I’ve finished my Tana French detective series and didn’t want to go to bed without another book in hand. (Nevermind there are three on my bedside table).
I began browsing my bookshelf, which is semi-organized: books I’ve read and loved. Books I want to read. School books. Writing books. and, of course, Poe books
I also have something mixed in that would seem, at first glance, not to belong. Books on psychology, the law, philosophy. I assume many writer’s bookshelves are this way.
A writer needs a wide variety of knowledge.
I know we have google at our disposal; however, I find reading books about, for example, the Psychology of Marketing allows me to get an in depth look that a wikipage or a few short articles are not going to give me. This allows me to create a more realistic character or more thorough background to make the story more believable.
For West End, I needed to understand two things, the idea of an absent or unloving mother, and the different forms depression can take. Anxiety runs throughout my work from Of Strays and Exes to Life of Clouds – which features children affected in different ways by the disappearance of their father.
I’ve heard handymen say they are the jack of all trades. I think writers are akin to that. We need to learn many things in order to live many lives.
Write what scares you…..
This is a poetry prompt given to me in one of my graduate level classes.
I don’t think it has to be just for poetry.
Experts tell us we should do something that scares us every day. I don’t know. I’ve done quite a lot of things that scare me – crossing the highest bridge in North America, swimming with sharks, – but those are kinds of scary that gives you a rush. Still valid to write about.
But in that assignment and poem, I wrote about a missing girl. Because those are the types of things that do scare me – when children go missing.
Have you seen her pass this way?
Shoe found, white.
Blood on the laces….
Write about what scares you….
Feel free to share!
Plath was one of the original “confessional poets,” and her poetry, at first, was not well received. Her poetry, however, spoke to many. Much love for the Plath!
If someone says they read your work, it does not matter whether you believe them or not or whether they did or not – Don’t test them!
I work with an American Pen Award winner – he is the epitome of modest and professional. I ran into him and said, “loved the book.” He said thank you. And that is all we should say!
I had one writer begin asking me questions about their work. I felt they didn’t believe I’d read their work, so they wanted to test me.
Maybe it was they just wanted to ask my opinion or probe my analysis of certain aspects of their work. But, see, I read for pleasure.I’m unprepared to answer questions other than what I enjoyed about the novel.
There are times I’ve read to analyze someone’s work because I wanted to learn something from or when they’ve asked me too because they want my opinion on one or more aspects of their work.
So – when a writer asks some in depth question about some random detail on page 145 – I’m really sort of stopped short.
I read nightly. If I read their book or story last week, I’ve probably read another book and 50 student essays since. If I read it last month, we’re talking at least two books, possibly three, and over 124 student essays and 300 short literature responses from students.
Last, but not least, it’s just plain rude. When someone has told me they’ve read my story, I say thank you. If they want to ask me questions or say more, I’m willing to listen. But I leave it to the reader.
Writer’s block is the writer’s arch enemy.
And though it can be solved, one of the problems is that it takes faith to believe it can be overcome and it does take work.
Someone, recently, asked me how to get over a block and I gave him the following advice. He responded, “that’s too hard!”
If you want to get through a block – you have to push. If you are not willing to do the work, then why are you here?
One way – and it is just one idea – to get through writer’s block is to write your way out of it.
Use a separate document, handwrite it, get out of the story you’re working on and write somewhere else – but write, and keep writing – it might take you ten pages to get to where you need to be, and you might get two or three good pages out of that – but guess what, you will have written yourself out of the block.
Ten pages not enough? Still feeling blocked? Keep writing!
Think of it this way – something is in your way. If you were driving somewhere and the road was blocked, would you turn around and go home, go back to bed, and give up? Or would you use mapquest to find a different way to get there.
Something is in your writing way, get off that street (document), look at mapquest (other ideas, roads, methods, ways), and get moving.
To some people it is.
I have a friend who picks and chooses where he wants to be published so carefully that he submits maybe once or twice a year at most. He hasn’t been published in maybe 6 or 8 years.
He’s an extremely good writer. Better than I.
He says, he wants to only be published where his name will be seen, where it will matter.
I took this to mean he didn’t approve of my many publications with small presses, some of which no one has ever heard.
What do you value and why? Ask yourself.
Billy Collins, btw, began publishing in what he refers to as fly by night or small presses of which no one ever heard.