albionidaho: (Default)
I'm of the opinion that it's important to be able to write anywhere, at any time. Only being able to write in a certain place under particular circumstances is a setup for eventual disaster. There will be a point where you need to write elsewhere under unusual circumstances and then what are you going to do?

This being said, there are certain circumstances under which I prefer to write. I like to write somewhere with plenty of natural light. I like to write somewhere peaceful. I like to write somewhere where I feel I have space to spread out if necessary. And, depending on what I'm writing, Internet access is incredibly useful, both for research and access to music (i.e., Pandora).

There is a library in the North Bay where I love to write. The entire library feels like one wide open space. One side of the library is floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in incredible amounts of lovely natural light. The color scheme is pleasant and calming, with natural greens and earth tones. There are several sizable tables and comfortable chairs; several soft, comfortable club chairs and couches; there are ottomans and end tables; and there are an amazing number of outlets. And there's wireless Internet access.

But I'm also surrounded by books and other people reading or writing or working. The library is always full of people using the library, which makes me happy. I love to see people using the public library. And I love to be surrounded by books.

When I'm surrounded by the right circumstances, I find immersing myself in my work easy, whether I'm studying, writing non-fiction essays, reports, articles, or fiction.

Today I'm at this library, in a club chair with an end table where I've stuck a copy of Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction. There's a window to my left, magazines to my right. I've had a good fiction writing day, and the empirical research report I'm writing is going well, too.

I can ask for little else.
albionidaho: (Default)
Because I don't have enough to learn in life, I'm currently pursuing a certification in programming C, to be followed with C++ and Java. The first day of class, my professor said we could expect to spend about eight hours a week outside of class studying.

This was a lie. (I kind of expected that, at least for me, it was when we were told the bit about eight hours of homework a week.)

I could have a part time job with the amount of time I spend working on my programming homework. This is okay. Learning new skills and enhancing current skills takes time. I know this. And I'm totally fine putting in the work. But this doesn't mean I don't feel completely lost and clueless much of the time.

I constantly feel lost. And clueless. And it's kind of scary. So I dig in my heels and poke and poke, and then I poke some more. And at some point, I figure things will really start to click. Right?

Right.

I feel I have to work really hard at this because this is not necessarily where my natural talents lie. On the other hand, I know that "talent," whatever that is, isn't everything. Everything I do well I had to work at, and I didn't start out being good at what I'm good at.

I didn't emerge from the womb walking and talking.

It's the same with any skill. You practice and practice and practice and keep hitting your head against the brick wall, and eventually something will give. (And hopefully not your skull.)

[livejournal.com profile] raven_radiation sent me a couple links to remind me of this:

Why I'm Proud to Have Been an Unoriginal, Talentless Hack and Do you Have Enough Talent to Become Great at It.

And so I'm reminded coding is a skill, a new skill, and it will take time to hit proficiency. And at the same time I'm reminded that I will progress as a writer. It's just, again, going to take time and practice.

And that's okay -- a lot of life is about learning to enjoy the ride.

[livejournal.com profile] raven_radiation also sent me another couple links I find inspiring:

Monstrous Discrepancies and Minus.
albionidaho: (Default)
I want to write about letting the dreamer write.

I was speaking with Graham Joyce one night at a World Fantasy Convention. I may get this slightly wrong, but I think I can convey the gist:

Graham told me that when writers write they need to let the dreamer write first. He encouraged me, as he's encouraged others, to just dream on the page when writing the first draft of a story. Don't worry about plot and characters or structure or language or any of the other things writers worry about when they write. Just dream.

Later, after the dreamer has created the story on the page, you let the writer in. But not until the dreamer is done. Letting the writer work before the dreamer has done her magic is a common mistake.

When it's the writer's turn to work, you shape the story, working on plot and characters and structure and language and ensuring the story works. And when the writer is done it's time for the editor to come in with her red pen and rip everything apart.

But first you have to let the dreamer in.

Trying to let the dreamer create before I open the door to the writer and the editor has made a huge difference for me. For a long time I was trying to let the writer create, and it wasn't working for me--I was expecting the writer to do her job and the dreamer's, too.

I think this concept works for all writers, whether you're usually an outliner or not; when you're outlining, you're still letting the dreamer work.
albionidaho: (Default)
They (whoever they are) say that the biggest three stresses are divorce, moving and death. I've dealt with all three over the past two years. And believe me, whoever they are, they know what they're talking about.

But the stress they don't talk about is staying in a bad place. That's even worse than divorce, moving and death.

***


When I write now I see my evolution as a writer. I am changing, and growing. The stories I wrote pre-2008 would never be written now. I have found another place to write from, a deeper place. A more experienced place. At the same time, I am trying to remember those places from which I wrote before because these are good, useful, fine places to dive into when writing.

***


Because of life and other environmental factors, I spent most of my adult life trying to be logical and think critically of everything. Being able to think logically and critically are good skills to have; however, if you're not careful logic and critical thinking can overpower creativity and the Dreamer's ability to take the first stab at a draft.

One of my goals for this year is to re-embrace the Dreamer and creator within myself when writing, and to let go of the logical critical thinking part of me for a little while. I'll bring her back in when it's appropriate, but for now we need some time apart.

She's logical enough that I think she'll understand.

Writing is about balance. It's about being creative and dreaming for yourself, and then bringing logic and critical thinking in as you open the door for the Writer and the Editor.

Writer 101 stuff, yeah, but it's something that's been easy for me to forget. And maybe we all need reminding of this stuff every so often.

***


And now it's time to work on my proposal before class tonight.
albionidaho: (Default)
I'm fighting an ear infection, so last night [livejournal.com profile] chris_reynaga made me chowder, I took some Motrin, and he read me B.R. Myers' "A Reader's Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness of American Literary Prose" from the July/August 2001 edition of The Atlantic.

It's fairly long, but it's an interesting read if you are a writer or are interested in good writing and modern literary fiction. Also, it has some pretty awesome laugh out loud moments, and we all need more of those.
albionidaho: (Default)
I get a lot of questions about rearing kids and writing as much as I do, and how I'm as productive as I am. It was also something that both Mary Rosenblum and Connie Willis discussed with me at Clarion West. I was the only young mother there (the mother of a six-year-old and a three-year-old), and they knew the societal, familial, and personal expectations for me were and are huge.

Mary and Connie talked about how having a supportive spouse is important, and not everyone has that. There are really no answers for how to deal with that -- every relationship is as complicated and as unique as the people that are in it. But it is something that every writer has to deal with (can and will and does the person I'm with understand why I spend all this time doing what I do?) can they deal with this?), and it's particularly an issue to deal with when one is a wife and mother. Despite the evolution of our culture and the role of women within it, there are a lot of attitudes and expectations that have not changed. Particularly in Idaho.

Read more... )

Finally, it's about choices.  There are a lot of things I don't spend my time on right now because if I'm to mother and write and do all these other things something will have to give.  This is part of the reason why I don't currently work on music much.  I have, in the past, played several instruments, my favorites being the piano and guitar, and I also sang, once upon a time.  I once was heavily involved with theater.  I used to be an artist, winning awards for my work.  I crochet, I knit.  I love to cook and garden and read.  I love movies.  I love hiking and exploring places I wouldn't take my children until they're older.  I love experiencing new things, pushing myself to the edge, feeling myself get carried away physically by whatever I'm challenging myself with.  I love to meet people, be with people.  I love to learn new things. I love to travel. I love to do research.  I have studied four languages, other than English.  But there isn't time to do all this now, so I make choices as to how to spend my time.  The piano and guitar will be there when the kids are older.  So will the yarn, and the theater, and the hiking trails and biking trails.  I do some of these things occasionally, but I don't pursue them as much as I'd like.  Mostly, I mother, I write, I read a bit (not as voraciously as I used to -- my permanent companions were books for so many years), and I love the people who are important to me.  And I blog.  Because blogging helps me process my life, and it's a record of who I am now.  And someday, someone will care.  I already have cared about who I was in the past, and my progeny may want to know who I was, as well.

I'm anthropologist.  We keep records.  Anthropologists are those who write things down at the end of the day.

albionidaho: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] chris_reynaga just pointed out he thought Chuck said Kristin was pretty because she had an eye on this side and an eye on this side (i.e., an eye on each side of her face).  Hell if I know what that means (let me know if any of you think you know), but I still think I was onto something yesterday.

*mass apologies*

*ducks*

albionidaho: (Default)
Today is brought to you by Lemongrass Green tea and  Jarvis "Smash the System" Cocker.

I have a confession to make.

Last night, after the kids were sung to and read to and hugged and kissed and in bed, I was going to write. And I didn't write. I ended up reading the entire back blog entries of a friend of mine because it's a fascinating, enjoyable, thoughtful, entertaining blog. I totally ate the crayons.

But you know, last night, the crayons were really good. Not waxy and unfulfilling at all.

However, I also stayed up way past my bedtime because of eating said  crayons, and now I'm exhausted this morning.  I am writing this morning, because we must press through and go on, though my typing speed and my clarity of thought and use of language has been moderately impaired. At least it seems that way.

At Clarion West, I believe it was Mary Rosenblum who pointed out that, as a general rule, when a writer evaluates the work they wrote on a day they didn't feel good and didn't feel like writing and the days they felt like they were on fire that they really wouldn't be able to tell the difference. (This, of course, isn't taking certain factors into consideration -- I know there are circumstances that can strongly affect one's ability to write well, e.g., certain medications and illnesses.) I assume this is one of those days for me -- tired, slow writing, but I'll not be able to differentiate what I produce today from what I produce on a really good day during this time period.
albionidaho: (Default)
Today is brought to you by green tea and Placebo and Placebo (Hah! It's young Brian and old Brian!).
***

I have heard and read that people can process what they learned at Clarion and Clarion West for a least a year afterward.

I completely believe this.

I just had a revelation.  I think. =)

During week six, our instructor was Chuck Palahniuk.  He was wonderful -- kind, gentle, loving.  And he truly does believe you are a special and unique snowflake, unlike anyone else.  I adored him.  He's a beautiful, beautiful man.  And he has a lovely speaking voice.  (And, as you read on, you'll realize I've been lazy here and haven't followed Chuck's lesson I discuss below.  We'll have to cope; I'm in a hurry.)

One lesson he tried to teach us, which is not only useful for minimalist fiction (of which Chuck is a practitioner) but for all fiction, is the concept of specifics.  I may not be calling it the right term (I'd have to double check my CW notes), but let's run with that.

Chuck would say that a writer telling the reader that a character is 6' 5" doesn't tell anything.  It's not specific.  Telling the reader that someone weighs 135 pounds doesn't say anything.  Telling the reader that someone was 36 means nothing at all.  But when one adds context and fits the character's qualities and characteristics in with their life and the rest of the character's lives, suddenly so much more meaning can be implied and inferred. 

From Amy Hempel's "The Harvest":

"The year I began to say vahz instead of vase, a man I barely knew nearly accidentally killed me. "

In this one opening line Hempel tells the reader so much about what is to come in the rest of the story.  The section "The year I began to say vahz instead of vase," tells the reader a huge amount about the character, so much more so than if she'd said, "The year I turned thirty-two...". 

Just chew on that for a bit.

During his week, Chuck kept telling us that one of our classmates, Kristin, was pretty (and she is) because she has two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth.  Several of us responded with, "What the hell does that mean?  Of course she does." 

But today I realized I think it's about specifics.  I could be wrong, and I hope my classmates call me on it if I am (and I'll tell you if they do), but I think he was trying to say, "Be specific.  Be detailed.  Kristin looks like most other folks; most folks have two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth, but Kristin is pretty because she has her two eyes, her two ears, her nose, her mouth.  Show the reader what that means for Kristin, show the reader what this means for the other characters.  Tell the reader about the year Kristin started calling a vase a vahz.

I'm still processing.  This is really starting to make sense to me.  Does this make sense to anyone else?

***
  This is the text of Hempel's "The Harvest".  One could spend a lot of time dissecting this story.  Hempel is brilliant.

albionidaho: (Default)
Today is brought to you by lemongrass tea and Bela Bartok.

This year's NaNo novel will be completed tomorrow. I've done a lot of writing this week. *ahem*

As [livejournal.com profile] chris_reynaga has noted, one of the biggest lessons we were taught at Clarion West was the importance of simply sitting down in one's seat and writing regularly.  Just do it, as Nike was so fond of saying.  

It became evident that so much of writing was about consistent, steady practice.  Mary Rosenblum encouraged me to make up a story on a regular basis, maybe even every morning, from an article in the newspaper or a magazine.  It wasn't necessary to write it down, but it was ideal to figure out the main characters and the external and internal plot.  (She focused on the external plot with me as that was where I was lacking.) I was amazed at how skilled she was at simply sitting down with an idea and forming a whole story around it.  She said it was because she'd done it over and over and over again, year after year. 

This is a lesson I try to teach Avadore.  People don't just run marathons, people don't just sit down one day and read Moby Dick at four-years-old. Though talent is lovely, in the end so much of what we do is about practice.  Perseverance. 

Writing is a skill: it's learned, it's developed, it's honed, it's maintained.  And it's one of those skills that people continue to learn, develop, hone, and maintain.  Everyday.

This is why I encourage people to do NaNoWriMo.  It gets one in the daily writing groove for one month to the point that it can, ideally, become habit.
***

I think about writing a lot -- while singing with the kids as we drive to the grocery store, while I shower, while I cook. 

I live about a quarter mile from the country and a half mile from the city.  The Idaho version of a city, that is.  Today the kids and I drove in the opposite direction as everyone else and went to the country.  Avadore took pictures of some absolutely gorgeous horses. We talked about the changing season, how the leaves have all fallen and everything looks dead, but how there's a beauty in the color of the trees and bushes and sagebrush, how there's a beauty in the muted light.  We talked about how the farm animals were snuggled together for warmth, why the quality of the sunlight had changed, how the days were getting shorter and shorter.  We talked about how people have lots of celebrations during this time and how it helps people make it through the dark, winter months.  We came home and read National Geographic.  The kids and I love National Geographic.  We're total NG whores at my house.  We reread the China issue from May, and talked about China and how beautiful it is there, and how different, and why that's so. 

And all this time the back of my head was musing over lessons learned this summer in Seattle.

This is what it's like to be a girl -- we can maintain several hamsters in our heads at once.


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