Do you write better during the good times or the bad times?

During bad times, some writers seem to pour out a more substantial amount of work. If the pain and heartache are authentically transformed on the page, the work touches readers.

Some writers in history seemed to have sought out heartache and drama through alcohol, affairs, or other. As if their creative bent fed off their self induced suffering.

But a writer needs to produce when things go well, don’t you think?

I’ve heard of many “one-hit wonders.” Their first novel, fraught with the strain of life’s challenges, zings. But then, sitting back with their big, fat check, they are unable to produce.

My hardest times are relieved through poetry. As if words are squeezed out in some sort of rhythm that requires the concise, mystical format of a poem.

But I recall good times, great times, when my writing poured out too – the excitement of new challenges on the horizon lit up the page.

What do you think? Do you write better in good times or bad times?

A fondness for 4am

4am

The world is different at night. Those early morning hours before the sun rises, it seems no one is awake, no one is moving around ready for the world.

Even if you live in a big city. Maybe you hear some far off traffic. A train somewhere in the distance. Still it seems the world is your private microcosm.

There’s not much one can do at 4am. There are no appointments to keep. No errands to run. No one to call. Polite society (and even maybe not so polite society) are, too, in their own little secular places.

It’s quiet, mostly. It’s serene. The crickets are quieting. The birds are stretching.

All there is to do is reflect, to write, to enjoy the chill in the pre-dawn air, and the peace that has not yet been disturbed.

It’s a special time for us, artists, writers, thinkers to belong. We are separate but together.

I’ll (not) see you there.

Character (and human) Motivation

Learn How to Find the Motivation Within to Succeed | Inc.com

Recently someone did something for me. I did not ask, she volunteered. I was apathetic for a few reasons: I didn’t know her very well; when someone does something for us – there are usually invisible strings that will sway our way at some point.

Many of us operate on societal, cultural, and sometimes puritan programming that is mostly unconscious. Expectations seem ingrained in our very being.

What she expected in return was for me to behave a certain way given her grace. When I did not, she claimed to be hurt and upset, frustrated, why had she bothered?

She was entitled to a “Thank you,” which she received. But she was not entitled to control or to judge. She didn’t understand this. She didn’t realize (and denied) she was making judgements based on her own expectations. If her motivation was to “help,” she had accomplished her goal. But, then, why was she upset?

As writers, I think we see things more clearly. Maybe differently. We are observers of human behaviors. If we’re good, we’re looking for motivation.

This person, like our character, didn’t understand her own unconscious motivations and was, therefore, disappointed by the outcome. It is a rare character who can see their own faults, analyze their misguided or unclear motivations before they act. It’s only with reflection, and maybe help from their besties, that our characters grow to understand themselves and their own actions, motivations, and goals.

Time for a good book burning?

What do you do with all those old notebooks? journals? piles of notes?

How long should we keep them? forever?

I guess, there’s different things here. My old notes and notebooks full of ideas are floating in various places, saved for that some day I might mine them for good ideas.

Yet, there are other types of journals and notebooks – our personal ones. Does anyone every throw those away? burn them?

One woman told me she was sorry she threw hers away. She’d like other people to see them, read them, understand they weren’t alone in their thoughts and feelings.

Certainly, that is why I write. However, that is not why I keep a journal. And those journals, over the years, have piled up. I have nightmare images of my daughters reading them after I’ve passed, wondering if they should have committed me.

There’s probably some good mining that could go on in them, but I don’t want to reread them. They are the past, dark things best left there – aren’t they? Or do I use them, dredge things up, use them to add authenticity to my writing?

There’s plenty of me in my writing, my fiction. Need I add more? Or do I destroy the evidence?

I like ’em short

I’ve been reading and writing novel length works lately. I belong to a few online book groups and people are always posting great reviews of this book or that. Sometimes I pick them up, sometimes I like them. It’s hard for me to find that book that hits the sweet spot – the perfect mix of good writing and a good story.

I love the exceptional use of language. That’s a talent.

In my literature and writing classes, I use Best American Short Stories. I chanced upon an old copy the other day. I read half of the first story and felt engaged, awakened!

Picking up the book of short stories immediately energized me with ideas for short fiction.

The joy of reading a short story happens because they’re tight, no nonsense needed, straight to the point, well written and excellently executed niblets of fiction.

The joy of writing a short story is the challenge. The point, the characters, the setting all expertly set up in concise wording in a small period of time. The use of language is easier to control, the beauty and rhythm easier to accomplish.

I once belonged to a short story group. It was so gratifying to read the short fiction. If you didn’t like what someone chose, you could still read the ten or twenty pages and talk about it. It’s not 300 pages of silently cursing your book group.

So… I’m going to recommend some books of short fiction. Of course, I recommend the Best American Short Story Series. Wonderful writing by newbies and scholars alike!

And mine: But also – I’m a huge fan of Jo Rousseau and Ron Terranova.

Jo Rousseau and Ron Terranova also have websites/blog. Stop by and check them out!