Posts Tagged With: fearless writing

On Writing Long Posts

Dear Reader,

I apologize for the length of my last few posts.  Obviously, I can be extremely long-winded.  I realize that there is an art to writing blog posts, which I believe I have not yet mastered.  I understand if you do not like reading my long-ass posts; I will not be offended.

Nevertheless, I will most likely continue to write such posts.  You see, I write more for my own benefit than I do for yours, as I am sure we all do.  I feel there is a lot knocking around inside my brain and I want to get it out. The beauty of our modern-day technology is that I am able to do so in a way which potentially provides me with interaction for my thoughts.  

Therefore, my dear reader, I thank you for indulging me in my rambles and for engaging with me from time to time.   

I take my long-winded habits as a good sign as we head into November.  Apparently, as long as I have something to say, two thousand words come easily for me.  I will try to cling to this knowledge during those dark moments in November when I am at a loss.

Sincerely,

Me

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feeling like a fraud

There is something that has been gnawing at the back of my mind for the past couple of days.  I am sure many can relate.  Nevertheless, I fear it may be holding me back.  Here goes: I am afraid that I am a big, fat writing fraud.

First of all, this feeling like a fraud is really nothing new to me.

I went through almost all of grad school this way.  In my experience, it is rare to find graduate students (or professors, for that matter) who are open and honest about who they are and how they feel.  It is all a big charade.  We prance around, spouting off bullshit, pretending like we have everything together.  (I believe this is also an apt description of what we call “life.”)

“Aw man, I didn’t get a chance to read the articles for this week.” 

This statement may or may not be a gross exaggeration, but a proper translation would read,

“I want to know how prepared you are for class, so I know I won’t be the only one bullshitting my way through discussion.”

“Oh, that’s rough,” accompanied by a pitying look. 

Translation:

“Oh, good, I won’t be the only one bullshitting my way through discussion.  And thank you for saying it first because now no one has to know that I didn’t read any of the articles either.”

Of course, “not reading any articles” usually means just reading the introductions, the conclusions and skimming the rest.  What no one tells you – they let you figure it out all on your own – is, that is reading the articles.  In academia, anyway.  None of us reads the whole article or the whole book, or very rarely.  When, in one week, you have four books and twenty articles to read, along with the 60 papers from your undergrads that you promised you would give back to them in a timely fashion for once, it is nigh near physically impossible to read the whole books or articles.  Unless perhaps you don’t need any sleep, only get hungry once a week, don’t have any hobbies, and have absolutely no social life, but even then I imagine it would be a stretch.

So, when a grad student comments to another grad student,

“Aw man, I didn’t get a chance to read the articles for this week,”

what he really means to say is,

“Am I doing it right?”

To which the response is usually,

“No.  I am doing it better than you.”

But this is only because no one wants to admit that they are stumbling along, just like everyone else.  Successfully convincing other grad students that you are reading all your articles, not writing your papers the night before, and finishing grading in a timely fashion, all while cooking healthy meals, exercising on a daily basis, hanging out with friends twice a week and managing to find time to attend local concerts on a bi-weekly basis, allows you to feel good about yourself.  But it is all bullshit.  No one can manage all that unless she’s Wonder Woman.  There are a couple of Wonder Womans in grad school, but the vast majority of us are just plain Janes pretending we’re Wonder Woman.

It does not matter that I figured this out, I still felt like a fraud most of the time.  Like, I got where I was by pure accident, that someday someone will finally notice and I’ll kicked out of the club.  I am almost done and I still feel like this sometimes.

All that to say, I am familiar with this feeling.

So, when I start to hear myself thinking,

“You can’t do this.  It has been over 20 years since you’ve had a creative writing class,”

or

“You can’t do this.  All those other people – authors, other people who blog about writing – they write all the time.  You don’t deserve to be called a writer,”

or

“You can’t do this.  You waited too long.  Any creative juices you had wasted away while you were in grad school,”

I try not to listen.  I know these things do not have to be true.  It doesn’t always work.  Recently I’ve been feeling like a fraud when it comes to writing.

I’ve said this before, but I started this blog to document my journey back to creative writing.  In part, it is my way to stay excited about the prospect.  In part, it is my way to continue fostering the desire while I finish up my dissertation.  (So tired of the dissertation!)  I have also realized that, without knowing it, it is also a way for me to be connected with other writers, which is mostly a source of amazing encouragement.  Just being able to read about other people’s experiences ensures me that I am not alone.

Although, sometimes this makes me feel like I did when I first started grad school: overwhelmed and underqualified.  And in some ways, the journey is like a new beginning.  In some ways it does feel like I am starting something new, because it has been so long.  But instead of being excited about the journey, I just see a long, long road.

I will read about something someone learned in their creative writing class and feel like I have vague memory of learning something similar.  I will start to sweat and think

“Oh, no, I can’t start writing yet.  There are so many things I have to learn and re-learn.”

Or

“I have to be deliberate about how I write.  I can’t just write.”

Sometimes I will read about someone who writes prolifically and I will especially like a fraud then, because, well, I don’t.  I think about writing all the time, but I am not writing all the time.  Sometimes I go for days without writing anything at all.

These feelings tell me that I have no right to have a blog about writing.  I need to feel like a writer before I can write about writing.  Then I remember that I never claimed anywhere that I was an awesome writer who wrote perfectly all the time.  I started this blog so that I could document my journey to becoming a fiction writer.  And these feelings are part of that journey.

I have the sneaking suspicion, though, that these feelings are trying to prevent me from writing.  That’s not cool.

Learning how to construct an engaging, well-written story involves a LOT, and there is no doubt that there is a LOT I need to learn, or re-learn as the case may be.  But I cannot let any of that prevent me from just writing already.  Even if it I think it sounds stupid.  Even if it does not seem to be flowing.  Even if I start to not like my main character.  I will learn all these things, but not if I don’t write.

I was about to say that just writing is especially important for the stage I am at, but this is probably true no matter what stage a person is at.  Also, I will probably have to remind myself of this over and over again.  I hope I don’t end up sounding like a broken record.

I am not a fraud, I am just inexperienced.  That will come with time, as long as I write.  And write.  And keep writing.  Write without looking back.  I’ll pick up my lessons along the way.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hello, my name is Marilyn and I am a Vampire Addict.

One of the first exercises Chris Baty has you do in the beginning of No Plot? No Problem! is to draft two “magna cartas.”  One should be composed of all the things that you personally like in the books you love to read.  He says to be honest, even if it means admitting that you like books with a lot of white space because you do not like reading large blocks of text.  The other “magna carta” should be the opposite list – all the things you find boring in books.  Again, he encourages you to be honest with yourself, even if it means admitting that you really hate books about old people or love stories.

I did this exercise, although I have not yet hung them up by my desk like he suggests.  I will not post them here either, but I do want to take this opportunity to be honest about the kind of book I want to write, based on the kind of book I like to read.

I am a genre reader.  I love me a good urban fantasy.  I also enjoy straight-up fantasy, science fiction (both soft and hard), apocalyptic dystopias, some steampunk, and the occasionally mystery.  Add to that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and John Donne, and that about rounds out what I prefer reading.

I also LOVE vampires.  Love them…I get all feisty with people who try to disparage my beloved vampire and I feel the need to spout long diatribes, explaining their importance as archetypes of the human experience.  I will spare you that spiel here.

Bela Lugosi's DraculaFirst of all, I would like to concede the fact that the current state of literature is filled to the brim with vampire stories.  Well, I don’t care.  This first manuscript (and probably the  second and the third) is just for me.  I need to get in the practice of writing creatively again.  I need to experiment with story-construction, from beginning to end.  The first manuscript I write, edited or not, is probably not going to be publication-worthy.  I am okay with that, which is why I decided that one of the main characters in my first manuscript will be a vampire.  It will not have to compete with the market and that is what I want to write about, so that is what I am going to do.  So there!

Secondly, I just want to mention something that I find ironic.  I love reading and I love vampires, but, honestly, I cannot think of a single book about vampires that I would give five out of five stars too.  I am not entirely sure why.  It just seems that even if I enjoy the story and the characterizations, I always end up disappointed – as though the author could have treated the vampire mythology just a little bit better.  Of course, I have not read every single book out there with vampire characters, and I am sure there must be at least a couple that would become favorites.  Nevertheless, my experience to date cannot provide me with such a book, with the one notable exception of Dracula by Bram Stoker himself.  However, Dracula works for an historical setting (today anyway), but I like my vampires to feel a little closer and that involves a contemporary treatment.

If I may momentarily set the novel aside, Joss Whedon is my hero and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (along with Angel and the irrelevant-to-this-discussion Firefly) is, in my opinion, one of the best shows every produced for television.  I wish I could find that in a novel.

I believe part of my desire to focus on the vampire is that the part of my brain which has never been introduced to my internal critic thinks that maybe I can do it “right.”  When I say that out-loud (or the written equivalent), however, that little guy takes note, glares at me and shames me into believing that I could never do that.  My inner critic’s opinion is irrelevant, though, since he is barred from reading my first manuscript.

Well, there it is… *Whew!*  I have come clean.  I like vampires.  I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest.  Now you, dear reader, know what you are getting yourself into and I can no longer be held accountable for leading you down a dark path that leads to a genre you hate.

My name is Marilyn and I am a vampire addict.

Categories: Pensive Ponderings, Planning, Random Ruminations, Reading, The Process, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Pink Elephants Under a Purple Moon

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to find that, not only had people read my posts, but they actually liked them.  My immediate reaction was, “Well, now I can’t post anything new – what if they don’t like it and decide to ‘unfollow’ me?”  That reaction was succeeded by, “Well, actually, now I have to write more posts because people have ‘followed’ my blog and I need to provide them with something to read – the implication of ‘following’ me is that there will be something more to ‘follow.’”

Nevermind the fact that, ultimately, any writing I do is for me.  Yes, I want people to enjoy what I write.  I would like them to find it interesting, enlightening and informative.  I want people to find my writing fluid and easy to read.  And I LOVE the fact that I have already had positive responses to what I have posted here.

However,…none of that really matters.

I have written numerous academic papers over the years.  I wrote them because they were required of me, but, for example, I never once wrote anything on engineering or biology.  I am a social scientist.  Even if the actual writing was like pulling teeth, the subject was always something that interested me.  I wrote what I thought was important and engaging (…except for those times when I threw some “crap” together at the last minute, which always turned out to be better than I thought while I was writing it).  And these papers always seemed to please my professors.

I need to remember this, and not be afraid of what other people think of me or what I have written.  How will I ever gather the courage to show my fiction to anyone if I fear what people think about my blog posts?

If I start writing for other people, then what I produce will inevitably be sub-par.  So often I have heard the phrase “write what you know,” (which is not un-true).  Well, more recently (thank you Chris Baty), I have heard “write what you love,” even if you are the only one who will enjoy it or want to read it.  If what I want to read involves pink elephants singing and dancing under a purple moon, then that is what I should write.  This is especially true for the stage I am, more or less, currently at – the beginning.

Be fearless in my writing and write for myself.  These are my lessons for the day.

…Now on to that pesky last dissertation chapter.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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