Writer, What Are You Made Of?

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I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a year. The reason? I have been writing.

Last September, I started a writing workshop via MeetUp in order to connect with local writers. Previous to that, I had been attending workshops through Grub Street and although I admire their programs, the cost is high. As a result of the workshop I started, I’ve met a bunch of extremely talented writers, but the best thing is that the workshops keep the fires burning. I’ve written more new stories in the last year — and also revised more manuscripts — than I ever have. 

In this last year, I’ve grown exponentially as a writer. My prose is better but even more than that, I’ve come to a better understanding of who I am as a writer.  I’ve been tapping into those deep, personal zones, the ones Robert Olen Butler calls “white-hot” places in From Where You Dream. The ones that scare you or feel difficult to broach. I’ve been working on staying there, unflinching. The idea speaks directly to what I wrote nearly a year ago in The Path Not Taken. That is, if you want to create honest-to-goodness art, you must slog through the mud. Actually, sit down in it. Dive.

So that’s where I’ve been. I’ll check in again. 

Credit: Ruud Onos / Flickr, Creative Commons

How to Make Your Writing as Good as Your Ambition

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“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is DO A LOT OF WORK. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through.” — Ira Glass

Credit: Steve Bowbrick

The Path Not Taken, Yet

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This is a difficult blog for me to write. I’ve been sort of avoiding it since I got home from the Writing by Writers conference in Tomales Bay, Calif. But a week has passed and it’s time to step up. The reason I’ve been avoiding this blog is that as soon as I articulate what I’m about to say, as soon as I tell you what I think, I have to follow through. That’s just how I am. You’ll never know if I do it or not, but I will. Continue reading

Off Course

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I’m still coming down from my six days in Marin County where I took a writing workshop with Ron Carlson at the Writing by Writers conference. I spent some time the last couple of days transcribing my notes and downloading images. I came across the one above this morning, a panoramic view of Bodega Bay. It’s a gorgeous spot and the only reason I saw it is that I went off course, along with the two other women I shared a rental car with.

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Let Go

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faith-lets-goThanks to Fenton Johnson, who shared this quote recently from philosopher Alan Watts at the Writing by Writers conference.

Belief is the insistence that the truth is what one would like or wish it to be. Faith is the unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings; faith let’s go.

Credit: zoetnet, Flickr Creative Common

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

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You may have already heard.

But for all of us short story writers out there, who aren’t sure they have a novel in them, this is for you from Alice: “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.”

It’s Critical That You Type Your Critiques

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I started a writing group, and last night was our first session. We spent our time on administrative things, such as setting a schedule to discuss each other’s writing and establishing some rules of play. One of the rules I wanted – and folks agreed to – was that readers would type up their comments for the writers. I’ve always felt that a writer learns more from this experience than the reader actually receives. To lend weight to my argument, I submit these ideas from Steve Almond, a Boston-based writer whose book of essays and flash fiction, “This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey,” I’m reading at the moment.

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Retreat!

gloucester-shoreTo MFA or not to MFA. That has been the question for me as of late. I was leaning toward the MFA. Here’s why: I wanted more time to write and I wanted the potential networking opportunities. Well after explaining this to a friend, who helped me get down to the nitty-gritty, he wondered couldn’t I make time and network in other ways that didn’t require me to quit my job (yet) and fork over tens of thousands of dollars? Continue reading