Tag: inspiration

Why We Write

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Lately I’ve been reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’ve been drawing it out, since I always seem to read the saddest parts in public, and I hate crying in front of people. But just this week I picked it up again, and, before I got to another incredibly sad part, I read a passage that resonated more with me than anything ever has.

It seems like everyone but me has read this book, so I won’t preface this quote with much extra information. On page 116, the main character runs into his love interest, and he describes what he’s feeling as

not knowing what the next words out of my mouth would be, but wanting them to be mine, wanting, more than I’d ever wanted anything, to express the center of me and be understood.

Not only is this one of the most apt descriptions of human nature I’ve ever read, it also describes what I view as the true purpose of writing. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most writers would agree that the heart of writing, and the reason most of us do it, is because there’s some core part of us that we hope to share with others.

It adds a weight to our words that I don’t think we’re always aware of, and that’s significant. Our words are powerful, and they allow us to share the most interior parts of ourselves with others. There’s nothing wrong with letting that drive us, letting the understanding of why we write fuel our passion for it.

Embracing the Wiki Loop

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“Wiki loop” is one of those phrases that has popped up to describe a phenomenon we’ve all experienced: getting stuck reading endless Wikipedia articles. If you’re like me, you may wonder why this could ever be considered a bad thing. But I guess some people have better things to do on Friday nights than click through lists about the world’s oldest people.

Part of the fun of getting stuck in these loops is finding out new things, and I think that as writers we should embrace that. I’ve talked about how important research is before, and this is no different. While Wikipedia may not be the first thing you think about when doing research for stories, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable resource.

At the beginning of each semester, my creative writing professor hands out a list of weird things he’s come across on Wikipedia. Some things are just interesting natural phenomena (like ball lightning), and others are notable people (like this list of inventors killed by their own inventions). I’m currently working on a story that evolved from the page on embryo space colonization, and it’s been a lot of fun to watch the narrative evolve from just one Wikipedia page.

So the next time you end up clicking through Wikipedia articles, bookmark the more interesting pages you come across! Embrace the wiki loop and know that your time is not being wasted. Feel free to share any weird pages you think others should know about!

Writing Abroad

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Writing is something you have to make time for. I know this. What I didn’t know is how easy it is to make time for writing when you’re doing things like homework and laundry all the time…it’s much harder to make time in between traveling, eating out, and sightseeing.

IMG_3430During the five weeks I was in Oxford, I journaled every day. I made a conscious decision to do this, and it often involved writing late at night or on bumpy trains and buses. And I did this because I knew that otherwise, I wasn’t going to write everyday. The material was there, but honestly there wasn’t always time.

There were a few (amazing) moments when I was able to just sit down and write in the middle of a beautiful or inspiring location, and I doubt that the work produced then could ever be rivaled. But, when I wasn’t able to do that, I was glad that at least I would have my journal to look back on. It contains my thoughts, feelings, and a very subjective account of the days’ events.

writing in holyrood park

The one productive thing I did was buy a notebook with the intention of only writing stories in it. Stories based on places, situations – things I had experienced during my travels. It was a challenge, but definitely a fun one. I’ve written in it a few times since I’ve gotten home, but my best experience with it was a lovely writing-filled day in Edinburgh.

A few of us passed up the offers to go sightseeing, instead deciding to spend our time enjoying nature’s inspiration. We hiked in Holyrood Park and then sat for about an hour, just taking in the beautiful sights and writing. One of my friends even pulled out watercolors and painted the scene in front of us. It really was a testament to just how easy it is to be creative when you have so much material to work with, and I’m looking forward to seeing how inspired I can be when I have just my journal and memories to take me back to those amazing places.

 

 

All You Need is Something to Write In

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I’ve been abroad for a week now, and I haven’t even attempted to do any creative writing. And yesterday, as we were walking around and exploring the city, I realized that part of this is my fault for not taking advantage of all the inspiration around me. 

So I bought a journal, and last night I started writing. The words flowed. 

I decided to write using places I’ve visited as prompts. Once I gave my notebook a purpose, I realized just how much inspiration is in my surroundings and how much I should take advantage of it. This idea was really solidified for me when we went on a tour of Christ Church and were shown all of the things on the campus that are represented in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. He relied a lot on his environment to create stories that were rich with description and heart, and that’s what I want to do. 

I had been so caught up in figuring out wifi, writing blog posts, and keeping up with my journal that I completely neglected the most fun (and rewarding) writing option – creative writing!

I’m hoping that once we really get into the rhythm of classes and outings, I’ll really be able to set aside some time to write – until then, I’ll be making time. 

Inspiration: The Writer’s Excuse

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Let’s first note that I am not saying inspiration is bad. Inspiration is a great thing, often the best thing a writer could hope for. So what I’m addressing today is what happens when you don’t have inspiration.

We have all said these words, at least in our heads: “I’m just not feeling inspired today, so maybe I won’t write.” (Don’t deny it.)

The problem is, sometimes we get so into the ease of writing when we’re inspired that it becomes really difficult to write when we’re not. But you can’t just continue to wait for inspiration – you could be waiting forever! Plus, often what creates inspiration in the first place is working on a piece, getting to know it, and finding out what it needs.

How are you ever going to be inspired to finish something if you never look at it?

Honestly, beginning to write without inspiration is just getting used to hard work (the hard work that is writing, revising, and trying not to throw your laptop in frustration) – and what is writing without hard work?

Overcoming the Hurdle of Fear

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Every year I submit a story to Baylor’s Student Literary Contest, and every year I have to spend hours convincing myself to do it.

Logically, I know that nothing bad is going to happen if I send in a piece of my work. They might like it, they might not, but ultimately it doesn’t change my life too much unless I win.

So what is it that I am afraid of?

I’ve tried to unpack this on many different occasions, and it’s only recently occurred to me that I must be afraid of winning. And not just winning, but the change it brings.

So this year as I prepare my entry, I’m trying to control my fear by thinking about what’s good about change. It’s something I need to be prepared for anyway, since I’m graduating in less than ten months now. Change is inevitable.

However, it’s still a difficult mental hurdle to overcome. Fear is a fact of life, but it is also limiting. It can keep you huddled within your comfort zone. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason – it’s comfortable, cozy. But it’s not the way to live your life.

On Writing Prompts

On Writing

For Christmas, my roommate bought me a book of writing prompts. I’ve never really been the kind of person to write based on a prompt; usually I just sit around until I have some kind of idea (usually a bad one), and then I write on that for a while before I get stuck. You would think that I would have discovered the magic of writing prompts a long time ago.

In addition to being helpful, writing from a prompt is fun. Seeing a possible story grow from just a sentence embraces the most exhilarating part of the writing process–coming up with a great idea. Sometimes I wonder if it’s cheating–if I’m just writing what I’m told, where is the creativity? But then I remember that no one else who looks at that prompt is going to write the same story I did.

I’m going to start posting the stories I’ve written from the prompts, or at least snippets  of them. They probably won’t be perfect, but I’ll welcome comments. And in case you were wondering, the book I’m using is 712 More Things to Write About, by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. If you’re in need of some inspiration, you should check it out!

Peaks in Life

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There are a lot of ups and downs in life, and chances are, you’re either in a devastatingly deep valley or at the top of the highest mountain you’ve climbed in a while. We don’t often notice when we’re in between.

I’ll admit that at the moment, I’m sitting at a very low point. The thing is, I’ve learned this year not to let the lows get me down because I know what it takes to get back to those high points.

For me, highs come when I’m writing, or when I’m traveling. Often the planning process of either can make me pretty happy as well.

When people ask what I want to do with my life, I know the answer, and you should too. It has to be one of those things that shoots you right up to the highest of highs by being brought up in conversation or even with the most fleeting of thoughts.

A few weeks ago I sent in my deposit to study abroad in Oxford. My bank account is eight hundred dollars lighter, but even thinking about the amount of work it took to save that much money cannot bring me down. Traveling is one of my highs, and I know I’ll at least be at the top of that mountain for six weeks this summer. It’s something to look forward to.

And one last thing (I know I’m guilty of this) – don’t sabotage your highs by thinking negatively about the length of the climb or the quickness of the fall. Just remember that the climb got you there, and the fall means that you’ll get to be there again someday.

Books for Writers Review: Bird by Bird

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a classic. It contains tons of advice and funny stories, and what else could you want from a book about writing? Like the best books, this one offers so many snippets of truth that I felt like I was highlighting every other line. There were even moments I found myself crying–like when she compared writing to having children–and those were the times when I knew I had chosen the right path. This book is my go-to read when I need a pick-me-up or when I’m stuck in a rut.

However, if you are looking for tips on craft Bird by Bird probably won’t satisfy your need. Lamott offers more in the way of inspiration, so you’d be better off checking out On Writing by Stephen King or The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. If you’ve gotten past the mechanics and just need to start writing, Bird by Bird is the book to get you going.

“A woman must h…

AdviceOn Writing

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
-Virginia Woolf

Now I’m not a big fan of Virginia Woolf, but I love this quote. While the money part is debatable, I think most people will agree that having a room of your own, or someplace where you can just write, is one of the most important things about being a writer. Personally, I have a few of those places. My favorite is a local coffee shop. I have a usual seat and a usual drink, and that’s all I need to get things done. What’s your favorite place to write?

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