert shared: "Going to read all the works of Tolstoy."

The post was a "dead giveaway", because real introverts typically don't overshare on social media. 

In the case of the introvert, the potential social media post would have been considered bragging as Tolstoy's oeuvre would have already been read - in Russian. And instead of posting, the real introvert, a polyglot, would have been busy translating Tolstoy's The Cossacks into Aramaic.

Last, we'll re-share a Martin Amis quote: "The first thing that distinguishes a writer is that he is most alive when he is alone." (The Paris Review "The Art of Fiction No. 151)

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Writer's TO DO List


Cartoon by Will McPhail

Of course, we would advise one to complete this (writer's) To Do list in the opposite order. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Summertime Writing for Teacher\Professors

Image Source: Sandy Cangelosi

One of the best times to write for teachers slash professors is during summer vacation but like Will Self, the English author, I would advise educators to do a substantial brain dump (e.g., ≈ 200 pages) before doing any editing. 

Self advised in The Guardian's "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" (Fri 19 Feb 2010):

“Don't look back until you've written an entire draft, just begin each [summer] day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in ... the edit [in the fall]."

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Alex Hay's PAPER BAG | Art in Life

Paper Bag, 1968 | fiberglass, epoxy, paint, and paper

We went to the Alex Hay's Past Work and Cats, 1963-2020 exhibit at the Peter Freeman, Inc gallery in Soho, and Hay's enthralling fiberglass Paper Bags reminded me of our previous post where we shared that Sylvia Plath reportedly related:

Everything in life is writable about [i.e., art] if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. 

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)?


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. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Writer's Notebook

John Irving, the author of The Cider House Rules, reportedly said:
It doesn't really matter who said it, it's so obviously true: Before you can write anything, you have to notice something.
And it's advised to write down what you have noticed. 

Horne, Theroux, Boyt and Chaudhuri posted on The Guardian ‘Messy attics of the mind’: what’s inside a writer’s notebook?" (6 April 2018). In the post, they related the following about Henry James:
Jotting things down in a notebook is one way writers shape and discipline the unpredictable flow of ideas. For Henry James, in 1881, just after publishing The Portrait of a Lady, it was already a matter of regret that he had “lost too much by losing, or rather by not having acquired, the note-taking habit”. But he would make up for it over the next 30 years by filling innumerable pages with his records of story ideas, anecdotes from dinner parties and newspapers, things noticed on his travels. He developed personal rituals around the process of expressing his thoughts, through the pressure of pen on paper.
Thus, keep a cahier handy to jot down fiction that you may (creatively) turn into non-fiction. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"Bob with Books"


Source: Nancy Holt Bob with Books: Roof of 799 Greenwich St., New York, 1971

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sleep Less | Write More

Mary Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, reportedly advised:
If anybody has a job and starts at 9, there's no reason why they can't get up at 4:30 or five and write for a couple of hours, and give their employers their second-best effort of the day—which is what I did.

However, if you're like me, a night owl, I would recommend, after a twenty minute power nap, staying up a couple of hours after one's bedtime to write. 

Like Mary Oliver alluded to, it's difficult to find time to write if you work and sleep for a a combined 16 hours per day.