Fear Factor: Understanding the Fear of Writing

We all know the feeling of fear. It can be spurred by so many things, whether abstract or concrete, whether facing us now or just being a thought in our minds. And different people, of course, are afraid of different things. There are so many kinds of horror that the different media today basically has everything for everyone who wants to feel fear – and excitement and adrenaline rush from watching horror movies. But of course, the fear we get from movies – whether they’re in-your-face gore-fests or the subtle and creepy kind – is different from the fear we get when we deal with things in real life. The real-life things we’re afraid of aren’t ghosts, or monsters, but smaller, more pressing concerns that we have to deal with every single day. A missed deadline. Quota we failed to meet. Running late for exams. They sound simpler, but you can’t just turn off the screen on them and forget about them.

Now, I said different people are afraid of different things, but I think it gets more weight in real life when I say that different people with different preoccupations are afraid of different things that may or may not happen. That sounds like a mouthful, right? In any case, by saying that, the point is this – that writers deal with the fear of things that possibly only they can feel. And writers may be in the unique position of being afraid of the precise same thing that they need to do. Writing.

The fear of writing may stem from many things. The likeliest reason may be writer’s block – one moment you’re writing something great and you’re feeling good about yourself, the next moment you have nothing and you start panicking and you’re not really sure if you should pick up the pen and write again. It’s a real fear that just about any writer has encountered. And that’s just the beginning. In her article The Four Fears That Stop You From Writing” for terribleminds, Andrea Phillips outlines the four fears that: fear of the lack of talent, fear about feedback, fear about publication, and fear about being judged. These are very real fears, and Phillips articulates them well. Take this one about the very basic fear of the lack of talent:

Writing is an uncomfortable act. You’re making yourself vulnerable — exposing the softest, squishiest bits of your psyche and putting them out there in public where people will know what is in your deepest heart of hearts, and just might stomp on it with extreme prejudice.

Your good ol’ reptile brain perceives this as a threat to your personal safety. No sense hating the reptilian bits of your brain, though. Its job is to minimize risk, and it does it to keep you as fat and happy as it can. So it comes up with tons of fantastic reasons for you to not actually take any risks at all.

Phillips nails it. Scared of being called talentless, scared of experiencing prejudice, you, the writer, just decide not to write at all. Which effectively stops everything else, from feedback to publication, in its tracks. It’s understandable, but also ultimately something that you have to overcome if you really want to write. As Phillips says at the end of her article:

…The absolute best work you have in you is always going to be the stuff that’s closest to your heart, the stuff that’s absolutely the hardest to let another human being read. It’s risky to show people those deep and true parts of yourself, but life is risk. Look that fear in the eye, spit it in the face, and then write more effing words.

Those are four basic, general fears, of course. But Dan Blank’s article for Writer Unboxed, Writers: What Are You Afraid Of?” looks at fears specifically pointed out by authors. It’s worth reading, but the part that really struck me was this:

Too often, I believe “new” writers assume that if they just get over some mythical hump in their writing career, that things become easier, at least on an emotional level. I haven’t found that to be the case when talking with writers. Everything is relative, and no “success” can stop us from being human beings who oftentimes run on survival instincts, and who have a difficult time processing a complex social world.

All this to say: I don’t think fear is a shameful thing that we must rid ourselves of. It is a natural part of taking the risks that writers do. And that the logical reaction to fear should indeed be bravery.

Here, Dan Blank is referring to being afraid of continuing to publish your work even after you’ve already published something and it’s gone on to be successful. Success is not a deterrent, and authors – whether or not they’ve already been published and have been successful – still need to deal with the fear of being criticized or being ignored when they’re next work is on the line. So fear isn’t just something that sits with writers who haven’t proven themselves yet. Fear assails everyone – whether you’re successful or not. Is that a comforting thought? It depends on you of course, but it may be a consolation if you think about how you and your favorite writer are possibly constantly in the same boat.

So what now? We acknowledge that we get scared of writing, of getting published, of getting feedback, of getting rejected. How do we overcome these? I’m sure we have a lot of personal strategies to overcome the fear of writing, and if they’ve been effective, then we should keep going with them until we feel at ease enough to start writing again. You can always look for suggestions, like The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Your Writing Fears,or you can always wing it and look for something else to do – walk around, listen to music, absolutely try to ignore the fear for a little while.

Fear of writing – and just about anything that’s closely associated with it – is normal, and there’s no shame at all in acknowledging that you’re afraid. What counts is understanding that fear, and taking steps in willingly overcoming them. There’s no end to it, of course. You’ll experience fear over and over again. But what’s important is that you always get the job done, even if “the job” is just writing a few paragraphs a day – just to beat that fear into shape.

Do you know other things that writers are afraid of? Do you have strategies when overcoming the fear of writing? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @creativwriters!

 

Read More

Channeling Creative Forces: The Reasons Why We Should Make Art

A few years ago, Neil Gaiman, delivering a commencement speech to graduating university students, implored everyone to do one thing: make good art. Make good art regardless of the circumstances. Make good art in the face of adversity, or happiness, and all the emotions in between. It’s an inspiring statement that can fuel our drive to do something creative, regardless of what kind of art it is, whether written, visual, or aural.

Still, what we don’t really talk about is the vast number of reasons why we should make art – whether it’s good or bad (it really depends on who’s evaluating the piece of art, anyway). In this post, I’ll talk about a few things I saw on the Internet about making art – primarily through the visual and the written media – and why we should make art. And the reasons go beyond just wanting to pen a single story that encompasses a certain experience, or to make some thoughts known through verse.

One of the more immediate ways that art is made is through the written word. Writing is a highly accessible activity that doesn’t have to take up much of one’s time – unless one is inclined to, of course. It could be quick, like a line or two that you think is particularly brilliant that you want to write down just in case you might need it later. It might be a longer, more arduous process, such as the writing, trimming, and perfecting of a poem, or the writing of a novel. It is also pretty much everywhere, and not necessarily confined to creative or literary pursuits, although we are here to talk about art.

Another is, of course, the visual medium. And as far as hobbies can go, it may also be as inexpensive as writing. Just a pen, some paper, and imagination, and you’re good to go. Of course, visual art is such a broad term, and encompasses a lot of things from paintings to sketches to sculpture, maybe even advertisements and photographs.

We’re familiar with so many forms of art, but again, I’ll lead you back to the question of why we should make art in the first place. Artists in their respective fields have weighed in on the issue already, as the post “Why We Make Art” by Jeremy Adam Smith, published on the Greater Good Science Center website, proves. Smith asked some artists to answer the question why, and the responses are diverse. Gina Gibney, the artistic director for the Gina Gibney Dance Company, for instance, shares this:

I make art for a few reasons. In life, we experience so much fragmentation of thought and feeling. For me, creating art brings things back together.

Harrell Fletcher, who started the website Learning To Love You More with Miranda July, responded thus:

In my case, the projects that I do allow me to meet people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet, travel to places I wouldn’t normally go to, learn about subjects that I didn’t know I would be interested in, and sometimes even help people out in small ways that make me feel good. I like to say that what I’m after is to have an interesting life, and doing the work that I do as an artist helps me achieve that.

For Fletcher, making art appears to open the world to him – a wonderful reason, certainly, to make art. Then there is James Sturm, who responds to the question thus:

Perhaps the only insight I’ve gained is the knowledge that I have no idea and, secondly, the reasons are unimportant.

The view that the reasons for making art are unimportant is interesting, certainly, and not the kind of perspective you’d come across everyday. Or at least, perhaps something that people won’t admit to. In a way, however, Sturm’s response can be related to the idea that art serves so many purposes and cannot be boxed into a single. Make art – the reasons, whether you have them or not, are not that important. What is important is that you make them. In any case, art can have various meanings, besides, to anyone who’s beholding it, or reading it, or listening to it.

“Why make art” is not a question that can only be answered by supplying personal reasons, however. In Sean Kane’s article for Tech Insider, 7 science-backed reasons you should make art, even if you’re bad at it,” tells readers exactly that: scientific reasons that answer the question of why you should make art. In the article, Kane says:

Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood. Here are seven reasons to give yourself time to make art, even if you think you’re bad at it.

The science-backed reasons may surprise you. Mindless sketching (under certain circumstances), for instance, actually helps you focus. Writing about your problems can help you cope with them. Making art can basically act as one huge stress reliever. And in this day and age, we need all the stress relief we can get. But the benefits of making art are there, and should be reason enough for you to make art, if in case you’re someone who has no gigantic literary or artistic ambition that you’re itching to fulfill.

I’m sure there are a million and one more reasons why we should make art, and I doubt I’ve been able to cover them all in one post. However, it’s safe to say that the general, big vision, the big picture, that we want to put into view is this: we should make art because making art heals, fulfills, and communicates. Making art allows us to talk about certain subjects and deal with certain things. It helps us to share or articulate our experiences and thoughts with others. It allows us to touch others’ lives. With these ideas in mind, we can safely say that whoever you are, you should make art. Even if it’s just one doodle, or one line, or one note at a time.

Interesting Links:

I’ve rounded up a few links related to the topic. Check them out!

Do you know any articles or reasons – personal, scientific, or otherwise – why we should make art? Do you have art to share? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters!

Read More

Rising From the Ashes: Accepting Rejection

Pretty much everyone knows that most people who have become successful originally started from the bottom then made their way up. It’s a fact of life – one should work hard to achieve their dreams. These dreams become the individual’s drive to do something, motivating and making them soldier on regardless of how many failures and rejections get in the way.

Soldiering on is, of course, easier said than done. Just as it’s a fact of life that we’ll get rejected a lot over the years, whether it’s for a job or for a manuscript that we’re trying to get published, it’s also a fact of life that it’s not easy to deal with. Far from it, really. Rejection the first or second or nth time may be enough to get you to think that maybe what you’re doing isn’t really for you, and there’s no point in going on and walking the same path. Of course, some may have an easier time accepting rejection more than others. Still, whoever you are, it helps to understand the possible reasons why your work is getting rejected – and then rising up from the ashes and moving on from there.

So let’s get started. Rejection needs no introduction – it simply means that your work is not deemed fit for publishing, for reasons that probably won’t be disclosed to you. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve written isn’t good. It just means, perhaps, that what you’ve written doesn’t fit the vision that the agents you’ve sent your work to are envisioning. It certainly helps to have that mindset. So first, you do have to try and understand what goes on in the selection process, and then understand why you get rejected – and really, it’s not personal. In the article “25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection,” author Chuck Wendig gives some twenty-five excellent things writers should be aware of when faced with rejection. It’s a list worth reading – especially if you need someone to help you shape up after the initial rejections you’ve received – but the last item is particularly valuable and worth taking into heart:

A writer without rejections under his belt is the same as a farmer with soft hands; you shake that dude’s hand and you know, he’s not a worker, not a fighter, and wouldn’t know the value of his efforts if they came up and stuck a Garden Weasel up his ass. Rejections are proof of your efforts. Be proud to have ‘em.

It’s great advice, something to keep in mind, and something that can help you get back up and start writing again. Or at least begin reading whatever you’ve sent, now with an objective eye and a heart open to the flaws that your work has. Rejections are, as Wendig says, a sign that you’re doing something – and the more you do something, the more you improve on it, right? In a way, yes – but also learn from the rejections and try to understand what you’ve done wrong.

With that said, what could be the actual reasons why agents reject author submissions, in the first place? Like I said earlier, it’s not really personal – and novelist and photjournalist Heather Hummel talks about this in her blog post for The Huffington Post, Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions.” Reasons can range from something simple as spelling and grammar (which should be reason enough for you to stop procrastinating and proofread your work!) to concerns like genre confusion and weak query letters. These more, say, technical concerns may easily be forgotten in the process of actually writing your work – and may be something  you fail to remember when you decide to get out and submit it to different publishers. Remember that there’s more to writing than actually writing your work – and that the more you familiarize yourself with important concerns as submission guidelines and query letters, the better your chances may be of getting accepted.

Now let’s recap what we’ve said so far. Rejection is not personal, and there are many reasons why you can get rejected. Now it’s easier for you to look back and see what you’ve done wrong, and start working again! But hold up – maybe there’s something else stopping you, and it’s probably that nagging sense of doubt that you won’t be able to get your work published, anyway. Well don’t worry – I’ve already said earlier that a lot of people who are successful had to work hard for it. You probably know it already but wouldn’t believe it still, but many big-name authors whose work have gone on to become classics or bestsellers have experienced rejection, the same way you’re experiencing it now.

Okay, so who are these authors, exactly? A quick Google search will lead you to a lot of lists detailing how authors got rejected by publishers. Alice Vincent’s article on The Telegraph, The rejection letters: how publishers snubbed 11 great authors,” is one such informative list. You’ll find that all manner of writers – from T.S. Eliot to J.K. Rowling – have been rejected, one way or another. Stephen King’s Carrie, for example, was rejected by a publisher, because they were not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Of course we all know by now how big Stephen King is, or how successful Carrie has become – even spawning movie adaptations. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was also rejected by Peter J. Bentley, who wrote: “While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”

There are more lists on successful people getting rejected – whether they’re writers or not. 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work Was Initially Rejected,” on Buzzfeed, and the article Best-Sellers Initially Rejected” on LitRejections, are two such pages showing you that, yes, people who are big now had to struggle with rejection before. Lists like these should help put things into perspective – if or when you get rejected, just remember that you’re part of a long line of authors who had been rejected initially, but had found their way up afterwards.

So there. Hopefully this pretty long article has helped you to ultimately understand, cope with, and move forward from rejection. Again, all this is much, much easier said than done. But just keep your eyes on the prize, and eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.

Did you like this article on rejection? Or maybe you know more articles about successful writers who got rejected? Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, share it with us in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters! 

 

Read More

Practically Speaking: Practical Writing Advice from Writers, for Writers

We’ve talked – and written – about a lot of stuff related to writing, and some of them are quotes and writing advice from authors both big and not-so-big. And while a lot of pieces of advice, and a lot of quotes, are helpful and inspirational, sometimes those big pushes won’t always be enough. You’ve listened to stuff like “write what you love,” “write what you know,” and the not-always-reliable “show don’t tell.” You’ve seen people give you advice, and you’ve seen people tell you they can’t give you advice, because writing’s an individual experience and everyone else’s advice can only get you so far. You’ve tried to process material and learn from what others have done, and tried to do or to deviate from what’s been done before. And all of this is well and good when you tell yourself that you just need to get some more motivation – even just a tiny morsel of it – for writing.

But writers don’t need only advice to keep them motivated. Writing is, after all, more than just the act of writing. Throughout the writing process and beyond, there are practical tips that any writer can find useful – whoever you are, whatever genre you’re writing in, and regardless of what how motivated or un-motivated you are.

Here are some amazing and very much useful practical tips that you don’t always get when you ask people for writing advice!

“Read craft guides.” This one’s from author Marissa Meyer, who writes in her blog:

I have read dozens and dozens over the years, and I learn something new with every guide I read. Some are full of general advice, while others focus on one specific craft element like setting or characterization. There are also books on living a writer’s life while maintaining your sanity, or setting goals for yourself, or how to market your work once it’s published.

“Find three trusted readers, not just one.” A valuable tip from Brian A. Klems, published on Writer’s Digest. It’s a tip that makes a whole lot of sense, as – Klems notes – “reading is subjective,” and different readers will react differently to your draft. One may find strong points, for instance, in the parts which another reader thinks is weak. Three readers will provide three perspectives, and gives you the chance to decide which parts could and should be revised. Klems writes thus:

So when you’re ready, find three trusted readers who will review your draft at the same time. Don’t read their critiques until you have all three. That way, you won’t be crushed if one person doesn’t respond the way you’d hoped, and you’ll be able to pick and choose the suggestions that most resonate with you. It’s your novel, after all. Input is absolutely critical, but in the end, you have to sift through it and be faithful to your own voice.

The post “Practical Tips on Writing A Book from 23 Brilliant Authors.” We’re not gonna cut corners here. This entire post has a lot of great practical writing advice and should be read in its entirety. Here are some of my favorites.

Advice from Bill Wasik–

The first tip is that readers expect books to be exhaustive on their subjects. That doesn’t mean they want the books to be long — it means that they expect that you will cover all the basic ground that needs to be covered to understand the subject, even if they know some of it already.

This is a basic piece of advice, but it can’t be overstated when you’re trying to go from magazine-length to book-length writing: hone your outline and then cling to it as a lifeline. You can adjust it in mid-stream, but don’t try to just write your way into a better structure: think about the right structure and then write to it. Your outline will get you through those periods when you can’t possibly imagining ever finishing the damn thing — at those times, your outline will let you see it as a sequence of manageable 1,000 word sections.

From August Kleinzahler–

I find it helpful sometimes — and still to my surprise — trying to explain to someone what it is I’m trying to write about, usually someone bright but in a different intellectual zone, and not a writer. Or, likewise, in a letter or email to such a person.

And from Jonah Lehrer–

My one piece of advice is to insist that your editor be brutal — there should be red pen on every page. At least in my experience, the book only gets decent during this phase, as all the darlings and digressions get killed. It’s such an important process, and yet too many editors are too meek (or overworked) and too many writers resist their edits. A good editor is a great thing.

As you can see, these pieces of advice run the gamut from being useful during the writing and pre-writing process, and being useful after writing. And there’s certainly a whole lot more out there, and will often involve stuff when you get down to business: should I self-publish or shouldn’t I? Where do I take my work now? How should my work be marketed? You probably won’t rest easy until you actual get the finished work in your hands — and even then there will still be a lot of hoof-work to be done.

But always remember that there’s a place to start, and often it starts at the beginning of your writing process. Be rigorous in every aspect of your work, and eventually, you might be the one dishing out some great practical writing tips!

Do you know any other great, practical writing advice? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters!

Read More

Happy Endings?: Quitting Writing

Behind every finished book, short story, poem, or play, is a timeline of seemingly endless revisions and edits, and countless nights of frustration trying to finish a draft. It’s no secret that writing is more taxing than it looks. It’s not just about writing, but articulating, and articulating effectively.  And there are a lot of times when you believe that what you’re writing is not good, and what you’ve articulated isn’t engaging. And these are the times when we think that it’s better to quit writing. Do something else, perhaps, and put writing aside.

The question is, though: should you really quit? There’s no single correct answer to that question, definitely. The first thing you might do is weigh the pros and the cons of quitting writing. But then you’ll also have to ask yourself what it means for you to quit. Do you quit trying to be a “serious” writing, writing to get published? Or do you quit writing as a hobby, and focus on other things instead? You may ask people for advice, but it’ll vary, of course. And it won’t be easy when you try to decide.

In his article “How De We Know When It’s Time to Quit Being A Writer?“, Chuck Sambuchino shares his own story. It’s worth reading, certainly. However, what stuck to me was his parting words. He places us in a position where we’re compelled to think about whether or not we should just quit writing. And then he says:

The answer, of course, is simple: Can you quit? Chances are, you probably cannot. So keep writing, Dear Writer – because that is what you are. Whether or not you have a novel in bookstores. Whether or not the whole world has read your writing. Whether or not anything of yours is ever published, as long as you live, you are still a writer. It is part of who you are. Keep writing. It is never time to quit.

It is definitely nice advice, and one that we’ll want to follow. You’ll probably not want to quit if you’ve always loved writing, anyway. But while you may soldier on, there are some who do not want to continue. Lisa Kerr shares her own experience in the article “Why Quitting Writing Was the Best Thing That Happened to Me:

Quitting gave me what I needed to feel healthy again; it gave me the distance from what (and who) was unhealthy for me. I needed to enjoy writing again without the self-imposed pressure to publish with a leading agent. I needed the freedom to drink a beer and sew some crooked triangles on a quilt. I needed to get dirty with watercolors in my studio—splashing paint around, digging in the colors with my fingers. I needed to stop being worried about the cutthroat people I’d worked under.

For Lisa Kerr, trying to force herself to write was already becoming unhealthy for her. It wasn’t a question of being passionate about writing. It was a question of whether or not writing was still something she enjoyed. And distancing herself from writing gave her the energy she needed to get back on track.

In the end, it is you who can decide whether or not you want to quit. You should weigh in pros and cons, and decide if you want to quit for good, just plain quit, or distance yourself from your writing for a while. In the end, choose what’s healthy for you, and things may fall into place.

To end this post, here’s a link to an article: An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage. May it give you help and hope.

Read More

Write Fantastic: SFF Authors on Self-Publishing

The books everyone sees on display in bookstores’ shelves more or less went through a traditional publishing process. It was a product pitched to a publishing house, edited by a professional editor, publicized, marketed, perhaps promoted tirelessly, both online and off. But a lot of authors know that the traditional publishing process is a lot of work, too. And for some, the end product might not feel like it was worth all the effort. There is, however, a different avenue to get books published: the self-publishing route.

Self-publishing is exactly that: you publish your own work instead of getting them through so many different channels. Many authors saw it as a golden opportunity, especially as authors like Amanda Hocking became successful through self-publishing. There is, however, a problem with that kind of platform, as Ben Galley points out in his article on The Guardian, “Is the self-publishing stigma fading?“:

The brutal truth is that when you can publish anything, people will do exactly that. The market was flooded with indie literature and, sadly, a large percentage of it was substandard. Bad editing, awful covers, and mediocre content were rife. Advice was scarce, the methods many and varied.

And this is true. But, as Galley points out in the same article, there are a lot of independently-published works that are also good and worth readers’ time and money. Self-published authors themselves acknowledge that it’s not easy to get your work noticed in places like Amazon, where a lot of other works are being sold. Self-published works are being consumed, however, regardless of whatever genre they’re in. More works means more books for readers to discover. Thinking about the sheer number of books that one can come across on the Internet is daunting, certainly, so it’s definitely helpful to look at lists (like this one by author Michael J. Sullivan, about his favorite self-published fantasy works).

For authors, meanwhile, who do want to explore self-publishing, some successful self-published authors have already shared their tips over the internet.

Author Hugh Howey, who wrote the post-apocalyptic novel Wool, says that he originally tried to go through the traditional publishing route. In an interview originally appearing on Wired.com, he shares:

…I kind of got peer-pressured into going that route and ended up with a small press and everything went well, but I guess what I saw was, the way that they were publishing it, all these tools were available to me, so I thought, “I can do this.”

Ultimately, he decided to self-publish:

Self-publishing, for me, was a way of getting published and the other way took years of querying, trying to land an agent, trying to get a publishing contract, a year from the publishing contract to actual publication, so it was never about making money or trying to get into bookstores; for me, it was all about writing stories and trying to distribute them.

It was helpful to Howey, certainly, and the exposure his book got only encouraged him to write more.

Another fantasy author, David Dalglish, had believed that self-publishing wasn’t good. He writes, in his guest post for Fictorians:

In college I’d taken plenty of Creative Writing classes, and my favorite teacher had a single day each semester devoted to discussing the pure business of publishing. I still remember what she said: self-publishing meant the end of your career as a writer. You’d never be taken seriously again, because self-publishing was the route of the desperate, and those unwilling to put in the time and effort to get published traditionally.

It did work for David Dalglish, who was, originally excited just to have five people he didn’t know pay for the book he published. As for advice or tips on self-publishing?

The terrible truth is, I’m not sure what worthwhile advice I have to give. Why?

Because if I tried self-publishing from scratch right now, I’d fall flat on my face. That’s how much the self-publishing world has changed. Let me explain. Self-publishers are like locusts (I’m serious, hear me out). For every one person that is respectful, and putting time into their craft, and willing to abide by the rules, there are five who won’t, and will simply swarm in, regardless of the damage it might cause. So one of the earliest ways I got sales was by chatting with people on the Fantasy forums on Amazon. But once people realized that could earn sales, those forums were bombarded with spam, sock puppets, people recommending their own books regardless of the topic. Once upon a time, a reader could make a post saying “I just finished this book by David Authorguy, and it was great!” and you’d nab ten to fifteen sales just like that. The same went for the 99 cent price point. It was an easy way to get noticed, and undercut competition. But now? Pricing 99 cents does nothing, absolutely nothing, to make you stand out.

Dalglish’s guest post was written back in 2012, and the self-publishing may have changed since then. Regardless, it’s still not an easy task getting your work noticed through different channels – self-published or otherwise. But Dalglish’s words on the subject of publishing and writing are worth taking into heart:

Keep writing.

And I don’t mean crank out crap. Imagine that you have a fan base out there, one you’re steadily growing. Every book you write, make sure it’s something that audience will love and devour. With each new book, you’ll gather in the new, and satisfy the old.

I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll cut it off here. In short, if you want to self-publish, go in wide-eyed, your pride swallowed, and your ears open. Treat your readers, who are also your paying customers, with respect and courtesy. Don’t make excuses, but instead have the best editing you can have, the best cover, the best formatting, and the best presentation. Most of all, the best story.

What counts, in the end, is that authors work hard to write great books, and then work as hard to get them exposed to the public. It’s definitely not going to be simple or easy, and it might take a few tries to get things going, but there’s certainly reward to get from writing good works and publishing them through the right channels.

What else?

Here are other helpful links that you might want to check out:

Read More

The Power of Influence: How One’s Creativity Can Influence Others

We always talk about inspiring and influencing through creativity and creative works, but although it’s something we know instinctively, it always pays to have some great, concrete examples of how creative works have influenced others. It pays to acknowledge the fact that, of course, being influenced is inevitable. Once, one of my professors overheard a creative writing student claiming that they’re adamantly avoiding reading anything because it will affect their writing. My professor scoffed at this, and I would have, too. Attempting to deny others’ influence – so long as it’s good influence, the kind that makes you productive – may very well equate to denying your own work any relevance in any genre, in any aspect of life. It denies acknowledging your own roots – how you’ve come to fall in love with art and creativity, in the first place, or how you’ve come to think and act in certain ways. Influence is important, in other words, and it pays to always know what your influences are, for your own work to spring from them.

In this post, I’ll run through a few works and articles in which famous writers and artists acknowledge how existing works have already influenced them, whether the influence is on a specific work or on their entire creative oeuvre.

The Ecstacy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

  • Speculative fiction writer Jonathan Lethem released this collection of essays that, as the title suggests, largely discusses what has influenced him in various points in his life. Lethem talks about his relationship with the works of various writers and artists, from Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, to Marvel works. It’s an interesting collection because you’ll be able to see how Lethem reacts to the figures that have shaped his life and form his interests – even as he speaks in his own voice and talks about his personal experiences.
  • Dwight Garner wrote about Lethem’s book in the New York Times. Read it here.

Turning Point: 1997-2008 by Hayao Miyazaki

  • Turning Point: 1997-2008 is a collection of essays, notes, interviews, poems, and illustrations by – or conducted with – Hayao Miyazaki, the ever-famous director of such films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and is just about synonymous with the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli*. This is just a half of the series of books revolving around such a collection of material from Miyazaki, but 1997-1998 talks primarily about three of his most famous films – Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You’ll read in the notes and interviews about Miyazaki’s influences – and it’s not the kind of influence on which Miyazaki was compelled to build on, if that makes sense. Miyazaki shows that influence is not always following a certain tradition or style set by certain artists. He talks about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which he saw was a misrepresentation of certain aspects of Japanese history. He in turn attempted to amend this in Princess Mononoke. He talks about how Osamu Tezuka has influenced him – but only through certain works, and not Astro Boy. It’s an interesting read, certainly, as Miyazaki gives a lot of great insight on his work, and on what foundations he built them on.

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

  • Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s  A Drifting Life is one huge book. Using manga as the medium to deliver his memoir, Tatsumi shows what the sights and sounds of his childhood were, what kind of world he was growing up in, and the effects of it all on his work. He was, like Miyazaki, inspired by Osamu Tezuka – but his was a glowing, wide-eyed, absolute admiration towards the Astro Boy creator, whom he managed to meet during his childhood. The book shows not just Tatsumi’s admiration for Tezuka, but also the other factors that influenced his manga style – films (the techniques used in which he incorporated in his work), existing four-panel manga (which he tried to distance himself from when he wanted to innovate), and the people around him. It just goes to show that influence isn’t just from one writer, or from something absolutely positive – influence goes in bits and pieces. How to craft everything was left to Tatsumi himself.

These are just a few works that show how others have managed to influence artists and their creative works. I repeat – it pays to acknowledge others’ influence. If you don’t particularly like how you’re being influenced, attempt to subvert it, or try to make something new out of it. If you like how the influence has come across to you, then by all means work with it. Creative works and creativity pulse with life — not just yours, but also others who have come before you, and who have lived and done their work before you. Consume a lot of material, and use them to your advantage. Let influence make you grow. The good work will certainly follow.

Read More

The Right Notes: Writing While Listening to Music

When writing, people tend to do everything they can to make themselves feel absolutely comfortable and to ease themselves into the writing mood. This involves a lot of pre-writing rituals that may vary from person to person: walking around, talking to yourself, eating certain types of food, brewing coffee and smelling its aroma, exercising – the list is long, and for some, overwhelmingly so, and very much specific. But there’s one ritual – whether before writing, or during the process itself – that a lot of people do as, for one way or another, it could help in the writing process. I’m talking about listening to music.

Even outside of the act of writing, music is already an effective mood-setter for just about anything in our daily lives. The kind of music you play at the start of your morning can make or break the rest of your day. The music played on air while on your morning drive can either make you feel at ease in traffic, or irritated. A lot of times, when we want to feel certain things, or are in a certain mood, we listen to music. Music is effective in making you cope with certain situations, or making you enhance your experience of a situation. That’s perhaps part of the reason why movie awards shows recognize their scorers, or why video game reviewers also consider how good the music is when reviewing a game.

That said, what is the effect of music to the writer? In “How Music Affects the Writing Process” by Nona Mae King, King outlines how turning on her music actually begins her writing process. She says that “silence is distracting,” and that music ultimately helps her keep her focus. King also says that music enhances the mood that helps her “create a writing soundtrack… for a specific scene, character, era, or particular intensity [she wants] to impart to [her] readers.” In a way, it works similarly to how music sets the mood for certain scenes in movies and TV shows so that viewers may get further absorbed in what’s happening, or how video games use music to make the player feel more involved in exploration and battle.

And going away a little bit from writing, Gregory Ciotti in the article “How Music Affects Your Productivity” says that music’s “effectiveness is dependent on how ‘immersive’ a task is… the creative demand of the work.” Ciotti says that music certainly helps make repetitive tasks more enjoyable. However, it doesn’t take just any kind of music – familiar music would be better and less distracting. Much better if there were no lyrics. Ciotti’s article touches on the idea that music certainly helps you focus – and not just in writing, but in many other day-to-day activities, often ones that are mundane and repetitive.

Going back to writing, there’s certainly a positive effect for the writer who listens to music while writing. However, it’s not always the case. I know someone who tends not to listen to music while writing, as she finds this distracting.

Ultimately, it depends on you as a person. If you think music sets the mood and helps you write, then listen. If not, then there’s definitely no pressure. In any case, going back to my first point, it’s always valuable to know what makes you comfortable enough to get into the writing mood, and what makes you distracted. Do what’s best for your writing, and if it involves listening to music for your writing to be able to hit all the right notes, then by all means do so.

Read More

Right Spaces and Proper Places: The Importance of Knowing Where and When to Write

One of the things about writers is that they’re not always in the mood to write, because of little details under specific circumstance. It’s frustrating when you’re walking around and getting all these brilliant ideas to write down, just to have them all melt into the air when you finally get home and sit down to write. It may be because suddenly your location has changed and your environment has shifted. It may be because your house is not exactly conducive for writing. It may be one of many things, but all you can think about is how such a brilliant idea of yours has disappeared, and that you are unable to work on it again. It will be replaced by another brilliant idea, perhaps, something that comes to you while you’re walking, or watching other people, or doing various other things, and then it might disappear again. A vicious cycle, certainly.

This kind of situation – something that frustrates just about any writer – is the reason why it’s important to be aware of the kind of writer you are when it comes to writing in certain locations. No one can tell you where you can write effectively – only you know where and what kind of situation you must be in for you to be able to write effectively. It’s always reasonable to try out a lot of places – bring your notebook around, and write your ideas, or verses, wherever. It may be the park, or your favorite cafe. A restaurant in a mall, or somewhere in your school campus. It may even be at home, perhaps, or in your car. Whatever the case, it’s important to know where.

However – and this is also valuable to understand – you won’t always be comfortable writing in the same old places all the time. One coffee shop, for example, may be a good place for you to write your verses, but when you come down there to write your short story, it suddenly becomes off. The music grates, the smell of coffee makes you uneasy, and the quiet chatter of other customers might jar your head more than a little. So you set off, and find perhaps another coffee shop, or an entirely different place for you to write. And no one can tell you, I repeat – you’ll be the only one who’ll be able to understand that a certain situation is good enough to make you write. Sometimes, it’s not even a question of where but a question of when. Small details like the weather and what time of the day it is  all contribute to your writing mood.

So what can you do about it? Don’t fight the feeling, but rather be prepared for flashes of creativity. Bring a notebook, or a laptop, that you can access immediately to pin down ideas. That should keep you going, even if the verses aren’t full or the story is not complete. But the important thing is that you don’t use the place and the time as an excuse not to write, as not trying to write at all is much worse than writing something you’re not satisfied with.

So go around, look for the right place, and be prepared. You’ll eventually get in the zone and write down that brilliant piece.

Read More

Is the Author Dead?: Why We Should Read Authors’ Nonfiction (and What We Can Learn from It)

Books are always the creation of their respective authors, and are therefore informed by a number of things concerning the author: what topics the author might be interested in, what particular events may have transpired in the author’s life that inform the events in his or her book, and who or what might have spurred the author to write that particular story. Stories spring from an amalgam of resources and references, but how all these are tied together is all up to the author, which may tell the reader what the author wanted to say, precisely, or what the text itself is supposed to do to the reader.

Of course, it’s not always easy to actually involve the author in the reading of the text, for various reasons. One may be that readers don’t exactly know a lot about an author, to begin with, or the context that produced that particular text. There is, too, a sort of resistance to the idea of reading a text in light of its author. French literary critic Roland Barthes, for example, said that “the image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centered on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions,” and that to truly understand literature, one must metaphorically kill the author: “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” In other words, if the reader thinks about the author and his or her life while reading the author’s text, it might immediately color the reading of that text. So just don’t think about the author and read the stuff and interpret it on your own.

But authors aren’t always dead, and the meanings they try to weave into the text don’t disappear just because you remove the authors themselves from the picture. Sure, it’s frustrating – especially in high school English classes – when you’re asked to share what you think the author said, because it might make you feel like an uncertain mouthpiece for that author. But literature is the product of a sort of co-authorship between the reader and the writer: the writer, of course, writes, and this writing is informed by their reality and what they want to comment on, while the reader interprets the text based on what they know of it and what they know of themselves. When a piece of literature becomes too difficult to understand, meanwhile, it’s always helpful to find out what the author might have meant by it, so there’s always one good thing to do when you’re stuck like that: read up on the author’s comments on the work, if there are any.

In this day and age, especially, a lot of authors do opinion columns on the Internet and elsewhere, share their thoughts over on social media, and release nonfiction books – usually collections of essays – talking about their work and their writing process. For both readers and writers, all these nonfiction material are helpful in two primary ways: to understand the author’s intents and the author’s work, and; to study the author’s craft. This is especially helpful when you yourself are trying to write, and are trying to figure out how others have done it – or have tried to do it, at least. What did those writers do to arrive at the point where they’re writing smoothly? What inspired them? What did they want to accomplish? These are questions that you can look at and think about when you’re reading nonfiction by authors, as often the nonfiction works themselves reveal how the writer thinks.

So what’s our take-away from this? It’s not enough to just write, the same way that it’s not enough to just read books and leave them at that. It’s always helpful and enriching to understand the authors behind the works, and to ultimately draw from what you’ve read and learned and apply them to your own writing. Remember: the author can’t die.

Read More