It’s a sign that you’re a very caring individual who truly does want to do right for situations you don’t know very much about. There are two ways of dealing with fuck-ups
- The wrong way is to make a mistake, and when called on it, bend over backwards to claim it’s not a mistake, that other people are wrong, that you’re ‘sorry they’re offended.’
- The right way is to sincerely apologize when making a mistake, maybe ask about on how to correct it or do some research, and carry on, mistake fixed.
Too many people let the fear of mistakes keep them from writing people of color, from writing queer people, from writing women. Too many people throw up their hands and end up writing the same old stuff, because they’re not willing to let themselves go through this process. But what kind of writer are you if you can’t take the advice of Ms. Frizzle? Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. If your apologizes are as sincere as your intentions, you’ll be fine.
ALL DAY, I have been trying to remember the name of a specific class of pirate that starts with the letter G. It sounds like garibaldi or gondolier but obviously is neither of those words.
WHAT THE FRICK WORD AM I THINKING OF???
I spent some time this week trawling through customer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, in order to look for trends — paying particular attention to the scathing one-star reviews that inevitably warn all other readers against buying or reading the disliked book. Starred reviews affix to all works of literature a kind of efficiency rating, which over time average out to a meaningless valuation somewhere between the middle threes and the low fours.
King Lear is valued at 3.87; Paradise Lost at 3.74; The Divine Comedy at 4.0. Although there is a great deal of variation in the five-star reviews, the one-star reviews are overwhelmingly alike, even across genres and styles of literature. I noticed the recurrence of three principal objections: (1) this book was confusing; (2) this book was boring; and (3) this book was badly written.
“Confusing”, “boring” and “bad” are fine complaints, and in many cases may be pertinent complaints, but they are not criticisms. They are three different ways of saying that the work in question failed to evoke any response from the reviewer at all. Far from describing and critiquing a literary encounter — the job of criticism — such “reviews” only make it clear that a literary encounter never took place.
The book in question is evaluated as a product, and because the product has failed to perform as advertised, it is judged to be deficient. These negative appraisals are rarely developed beyond, “If I had understood/enjoyed/been interested in this book, it would have been better.” I am always tempted to reply: “If you had understood/enjoyed/been interested in this book, you would have been better.”"
the struggle is real
SO MANY OF THEM. Probably the most reliable gift that I get from people on birthdays/holidays has ALWAYS been purse-sized notebooks/journals and sets of gel pens. :) I also have a huge filing cabinet of saved articles/essays/newspaper clippings/catalog cuttings/collage-things/paint chips/brochures/infographics/notes from the last 24-ish years that I use to flesh out scenes (or that I just like, and would like to think that I’d have an idea that could someday use them).
Mmmaybe? I always more concretely outline original fiction than fanfiction, because I do change the outlines of fanfiction depending on how I feel about the subject as I’m writing it and what parts people bring up or respond to, because people have questions about things that I hadn’t even thought about sometimes, but maybe! I mean, I always know the major plot points and I always know both the beginning and the very last scene, which are usually the two parts I write first, and then I never write in chronological order for longer pieces. Both MYEYNL and Genesis diverted pretty hugely from their original drafts/outlines, but the bigbang Lucy and I are posting on Wednesday is very close to the original plan. I Built A Home was close to its original outline, too, although we did have to cut out a subplot.
Honestly, that tag was “about me” because it’s literally about me — it’s me degrading myself. I’m a writer of no gravity or consequence. Just because I wrote a thing doesn’t mean that it’s ready to be seen or deserves to be seen, and sometimes I get it into my head that people should pay attention to things I do, or that I could do something someday with writing that would matter, and I need to remind myself that isn’t true.
A message that I would NOT put in my “about me,” but is for other writers and, since you sent the ask, you:
If your writing makes you happy and you think it would make other people happy, put it out there! If it makes you happy, it will definitely make someone else happy and you deserve the chance to find out how happy it makes them, and the connections that writing can bring you. If you are excited by something, you are almost 100% certainly not the only person that topic or idea would excite, and if you want to share it, share it. You will make the world a richer place for your ideas being out there to help forge new connections and dialogues. Even if you think what you’re writing is “silly” or “fluffy” or “just a [genre/category/style here],” if it means something to you, that matters, and since you matter to people, your writing will, too.
To be honest the kind of character you just describe sounds a lot like Sherlock Holmes (especially of the BBC variety) and that’s not to nag on Sherlock Holmes, but it illuminates the point I want to make which is that certain kinds of characters are given passes to be unlikeable whereas other characters who have the exact same traits are vilified and deemed bad characters. And those lines very often fall along lines of sex and race, ie white male characters in Western media are always the default and given a pass to be anti-heroes and complex unlikeable characters, whereas female characters and characters of colour (if they’re not reduced to plot point stereotypes) are either the villain/antagonist or vilified by readers/watchers. I honestly think the biggest hurdle in writing complex characters who are unlikeable is sexism, misogyny, and racism.
I think Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games, Tally Youngblood of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Kel of Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small and Triss of the Circle of Magic series (plus a lot of the ladies in the Trickster books), are some good contemporary examples of female characters that complicate the idea of “likeableness” of a main character, just to give a few contemporary examples (admittedly limited to my own reading). Abbie and Jenny Mills of Sleepy Hollow are also some good examples in TV, and I’m sure people can name many more.
If you’re telling the story from her perspective then show why she makes the decisions she does, acts and reacts the way she does; the personal history that got her to that point, the internal levels of self-truth and self-lying that go into the decision-making process of everyone no matter what their personality is. Show the people who agree with her. Show the people who disagree with her. Show how she faces the consequences of her behavior and how she might not at times (maybe she avoids the consequences, maybe they never come, maybe she’s not challenged) and how that changes based on the people around her and the world around her. Show her in multiple situations to show the times she IS likeable: when she does care for someone, listens to a friend, or surprises someone with a moment of introspection and deep thought that breaks the veneer of vanity and shallowness, Show how shallow doesn’t mean unintelligent.
The experiences you take your character through and how they adapt, react, and maneuver through, with, and to the world around them will define how “likeable” your character is just as much as her personality will.
Authors’ sleep patterns & productivity
28 Jan 2014
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and a better author. Wait, that’s not right.
The influence of daily routines on creative output has always been of interest to Maria Popova, a New York-based Bulgarian writer and blogger.
Such was her interest in successful writers’ sleep habits that she commissioned illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and information design team Accurat to create this rather superb infographic, charting authors’ sleeping patterns and their literary productivity.
Having researched each author’s wake-up time from journals, biographies and interviews, the chart illustrates their preferred hour of rising with a clock-like marker. The author’s productivity is indicated with a small count for each of their books, poems or works, adjacent to the time. Literary awards are indicated with a coloured smudge around the author’s portrait. The writers are ordered according to their hour of rising.
It makes for an interesting read, demolishing any notion that there’s a ‘perfect hour’ to rise. We’re all for adopting Charles Bukowski’s approach to mornings…
(Click to enlarge)
I’ve always wanted to be a writer! My mom gave me her old typewriter when I was two or three, and I’ve been writing stories ever since. There are some hilarious (and hilariously misspelled) ones from preschool that she has in a box somewhere. I don’t actually think I’m a good writer, but I know that the best way to become one is to be a reader. The more you read, the more of a sense you’ll have of what you like in a story — and what you don’t like. That’s always a good starting place.
After that, like any other skill, it comes down to practice. I don’t believe that you Must Write Every Day to be a writer, because, as someone with mental illness, I know that there are some days that you just don’t have the spoons to write. But on the days that you can write, do it! And sometimes pushing yourself to write when you don’t feel like you can ends up making you feel better, or at least that sometimes works for me. (And sometimes it backfires horribly. Ask Lucy sometime how well that worked for me when writing Genesis Chapter 12. BAHAHA…)
And yes, I do have some vague designs on femmeslash (including one that’s actually a Christmas exchange fic that will instead be a Valentine gift because I don’t write well in December and ran out of time), but I always get weirdly anxious when I go to write it. I’ve had the outline for a Madge/Johanna fic for literally years. I think I feel weird about identifying with it, where I can divorce my own reality from slash more.
Literature Meme:2/3 Genres
- Utopian/Dystopian society
The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal society, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguably are by definition a type of speculative fiction.
The word utopia was first used in direct context by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 work Utopia. The word utopia resembles both the Greek words “no place”, “outopos”, and “good place”, “eutopos”.
Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by a focus on mass poverty, squalor, suffering, or oppression. Most authors of dystopian fiction explore at least one reason why things are that way, often as an analogy for similar issues in the real world. Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and are read by many as political warnings. Many purported utopias reveal a dystopian character by suppressing justice, freedom and happiness.
I want to add that if you are a writer who has had “writers block” for 6 or 7 years, if you’re someone who really wants to, loves to write and has tried every trick in the book, and just. can’t, then that is probably something you should consider talking to a professional about? Like, seriously. I have ADHD and hearing “writers write hard work discipline blabh albha” before I was diagnosed was incredibly defeating, because it was physically impossible for me to write, but since mental health issues do not feel like “physical” issues, I felt like a failure instead of someone who needed to seek medical help. JUST SOMETHING TO THROW OUT THERE.
this will sound harsh but you’re probably not a writer.
writer’s writer every day. it’s ok, not everyone is.
but if you consider yourself one, get off your ass and get back to work!! write about why you haven’t been writing . anything. just write.
I wish people would stop conflating:
- ”~*~*WRITER*~*~” (complete with Future (or Present) Dead White Man’s*w/ rare exceptions Club Card and Staff of Authority);
- "working writer"/"writing as my job"/"person who prepares language for the consumption of others and the transmission of ideas in such a way that they receive remuneration for the practice";
- "person who likes to express themselves using written language, usually but not always for the consumption of others, and does so according to a fictitious set of standards in such a way that they feel justified in including themselves in a fictitious elite comprised of Groups 1-3";
- "person who likes to express themselves creatively using written language, usually but not always for the consumption of others, and occasionally has the audacity to use the term ‘writer’ to describe themselves".
This differentiation is quite useless. Group 1 is entirely arbitrary and therefore fictitious. Group 2 sometimes fancies themselves as Group 1, or aspires to it, and often fears being mistaken for Groups 3 & 4. Group 3 has a slew of reasons they aren’t in Group 2 but often aspires to be in Group 1, or considers themselves part of it already, if only someone would recognize their genius. Group 4 generally just wishes it were easier to format on AO3 and other websites and wishes that people in Groups 1-3 would stop telling them they can’t use the word “writer” because they’re not reaching an immaterial set of ever-elusive goalposts.
I happen to be in Group 2. I’ve also spent years unable to write due to illness. I did not stop being a writer in that time. I just stopped getting paid (well, paid for new things). You do not stop being a writer if you can’t write. You are simply a writer who is not writing.
I don’t think being in Group 2 allows for any authority over Writing but it does provide experience for specifically performing the task necessary to produce regularly and navigating the process of creating marketable work, time management, sales, promotion, etc. that is the meta-writing around being a working writer. It does not make one more of a writer than Groups 3 or 4. It only provides a narrower set of guidelines for production and gets one paid for the effort.
As angryampersand said, if you are a writer who is not writing and it’s distressing to you—something is not right. You may be under stress, you may be having other issues (perhaps a medication reaction), but it is not normal to not be able to undertake a relatively simple task that once brought you satisfaction.
You might consider joining a relaxed and non-judgmental writers’ group or using something such as 750 Words to help you explore why you aren’t writing. In my experience, writer’s block is often directly related to anxiety. Deconstructing the pressures around writing (like this “write every day” thing) will get you closer to writing again.
To start—if you don’t have a specific barrier to writing—give yourself permission to put down words. They are an infinite resource. You will not waste them. Give yourself a set number of minutes whenever you feel you’d like to write to put down something—don’t do anything else. Attend to how you feel. Eventually, you will either write or come to some better understanding of why you aren’t writing.
Just make some words. Write with your off-hand. List your favourite words. Pick a word from that list and write out all the other words you associate with it. Pair verbs and colours. Write about someone you saw yesterday or the lines on your palm. Write down how you feel while you’re doing it. Write some meta. Once you are putting words down again, you’ll have more and more information as to what’s giving you a hard time.
Not writing is a puzzle to be solved, not a disqualification. Sometimes the narrative around writing is the only barrier we face.
Thanks for your opinion. It’s wonderful that in this day and age, we can so quickly quip and call each other names.
What you said was well-worded and inspirational, but I believe it is wrong.
“Because being a writer isn’t some magical lauded state of being or identity; it’s a description of having committed the act of writing.”
This is an attitude that I feel plagues all the arts today.
Then you and I are never going to agree, because you are in the camp that ART IS SPECIAL AND FOR THE ELITE and I’m in the camp that art is a thing that humans do.
But let’s just see where the rest of this conversation goes.
When I drive across a bridge, I hope that the people that built it knew what they were doing. When I talk to a doctor, I really hope that they know what they’re doing. These things are life and death, and I understand if you feel that writing can’t or doesn’t affect us in that way, but I do.
See but here’s the thing.
Building bridges and practising medicine are technical skills. You will not get better at them via trial and error, or by feedback from an audience. The costs of failure are very high.
Art is not like this.
If you’re shitty at art, you can get better -just by doing it more- and by consuming art and by presenting it to an audience for feedback and looking at the results and working with them. And if your initial efforts are shitty, the worst that’s happened is that you’ve wasted someone’s time and maybe been laughed at or scored.
One day, I want to make a list of lauded authors and artists who never attended school for their art. I think it would be really illuminating to the elitist set.
So I’m sorry if my “ASSHATTERY, ESPECIALLY MYOPIC ASSHATTERY, and ELITIST BULLSHIT ASSHATTERY” offends you, but unlike you, I don’t view the art of writing as something we all just do. I view it, as I wish more people would, as something that is learned, something that is taught, something that is improved upon to effect great change.
It’s not that i”m offended.
It’s that I think that your words are actively hurtful to young artists and writers and that they thus need to be refuted, strongly, in the same public forum on which they were made to undo some of the damage you’ve done.
It’s not that I don’t believe that writing isn’t a thing that’s learned and taught and improved. It’s that I think that writing itself is the process by which that occurs, and that elitism and gatekeeping are really harmful to that process. The moment you divide a group of people who write into ‘real writers’ and ‘not real writers’ you have discouraged the people in the latter group and curtailed their efforts.
So, yes it is an identity.
If your job description is your identity, that’s really really sad.
You see, once we viewed people by what they did - which was good and bad.
…that’s precisely what you’re doing….
Good in that we trusted people to be good and accountable for their work. Obviously bad in that it could lead to class and class warfare- which is a different conversation entirely. Today, we view people by what they like,
- “I’m a nerd.”
- “Team Edward.”
- “Baltimore Ravens fan!”
instead of what they have learned or accomplished or even attempted.
No really, we don’t.
Or maybe it’s that i have no idea who you’re including in your operation definition of ‘we’.
But sociology doesn’t support your ‘we’ over the general population.
Humans tend to identify one another in complex kinship networks; the group of people who you qualify as ‘coworkers’ may or may not overlap with the group of people who you qualify as ‘friends’ who may or may not overlap with ‘nerds’ etc. It can all be expressed in venn diagrams, with every individual person belonging to myriad different association groups. No one is every just one thing, and no identity can be narrowed down to a singular circle, and we all know that about one another but choose, when dealing with people, to only pay attention to the circles that someone else shares with us as they are relevant to the current interaction.
So people who are lazy or afraid of attempting the art of writing are allowed to say “I’m a writer”, when in reality they are a “Surveyor of Netflix”, who really likes documentaries about writers.
Oh for fuck’s sake.
See, here’s the crux of the problem.
You wish to exclude people who you don’t think are ‘real writers’ from using your label because….why? Do you think you’ll get cooties or something? How dare those plebes think they deserve the same title of merit as YOU, oh Real Writer?
Ur Horse 2 Hi.
Being a writer doesn’t make you a special snowflake.
It makes you a person who has written. It doesn’t make you a better human being, or a different class of human being, than someone who watches netflix and really likes documentaries about writers who has also written. If they’ve written, they’re a writer. Just like you.
When I was in High school, I learned that I had been named after a great poet from my country, who taught a young man, who built upon those teachings to libertate my forefathers. When I use the word poet, I like to think of him, not Tyler Knott or whoever else who writes to the lowest common denominator.
You really like elitism, don’t you?
Because when I think of the word ‘poet’ I generally mean ‘someone who uses the shape of language - its structure, rhythm, rhyme, and cadence - as well as its content to communicate a message or story’. Whereas someone who writes prose is concerned with content even if it’s to the detriment of all those other aspects.
Because writing is a powerful tool and I’m not really worried about hurting anyone’s feelings when I tell people that they’re being pushed along by the current.
Because the more people you can exclude and discredit, the more people you can discourage from attempting or disavow the attempts of or claim to be ‘not real’, the higher your position among the elite becomes, eh?
In my experience, most people are - and I am telling you that as someone who has done his share of activism, struggled with tyranny (and unfortunately failed by my obvious presence in this country, where everyone is free, but mostly free to do as little as possible) and traveled the world.
Most people are ‘pushed along with the current’? Really?
Because that’s some bullshit too, and tends to come from not paying attention to the interior lives of individuals and presuming that you are different from (better than?) other people.
I’d like to commend you at this time for resisting the urge to use the word ‘sheeple’.
I won’t call what you said “Bullshit”
Do you have a problem with using clear, concise, readily-understood language?
and I won’t try to attack your character
How magnanimous of you.
Are you attempting to imply that I’ve attacked yours?
Because what I’ve done thus far is attack the validity of your words, not your person.
despite how easy that is on the internet
You know that the internet is part of life, right? That it’s not a separate or outside place?
but at the end of the day, just because you have a blog or own a notebook doesn’t make you a writer - the genuine, driving desire to craft ideas to impact the world in a positive way DOES.
Yeah, but here’s another thing you’ve missed.
A great number of the people who have blogs and notebooks who write things down? Do it because they have a genuine, driving desire to craft ideas to impact the world in a positive way. Their blogs and notebooks are the means by which they do that.
You obviously spend a lot of energy calling people out for things you disagree with, which is fine, but I feel that most anyone who reads that bit of “advice” who has that desire will not launch into a tirade over it.
And see, here’s one of the things that makes ME a writer! When I get ticked off at something, my first impulse is to write a response and put it on a public forum for review and input by my peers! People who don’t have that impulse probably are not writers (though they might be, if they’ve written other things)
Instead of tossing around platitudes about how we’re all writers because we like writing
Oh no no, sweetie. You’ve misread my whole premise, it seems!
We’re not all writers because we LIKE writing (that’s what makes us all readers).
We’re all writers BECAUSE WE WRITE. You’ll get no argument from me that people who don’t write aren’t writers. I just find that in a predominantly literate society, that group is vanishingly small.
I would rather see people take up writing to actually do good. If that were the case, we might have a little less Cassandra Clare and little more Mark Twain.
Aaaand here we have the deep and true bones of elitism.
Because you have rank ordered Mark Twain vs. Cassandra Clare without and discussion of the merits or faults of either, without looking to their effects on their audiences or cultural impacts, without analysis or even comparison. You’ve just thrown out two names, one of a Literary Giant Of Western Canon (I.E. Dead White Dude) and another of a writer of fluffy teenage specfic books with the presumption that the audience will agree that the former is inarguably ‘better’ than the latter. This isn’t a matter of apples and oranges; it’s a matter of apples and nuclear submarines for which you’ve offered no rubric of comparison. Nuclear submarines are significantly better at making headway in the ocean, but they make shitty pies. Mark Twain offered better commentary and analysis of 19th century America and its relationship with Europe and the world, but he lacks attractive protagonists and doesn’t offer much fodder for fanfiction (or relevance and relatability to teenage readers, for that matter).
'Better' is a matter of what your goals are.
THIS IS REQUIRED READING
look william shakespeare was a glovemaker’s son without any kind of education beyond the basic level who basically ran away from his wife and daughters bc he was sort of a jerk
and he acted a bit and wrote a bit and probably didn’t take his playwriting nearly as seriously as his sonnets bc plays weren’t nearly as big a deal as poetry in 1597 or w/e, but playwriting paid the bills, so
he stole almost every single one of his plots; he set an extraordinary amount of plays in places he had never been and unapologetically got the details completely wrong; he wrote a fuckload of dick jokes
and he got drunk a lot and probably slept with a good number of prostitutes and he couldn’t even spell his own name
and, look— basically what i’m saying here is fuck stephen king, fuck jonathan franzen, fuck kurt vonnegut, fuck chuck fucking palahniuk
you don’t have to be special or magical or take yourself incredibly seriously or be incredibly original or throw yourself headfirst passionately into your work to be a writer
all you have to do is write shit and keep writing shit and sometimes it’s pericles but y’know what sometimes it’s hamlet
and sometimes it’s sonnet 135 which should really be enough for anybody