“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Junot Diaz
“Writing or making anything—a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake—has self-respect in it. You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up.”
I read two posts today where writers were setting goals for the week and thought maybe I should start doing that again. So, here I am, setting some goals for this week:
– Write two hours a day minimum (morning pages, writing practice, type up pages from notebook)
– Post on my blog Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
– Visit and comment on 8 blogs
– Post last discussion for “Gone, Girl”
– Post photo of mini art journal spread Sunday
My method of choosing goals changes depending on what phase of writing I am currently in. I may go by word count when I am in the first draft stage and my goal is to just get the draft down. Later I may choose to spend x amount of hours per day revising or maybe revise one particular scene. How about you? Do you set goals? If so, how do you go about it? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? A combination of all? I’d love to hear from you.
1. 6 tips on being a more productive writer.
2. 10 pieces of writing advice from Sherman Alexie
3. I love lists, especially one written by Dylan Landis.
4. An interview with Andrea Barrett. I especially love this: “Until MFA programs became so common, people learned by imitation and by reading. If they were lucky, they also learned by conversation with fellow writers, but lots of people didn’t have that at first, either.”
5. Junot Diaz hates writing short stories.
“Read widely. Don’t just read in the genre you want to work in. Everyone turns up their nose at some genre, but writers really ought not to do this, at least not until they’ve sold at least a couple of novels…Here’s why you should do this. Every genre has its strengths and weaknesses, different tools, different ways of hooking its audience.If you’re going to be a writer, you need all the tools you can get.”
– Kelly Link
1. Sara Zarr on her working sabbatical.
2. A lovely piece by Dani Shapiro on being present to your life in the midst of it.
3. Shapiro writes about living the writer’s life. Can’t wait for her new book “Still Writing” to be released next year.
4. Some day I want to go to a place like this.
5. An interview with Molly Ringwald.
“Signs and Wonders” stories by Alix Ohlin
So the important thing to know from the start is that she was miserable.
These stories dig into the deep dark crevices of relationships between spouses, siblings, step-parent and child among others. I often felt like a voyeur, like I shouldn’t be witnessing I was witnessing. I slipped effortlessly into the world of each story, the characters luring me with their beauty and flaws.
What I learned: That prose can be simple yet the story and characters complicated.
“When It Happens to You” a novel in stories by Molly Ringwald
As far as Greta knew, there was nothing in the sky that night.
I am leery of works of fiction by celebrities. Think Nicole Richie, Pam Anderson, Tyra Banks, Hillary Duff, etc… It annoys me when novels are used as part of a brand. It diminishes the art of it. This is definitely my soapbox issue. But I will step down now and say that Ringwald’s novel in stories does not fall into the above category. I would love to hear an interview (heck, I’d love to actually interview her myself!) about her process of writing this book but it seemed to me, from the first sentence that this is a person who loves to write, who loves stories and loves her characters. This is not merely part of her brand. I completely forgot that I was reading something written by the girl from “Pretty in pink” or “Sixteen Candles.” I couldn’t put these down. It’s like reading a literary kaleidoscope, each story a prism that unites and complements the whole, characters showing up later and allowing you a glimpse into their side of the story. This book has definitely made it onto my permanent bookshelf.
What I learned: To not judge a book by its writer
“The Lakeshore Unlimited” a novel by Sue Miller
Because it was still afternoon, because she was in a strange room, because she was napping rather than sleeping (“I’ll just lie down for a bit and see what happens,” she’d told Pierce)–because of all this, she was aware of herself as she dreamed, at some level conscious of working to subvert the dream she was having, to make it come out another way, different from the way it was headed.
Billy, a playwright, uses the loss of her fiancé, Gus during 9/11 as inspiration for her latest play, The Lakeshore Limited.” When she used what Gus considered a private moment between them in an earlier play they argued about what, if anything, should be off limits. She says, “…I use everything. How could I not? And what I don’t use, I don’t use because it doesn’t work. Not because it’s sacred.” This just one of many threads in this beautifully structured novel about love and loss and art.
What I learned: That the way she structured this novel may point me in the right direction for my current WIP.
“The Pen/O.Henry Prize Stories, The Best Stories of the Year, 2009” editd by Laura Furman
I’m going to ask the Queen.
I often find it difficult to read best of anthologies like this. Dipping into different lives, cultures, countries and times can leave me a little disoriented. But these stories are worth the extra effort it may take. Each tale dazzles within its own complete, complex world taking us on a journey from Saigon to Egypt, from Cape Town to a newly and permanently dark New York City. The characters and their stories are just as rich as the settings.
What I learned: To widen my literary palette to include writers beyond my usual taste.
“The Gifts of Imperfection- Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.
When I saw Brown on Youtube giving a Ted talk, I knew I had to hear more of what she had to say, which led me to this book. (She has a newer one out.) I never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but several people over the years have mentioned how hard I am on myself, which she addresses. I underlined so much in this book, it’s like she was speaking directly to me. Her voice is engaging and she’s able to blend her research with stories.
What I learned: That I’m not the only one.
A few years ago I wrote a draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo. I worked my butt off, as you have to do if you’re going to write a novel in a month. So I did it. Yay, me! It was a big deal. I had committed to something, followed through and had this messy draft of a story that intrigued me. Flash forward to this year. I finished a different novel, a novel-in-stories. Again, yay, me! Another big deal. That was in March. It is now October and it’s not that I haven’t written anything since then. I have. Morning pages. Revised some stories. Wrote many freewrites and scenes on the NaNoWriMo novel. I set myself some lofty goals. In March I believe I said I’d have a second draft of this novel done by October 31. Ummm… well. Not so much. And it’s not because I haven’t been working on it. I have. Could I work on it more? Sure. But the thing I am struggling with now is I am not sure if I am not engaged with this project because it’s not the right one for me at this time or if I’m just wimping out and not feeling connected to it because I am not putting in enough time. I have other projects whispering around the edges for my attention, which is always tempting. The grass is always greener even (especially?) in writing. The thing is, at one point I thought the novel-in-stories wasn’t the “right project” for me. Then I decided to finish it for a contest that was due in March and with that deadline I buckled down and plowed through whatever resistance I had. I love those stories now. It’s the best thing I have written so far. I can’t believe that at one point I was going to give up.
I’m pretty sure I’ve realized that what I need to do is buckle down, put in some serious writing time and finish a second draft of this novel. But I’m curious, how do you handle this situation? Or is it even an issue for you? How do you know if it’s time to put a project aside or even away or time to dig deep and see what happens? I’d love to hear from you.