Category: Reading/Writing (Page 1 of 83)

My dreams, and her dreams

Earlier this summer I was watching the auditions for So You Think You Can Dance, and one of the contestants said this after getting cut from the show:

“Dancers get told no all the time. You just have to keep going.”

Simple, full of grace, and true. I found myself nodding, thinking about how much this applies to writing/publishing too. I’ve faced hundreds of no’s already; I’ll face hundreds more.

Then I realized, I spend a lot of time thinking about my own dreams and ambitions, but now I have to be a steward for my daughter’s dreams and ambitions too. It’s intimidating, but also a privilege.

I probably won’t know what her dreams are for many years to come. Big or small, I hope she reaches them all.

IB Houston continued 012

When I was younger, it felt very important to me that my writing career be established before I started a family. I wanted to be an author first, a wife and mother second. But that isn’t how things happened.

I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me sometimes, my inability to achieve that goal. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change any of the decisions that led me to this place. I wouldn’t trade Andy or IB for any amount of professional success.

Fortunately, my dream of being an author is never out of reach. There’s no expiration date on good storytelling or writing.

And I know dozens of writers, either personally or by reputation, and some of them are parents, some of them aren’t. Either way, it has no impact on the quality of their work or the trajectory of their career.

As for achieving X before age Y… I get why people care about that sort of thing, but really, it’s just a number. The words on the page don’t know whether you’re 19 or 49. Just write them.

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Stuff worth reading

“Daily Momentum: A Little Progress Goes a Long Way” by Andrew Roe

Unlike many writers, I don’t do daily word counts or weekly page counts (too much pressure for something as fragile as writing), and I try not to get fixated on writer friends posting about their productivity on social media. Instead, when I’m working on a book or short story, I’ll ask myself a few simple questions before I go to bed at the end of the day: Did it get better? Am I farther along than I was yesterday?

If the answers are yes, then I consider that a successful writing day.

“When Writing Is Actually About Waiting,” an interview with Hannah Tinti

I had aspirations of a certain kind of life—personally and professionally—that seemed to hinge on specific goals. If I can just finish this draft. If I can just sell this book. If I can just, if I can just. You think these landmarks are going to solve your problems, or give you some sort of deeper solace. But they don’t. That’s why it’s better to wait without hope. At least, that’s my reading of the line. To let go of the dream that something or someone will come along and magically solve everything. That’s a form of vanity, or a form of fear. It’s the wrong thing to hope for.

I taped these lines over my writing desk because they’re also a powerful reminder about staying in the moment, deep inside the work, without worrying about some future result.

I don’t write every day. It ebbs and flows. But when I have a project that I’m working intently on, I tend to write at night. I think it gets back to that same word: stillness. The world starts to fall asleep. The emails stop coming in. The phone and texts go quiet. Even social media slows down. It’s almost like there’s more energy in the air for me to access. From 11 p.m. until 2 or 3 in the morning, that’s when I write my best stuff. You feel like you’re doing it in secret. That nobody is watching. All around you, people are dreaming. You can almost get yourself into a dream-like state. That’s much harder to do in the middle of the day.

“How YA Twitter Is Trying To Dismantle White Supremacy, One Book At A Time” by Sona Charaipotra and Zoraida Córdova

“When people who’ve historically held positions of privilege feel their privilege threatened, or like they won’t get a ‘free pass’ anymore, they can sometimes perceive that as reverse discrimination rather than an evening out of the playing field.” – Sandhya Menon

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A good thing coming in 2018

Writing is a funny endeavor. So much of it is done alone, just you and the blank page. And yet in spite of that, or maybe because of it, there’s a strong sense of kinship between writers, a vast and supportive community.

Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to find great friends within that community, people who inspire and encourage me. One of the best of them is celebrating a birthday today, and I’d like to use that occasion as an excuse to shout her good news from my rooftop:

Ingrid is such a wonderful person and a gifted writer. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of her success! And her book, ALL OUT OF PRETTY, is beautiful and wrenching and powerful. I can’t wait for it to be on shelves.

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Quotes on love and writing

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“Love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful. [That] has to mean something.”

“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet.”

“I want to write. I want to write stories that make people feel less alone than I did. I want to make people laugh about the things in life that are painful.”

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Stuff worth reading

“Becoming a Mapbuilder” by Danielle Lazarin

What you notice as a writer isn’t an accident, nor is it objectively interesting. This sense of recognition, of compulsion toward a subject or character or storyline, is the layering of the lenses of your childhood and your adulthood, your jobs and your relationships, the series of small and large decisions we make, life’s little accidents constructing our fictions as much as they make our real lives. By indulging yourself in these raw materials, allowing them to be the match to the kindling of the world you walk through every day, you’re likely to start a story that matters to you, one that you can’t help but write, because it comes from your gut.

“The Fear of Not Saying Interesting Things” by Kimberly Bunker

For a long time I wrote because I thought of interesting things. I didn’t identify myself with it, and I didn’t think about it most of the time. As soon as I changed methods—when I started chasing after ideas, when I started “perspiring,” because that’s what real writers do—the words became more elusive. I had become a writer, but I’d changed the methods that let me write in the first place.

This isn’t to say I plan to sit around waiting for lightning to strike. It’s certainly more nuanced than that. For instance, I think it’s possible to cultivate a mindset that’s receptive to but not obsessive about ideas, and to be methodical about pursuing the ideas that seem worth pursuing—i.e., finding a balance between waiting for lightning to strike, and getting behind the mule.

GoodReads Q&A with Laini Taylor

But it boils down to priorities and believing that you deserve it. If it’s a dream of yours to write, then don’t let anybody—yourself included—diminish its importance in your life. When you’re “prepublished,” it’s hard to feel like you’re a “real writer.” It’s really hard to ask other people to prioritize and possibly sacrifice for your dream. But you have to.

“Stop Reading My Fiction as the Story of My Life” by Jami Attenberg

Fiction is a magic trick of sorts. But at its best it doesn’t just conjure up an imaginary world; it makes the real one disappear, it makes the author disappear. Only a book can do this — let you lose yourself so completely. So, if you can, forget about everything else. Just be there with the book.

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