For writers who never did well in math, you might be surprised to learn that literature contains fractals.
Fractals are geometric figures made of small components that have statistical characteristics identical to the whole. If you zoom in on a fractal, you see the same shapes again and again no matter how far you zoom in.
In the world of math, fractals are used to analyze and describe snowflakes, crystal growth, galaxies and coastlines.
It seems they can describe language as well. Continue reading
There’s an important essay going around that, if you haven’t read it yet, you should read now before finishing this post. It’s called On Pandering by Claire Vaye Watkins, who is known to me by her fantastic 2013 debut collection of short stories, Battleborn, which won five literary awards.
The essay is actually a speech Watkins gave as a lecture during the 2015 Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. Either way, the content rattled me.
A year ago, I began volunteering at a retirement community teaching a memoir writing class to a handful of dedicated writers. I refer to these writers collectively as “my ladies,” because except for the occasional man who pops in now and then, the regulars are all women (above).
Most of them — perhaps all— have never undertaken a creative writing class before. But they show up each week, notebook in hand, and after I give them the writing prompt I’ve prepared, they turn to their notebooks uninhibited by the constraints of craft, and write away. I’ve yet to witness any signs of writer’s block. In the 30 minutes or so they have to write before we share, most of them fill several pages.
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels with writing and you need a dose of inspiration, read these quotes from author Neil Gaiman, listen to the podcast interview with him, and/or watch the commencement speech below that he gave to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts. I especially recommend that you watch the commencement speech.
On first drafts:
For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important. One way you get through the wall is by convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. No one is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that’s the thing that you may be agonizing over, but honestly, whatever you’re doing can be fixed.