Monthly Archives: March 2009

I’ve realized I’m writing letters in internet bottles, not a blog

I’ve gone and changed the description of this site (i.e. the subtitle), since I don’t post regularly enough to call it a “blog.”  It’s more like short letters I write, stick into bottles, and then toss onto the internet seas.

Everything got backed up posting-wise as I’ve been trying to find the time to watch uninterrupted an interview with Richard Peck before I post, but I think it best at this point I skip it and do a post on Scott McCloud tomorrow since that one is ready to go.

The more I think about it, the more I realize this isn’t a blog.  It’s more a slowly built “thought map” where I’m trying to write notes that can be of help to other fiction writers.  I’ve tried to index categories and tags in such a way that users can easily look for all the posts on a subject such as “writer’s block.”

Anyways, I’ll do my best to post on at least a weekly basis, though my fiction writing must come first, so there may be points where I’m delayed.

Elizabeth Berg’s ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN–A Great Beginner’s Guide to Writing

Take a moment and try to remember how it felt when you decided you wanted to try writing fiction by yourself for the first time.   You don’t know anything about point-of-view, story and character arcs, acts and beats, query letters and synopses, etcetera.   You had no experience with conferences or critique groups.  Everything about fiction writing was new and strange.

Elizabeth Berg’s ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN: The Art of Writing True (ISBN 978-0-06-092929-9) is a great book for those making their first tottering steps on the road of writing.   It’s the book I recommend to people who’ve expressed an interest in doing fiction writing, but have no clue where to start.

What I love most about the book are the chapters on voice (Ch. 3 ), writing exercises (Ch. 4 ), and writing with passion (ch. 5).   The book gets the reader writing on a regular basis–which is half the battle right there, since writers must write in order to get better at their craft.  I’ve seen new writers get distracted in reading too many books and sitting in too many lectures, and not doing enough writing.  I’ve been guilty of getting distracted myself, and this book got me back on track.

If you’re a more experienced fiction writer, most of the book will be “old news” to you.  However, I think Ch. 3 & 4 & 5 still have advice and guidance useful to the semi-pro (which is probably why they’re my favorites).  Struggles with voice never go away.   Here’s a favorite quote from Ch. 3 In Your Own Words:

I believe that one of your most important jobs as a writer is to be true to yourself, to honor your own notions of what you believe is important to your life and to that of others….I’m sure you’ve heard, countless times, “Write what you know.”  I would change that to “Write what you love.”  The knowledge can be learned; the passion can’t be–it’s either there or it isn’t.

Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY-Recovering from severe creative block

I just finished doing the whole 12-week program in Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY (ISBN 0-87477-694-5). I’m always interested in finding a good book that can help people with writer’s block, so when I heard about hers I knew I’d have to try it out so I could blog about it.

Her book is specifically geared towards helping all artists, not just writers. Also, she tackles dealing with the worst creative blocks–the kind where the artist is the equivalent of a blasted building. Many of the exercises are ways to clear out the rubble and figure out what is to be built on the foundation that is discovered.

What this means is that if you are further along in the journey (you know what kind of art you want to do, you do it regularly, you’ve taken classes, you’ve read other books on blocks such as BREAK WRITER’S BLOCK NOW), you may find yourself getting restless at times. There were a few times when I felt like the book was dragging. But other chapters helped me to clarify attitudes and behaviors that were holding me back (such as Week 6: Recovering a Sense of Abundance, where I had to deal with my feelings about money ). The twelve weeks were all worth doing despite my restlessness.

The book divides itself into twelve chapters, one chapter for each week. Each chapter tackles a different issue that can block an artist, as well as providing exercises to help readers figure out what they might like to try, explore their past, and act on insights.

One is required to write morning pages each day to help get in touch with one’s feelings. Mine tended to yo-yo between insights and utter tedium. The weekly Artist’s date was fun to arrange, but the requirement to do it alone was frustrating at times.

Overall, this is a great book to give to someone suffering from a massive creative block, or anyone who wants to explore their inner artist. I’d encourage the reader with a severe block to do the book, if possible, with an Artist’s Way group instead of alone.