Sunday, February 03, 2008

Tagged! Writing advice...


From this site.

The amazing Delia tagged me to write out three pieces of writing advice that I would like to share with others. It’s interesting. I have wanted to do a post like this for a while, but have always hesitated. Why? I don’t know…didn’t think I had the authority to give advice, needing so much of it myself? I guess I wanted to wait until I felt like I had THE answer—the perfect pieces of advice that would enable anyone (or, OK, me) to get off their excuses and start writing prolifically.

Sadly, this has not quite happened. But, upon reflection, I do think I have things to share—things that have helped me start, and continue, and start again.

Treat your material kindly: The writing books expound often on writing what you know, and that’s not what I mean here. I am talking about those moments when you feel gripped by a topic, or a theme, or a type of character. Sometimes I am dismayed by how much my stories tend to resemble each other, and I am embarrassed by how small they feel. I start to want to write about BIG subjects—war, or terrorism, or global warming.

And then I block.

Because, see, I am pulled towards the stories I tell. I want to write about those who feel like literature is what happened to other people. I want to leave a record of the heroism in these lives, even if the inhabitants themselves can’t see it. Because I can.

So I will continue to crawl over every inch of my material, like an ant who wants to see the whole world. I will continue to write about what calls me. After all, there are lots of people to write the tales of Big History. I’ll be here writing about the bodega owners who live above the store and Minerva the Cat Lady, who likes to drive with them tucked in a basket in her front seat, with access to the window.

Find your community—in people and in books: When I became a mother, I felt like I had already fallen behind. Because with the birth of my Madam, I also gave birth to a surprisingly fierce ambition. I had always wanted to write and had even made some serious attempts at it while I lived in Chicago. But something about holding my daughter in my arms, staring into her dizzying little face, made me long to BE something for her. To show her something in me that, prior to her existence, I wasn’t sure I had. I wanted her to be proud of me.

So I went online, found all of you, not all mothers (not even all women!) but all committed to your creativity and your passions.

And then I started to read books on motherhood and creativity. I needed to believe that it was possible, and the books told me, over and over, yes it is. I return to certain favorite essays often—Anne Tyler’s patient voice has pushed me back towards the keyboard on many days when I couldn’t see past my own irritation and exhaustion. I clutch Judith Cofer Ortiz’s stories about waking up at 5am when her children were small with gratitude (even if I haven’t been able to do that yet). And on days when I just cannot do ANYTHING, I remember that Patry Francis said that she didn’t manage any serious writing when her children were under six.

That seemed to work out well for her. And it gives me hope.

So find those books, those blogs, those people who make it all seem possible and use them to buoy you up when your own life preserver starts to, well, sink. To mix metaphors, if you put on your own mask first (like they say on the plane) you’ll be able to help someone else.

Show others what you can do: This was a tough one for me; still is. I went years without showing my writing to anyone outside of a writing class. It didn’t read like “real writing,” or else it was “too small,” or “not ready.”

Nothing has helped my writing more, and nothing keeps me writing like posting on this blog. Yes, the pieces are rough, unpolished, occasionally awkward. I am definitely experimenting. But your feedback, your questions and enthusiasms help me see my own work as something outside of myself. And that helps me to make it better.

It’s scary to put yourself out there, even in a safe place like a blog. It stings when people don’t seem to respond to a piece I think works. But…it’s good to see that.

And when you like something and tell me that it moves you, well, NOTHING motivates me quite as quickly. It makes it all feel real, and possible. Because it’s not theoretical anymore. Once you put a piece of fiction out, it’s an admission that it matters to you. You are not thinking about writing, you are writing.

So thank you for that.

As far as who I will tag for my three….so many great bloggers have been tagged already! But I don’t think I have seen responses from Amber, Jessie, and Deirdre, so those are my three.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Frida said...

Perfect timing! I've been "writing" for one week now and I needed gentle reminders on all three fronts. I had already begun to slip into the trap of thinking that "my story" of Afghanistan wasn't as big or important or true as those other ones. But it is my story of Afghanistan and I need to stay loyal to it. At some point I will start to share it - but you are also right about the blog. Having shared so much of the story already on my blog does make it easier now.
Thanks!

3:50 AM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Amber said...

Oh, great. LOL! I am going to have to get over thise feeling I am in the middle of-- That I suck. LOL! My advice will be, "Don't suck". Ha!

No. Let me think about this a little.

But your advice is perfect, and as always it sits well with me. You are a beautiful soul, my friend. I am so happy I "found" you here. ;)

PS, FRIDA-- "thinking that "my story" of Afghanistan wasn't as big or important or true as those other ones."--- Ummm, ARE YOU KIDDING??!! LMAO! Please, lady. Trust me. Your story is plenty big enough. Tell your story. ;)

oxox:)

10:51 AM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Lisa said...

This post is so great. The thing about writing advice that works is that it changes all the time, depending on where we are in our lives and sometimes even in our days. At the core of what you've said though is the idea that putting it out there, in whatever form, helps us to move forward and to evolve and get past our fears. I believe that no piece of writing is ever a waste of time. If I write something that nobody wants to read, it doesn't matter because the process and the experience have taught me something. You are a wonderful writer and your concerns that stories are too personal and too close to home really hit home with me -- but I think no matter what the initial, seemingly small story, there are themes and ideas that are universal that can come from those. Please keep on writing and sharing. You've made my day today.

10:51 AM, February 04, 2008  
Anonymous fern said...

Great advice! The only thing I can write is a shopping list, but I still found your entry helpful. I totally agree with the community thing, it's an enriching experience, being part of something.
Your writing has always been beautiful, and I can't wait to see what else you come up with!

1:38 PM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Deirdre said...

There's so much writing wisdom in this post - so much I need remember and practice.

And now I have to come up with my own three pieces of writing advice. Yikes. Thanks for tagging me - I need a little kick in the pants right now.

6:38 PM, February 04, 2008  
Blogger Deirdre said...

p.s. I've tagged you too. ;)

12:38 AM, February 05, 2008  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Wonderful advice! I love the image of crawling all over your stories like "an ant that wants to see the whole world" !! It's funny, I have kind of the same feeling about my writing but in a different way -- it's not that the things I want to write about feel "small" to me, it's that they don't feel "real" or "serious." I think I feel somehow unqualified to write about the "real world" -- as if I don't live in it! And I don't even mean about war and things I haven't personally experienced. I don't think I could write a book about, say, a marriage, even though I am married. Luckily I don't want to, but still, it's a weird feeling. It's like my thoughts, observations, etc, are directed in some fantasy direction, not toward the minutiae of real life. I guess we all really do need to listen to that voice and write what we feel compelled to write -- not what we "know" but what we "feel."

5:13 PM, February 05, 2008  
Blogger Jessie said...

Oh, yummy! I could drink this post up again and again...like a good writing book. ;)

I look forward to writing about this also. Thank you for tagging me! I hope to have a post up SOON! Good--this way I have something delicious to spend my energy on while at work tomorrow. :)

love you!

8:35 PM, February 05, 2008  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I've done my three pieces - it was fun and also difficult to stop. There's so much about writing I love and want to share.

11:41 AM, February 06, 2008  
Blogger bee said...

YAY you're still writing.

honestly, m, these "writers advice" things are going to be awesome for me as i throw myself from the last two academic papers i'm writing into grad portfolios. it's funny...i have this idea in my head (because i'm setting myself up to be a full time writer, if i get into grad school mfas) that it takes a certain time....i can get it done after this...clean first....or better yet, "no i don't want to write a poetic novel, i'm NOT A POET" (in response to 2 separate people asking me why i haven't tried that specific genre.)
um, no wonder i feel blocked.
if i refuse the 'spirit' in any way, it's not going to come as often, afraid that it will be turned back, no?
i feel so often that you and i are on very similar trails, writing wise, and it always reassures & inspires me to come here. fyi: i'm bookmarking this post! hee.
i think i'm returning, albeit slowly, to my blog, if you'd like to come visit.

7:34 AM, February 14, 2008  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Smile...SO glad to see you took on the tag! Yes, I know about block and about trying to work with young ones around. Thanks for doing this.
Love,
D.

11:02 AM, February 18, 2008  
Anonymous College Paper Writing said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

12:41 AM, December 09, 2009  

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