Divide and Conquer: The Habits of A Writer

Whether published or unpublished, full-time or part-time, writers have daily habits and obligations that they need to deal with. Probably you’re working a nine-to-five, or probably you’re still a student. It’s understandable – you have a workload you simply can’t ignore, although on occasions circumstances allow you a bit of downtime. So you use that downtime to sit in front of your computer and watch videos until the sun rises. In between, you manage to squeeze in around five, maybe ten minutes – and if you’re lucky, a half-hour’s worth – of writing something, and it doesn’t even matter what kind of written piece it is. Just as long as you write.

I said it a lot before – taking advice from strangers on the Internet, like me, is sketchy, unless we strangers have concrete proof that our advice works. And even then, it might not work for you. But humor me first, because I certainly hope you can relate: writing does not, and perhaps cannot have a place in your daily routine. There’s the feeling that writing isn’t just something that can be as regular as your job, or the classes that you have to take every day, and you just can’t commit to projects that you start because you know you’ll never finish them anyway. Maybe in a few years, when you’re living a comfortable life thinking of nothing but your writing. If that day ever comes.

But if you do want to improve your writing – and writers out there usually do – you will want to make a habit of actually writing. And I say writing, because that is a vastly different activity from trying to write, the operative word there being “trying.” Writing means your attention is on what you’re writing, and you’re not preoccupied with thoughts of whether you should actually be writing. For starters, just write.

And it’s perhaps going to be a bumpy ride, incorporating writing and easing it into your routine. But if you want to go on a journey, the clichéd – but true – answer is that you have to begin somewhere, right? Bodybuilders don’t start out buff. Likewise, writers don’t churn out wonderful, moving pieces after the first try. It’s possible, I suppose, but rare. Uncanny, even. But the important thing to do is that you have to have a sense of how you spend your daily life. Don’t think about writing for the moment. Think about what you’re actually doing every day, sans writing. Do your best to estimate the number of hours you have to spend fulfilling schoolwork, or going from one place to another. If you want to go extreme, you might also want to think about how long it takes for you to bathe and how long it takes for you to finish your food. Getting a good sense of how you spend your time, and where you spend your time, will give you a good sense of whether or not writing can be comfortably involved in your day.

I also say where, because there are times when you’re in a certain place at a certain time when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, much less write. So recognize your daily activities, and where you spend them, and then think about writing. I’m not saying that writing should be low priority, but there are, certainly, things in life, obligations, that we cannot ignore. So think about your schedule, and think about the details, and think about the where and when, and think about where, in the chaos of these things, you will, so you think, be most comfortable with when it comes to writing.

Writing regularly does not necessarily mean a daily business, although the ideal is that you will be able to write something, anything decent, every day. I’ve already said these things in previous posts, of course, but it pays to repeat it until you get it in your head that writing is part of your daily – or weekly – rhythm. I suppose the best thing to compare writing to is physical work-out. I doubt many of us started out with a regular work-out routine that we followed aggressively, almost, perhaps, religiously. You start out small – light weights, fifteen minutes of cardio, maybe ten to fifteen squats a day. But the more you incorporate you routine, the easier your body – and you’ll be surprised to find, your time – acclimates to these changes. And then you can be more aggressive. So writing can be an every-other-day thing, a thousand words or two thousand. And you don’t have to be overly meticulous when it comes to writing – just write whatever comes, as long as you’re managing to write. The habit will ease into your habits and will eventually become a regular thing for you, something so natural and so normal that you have to do it every day. Or every other day.

That being said, bear this in mind, too: the aphorism that Rome wasn’t built in a day applies, certainly. Don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing, so long as you’re satisfied with it. To get into the habit, write first for yourself, and then think of others second. Certainly, like Rome, I doubt Joyce managed to pen down Ulysses in a single, smooth swipe, with his wit and his dense prose appearing on eight-hundred or so pages in one go. Although of course this is Joyce we’re talking about. And then you think of Finnegans Wake.

Some light joking aside, I’m not saying that this will be easy. Life happens, and if you’re not dedicated enough to your craft to be able to set aside time to work with it, it will not work with you. I’m also not saying that you should just drop everything else and just write, because in reality, that’s not really a good idea. I’m saying, though, that if you do get into the habit of writing, and if you incorporate it in your routine, someday you will produce something that will make all those hours worth it.

Like most things in life that you work hard for.


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Knowing When to Reject Yourself

A friend once told me about a short story he had been writing. He’d had the piece revised over and over, no doubt had invested a lot of time just writing it, and was incredibly – and reasonably – proud of it. But he brought the piece over to a group of friends who happen to be writers, and they – so he told me – crushed the piece and left it bloody. When he was telling me about it, he looked understandably forlorn and frustrated, but relieved to have a group of honest, critical people, who were willing to tell the truth about his piece. Which was that it wasn’t working for them.

Rejection is a reality, and it will hurt if your piece gets rejected. Different people have different tastes, and constructive criticism comes from people whose views don’t gel perfectly in harmony with yours, and therefore may have different ideas on what ‘good’ writing is. I realize that ‘good’ is hardly a helpful word when it comes to trying to place your work on a spectrum of quality, but different people have different ideas of what ‘good’ is, and what you think is good may not be what good is for others. So you think what you’ve written, worked hard on, and nurtured, is good. Great, even. But then you get friends to read it and they just turn it over and inside out, and you’re left hurting.

The reality is that yes, it’s probably not as good as you think. The thing with getting someone to read your work is that you’re asking – maybe even begging – for criticism, and if someone invests enough time, energy, and critical thought into putting your piece through a workshop, then you should at least be ready to consider what they’re saying. Often, critics – even if they’re just your friends – are ready with a sharp tongue and a careful eye, pointing out the holes and the cracks in a piece you’ve worked so hard on you’ve become blind to them. And you must be ready for the criticism, because – and especially if you consider the important things they say, and not take them personally – it will help you improve. Perhaps you might want to get back to that piece. Perhaps you might want to write a new one. But the bottomline is that getting criticism is important.

Now, if you’re like my friend, whose work, it seems, wasn’t simply just critiqued, but aborted, then that’s another level of difficulty right there. My friend had a hard time accepting it, of course. But it pays to know, accept, and even look at that kind of rejection as a blessing. You might have been doing something that didn’t click, and your friends – hopefully writers, too – just thought you’d be wasting time if you kept on working on it. Then again, maybe it’s a piece that’s not for them. But another thing is that you need to learn to let go of a piece you love if it’s not working as well as you thought it would work.

Criticism, rejection, and letting go of something you’ve written and loved is a part of the writer’s life. Published or not, a writer should be able to recognize where good, constructive criticism comes from. A writer must be able to accept that a piece is already becoming toxic, and that friends would be able to point that out. In the end, this is for self-improvement. And who knows? Maybe the piece that everyone didn’t like might find a different, more accepting audience someday.

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Writing Is A Lifelong Commitment

One of my professors in one of my American Literature classes was talking about Emily Dickinson one day. She lamented the fact that Dickinson – a brilliant writer, a poet, to be precise – had died too young and had been discovered too late. This drove me to do a bit of light research on Dickinson’s life, and to pick up on what I remember from reading about her once: that she was one of the most prolific poets, though her work, it seems, had not seen the light of day until her death. But to be dedicated to poetry, to writing, even without getting renown because of it – at least in life – is something that sounds rather remarkable, doesn’t it? Foreign, almost.

We live in a world where publishing is relatively easy now, because online platforms allow one to just type and click the ‘Publish’ button to get “published.” But no doubt, this’ll be lost in a sea of articles, pieces, and poetry of a nature similar to what one has just published. Meanwhile, it becomes a cause of frustration, with the writer who so desperately wants to get published ending up not getting published in the right way, and then one remembers Dickinson, and one gets confused by how Dickinson did it. That is, being patient with not getting published.

Being frustrated is understandable, and of course it’s safe to say that there are hundreds – no, thousands – of writers out there stuck in a rut, unpublished like many others, constantly dreaming. I don’t think there’s an easy way out of that limbo, and certainly at some point there’s a desire to quit writing because it’s not doing you any good.

Which is weird, because maybe you’ll find yourself eventually picking up a pen and some paper – maybe the exact ones you threw across the room in frustration (not that a piece of paper can go that far, being thrown around) and try to write again. Fueled, perhaps, by your need to write, which – if you’ve started taking up writing as a craft long ago, anyway – probably has been something you’ve been dealing with for a while. And so you write, and get frustrated, and write, and get frustrated again. It goes in circles and gets maddening, but the end result is that you get back up and write, refusing to be knocked down.

I suppose even if you’re not fully aware of it, you’ve already been married to writing. You hear of people married to their jobs (I have a professor who’s pretty much like that). Well, even if writing is not exactly a job for most of us, it’s hard to not get married to it. Writing is an expression of the self. Writing is inadequate when you attempt to pin down thoughts, in forms that you either want or are expected to follow. Everyone writes at some point in their life, and everyone, undoubtedly, at some point feels the incredible frustration of writing, and of a feeling of absolute inarticulacy. But some let go of writing and use it as a tool solely for practical purposes. Some don’t have a passion for writing at all.

But if you do, and you keep feeling frustrated about it, just remind yourself that you’ve found a niche, that you’ve found a way to express yourself – effectively, ineffectively, it doesn’t matter much sometimes – and that you’ve found a lifelong partner in writing. Getting published – if you do get published at all – comes long, long after you’ve developed a passion for the craft. Even if you’re unaware of it, you’re committed to it. It’s as much a part of life as anything, and you have to hang on for the ride.

And then:

A Tumblr user asked Neil Gaiman for some writing advice, and here’s what Neil said.

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Roots: Why Recognizing Your Inspirations Is Important

It’s easy to plunge headfirst into the reckless abandon of engaging in creative exercise, writing your way a thousand words a day through a story that you’re probably making up as you go along. It’s easy, as well, to attempt to convince yourself to continue working on your creative project. All you really have to do is look at the goal you want to reach, and set your sights onto that goal, for you to push yourself. It may or may not be very effective, but it can work.

But it’s funny, because we talk about what we want to do, and what goals we want to reach, and what highs we want to achieve, without talking about our roots. Sure, we started out somewhere, at some point, finding that writing is an activity we’re comfortable with, for example. Or speaking in public. Or drawing. Or making music. A lot of pursuits stem from something, but it’s important to look back. Way, way back. To your roots, to be precise. And by roots, I mean your inspirations. The people who have influenced you, basically, to pursue your passions. And by influence, I mean both positive and negative.

What we should remember is that just about everything we choose and everything we encounter has an impact on our lives, and when it comes to creative pursuits, a lot of things figure into that. I suppose the easiest and most obvious thing to look at is your favorite author, and the author you really don’t like at all. Or texts, actually. Which texts do you like? Writing styles? Genres? Which don’t resonate with you? Your personal reading library will show you the kinds of things you like, and have been reading, and how these texts you own and like or dislike have somehow influenced your own work. I speak in terms of books and authors but this can also be applied to many other things.

It’s also important to think of why these texts resonate with you, or why these texts don’t. It’s simple to look at a book, read it, and say, “okay, I liked it.” And then what? Which parts of it did you like and dislike, and which parts do you think need development? Why did a certain author even become your favorite, in the first place?

Starting out by answering those questions and digging into the roots of your passion is already a pretty light and easy way of being critical – both of your own work, and of others’ works. Blind devotion to a single author is sketchy, especially when you sit down, start writing, and think of the ingredients that make up your favorite work. So what? They have heroes like this, villains like that. So does every other book. It’s like a meal, isn’t it? Something a chef cooks consists of ingredients that one can get from just about anywhere – it’s what the chef does with it that makes it unique, or gives it its own flavor. Which is true about texts, about writing, about creative pursuits, and about inspiration.

The final thing then, is this: know what you like, why you like it, what you can improve about it, and what you can do about it if you’re given the “ingredients.” Knowing the raw material and digging into the roots will help you eventually craft a better – hopefully – creation than you’ve ever imagined.

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Real Worlds: World-building

Part of what makes a lot of stories compelling is the world in which the characters live and breathe in. World-building isn’t just confined in literature, because a lot of shows, movies, and video games make use of made-up settings for the narrative, and populate these settings with a lot of different people. It sounds like a really tough job, making a world from scratch, especially if you consider all the work you have to put into it. Countries, cultures, industries, government, a magic system (if applicable, of course) and religions are just some of the things one needs to develop in order to create a convincing, living setting. And sure it’s daunting, and it almost feels like you need to iron out every little detail – down to the kinds of animals that live in the forest – just to make sure everything falls into place. And then you have to check and recheck every detail in order to achieve consistency. And that’s not even putting the story into things.

I’m hardly qualified to tell you about world-building and give tips, as I’ve never been published before and I’m convinced that I haven’t managed to make a good enough world that’s not a carbon copy of some other world that’s already made, or a half-baked, pieced-together Frankenstein’s monster of a world. I have, however, tried to build enough worlds to know that I’ve been doing it with a certain pattern in mind, and here are the things I usually do:

  • Make a map. I love books that have maps, and I love the details put into them. Having a map for a setting makes the world all the more enticing, because maps provide a sense of realness. So you could try – if you haven’t already – making a map for your own setting, putting a good amount of time into details: borders between countries, landform locations, important landmarks, cities, towns, villages, waterforms, names of relevant places – you get the drift. I find making maps a pretty fun activity, and – although I don’t guarantee it – it may give you a better sense of physical distances between locations, which may, in turn, help with generating a sense of authenticity.
  • Give names. Names to important places, events, dates, and institutions, that is. A world needs to have culture. You don’t have to name everything from the start, because that’s overwhelming. What you can do is start small – start with a town, or a city. A country. Detail its culture, its hierarchy, its industries, what people eat, wear, do, and joke about. The daily lives, preoccupations, and worries of the population all add another dimension to your world. And then, of course, once you have names, define them. It doesn’t help if you just have a name for an event that happens during, say, the summer season. Why is that event happening? What brought it about? Why do people celebrate it, if it’s a celebration, for example? Those things don’t have to be extremely detailed – just detailed enough for them to become relevant to the world you’re building.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. It’s tempting to create a world and obsess over every detail, but I’ve found that it’s not very healthy, especially if the world overshadows other equally important things, like the story and the characters. Remember to balance things, and remember to give equal weight to details that have to be pieced together to actually make the story work.

Like I said, I’m hardly qualified to say these things. But this comes from experience, however little. Budding writers jump headlong into creating worlds, only to find themselves stalling and confused in the middle, and I know the feeling. In the end, it still helps to consider the kind of world you’re actually building, and whether or not you like it. Details have to be nice, but easy enough for you to remember. Eventually, and hopefully, your world will come alive.

Professional Opinions:

I’ve given a few “tips” based on experience, but it helps a lot if it comes from the authors and the experts themselves. Here are a few articles on world-building to get you started:

7 Deadly Sins of World-Building / Writing Fantasy: Tools and Techniques (Brent Weeks) / Five Foundations of World Building

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Watching and Waiting: People and Creativity

People are everywhere. Crowds pass through thoroughfares and commute, every day, everywhere, going places. People pass each other and register faces as blurs. One can sit beside another somewhere, and never know who that person is. It’s interesting because people are around, always, but to the individual they’re often no more than faces that are part of the background.

The people you randomly meet in your every day life can become an interesting – and perhaps very useful – part of the creative process and your creative development. People-watching is a thing, and sometimes one can be content to just watch and wonder what’s happening to this woman who’s crying over there, or what the old man walking in the park is thinking. But like I said, strangers can be useful parts of the creative process. What you can do is take people-watching to the next level, and use them as springboards to write your story. It may be a little weird to start writing about someone you see in the coffee shop every day, or about the guy who serves behind the register in a grocery store, but it’s fun since – while you’re still, of course, writing fiction – they transcend mundane existence and become very interesting people with very interesting backstories. It’ll be all in your head – and in your fiction – of course, but from the random faces in the crowd, you can give life to your own characters.

If it helps, think of strangers are “writing prompts.” It may sound a little weird, but it’s certainly not too hard to think of them as people with their own backgrounds. You just have to fill in the blanks and use your imagination a little – or a lot – to turn them into something else. People-watching will help fuel your own imagination and start up the writing process. It may also help to overcome writer’s block. A single stranger can become a springboard for a lot of ideas that you may want to work on. It doesn’t even have to be straight-up prose. You may consider writing verses about strangers, if you can’t really stretch them enough into short stories. There are a lot of possibilities present, if and when you want to play around with ideas and you happen to see people around you and you decide to, so to speak, use them.

It’s a pretty nice thing, if you think about it. Strangers stop being strangers and start being characters in your fiction, or parts of your verse, and they give life to your own creative pursuits and help lift you out of a creative slump. People-watching is also a good reason to bring a notebook and a pen everywhere with you, because you don’t really know when creativity hits – it just does. It’s also a pretty interesting way to get time to pass, because it’s a potentially productive endeavor and one that doesn’t require too much money to do.

So start the habit of people-watching when you’re bored. Start thinking up narratives, and maybe writing them down when they sound good enough for you. Who knows? Maybe that cafe regular who always sits in the corner is the missing piece to your story.


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Read/Write: Reasserting the Importance of Reading

Previously, I wrote about writing, and how it is an intimate experience. In fact, let’s stretch that, and say that, in the act of creation, artistic pursuits in general – composition, visual art – are intimate experiences on their own. But at the moment, I am reminded of something my professor in English Renaissance Literature told the class about. Once, she overheard some Creative Writing students adamantly refusing to read anything because it might influence their writing. Another local writer claims the same sentiment: you do not have to be a wide reader to be a writer. These attempts at justifying not reading comes off as weird to me, since reading should already serve as a springboard for the act of writing. It doesn’t help that big-name writers actually advocate reading a lot. I am here to reassert the importance of reading, and how it goes hand-in-hand with writing. You can’t separate one from the other, in other words.

Reading is as much an intimate activity as writing, though in a vastly different way that writing is intimate. Both acts involve the self and the text. Whether it is one writing the text or one reading the text does not matter – what matters is that we recognize the fact that one cannot read for another as much as one cannot write for another, in the purest manner possible. What I’m trying to say, in other words, is that when you read, you are engaged in an active exchange with the text. When you write, you are engaged in an active exchange with what you are writing. Both are not simply centered on what the material is. Both are centered on what you are, what you think of, and what you do with the material.

That’s all fun, but how significant is this? Since we’re focusing on reading and its importance, let me get one thing clear (and I don’t think it has to be said because it’s obvious, but I will still say it for the sake of emphasis): reading is an intellectual and active experience. Maybe physically you’re just sitting down, but your mind flits here and there, examining the cracks in the text, examining the text’s texture. Whether you notice it or not, when you read a text, you are developing your own understanding of it. Your own interpretation. This interpretation cannot be invalidated by anyone else, because it is how you understand the text to be structured – only that you have to assert your interpretation by picking out supporting details within the text (and even, in certain cases, outside of it), and strengthening your argument as to why you believe in that certain interpretation. Literary theory is filled with a lot of ways on how to read or understand a text – psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist, to name a few – but literary theory does not always hold. Reading, in short, develops your own ability to understand a text. It develops your ability to discern particular details, figure out puzzles, find explanations, and string them into a whole that will, hopefully, make sense. And the important thing here is the linchpin: you. You read primarily for yourself, and you think primarily for yourself. Combine this with a text that can be interpreted in a number of ways virtually infinite, and that’s just a daunting map to navigate.

As for reading not being a necessary thing for one to write? That’s an easy way to get out of the act of reading itself. Influence is inevitable, and it comes from everywhere. Reading makes you understand how a text is supposed to work – or not work – for you to be able to write something yourself. It’s not helpful if you don’t read. The nuances of texts will escape you, and the effectiveness of writing will follow in its wake.

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Writing Is An Intimate Experience

Want an interesting exercise? Go Google your favorite writers’ writing advice. Different people have different things to say about writing itself, and while writing advice (and why you should write) can be given by anyone, from your closest friend to your teacher, it’s like there’s prestige when the piece of advice comes from a famous best-selling author. Here are a few choice cuts from writers:

Stephen King:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Jeanette Winterson:

“I believe that we are all part of the creative continuum, but I am sure that there are different doses and dilutions of creativity. We are not all the same and we do not have the same aptitudes or talents. I can’t make you a writer. “

Neil Gaiman:

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.”

Jack Kerouac:

“Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy”

All are writers who have, in some way or another, made waves in the literary scene. The quotes that have been picked here (and with them come the links of the articles from which I’ve lifted them) all, in essence, echo the idea of writing as an individual experience. Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Written On the Body) says it best, I think: “I can’t make you a writer.” The implication springs from there: writing is an individual experience, intimate in nature and rooted in the self. Sure, you can show what you’re written to your friends and family, your teachers, and sure you may get the chance of getting published (and maybe selling a lot), and certainly editors will chip and pick away details here and there, and certainly critics will find cracks in your work and pry them open. But while the point is not to invalidate valuable input from readers of all sorts, what they are reading is what you have written, which means that the essence of the written work is your own, though you may have been influenced by other writers, in one way or another. Just as Winterson “can’t make you a writer,” no one can write what you need to write, in the way that you want something to be written.

The immediacy and the intimacy coming from the act of writing cannot be replicated by merely reading someone else’s work, or copying someone else’s writing. The absence of firsthand sentiment is too obvious and too strong, and instead of penning down your own thoughts, you find yourself agreeing with what has already been said. Writing is an intimate experience because it allows you to talk to yourself, in that you’re given the opportunity to articulate thoughts and challenge yourself in as effective a manner as you can possibly touch. Writing is, anyway, an act of creation. It starts out messy and difficult, but the more you write, and the more you realize how intimate you can be with your written word, the easier (hopefully) everything pans out, and the more comfortable you can get with your thought process.

In the end, it’s fair to say that you should write when you need to write, and write whatever you need to write. Everything else comes in second, because, even if you’re not absolutely conscious of it, you’re writing firstly for yourself.

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Making Something Out of Nothing

One of the hardest things to get started with is basically to write, especially if you have nothing – or can think of nothing – to write about. I won’t limit this to creative writing, as this is a problem encountered in writing in general. As a college student (a lit major, in fact) with a million deadlines hounding my everyday life, pressuring myself to submit something, anything, is a reality. It’s also really tough to decide whether or not you submit something to please your professors. Or maybe you have to strike the balance. You at least have to somehow like what you’re writing about, anyway.

But I digress.

The challenge is in the attempt. This isn’t writer’s block. I don’t think it is. Because the case, here, is that you have absolutely nothing to start out with, or at least that’s what we are all led to believe. There is a constant wellspring of source material from literally everywhere. It may be assaulting you and you don’t know it. But, like I said, the challenge is in attempting. With a lot of inspiration – if there is any – coming from everywhere, it’s hard to make sense of all of them and make a coherent whole out of half-thought, half-processed bits and pieces, and attempt to make them something that you can call your own. So while there is a lot of things that you can draw from, it will still feel like nothing.

So, to try, at least, to make something out of nothing, an intense brainstorming session has to come. You can make notes. One of my professors told me that making notes are good. Messy notes are even better. Draw diagrams, drink a lot of coffee and isolate yourself while you get into that supposed artistic mood, write names and thoughts popping up in your head, draw parallels from pop culture here and there, and just attempt to pin down on paper every thought that is fleeting. Organization might help, but a lot of the fun coming from brainstorming is that it’s wild, unbridled, and, by nature, highly disorganized.

When you do have notes, and when you have, at least, a semblance of something that has been made out of nothing, the next things you can do are pick up from there and start writing with the base material you’ve synthesized for yourself, or – and especially if you are a college student writing something for one of your classes – take it to someone who is willing (or is being paid) to make sense of what you’ve done and tell you what’s working and what’s not working in your basic skeleton. Putting it also in the context of academia, your professors will only be all too willing to help you out. Aside from the fact that it is their job, they will be satisfied, even happy, to know that you’re actively working on your paper, trying to iron out the creases and strengthen your argument.

In general, though, a wild brainstorming session might be the answer to how you’re supposed to start out when you have absolutely nothing to work with. The idea will come up sooner or later. And if the idea doesn’t come up, you will, at least, have a bunch of other ideas that you can work on for now, or pick up later.

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Travel Writing: When Experiences Become Stories

One of my friends, who’s pursuing a Broadcast Communication degree, told me that, as someone who wants to specialize in production, she can’t just sit in front of a laptop all day and piece together footage drawn from different sources to make a wonderful video. Images don’t just magically come together to form a coherent whole, and they’d have less of a tendency to do so if they’re not videos or images you’ve captured yourself.

I’m inclined to agree, although what my friend said is not limited to production or broadcasting. Of course, one can’t just sit all day waiting for things to come together all of a sudden. Writing, for example. This one’s getting really tired, but of course, writers are supposed to “write what [they] know,” and I doubt anyone would know anything if they’re just cooped up in their room basking in the glow of the monitor.

Before my semester ended, one of the things we tackled in one of my classes is travel writing, particularly from the Renaissance. I’m not entirely sure what travel writing means now (and I personally wouldn’t call travel guides for tourists “travel writing”), but people like Marco Polo, John Mandeville, and Antonio Pigafetta, were all travel writers drawing from experiences. Or “experiences,” in the case of Marco Polo and Mandeville. To summarize some of what the three did: Marco Polo, Mandeville, and Pigafetta all wrote about what they saw on their travels (although they were inclined to either exaggerate greatly or fill in blank spaces with strange and entertaining phenomena) and had their texts published. Their travel accounts are both personal and objective (to a certain extent), and of course during the time their texts were published, considered fresh, new, and interesting.

I doubt the entire globe’s been scoured by travelers today. Maybe what’s left undiscovered is either too deadly for the traveler or too vulnerable in the face of the traveler. Nevertheless, I’m still here to drive home the point: movement is important, experiencing is important, and going around knowing things firsthand will help in writing. A new experience can ignite creativity, and may fuel your writing. There are no guarantees, of course, and I’m not saying that every new experience must be written down. Especially if you’re a writer anyway, you don’t really have to have strictly new experiences. Tackle familiar things from a strange angle, from a different perspective, from a different frame. And if you really want to travel, anyway, it does not have to be anywhere exotic or expensive. Just going around a new neighborhood, or visiting a new locale that’s ten minutes away from your place, can be enough to help you in your “travel writing.” Certainly, there’s no assurance that what you’re going to write is as fresh or unique as what the Renaissance writers had written before, but gaining new perspectives just by going around will help a lot. Write what you know, basically. And if you don’t know it, supply the missing pieces, or actually try to find out what it is.

A Few Other Things:

I’ve mentioned three names here, and if you’re interested, here are links to their Wikipedia pages:

Mandeville / Pigafetta / Marco Polo

Here, too, is a link to one of Pigafetta’s texts, Pigafetta’s Account of Magellan’s Voyage.

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