Obstacle #7: Emotions

Alright writers, let’s face it: sometimes, even when we manage to write something and be decently content with it, no one else will ever read it. Why?

Can’t– let– anyone— read this– EVER!!

So yes, today’s topic is emotions (aka any feelings that tell you your writing isn’t worthy, and you should just stop deluding yourself because clearly you’re not meant to be a writer).

Join me in this journey to tell those feelings to kindly turn around, sit down and shut up.

Whether you’re afraid, embarrassed or your ego just can’t take criticism, we humans are great at feeling things we don’t always need. Being a writer is, in part, bearing bits of your soul not even on your hands or fingers, but on (and nowadays in) foreign objects, completely removed from you and your reach. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for good (much like the internet– uh oh).

I’ve heard that writers are brave, because most of them expose themselves and their vulnerabilities. Isn’t that true? It took me a while to be ok with sending my writing to people, but I was ok, because I didn’t see them reading it first hand. I think once or twice a few people were reading above my shoulder, on the computer, and that– was quite unpleasant. I don’t know what the difference is, maybe that the sent version is more a polished product than whatever I might have on the screen at the moment.

Regardless, gaining courage to divulge your precious writing takes time and perseverance (which admittedly I lack too often, unfortunately). Obviously I’m still working on it, but let’s face it, a part of me is still afraid. Why else would I publish under a pseudonym? Half of me tells me it’s to protect whatever ounce of privacy I can, while I can. The other half is testing the waters, thinking that when the time’s right, I’ll probably jump in and publish under my real name; downsides be damned. (Step 0.5: seriously, write. Step 1: publish something.)

Ultimately, are emotions good or bad for your writing? … Well, they’re a vital part, aren’t they? Without them we probably wouldn’t have any inspiration or feelings to convey through our writing, so they’re not something we can just write off or easily cut out. Our emotions make us who we are, which defines your individuality. Sure everyone feels anger and pain, but the degree or angle of pain depends on all your previous pain experiences. Guess what? No one else but you had those.

“But if everyone’s special, then no one is!” you say. Sure, whatever, suit yourself. Just know that we are, and so are you.

All that to say that while emotions impede writing sometimes (at least mine), they come in handy so often it’s probably 10 fold to the power of 10. How can we write a believable character if we don’t have even a miniscule amount of what emotion they’re feeling? Certainly our creativity does the rest, but we need some kind of base, most likely inspired from our own experience(s).

Feedback/News

And that’s a wrap. I think I’m currently out of ideas for this Obstacle Series, so unless you have things you want me to attempt to tackle, I might just have to start a (writing based) Q&A… So please don’t be shy and throw topics at me! 😉

Advertisements

What, a makeover?

I know it’s barely been one month and some since I started this blog, but… I cracked, I went for another theme.

It’s less colorful, but I like the layout and the fonts. I’ll probably change themes quite a few times because until I’m sure I found ‘the one’ I probably won’t be satisfied with just one permanent theme.

What, that sounds a lot like my life? Well, yep. I’m so punny! No not really, I’m procrastinating again (darn it!), because after finally downloading my Business English TEFL test, I really don’t want to take it… Ahh, only 23 hours left to complete it!

I’m off, enjoy the rest of your weekend (you lucky–!) while I… don’t…

Obstacle #6: Writer’s block

I guess I did something right in my last post (Revisions), a fair few of you seemed to share similar feelings. 🙂 (Is this ‘like’ similar to the Facebook ‘like?’ Bring on the confusion!)

Today’s topic: the ultimate writer’s bane! Writer’s block. (Cue dreadful music.)

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t require an explanation, unless the assumption that eeeveryone experienced it at some point or another is wrong. Which it could be… If you’re one of the lucky few, do give the rest of us some tips!

I’ve read and heard plenty about it from famous writers to strangers and friends. All in all, we all get stuck for different, endless reasons at different points in our (writing) lives. In no particular order, these include:

  • bad mood
  • lack of inspiration
  • not enough time (aka too busy/tired/etc)
  • any previously mentioned Obstacle
  • obstructions by things outside of your control
  • procrastination
  • etc, etc, etc

The answer to unblock yourself, if you’ve guessed it, depends on you. I’d like to say there’s no one cure for everyone, but there is one common practice to aim for: let your mind wander! And as many reasons as we have to lock down our minds and creative juices, there are even more to unlock them.

Maybe take a day off from work, read or re-read a book, have a day in and laze around in your PJs eating junk food watching movies or TV shows all day, go take a hike (literally, not– you know), go somewhere you haven’t been and sit there for hours people watching. There are a lot of things you can do, anything that’ll let you think or ponder freely should do the trick. It might take a few tries to find your niche, or if you’re like me it probably depends on your mood that day. (Helpful, right?)

I would guess a good number of you already carry a small notepad or notebook for notes, which definitely helps. I’ve found myself on public transportation when inspiration roundhouses me in the gut. Or you know, the inevitable time you’re trying to fall asleep. Better write those down, they don’t usually come back… (True story, I lost a perfect ending this way before!)

Sure you can force yourself to write a paragraph or for 15 mn every day, or adhere to a certain time (5 to 5:30) every day to get some writing in, but I can’t do that. I find myself wishing for a routine, but if I had one, I’d grow terribly bored… (flashback to agonizingly boring high school schedule) But if you love routines, well hey, set it up and who knows, miracles do happen! Don’t give up too early though, apparently it takes about 4 weeks for new habits to set in and feel normal. Good luck!  頑張れ!

Work in progress update

As for me, I’ll just say that after having a brilliant idea to consolidate two separate short stories into one – for a series – I was stuck. I couldn’t even start writing anything but the setting and even that went through a re-write soon after. It’s been weeks, or uh– a few months to be honest, but just earlier this week I got around to writing a tidbit, and now it seems the juices won’t stop flowing!

Ideas after ideas, from seemingly totally unrelated things that just click and tada~, it’ll fit in there somewhere. I amaze myself sometimes, especially with genius strokes (not to be too modest :P). So I hope I’ll get a few pages written and/or re-written for that first chapter, and maybe soon I’ll be able to post a brief summary of the first book! Stay tuned. 😀

Obstacle #5: Revisions

Revisions revisions, bane of my addiction… Maybe I should’ve kept all the sentences with which I wanted to start this post, so we can all see how many times we start somewhere only to end with something completely different.

We meet again, nice of you to read by! (See what I did there? … Of course you see, you’re still reading, silly me.)

Today’s topic: revisions, editing, re-writing… Whatever you want to call it, it’s that thing where you re-read your stuff and modify it.

So, you’ve finally beat up writer’s block, came up with some decent characters and you’re finally following the plot line of your heart/crazy mind. Good job! Now… I don’t know if there is a ‘correct’ way of revising/editing (let’s go with no), and how you do it depends entirely on you. Surprise!

Some people say they save a different draft for each read-through/revision, and while I can say “awesome” to them, I’d be pulling out my hair with that many files in my folders. In the (recently rare-ish) moments when I’m writing, I’ll just write until I hit a wall so I’ll stop for a bit, scroll up and read from the beginning, all in one sitting! (If you write by hand, you’ve got my condolences, or is it congratulations? …) And sometimes that destroys the wall I’d just hit earlier and I can go on writing. Stop and repeat.

I guess the downside of not saving different drafts for each read-through (which, I do a lot), is that if I change something, I can’t change it back. So in a way, I write with the “it can only get better!” mindset. (Mental note: Remind yourself more often… especially when inspiration is lacking.)

But like everything else in writing, I think how you do revisions depends on your style of writing and dealing with your writing. I like to write, read and edit, but some of you probably prefer writing nonstop for a while, letting it rest before jumping back in the next day for a read-through and revising session. However you do it is fine, as long as your writing improves along the way. 🙂

I already mentioned I’ll send stuff to my friends and ask for feedback, and that feedback makes me more aware of different issues. The best part? Every friend points something different out! (Unless I write something terrible and they all find the most terrible piece to work on first.)

But let’s not lie, we all have that little voice (or voices?) in the back of our heads nagging, bragging, screaming, snorting and generally being an annoying distraction from writing uninterrupted and freely. That voice makes me stop, stare, ponder and wonder and ponder again: how should I phrase this, what word works best but what if, if, if… So to that voice inside my head, I say: BE QUIET!

I need to learn to silence that endless self-criticism voice in many aspects, but especially when writing a first draft. There’ll be plenty of that down the road and not just from myself. So be damned the “this could sound better”s and “what if”s, I’ll revise, edit and tear through my writing as I please, when I please for as long as I please!

Fyi: I don’t know if you could tell, my revising of this post diminished towards the end… Oh well!

Obstacle #4: Conventions

Happy Friday! (For me at least…) And look, a month’s worth of Obstacle posts! I guess that means it is a series, and I already have next week’s topic! Funny how I keep inspiring myself by writing these out…

Today’s topic: conventions, aka ‘rules’ and norms of writing.

I was talking with a friend (hi!) about writing, and her thoughts about conventions really made me heave a sigh of relief. Although she might feel a little more strongly than I do about conventions and rules of writing, we both agree that they are stupid. (Ok maybe aside from when you’re just starting and need a few pointers until you get the gist and find your own voice/style/etc.)

But then I find things like this: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso

And then I’m really confused. I mean, he has a point, but I might just apply that to the language rather than the writing. Writing is so subjective, how can anything be “normal?” I mean, in general if people say I’m weird (which I am and damn proud of it, and come on, show me someone who isn’t), I usually answer with a variant of “normal is boring, but what does ‘normal’ even mean?”

Sure there are rules about writing, for essays you need an introduction, a thesis, a concluding sentence, blahblahblah. And that’s fine, it’s academic writing. There are probably some rules I don’t know about for other forms of writing I’m not really familiar with, and I guess that’s ok?

But having rules about writing fiction, or creating characters, or developing a story, or everything and anything in between seems stupid. Isn’t the point of writing fiction to create your own world, your own story? And if no one’s normal, how can the writing rules expect a one-size-fits-all format?

Maybe it’s just me trying to justify my non-adherence to rules or ways of writing, but I do wonder how many writers out there feel the same way. I don’t feel like a “normal” writer based on things I’ve read, courses I’ve taken, or from talking to other writers. But is there such a thing as a “normal” writer? I say not really.

Writing in its entirety comes from all our experiences (good and sometimes much less so) which directly affect our view of our environment, friends, the world not to mention ourselves. And we all know nobody has the same experiences. We could watch the new Game of Thrones episode at the same time, in the same environment, but our experience of it would still be vastly different. Those differences make our writing stand apart, they make us stand apart. It’s a good thing we don’t experience the exact same thing, how crazy boring would that be if everyone was expected to get the same reaction? Might as well take creativity out the back and shoot it dead.

Anyway, I’m rambling, but– my thoughts in a nutshell about conventions for writing (don’t even get me started about other ones).

So tell me! Do you stick to conventions/rules/established way of doings thing or do you dare to try new things? Would you attempt to balance both, and if so 50-50, 70-30, or what? Or are you the epitome of a daredevil and take risks even at the sound of everyone screaming at you to stop?