Tag Archives: being a writer

Why Reading Only One Genre Hinders Creativity

 
In order to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. What do I mean by that? I mean that you need to read a wide-range of creative pieces.

17318222086_ce8de2611c_o.jpgWhile it’s important to read books in the same age group and genre you write in, it’s also vital that you read outside what you write.

I’ve met countless individuals, who adamantly refuse to read outside a limited range of writing. One such conversation I had with another person, when like this:

Me: I just finished a fantastic book!

Person: Yeah? What’s it about?

Me: These shadow divers—deep wreck scuba divers—who discovered a mysterious sunken German U-boat about two hundred thirty feet deep and some thirty miles off the New Jersey coast. No one knew the U-boat was there, and no one could identify it. That U-boat was considered one of the last great mysteries of Word War II.

Person: Wait. Are you talking about a non-fiction book?

Me: Yeah. It’s incredible and hard to believe that something like losing a U-boat could happen.

Person: I only read fiction. I like books that allow me to escape.

It stung to hear that person say that to me, mainly because a few years ago I’d have said the same thing. I was adamant that because I was a fiction writer I couldn’t learn anything from non-fiction. After all, fiction, especially fantasy and science fiction, wasn’t grounded in reality. Non-fiction was, and it was often dry and hard to get through.

I was wrong on multiple counts. One: Fiction is based in reality. The story may be situated on a different planet or have supernatural creatures, but the core of the story is grounded in human traits and emotions. Fiction is often used to explore controversial topics that are occurring in reality.

Two: There are many aspects of reality that are unbelievable, so much so that they seem to be fiction. Some of the atrocities I’ve read about in non-fiction have inspired my fiction pieces.

Another example conversation occurred during a writing workshop and went something like this:

Person: [shuffling my submission given to them the previous week] I don’t read fantasy or young adult, so my feedback probably won’t be any good. [A few others in the room nod in agreement.]

Me: That’s okay. I’m sure you’ve provided better feedback than you believe.

[Person stifles a frown.]

The person in this conversation was someone who only read and wrote literary pieces. More so, this person looked down on people who wrote fantasy and young adult. That translated into every interaction I had with that person, and that person’s attitude made it difficult for me to remain objective, when critiquing their pieces. I’m not a huge fan of literary works, however I still read them and try to glean the message beneath them.

While literary fiction holds value, so does fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, adult and young adult. Every story introduces you to a new interpretation of an aspect of reality. When you dive into a story, you put yourself in the characters’ shoes. You never know what you’re going to learn or what’s going to inspire you.

Fiction and non-fiction—any well-written story—can deliver meaningful lessons that have a powerful and lasting impact on readers. Don’t limit yourself because of pre-conceived notions about what you believe is good and what isn’t.

What do you think about reading widely?

(Photo courtesy of Isabelle Blanchemain.)

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Why Did You Become a Writer?

4549909730_a513381ed7_oRecently, someone asked me why I became a writer. When I went to answer, I found myself stumped. It wasn’t because I didn’t know why I was a writer. Writing is part of my identity. It’s part of who I am. But, trying to find a way to articulate this to a non-writer caught me off guard.

I’ve had more than one experience where I told someone I was a writer, and they’d respond by asking me what I’d published. Today, I can point to research papers, online articles for various companies, and a literary journal. However, even with those publications, many non-writers aren’t all that impressed with my writing record. This is even more apparent when they find out that though I’m a fiction writer, I don’t yet have a published novel.

I’ve even had family members—these members are in the minority—who tell me that they still have dreams too, but they say that as if dreams never do come true. It can make me feel like I’m a little kid, who’s getting a pat on the head by a chuckling parent.

I think of all those authors out there, who many would have never believed would become famous writers.

Stephen King has published over fifty novels, including Carrie, The Shining, and Doctor Sleep. King is world famous. But before he got published, he was a high school janitor. Who would have imagined that a janitor would get to where King is now?

John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and more, was working on becoming a minister. It was during his time serving as a children’s hospital chaplain that he was inspired to write The Fault in Our Stars.

Nicholas Sparks, author of the renowned bestseller, The Notebook, as well as numerous other novels, worked various small jobs before he became a famous author. One of those jobs was cold-calling people to sell them dental products.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, went from being depressed and on welfare to one of the richest people in the world in five years.

There are so many more examples out there. When I think of these authors, the question of why I became a writer is all the more clear. I was always a writer. I wrote skits and plays in elementary school, attempted my first book in middle school, and wrote my first novel in high school. Were these early attempts good? No. But I’ve kept at it, taking courses, reading, and getting a master’s in writing.

I can’t imagine my life without writing. Story ideas and characters bombard me; I have to write about these fictional people and worlds. I hope to one day be published, and I’m not going to give up…I will get published.

But regardless of being published or not, I’m a writer because I can’t live without it. I can’t image living without telling about the worlds and characters that won’t let me sleep at night, that make me not realize the red light has changed to green, or that have me space out mid-conversation.

When someone asks me why I became a writer, I say that I didn’t become a writer. I’ve always been one.

Why are you a writer?

(photo courtesy of Dave Morrison Photography.)

 

Being Happy as a Writer

6941440367_53fbc30754_zHappy Leap Day! Hope everyone is enjoying their extra day of the year. (My grandma and great aunt get to have a birthday this year.)

Writing is challenging. It’s time consuming and frustrating. It’s also amazing. The feeling of accomplishment you get when you’re finally satisfied with your work can seem miraculous. That feeling can safeguard you against all the ups and downs that are inevitably tied to the writing process.

If you enjoy writing as much as I hope you do, then it can make you happy, whether you’re published or not. However, in order to truly experience happiness and satisfaction from your writing, your work must have some significance to you.

I recently read an article titled How To Be Happy: 5 Secrets Backed By Research. This article isn’t writing specific, but I found it informative and intriguing. Plus, it’s filled with links to other science-based articles, books, lectures, etc. that back the information Eric, the author of the blog, states.14209441301_c2a017cf72_z

The articles delves into five ways to be happy. I’ll briefly include them here, but check out the article for more detailed information.

Five ways to be happy:

  1. Pursuing pleasure in life is not enough to be happy. Your life needs meaning. It’s only when you combine pleasure and meaning that you find happiness.
  2. Write down what you do in a day. It’s easy to lose track of time. You hop on the computer for a quick Facebook check and end up spending an hour scrolling through your feed. Did that hour make you happy? Fulfilled? Evaluate how you spent your time by looking at how it made you feel. You’ll discover which activities generate happiness and which ones don’t. Increase the time spent on activities that make you happy.
  3. Happiness is more than just doing things that make us feel good. We must enjoy the process of doing those things. When we enjoy what we’re doing we create a “flow.” In other words, we’re able to focus on the present, and though we may end up working very hard, the work doesn’t feel painful.
  4. Answer this question: If no one could see what you were doing, and therefore couldn’t judge you, what would you do? By answering this question, you’ll discover which activities you truly enjoy doing and which activities matter most to you, instead of which ones are more impressive or acceptable by your peers.
  5. Similar to saying versus doing, or showing versus telling, it’s one thing to know what makes us happy; it’s another thing to do what really matters to us. Therefore, we must make a habit out of doing what makes us happy.

Here are some habits to help increase happiness:

  1. Physical exercise. It improves both physical and mental wellbeing.
  2. Hang out with friends. Those intimate relationships make all the difference.
  3. Be grateful. Show gratitude to others and yourself.
  4. Meditate. This helps you to focus. No more monkey mind.

One of the most important realizations about being happy is to know that you’re human, and by being human you won’t experience happiness all the time. Without the dark times in our lives, we can’t recognize happiness, gratitude, compassion, love, and all the other wonderful emotions we, as humans, come to understand and appreciate.

What do you think? What makes you happy?

(Photos courtesy of Bob B. Brown and Vladimir Pustovit.)

Writing is a Dream Job. Or is it?

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If asked, many people say that writing full time is their dream job. Who wouldn’t want to be able to live off their writing? However, for the vast majority of people, making enough money from their writing, or making any money from their writing, isn’t going to happen.

So, why are there so many people in the world who see writing as their dream job?

Perhaps it’s the image of the writer. The full time writer gets to choose her own hours. She gets to work from home, sitting at her desk, staring out the window, while she builds a fictional world. She creates beautifully crafted sentences and ideas come to her. Her imagination flows. Then, when she’s finished her manuscript, she sends it off to her agent and editor, and her work gets published.

Yeah, if only writing were like that.

Writing isn’t easy. It’s time consuming, frustrating, full of road blocks and self-doubt (there are times where you believe everything you’ve written is trash and you want to burn it all), and often lacks the satisfaction people believe writing gives writers (many writers aren’t happy with how their work turns out. They constantly strive to improve, and often see faults within their work, even if their work is a bestseller).

Writing can be wonderful. The accomplishment you feel from completing a novel or short story is fantastic. But writing doesn’t end there. The beautifully crafted sentences don’t magically flow from pen to paper. Usually, they come during the revision process, when you’re actively and aggressively editing your work.

A common saying in writing is to “kill your darlings.” Though Stephen King didn’t coin the phrase, he followed the saying with, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings,” in his novel On Writing.

Be brutal in the editing process. That is a difficult piece of advice because writers get attached to their characters, their storyline, etc. It would be great if the first draft of a novel was perfect and everything you wrote was golden. However, since that’s rarely the case, you have to put aside your ego (and let’s face it, everyone has an ego) and tear apart your work.

Better yet? Have a critique group that will shred your work for you. It’s a painful process, but when you do get an agent and editor they won’t hold your hand. They took you on because they saw potential in your work, and they will do whatever they believe is necessary to make your work the best it can be. This often means you receiving notes from your editor that force you to sit back and ignore your work for a few days for fear of burning it in a fit of passion.

For some people, writing it truly their dream job, as long as they have a realistic image of what writing full time entails. Those people who do write full time, they have something internal motivating them past all the hardships that come along with being a full time writer. As George Orwell said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.”

What drives you to write?

(Photo courtesy of Drew Coffman.)