Category: Reading/Writing (Page 1 of 81)

Stuff worth reading

“Flexibility and Strength” by Casey Blair

The more I level up, the greater narrative control I need, the stronger I need my vision to be for what my story really is at its core. There will always be people who wish for something different from a story. In the end, though, if I’m the author, the onus is on me to make sure I’m writing my story, the way I think is right. And the ability to do that is a skill, and also, I think, a form of artistic strength.

“Inherit the Word” by Annie Liontas

I was raised to understand work as having direct and immediate impact, and the truth about writing is that it takes decades, sometimes longer, before you can collect your harvest. A life of writing is and is not a privilege; it is and is not a luxury to do this work in the darkness. Lately, I have been trying to tell myself that an honest day’s work for me means achieving honesty on the page, in planting something that may in time offer nourishment to someone.

“On Editing” by Karen Outen

The way that we serve our stories best in revision is in that spirit of expectation, wonder, and, yes, enough fear and trembling to invite the unexpected.

“All In” by Benjamin Percy

The writer is always a careful observer, but if you are constantly evacuating your imagination, your eyes and ears grow even sharper, and you lean forward with hunger for every experience, knowing that it will offer up a card to add to your hand.

This is, after all, a gambler’s trade. All in. Always.

“Scraps” by Trevor Crown

It’s this: don’t be too proud or pure to take scraps. … By all means, let bad work burn, but occasionally try to rescue a salvageable page or two from seven you cringe to recall.

“Mozart Had a Mother-in-Law” by Taiyaba Husain

I’ve been gorgeously funded, and I’ve lived in a two-room windowless apartment above an electrical shop. In each situation, I’ve found it difficult to do the work. Distractions and worries abound. … What inspires me in these moments is knowing that I am part of a fellowship of admirable, stubborn people who face the same challenges I do.

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How a story starts

“What Form It Will Take” by Roxana Robinson

I start out with a particular moment that I find troubling, or compelling, or devastating. Sometimes it’s a moment that I’ve been part of; sometimes it’s something that I’ve watched happen; sometimes it’s something I’ve heard about. That moment itself is always drawn from life; it’s always a moment that I find deeply disturbing. If it’s powerful enough, then I need to write about it.

My task then is to write a narrative that will make that moment become as powerful for you, the reader, as it was for me, the writer. I must describe a landscape, introduce characters, and create the action as it unfolds, but all of this is directed toward the creation of that last vivid moment—difficult and breathtaking—that I found so compelling.

This is often how it starts for me as well. Not always, but often.

It’s like the eye of a storm. Everything else can swirl around in chaos — characters, setting, plot points, language. It can all be thrown about, changed, destroyed. But what’s at the center, that emotional core, that’s where you as the writer have to stand and stay and make your home. That’s where you have to bring the reader. Into the heart of it all.

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The twist in M. Night Shyamalan’s overnight success

the-sixth-sense

It’s midnight and I’m rewatching The Sixth Sense. Probably not the best life decision, but whatevs. I’d actually been thinking about this movie the other day. The clever storytelling. The phenomenal performances. The simple, sharp writing.

Cole: Everyone got upset. They had a meeting. Mom started crying. I don’t draw like that anymore.

Malcolm: How do you draw now?

Cole: I draw… people smiling, dogs running, rainbows. They don’t have meetings about rainbows.

As usual, I did some quick googling and wiki-ing, to learn more about how this movie came to be. I knew it was writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout hit — but what I did not know is that he had been making films for years before. Years and years and years, in fact. Ever since he was a kid. And all during school. Throughout college, and onward. He was always writing and directing. Always practicing. Always improving.

I thought The Sixth Sense was his first. I thought he was an overnight success.

Instead, he’s a perfect reminder that “overnight success” typically comes after tons of hard work. Which is just as special — just as remarkable of a story — if not more so.

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A few things I’ve written recently

“The Big Three Oh” with Angie Liang for Just Between Us

In 2015, Angie and Kristan turned 30. The milestone was both more and less momentous than they expected…

“How to Buy Your First House” for Just Between Us

Step 1: Convince yourself that you do not need a house. Your 2-bed, 2-bath condo has plenty of space. You and your husband never even go into the spare room. You only have guests a few times a year, you hardly cook, and you have no kids. (Unless you count your dog…) The condo is fine. You do not need a house.

Step 2: Start browsing real estate websites anyway.

“What’s in Your Bag of Tricks?” for Writer Unboxed

Since I was about 9 years old, all I’ve wanted is to be a writer. Some of my strongest memories are of sitting in my own little room at my parents’ print shop, surrounded by filing cabinets and spare computer parts and dusty paper samples, filling the hours between school and dinner by scribbling stories into notebooks. Back then, the words seemed to flow so easily, like water, like magic. Now? Not so much.

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Roxane Gay and writing about oneself

“Having a Heart, Being Alive” by Roxane Gay

I am a fiction writer who stumbled into writing nonfiction. Though I had written a handful of essays as a younger writer, I spent most of my time writing stories and trying to lose myself in the lives of imaginary others.

I also resented how as a woman, it seemed like to write nonfiction, I had to savage my own life to find stories people would be willing to hear. I wanted to keep my stories to myself.

When I began to write more essays, I thought carefully about the choices I would make in exploring myself. What parts of my life was I willing to expose? What parts of my life was I willing to share? I didn’t want to simply bare my pain and have that be enough. At the same time, I was tired of carrying my past around, unexamined.

Why do these explorations of myself matter? How do I make them matter? How do I make my words more than catharsis, more than mere excavations of pain?

I’m still finding my way to the answers to these questions.

There are never going to be universally satisfying answers to these questions. That’s okay.

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