#writingcraft: Was It Too Simple?

As the post of the first week of the month, I’m ascribing the Twitter hashtag, #writingcraft from here on out.

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Was It Too Simple?
image by Gordon Wrigley
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tolomea/

Two months I wrote about the possibility of getting worse at the craft of writing. I thought my solution was to take a basic grammar class. I do believe I deluded myself. The course started out with the elementary aspects. I thought it would rush along to topics of a naive writer, like what words are more appropriate than others in certain content. Contradictory to my assumption, it stayed focused on the fundamentals. It wasn’t at all what I was looking for. Maybe I just need to open my style book more often.

After discovering the frivolousness of that course, I took another look at some of the unfinished stories I had tucked away in my cloud. My presumption about these works was I was overwhelmed about how to proceed with each of these stories. I thought I had so many ways to go I had gotten totally perturbed and rattled.

Now, my hunch is swaying me completely the other way and even onto a different path. Maybe what I was experiencing wasn’t overpowering dumbfoundedness from complexity. Maybe it was aversion for the stories themselves to the point where my reluctance to go on with them was what was overwhelming. Concededly, there were a few twists in these stories, however, they didn’t take the main character off the beaten track. It was more of a case of move that branch or throw that rock out of the way. Boring stuff.

Sometimes understanding why I have an emotion is more baffling than the emotion itself. I’ve come to know the feeling of being overwhelmed quite well. My thoughts become muddled. I start having problems deciding about unrelated issues as well as the ones pertaining to the matter at hand. I know I must just stop what I’m doing and try to make my mind a blank. I must step away from whatever it is that is causing the feeling of spoil to surge through my veins.

I can’t even peek at those stories anymore, at least for a long while. I went back to reading my classics, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens. I was hoping to get inspiration from these two authors. Believe it or not, it is helping.

A few of weeks ago, February ninth, I posted an article about changing what or where I write. It was after writing that post I went to Amazon to find some more classics to read. So many of they are completely free there if I get the eBook version. There isn’t any shipping or handling fee either.

Reading about history in a fictitious form has me brainstorming about an idea for a story where the setting is in the past someplace. The concepts I’m coming up with are arduous and elaborate for the characters. Well, so far they seem to be, anyway. They’re more mixed than anything I’ve written before.

Who would have envisioned me going for something more entangled, more involved? Certainly not me. Yet, it just seems to be the appropriate path to take right now.

Have you ever gone for the path covered with debris, sharp turns, and detours?

“Good writing is good writing. In many ways, it’s the audience and their expectations that define a genre. A reader of literary fiction expects the writing to illuminate the human condition, some aspect of our world and our role in it. A reader of genre fiction likes that, too, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story.” ― Rosemary Clement-Moore

 

Assessing Time

Assessing Time
Image provided by skyler817
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sky817/

Back when I was in high school writing short [very short] stories and poems in a spiral notebook while sitting on my bed Indian style, I wrote until I had nothing more to say or until I heard my mom yell for help in fixing the evening meal. I didn’t give one inkling of thought to how many minutes equaled a “good session of writing”.

Most of my poems were free verse with three parts to them. Sometimes I’d write at feverish speed as if I might forget the complete thought before I got it all down. There were instances when this only took five minutes at the most, and then I was done. I’d open the bedroom door and go spend time watching TV with my brother or go offer a hand in the kitchen.

Other times, I’d painfully struggle to get those poems out of me. I’d have to write the first stanza, stare out the window for I don’t know how long, and try for the next one. Those poems could take me days to write.

The short stories were done much the same way, though I always had some idea of where I was going with them. I knew where I wanted to start and end.

No place during those years did I worry about what constituted a “good writing session”. I just wrote. When did all of this change?

Life got busy and complicated until I was in my late forties. At that time, I decided to take a correspondence course through Writer’s Digest. The class was based on the assumption that I knew grammar up past the level of high school, which I did. It was designed to get the creative juices flowing and teach me how to submit my work.

Within all those pages and lessons, there wasn’t one indication, tip, or hint about how long a “good writing session” should be. I can only surmise that I should write until I was done for that day, that morning, that afternoon, or whatever.

It was in 2013 that I felt the urge to get serious about writing again and hopefully stick with it for more that three or four years. I subscribed to a hoard of blogs owned by writers in the hopes of learning the finer points of the craft/art.

Most of the blogs I followed talked about the writing process, writer’s block, and gave prompts and exercises. A little over a year ago though, I’ve seen a shift in a few of these blogs. I’m not sure I agree with the switch. I’ve come to know these bloggers and think of them as reliable for information, yet I’m reading something, not every time of course, about what establishes a “good writing session”.

Although good habits are bound to make life easier in many ways, when it comes to most activity requiring creativity, some of these habits can be too restrictive, making it almost, if not completely, impossible for a person to be imaginative or resourceful.

I tried taking the advice I was reading, but found myself getting stuck as if I was thrown into a bin of glue. I’d sit myself down at the time I had deemed to start my session and begin to write. Within twenty minutes at the most, I’d find my muse refusing to cooperate and flying off into space. The damn thing wouldn’t come back until the following day, and that was only if I was lucky.

Should writers have a strict schedule? Maybe some need it. Maybe some were raised with rigorous rules set down by their parents and have kept up the habit. However, I don’t see how this should apply to every writer. Many writers are the free spirit type. They may not start a project until three in the morning, work frantically for a half hour, and go to bed and sleep until noon. This does not mean they’re lazy. It means they have an unconventional life style.

I consider the above example a little extreme, but I’m certain some writers work that way. I was brought up with rigid rules: set meal times, set bedtimes, laundry day, meatloaf on Tuesdays, and so forth. I only make meat loaf about four times each year now so I think I’ve moved away from the do-or-die schedule.

Most days I want to write as soon as the house is quiet in the morning. I sleep regular hours when I can sleep so morning is when I have the most brain energy. However, while husband watches sports channels in the evening, I’m known to sit my butt in the chair to pound on the keys furiously for a couple of hours. Still, I don’t have a set number of minutes I gauge.

I write until I feel done.

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How do you feel about writing sessions?

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” ― Red Haircrow

 

Defying Uncertainty and Torment

Defying Uncertainty and Torment
Image provided by Parth Joshi
https://www.flickr.com/photos/parthjoshi/

What is it about the discipline of writing that keeps me enthralled day after day?

There aren’t any quick perks to the grueling work of coming up with a storyline people will find compelling. Though I love how words can come together to create astounding sentences, the occasions this happen with ease is scant at best. Habitually, most words are extracted out of me as if my appendix is being yanked out with force from my lower right side. No anesthesia, of course.

I sit here with the stories whirling around in my head and my hand on the keyboard, in anticipation of expression coming forth to weave out a tale worth the read. Somewhere between the brain and the fingers it gets stuck. I catch myself gazing out the skinny window next to my desk. I’m not perceiving anything in particular out there on the street. My mind is prying into its vaults for the utterances that will bring the tale to life.

Each hour marches by with a softened thud, giving me acute awareness of how much I have yet to accomplish. The turmoil is all within me, mind you. No one is imposing a deadline or word count. No one is pointedly asking how much I have done or when I’ll be finished. This is a vow sewn neatly to my heart by my own accord.

I’ve pondered on what I’d do with my hours each day if I chose not to write. The window sills need to be cleaned. The drawers in the chests that sit in the closet need to be decluttered. I haven’t done any baking since the winter holidays. Yes, there’s plenty I could do other than write–at least for a while. Yet, here I sit pounding on these keys.

Am I possessed? Uhmm… Could this be? While transferring the laundry from the washer to the dryer, I mull this over. Could there be a possibility that I’m driven by an outside force to while away my time writing? I’ve heard it said that these Tennessee hills are filled with paranormal activity. Supposedly there’s banshees, witches, and specters roaming these mountain. Although I do, most hardily, believe in ghosts, I can’t say I subscribe to the notion of being bewitched. The haunts do their thing and I do mine. If we happen to meet somewhere along the way, all is amicable.

Am I OCD? Well… this could be. I’ll eat something time after time until I’m not interested in it anymore. Only then will I change to something else for nourishment. For instance, I’ve been eating Cheerios for breakfast for over four years now. I don’t waver from this. Eventually I know I’ll get bored with the little circles and grab a box of some other cereal from the store shelf and eat that daily until I’m bored with it too.Will I get bored with writing? I guess I could eventually, but I can’t conceive it being permanent.

Some may say I have a dream I long to make reality. I’ve been told that I have this ability to write what others want to read. I see glimpses of this talent, but overall, I’m probably lacking the sheen needed to make that big splash within the field. I’m appreciative of the fact that there are few who reach that greatness; and I accept that I won’t be one of them. Still, it would be sensational to have just that one moment of recognition.

The regimen of facing each day with the full resolution of pounding words out on the keyboard hits me as being virtuous and dignified. Although I may not be accomplishing as I’d like, I don’t feel my efforts are futile either. Wishful thinking? Possibly. Maybe even probable.

I carry on in defiance.

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Who or what are your writing adversaries?

“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.” ~Don DeLillo