February 28, 2012
I received another rejection today for my young adult novel, and I have to say it’s my best rejection yet. Mary Kole’s response to my manuscript was both kind and encouraging — proof that agents are not heartless beasts searching for any reason to trash your work. (I never believed this, by the way, but I think it bears mentioning that an agent or editor can reject your work AND be a good person, just as your work can be rejected AND be good work.) So, I was honestly more encouraged than dismayed at this most recent rejection, except that my work seemed to fit particularly well with what she was looking for. But, if she didn’t love it she didn’t love it, and now we can move on. Next up, March! (I haven’t yet decided what my March submission will be, but I have a long list of possibilities and it’s just a matter of zeroing on one). It helps to know that every time I submit something, I’m getting closer.
Today was my first session of the senior college class I’m teaching this year. I always start my writing classes with a few tools for busting writer’s block. Today, I had my students write without letting their pen stop for ten minutes; then followed that up with mapping; and then did free writing inspired by my collection of bizarre postcards. About a third of my students are repeats from last year, so I’m trying to vary things a little while still giving a solid foundation to the new students (and it’s nice to know those students who did return found the class worth taking again — many of them spoke highly of it during our introductions). At the end of the session, one of the new students who seemed unsure about what exactly he would write came up to me and said, “I never knew writing could be so fun!”
And that’s really step one toward any successful writing journey.
April 3, 2009
Despite my complaints, I’ve managed to write a poem a day for the first two days of N aPoWriMo. If you’re not so comfortable with outright cheating, here are a few ideas to help you break through writer’s block.
- Use magnetic poetry. Magnetic poetry actually takes me a lot longer to write than regular poetry, but it’s “easier” because the words are already there for me. If you don’t have any magnetic poetry, what better time than National Poetry Month to get some?
- Use fortune cookies, Dove chocolates, or other items with “words of wisdom.” My favorite way to write a fortune cookie poem is to line up the fortune either top to bottom or bottom to top, and then use each word to start that line of the poem. Others write the fortune at the top and write a poem about that idea.
- Write whatever you feel like writing . . . in stanzas. This is how I’ve been getting through my first two poems. At bedtime, I write in my journal as usual . . . except I’ve been using metaphors rather than plain speech, and I’ve been writing in stanzas. Just writing in stanzas seems to unlock the hidden poetry potential in a subject.
- Imitate a favorite (or not-so-favorite) poet’s style. To do this copy down a poem by this poet. Then, replace every one of her words with one of yours. Where she uses a verb, you use a verb; where she uses a noun, you use a noun. To be safe, you can use poems in the public domain, many of which are available here.
- Make it a point to experiment with different poetry forms such as the pantoum, the haiku, the limerick, or the sonnet. (You can find lots of poetry types here).
I will try to post example poems following each of these 5 tips during April.
January 12, 2009
Last week, my friend Jenny wrote about the importance of writing spaces — how objects from her past held her back, and how a thorough clean and “upgrade” of her space brought her face to face with a slight fear of success. (My interpretation; you can draw your own conclusions by reading the post here.)
I read A Room of One’s Own when I was in college, and I don’t remember whether Virginia Woolf’s thesis of women having less success as writers because they had less private space resonated with me then, but it definitely resonates with me now. It resonates with me so much that I used it when I was applying to live in the artists’ coop where I live–insisting that I needed a room of my own (I was renting a room from a rather rambunctious family at the time) to properly do my art.
Now that I’m “stranded” at my parents’ place longer than expected due to the accident, I’m finding it nearly impossible to write. In fact, I always find it nearly impossible to write when I’m here, but usually I just let it slide because I’m not usually here this long. It’s hard for me to believe that my life as a writer actually started here. But maybe that’s because back when I lived here, I did have my own space. Now, my options are my laptop on the dining room table, or the rather slow and virus-y desktop in my parents’ bedroom. Both places are fine for the short blurbs I write for work and for these blog posts. But they’re daunting places to sink into writing something as serious as fiction.
Still, I know I have to get past this roadblock, because I’m trying to write a short story and I’m on a deadline. But here’s the guilty truth: even though the list I posted last Friday looked so shiny, writing the start to my short story was like pulling teeth; I wrote just over 500 words in an hour (not a rate I’m impressed with), and I haven’t returned to it yet, despite firm resolve every night to pick it up again “in the morning.”
So while writing spaces are important — and while, by golly, we certainly deserve them! — we can’t let them become just one more excuse not to write. Because the truth is, Jane Austen wrote novels in her family’s sitting room. I wrote my first novel in my parents’ bedroom, where I’m writing this now. I’ve moved my desk around several times in my current apartment, and I’ve written novels on it in every place. I wrote novels huddled under my room-mate’s bunk in college; I even rewrote one novel and started another while rooming with the rambunctious family. I can certainly manage a short story at the dining room table.
December 22, 2008
It’s just a few days before Christmas, and I’ve discovered a new writing toy. Check out this nifty prompt generator for those days when inspiration just won’t come. I don’t love it quite as much as write or die, but it’s still a good tool to have at your disposal for the dreaded writers’ block.
December 18, 2008
So I did have to forgo my writers’ group tonight (they’re meeting and eating as I speak, the agony!), but in its place I got a long drive, which is one of God’s gifts to writers, along with
3) walks in the woods
4) mindless jobs, like shoving brochures into newspapers all night
5) sleepless nights
6) sports you hate (OK, maybe that one’s not quite so universal — but replace it with ‘job you hate,’ ‘class you hate,’ and you’ll get the idea)
I think everything I’ve ever written has been originally conceived during one of those seven activities. Before I could drive, I got most of my ideas riding the school bus. A man in my writers group (that is meeting without me, alas!) says that when he’s got writers’ block, he goes for a walk, and by the time he gets back home, he knows what will happen. I write first thing in the morning, and if I feel convinced my brain is too empty for it, I take a shower. By the time I’m done, I’ve got a starting point.
There’s actually a science to this moving body + empty mind = creativity, but I’m having trouble articulating it here in my parents’ noisy kitchen. I’ll get back to you on it after a shower.