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Jealousy scares me. It scares me in relationships, and it certainly scares me when it’s connected to my career. It’s a sneaky emotion; silently climbing into my chest and then sticking it’s claws in when I least expect it. I’ll be walking along, enjoying my goodness and my dedicated moral compass, when all of sudden I’ll read about someone else’s success and feel my knees buckle under the weight of envy.
I was born with a nice, thick jealous streak. But you know what? Jealousy can be undone. It can’t be un-felt, but it can be lessened. Because after all, isn’t jealousy just a quick way of saying insecure?
As artists, we’re freely entering into a world full of people who can do it better. They can schmooze better, they can land deals better, they can just plain write better and will most assuredly become successful before us. Now that we know the slight craptasticness of this world, let’s allow a thought to seep into our brains: just because someone else achieves their dream, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for us. Read more »
Let’s be real, here: grief sucks. It sucks so, so bad. On the list of Emotions That Are Hard To Deal With, grief is at the top, florescent and harsh and without a hint of remorse.
When you’re drowning in grief, it’s like the world stops, the air goes out, and all you can see and hear is the echoing of your own pain. Running from it is impossible, and it clings to you for much, much longer than it should. It grabs your neck and punches your heart and laughs while you shrink down onto the floor or collapse onto the bed; grief doesn’t give a shit.
Which is why it’s so hard to write when you’re not directly feeling it. Read more »
I just taught creative writing for a summer session to a group of very bright and talented 11th and 12th graders. It was a very intensive program, a five-day-a-week gig for three weeks, in which the students studied and wrote poetry, short fiction, dramatic scenes, and long prose (both fiction and nonfiction).
It was very rewarding but also absolutely exhausting.
I got to teach the students a variety of forms, which reminded me that I need not pigeonhole myself only as a nonfiction writer (I started a short story yesterday!). I also got young writers excited by new genres and authors (they loved the idea of prose poetry!). That was totally gratifying.
I would love to teach creative writing at the high school or university level as a career in the future. However, this teaching position took up all my time even though I was only teaching for about an hour a day. My personal projects got pushed to the backburner. I was tired after leading class and trying to remain energetic all the time and then prepping for the next session each afternoon.
This got me thinking about the future again. Since I’m going to need a day job after I finish graduate school (no $200,000 book deals in my future), why not teach creative writing and do journalism to keep my mind involved in writing-related tasks and exercise my writing muscle? Read more »
In between barely making enough money and working on my art (and occasionally watching True Blood), I force myself to meditate, breathe with intention and stay mindful. I’ve bought into all that stuff, because I want a balanced, fulfilled life.
But then something happens — something that knocks me over and causes my heart to drop or break or just generally stop — and I doubt all of the work I’ve ever done.
You’re just not built for peace.
At least that’s what I think when I’m crumpled in a heap on the floor, feeling sadness and pain in places like my knee caps and right shoulder. …Because that isn’t how normal people act. Normal people aren’t wrecked for years after a break-up, writing songs and plays and short stories while filling journals to the brink with stuff that would make even Sylvia Plath blush. Normal people don’t stay in on a Saturday night so they can exorcise demons with a keyboard. I have normal friends. They agree with me on this one.
And so that’s why I wonder: can true artists ever live a “balanced” life? Read more »
At seven am every morning, I pop out of bed and drink a freshly squeezed orange juice and eat a zucchini frittata. Before I do any errands or school work, I spend three hours working on the latest chapter of my book. I eat lunch outside while reading volume two of Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago.” In the afternoons, I revise what I wrote the week prior. I have a light dinner and then get back to reading Solzhenitsyn. Before bed, I write in my journal for an hour and keep the pen and notebook on my bedside table in case I have interesting dreams or book ideas in the middle of the night.
I’m a graduate student. I have two jobs. I have a forty-five minute commute through New York City almost every morning. I’m usually rushing. I’m not really a morning person. Sometimes I get headaches from staring at my computer all day and I would rather cook a fun dinner when I get home than write anything. I do a lot of writing for school and for my jobs, but I’m not always good at prioritizing my own writing projects.
Scottish comedian and writer Al Kennedy had a piece up at The Guardian earlier this month about a day in the life of a writer:
…I usually compare my life to those of so many other novelists who are (perhaps inaccurately) quoted as saying they “always complete the final draft in my suite at the Carlyle” or “my writing room faces the smaller of our lakes and has a delightfully inspiring view across the Chilterns/Dartmoor/the Swiss Alps/Dollis Hill” or “I always get up at 4am, sip my organic mint tea – dew-kissed leaves fresh from the sunken garden – and then five or six thousand words tumble forth before Freddie and Timmy and the dogs wake up and I have to oversee Marta while she makes them breakfast – she’s from the Philippines and simply doesn’t understand toast” and so forth.
It’s mostly a spoof piece but she manages to be refreshingly realistic. We’re not all going to be able to wake up to the sunrise at our lakeside writers retreat. We’re going to have gigs and side jobs. We’re going to be grumpy in the mornings. We’re going to not want to write all the time, but we’ll force ourselves to because that’s our calling.
What would my own ideal daily schedule look like? Here’s a non-ironic fantasy: Read more »
I clearly remember the time I read through my first literary sex scene.
I was probably around 10, or 11 years old, and I was probably reading some adult book I had pilfered from my mom’s bedside table or that someone else had pilfered from their own mom’s bedside table. Where the book came from, or even it’s title, isn’t important, what is important is that Anne Rice was behind it — and spared no details.
Obviously, I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on in the pages I skimmed through during one long summer afternoon, but even as a very young writer, one who had just barely begun to record life with big, loopy letters, I was concerned with how Rice actually got the courage to write such lurid details. And they were lurid. At least to a 10-year-old.
These days, I have that same concern.
Yes, I’m older. Yes, I understand sex and see it as a natural part of life (I somehow missed the whole Shame and Guilt dance Roman Catholicism can often force its young followers to do…and left the church before they could tell me it was even worse to do It before marriage), but I’m still much preoccupied with putting it into my own writing.
I mean, we all like to watch sex scenes. And we all like to read them, too. They’re fun. They break up the monotony. They give us ideas. Etc. But. How does one create a sex scene that doesn’t (ahem…) suck? Read more »
I just finished my first year of creative writing graduate school (cue exhausted applause), and now I’m facing the prospect of a semi-unstructured summer in which I need to: a.) earn money, b.) continue to write my thesis manuscript, c.) do research for my thesis, d.) sit in the sun a lot and have picnics, e.) recuperate from the stress of school.
To that end, I’ve secured a part-time job and have applied to a bazillion writers retreats, conferences, and residencies.
One of my favorite procrastinators of all time is Leonardo da Vinci. This same man who painted The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa also laid plans for aircraft and submarines hundreds of years before their time. In addition being a painter and inventor, he was also a sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. He was as talented as he was distractable, but I’m inclined to believe the latter was just as vital as the former.
If he had been better able to focus on one field and one field only, we might only have known him as, say, Leonardo da Vinci, the cartographer, or Leonardo da Vinci, the botanist. I’m sure he would have been a super cartographer or botanist, but had Leonardo da Vinci actually been able to focus, our culture just wouldn’t be the same. Other famous procrastinators include Albert Einstein, Marcel Proust, and Douglas Adams, who famously once said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
So here’s to procrastination, the destroyer of time but also great mother to creativity. Because, as we’ve discussed before and will inevitably discuss again, the time during which you are not creating is just as important as when you are. Read more »
My name is Andrew Boryga, and this post is the beginning of a bi-weekly column I’ll be writing entitled “From One Young Writer to Another.” The purpose of my column is to give a different perspective on the literary world. Through my own experiences as a young writer I want to provide some advice for people my age, or at the least, examples of what not to do.
I am a freshman English major at Cornell University. I first became interested in literature in middle school, and since my sophomore year of high school, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer. The majority of my writing thus far has been journalistic. I have been writing fiction for less than a year. In most cases my inexperience would be a limiting factor, but on this site it’s a gift.
So if there is any writing issue you’d like to see tackled from a young person’s perspective, whether or not you’re a young writer yourself, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I began my first real short story in November. Billy was my first protagonist.
He lived in a small Midwestern town and worked a gas station. He was a sophomore at a decent college but didn’t like it much. He wanted out of his life.
A man pulled into his station one day driving a car covered in bumper stickers, offering Billy the ride of a lifetime. “Come watch the lines on the road with me,” said the ragged old man.
This whole story had been mapped out: the plot –– everything. But after four pages, I had nothing to say. Billy was still in school, getting ready to leave with the traveler and I was preparing to write crazy adventures for the two of them –– crazy adventures I’ve never experienced myself. I’ve never hitchhiked, never bought anything but roundtrip bus tickets and I’ve always known when I was coming home. And so Billy’s story remained four pages long.
During winter break in December, I went home. I enjoyed the food and my old friends. I reminisced. I pulled out my box of old middle school photos. I thought about all the stupid things my friends and I used to do. I thought about my old principal who’d only give late passes to the pretty girls and I thought about the bus driver on the BX 55 who’d yell and holler every time I went through the back entrance.
Then it hit me.
“What the hell am I doing writing about a kid from the Midwest?” I asked myself. I’ve lived in the Bronx for 19 years –– I don’t know jack shit about the Midwest. Read more »
While reading Jonathan Franzen’s National Book Award Winner, The Corrections, I realized the amount of words I simply do not know: rube, elephantine, elfin, tumid, the list goes on.
I don’t know if this is the case for everyone else, but for me, as a reader, I tend to gloss over words I don’t know and rely on figuring them out in context. If that doesn’t work I skip them all together, so long as they aren’t central to what the sentence is trying to say.
So I began a collection of words.
I went down to my school store and bought two packs of 5x8in index cards. I cut them into eighths and kept them close to me while reading Franzen and anything I might have had to read for class. Every time I came across a word I didn’t know I circled it in my book and looked it up. When finished reading I went back and wrote the definitions to the circled words on the cards. So far I have 137 from the first half of Franzen’s book alone.
To give my collection value I set aside 10 minutes of my day to read over my cards once or twice, reading aloud the definitions and letting them sink in. I don’t remember every single word (on a good day I’ll remember a quarter of them), but I am becoming acquainted with them.