Writing: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Expectation: Showing off your stellar vocabulary. Reality: Spending ten minutes trying to remember how to spell “potpourri” because you’re too proud to look it up.
  2. Expectation: Writing elegant rhymes to express your emotion. Reality: Sounding like an angsty Dr. Seuss.
  3. Expectation: Writing free verse poetry that seems authentic and avant garde. Reality: Sounding like an angsty and, now, drugged Dr. Seuss.
  4. Expectation: Scribbling thoughts on random scraps of paper because inspiration strikes at unexpected moments. Reality: Looking like a conspiracy theorist at best or a serial killer at worst as you frantically try to assemble your notes.
  5. Expectation: Making keen, discrete observations of your surroundings for later use. Reality: Looking like a creep when you make eye contact with a potential character and being mistaken for a critic as you analyze your favorite cafe.
  6. Expectation: Having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels. Reality: Writing silly blog posts late at night. (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, in which case the reality is still “having movies and theme parks made after your bestselling novels.”)
  7. Expectation: Carefully crafting characters that perfectly follow the planned plot. Reality: Controlling your characters is like herding winged cats. Not only are they cats, but now they can fly.
  8. Expectation: Planning a time to write and doing so in an orderly fashion. Reality: “THE VOICES IN MY HEAD SAID I MUST WRITE NOW!” (usually “now” is in the middle of another project, late at night, or somewhere without any form of writing material whatsoever)
  9. Expectation: People reading your silly blog posts all the way through and gaining an internet following. Reality: Your fan club continuing to consist mainly of your grandma, your best friend, and the fake cat lady blog your mom made to spam you.
  10. Expectation: Having many writing woes to blog about. Reality: Only being able to come up with nine and realizing that is also a problem you can add to the list.

I had fun jotting this down and think this might turn into another #WriterProblem series! Do you have any writing expectations vs. realities? Share them in the comments!

Advertisements

Non-Writing Writer

I was inspired this morning as I walked to practice piano for an upcoming recital… this would have been great, had I been inspired to practice. Rather, I was inspired to set the opening of Wordsworth’s The Prelude to music. 

My roommate (bless her) stopped me just in time: “Ryanne, if you write a melody and add lyrics, you’ll also want to add harmony and piano. You don’t have time!” 

Valid. 

But I felt strongly the annoyance of being unable to create due to the pressures of my ordinary, required pursuits. 

So I wrote a little rhyme to vent: 

A non writing writer’s a monster they say:

A little too frazzled and nearly insane.

She lives in an enchanted, storybook world 

Yet can’t venture in, for life is a whirl.

One single word leads to many and two-

Well, they multiply to be more than a few. 

And should she dare to compose a small line 

She risks the danger of falling behind;

The everyday life has no cares for the muse,

Though the poet’s soul, she hardly did choose. 

So cursed with a mind that brews up ideas 

And a heart that ever ceaselessly feels,

She stumbles about with a businesslike stride 

And forces her little brainchildren to hide

And wait for a time when life will relax 

It’s grip made of boring and ord’nary tasks-

So she might finally write them all down,

These inkling ideas that, impatient, abound. 

Late Night Writes

When night falls yet I cannot sleep, words crowd my brain. The following two poems, one serious and the other silly, are the products of last night’s writing:

“Hover”

I lay still in my bed

yet hover ‘tween the sheets

propelled by the heart 

which wakefully beats. 

A’whirl my mind spirals

through darkening, deep

space starry with fears, 

that burn bright without sleep.

 

“Poet’s Ale”

Insomnia is poet’s ale-

no ailment once in words!

And worry is a hearty pie

that fuels the pen to verse. 

.

Heartache makes a decent draught

to nourish sonnet’s rhymes.

And sorrow’s meal, though bittersweet, 

scribes songs of better times.

.

No writer ever sleeps with ease;

prose lends him no blanket.

‘Tis poetry for nights like these

to make the best of it! 

 

 

Writers’ Confessions (a sequel)

I have already blogged a series of writers’ confessions, but find I must once more come clean about some things…

  1. I (somewhat) enjoyed my term papers. Yes, they were torturous and I singlehandedly contributed to deforestation when it came time to print them (all 40 pages of them….), but there is something so satisfying about thumping down a stack of papers on a desk and knowing that they are your own work. Granted, I would have enjoyed them less if I had procrastinated and had to pull all-nighters.
  2. I am currently laughing aloud like an evil mastermind because I found a dark moment for one of my characters and it made me ridiculously happy. I feel only slightly terrified of myself right now.
  3. I forget about 80% of what I write. When it comes time to reread what I’ve written, I tend to be pleasantly surprised. For instance, I just reread part of my current novel draft and found myself shocked and amused by some of the twists because I actually forgot them.
  4. Sometimes the weirdest ideas end up being the best. I just wrote a story about mars, biblical end times, and some zany stuff like magnetic wine glasses. I did not expect it to make any sense or to work, but ended up happy with how it turned out. (You can read it below as it is my most recent post: “The Same Sun”)
  5. Words happen and I can’t stop them. Ideas and writing happens at the most inopportune times. For instance, I may or may not have been creating characters in the middle of a music theory class.
  6. I collect people and things from real life. Every writer does this, so I will confess on behalf of us all. I write character sketches of people I know. I write down quotes that real people say to me. I describe real places. I really ought to put a disclaimer in each of my stories saying something along the lines of *any resemblance to real people/places is purely coincidental. Of course, though, this would be a total lie.

There you have it! More writers’ confessions. I’m sure there will be more, but these will ease my conscience for now. 😉

To answer “How is your writing going?”

People often ask, “How is your writing going?” or some such question. Well, to answer that…

What I think: 

My novel is sadly forsaken but I think if it all the time and also I need to change the entire perspective so I am rewriting it even though I was 50,000 words in and also I have about forty short story ideas that are rotting in my brain since I have not the time to plant them on paper. Oh, did I mention that I run a blog and do not post regularly? Yeah that’s cool too. HEY NOW I HAVE ANOTHER IDEA! YOU HAVE INSPIRED ME! THANK YOU! Did I just shout that? Whoops. Do you have a pen? I need to write this thought down. By the way, I met my perfect man but I forgot to mention that he is a character in my novel and he is too wonderfully flawed- a real Byronic hero- so I think I might have to kill him off… Where were we? Oh, how is my writing going? I need caffeine. Did you know each espresso shot translates to roughly 4,000 additional words? Anyways, can I make you into a background character? Too late, I already did. Oh snap!!! I missed a comma in chapter 58! Guess it’s not a big deal because I’ll never be published anyway. Wait, yes I will! I have confidence! Plus this is all practice, so I suppose I’m doing pretty well for myself.

What I say aloud:  

“Pretty good, thanks for asking.”

Writer’s Despair: Part Two

Last night I was struck with a severe case of what I have dubbed “Writer’s Despair,” the cruel cousin of Writer’s Block. Unlike with Writer’s Block, I could not break through Writer’s Despair by searching through my idea notebooks or looking up prompts on Pinterest. Rather, WD hung over my head like one of those cartoon rainclouds, allowing me to write, but not allowing me to take pride in what I wrote. Even worse, this grey cloud of WD prevented me from seeing my work as unique or worth finishing.

“Oooh,” I’d think to myself, scribbling away in my notebook. “I will have a scene where the main character realizes that…”

“Predictable and cheesy,” grumbles WD.

“Fine,” I think. “How about-”

“Nope. Already done.”

“Well…”

“Why bother?” sighs that stupid cloud. “You’ll never publish this novel. Actually, the odds that you’ll ever publish a book of any sort are low and- hey!- look over there on your shelf: Newberry McWritesALot has published five books already. And there you are, blogging again, pretending to ignore me.”

Ouch. Writer’s Despair stings. A lot. On the verge of tears, I decided that I was not going to let this persistent and metaphorical cloud rain on my equally-metaphorical parade. I marched over to my new books and picked up Bradbury Speaks. And thank goodness that Ray Bradbury did speak, for from his words, I gleaned the single best piece of writing advice I have ever received and it was enough to evaporate WD for the time being. Bradbury, probably my number one writing mentor (despite never having met him and him being, unfortunately, no longer alive), had these words to offer as he discussed his writing methods:

“What we have here, then, is a very unusual approach to writing and discovering, not knowing the outcome. To move ahead on a blind journey, running fast, putting down thoughts as they occur. And along the way my inner voice advised.”

There are three key pieces of comfort that I found in these words:

1. Writing is about “discovering.” It is about mysteries. And guesses. And hopes and dreams and abstract ideas. Plot graphs are nice and cutesy, but ultimately, to be authentic, they must be abandoned to some extent so that the writer can discover through his or her freedom the realms of possibility in the world of words.

2. Writing is a “a blind journey.” Sure, this means that some stories will go off on tangents, some flop miserably, and some make zero sense to anyone but the writer. However, through these miserable flops and failures, the writer will find stories with plot twists he or she never could have planned, characters that seemed to create themselves, and stories that fly because they are not bound to a carefully-charted arc.

3. Writing is about finding and expressing your unique “inner voice.” I do not have a specific style of writing. Jane Austen did, Charles Dickens did, and J.R.R. Tolkien certainly did. I do not, yet. As of now, I am an infant writer, experimenting with rhetorical devices I learned in school and writing of experiences that are not my own. But someday I will find the style that fits, if I just keep on writing. Essays, blog posts, stories, journals- it does not matter. If I just keep trying, putting letters on a page and attempting to communicate my ideas, one glorious or perhaps simply ordinary day, my “inner voice” will finally spill out onto paper and Writer’s Despair will no longer call me unoriginal.

Ray Bradbury’s words have inspired me today. I may not be working on my novel as I should be, but here I am: writing. So take that Writer’s Despair! Not today!

Writer’s Despair, the discouraging cousin of Writer’s Block

Have you ever been filled with despair because a book is too amazing to be true? Because the author’s wit flows effortlessly? Because the imagery bubbles from the pen as naturally as water from a spring? Because you just know that no matter how hard you try, nothing as profoundly simple, as beautifully tragic, or as utterly endearing can be birthed by your amature pencil.
So thanks a lot, Louisa May Alcott, for being about this bout of Writer’s Despair by your adorable novel, Jo’s Boys. I think that the only cure is more reading and scribbling, as prescribed by another despair-inducing author, Ray Bradbury.