Journal Addiction

We’re still in the start of the New Year in the longest fucking month in the history of ever. I swear folks, it feels like January is never going to end. And since we’re still here at the beginning of things, this post is going to be related to resolutions and new projects. There’s a lot to be said about both and though many of you have your own thoughts about these things, I figured for those of you that are wondering, I’m going to put my foot in the door and talk as long as you’ll read.

            The first thing that I suggest we consider is the idea of the writing journal. There are numerous people out there, myself included, that carry around a notebook to write down ideas for later use. And this is good. This is something that I suggest everyone do. I would also suggest it is small enough to fit in a pocket as many of us are caught with inspiration at the weirdest of times. Right now, I’ve got a full-sized notebook and I’m happy with it because most of the time I’m teaching college English, so there’s no room for me to pause, tell everyone to shut up and I hate them, and then write something down.

            I do tell them I hate them. It feels good.

            Anyways, stop buying journals.

            I don’t want you to buy another journal until you’ve filled up the last one. There are numerous people that buy writing journals because they want them so bad, write about ten pages in them and quit. I’m going to suggest that you don’t do that anymore. Focus on one journal at a time until it is full. Label it, mark the pages, do whatever you need to do to keep it organized, but do not buy another journal, no matter the excuse.

            The reason being is that I had, at one time, six journals that I was writing in. I had one for every type of writing as well as an idea journal. And at the time, I thought that was really neat, and to some of you, that’s how you work, so continue to do that. What I found though, was that by having so many going at one time, I felt as if I’d never fill one up.

            If you haven’t ever filled up a journal from cover to cover, I suggest you do it sometime. It is one of the most accomplished feelings I’ve ever had. Although it was all for personal use or had some garbage written in it, it was still finished and shelved.

            So the first step in this would be to determine if you really want to keep a journal. Sometimes we do things because we are told to do them not because we need to do it. There are some writers out there that can just file their ideas in their amazing heads and move on. But with three children I find it hard to keep on track. So I need one.

            Once you’ve decided you want a journal, then make sure that you keep ONLY ONE. Meaning that if you have a ton in your house, get rid of them. I don’t care how just get rid of them and make sure that is your only option.

            Then write, write, write, write.

            The second thing goes along with this, and that’s the idea of starting new projects. I know that most of you have projects going on right now in different stages. And I think, once before, I’ve talked about knowing when a project is dead. So let’s say that your ideas are healthy and everything seems to be going well. That’s awesome! Keep it up. I have the problem of running a bunch of ideas at one time and again, like the journals, I find that nothing will ever be finished. So I would suggest that you again, think about working on one project at a time and making the other projects impossible to access until you’re finished with the current. I’ve managed this once and it turned out wonderful.

            So as we start the New Year, focus on simplifying your workspace and work. Remember that we do better when we focus on a single task at a time. Even though we hate it. Try it out. Start now. I know January seems almost over, but I’m sure we’ve got another six fucking weeks of this left.

Music & Writing- the lover’s quarrel

There are two things I love in life– music, and writing. I love some other things, but those are irrelevant right now.

I’ve always felt what I would call a ‘lover’s quarrel’ in putting the two together though. Kind of opposite to loving, let’s say– wine and cheese because those are two very different substances and they actually go very well together.

Better analogy: Singing and dancing go well together– if you’re talented. They require different parts of the brain and body. Music and writing require different parts of the body too, but I would argue that they share the brain and maybe that’s why I have such a hard time with listening to music and writing.

I feel that I am both alone, and not alone on this topic.

According to an article by Mary Lee MacDonald, there is a lot of research on the topic and it includes a multitude of varying factors. One study done in 2001 by researchers S.E. Ransdell and L. Gilroy, found that “Background music significantly disrupted writing fluency.”

Another study in 2016 by Kristian Johnsen Haaberg found that students used music “as a tool during study situations to increase well-being and motivation, to isolate themselves in a personal ‘bubble’, and to avoid other temptations and feelings such as hunger or boredom.”

MacDonald’s article goes on to further explain variations such as the genre of music and volume. Then she conquers the question– does music help or hurt? In her case, she was able to find that at one point, a certain soundtrack did help her revisit a feeling or state of mind and helped to complete her prize-winning chapbook, The Rug Bazaar.

After this, she references an interview with Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita and Pale Fire, who was asked about writing and music. He said his ideal writing arrangement was “an absolutely soundproofed flat in New York, on a top floor—no feet walking above, no soft music anywhere.”

By the end of her article, she sides with silence: “I’m with him. To write from that true, deep place, we must coax ourselves into a state of deep meditation. We must make friends with silence.”

Then you have people like Stephen King who apparently jam out to metal music while writing, but let’s be honest-– at this point, after all the books he’s written, his brain is just a production factory of words that’s probably running on auto-pilot. But hey, whatever works, you know?

To pull my thoughts together– I think music can be helpful to writers when needing inspiration or brainstorming, or as MacDonald used it- to revisit a feeling or state of mind. But all-in-all, with whatever type of writing that you’re doing, creative or academic, I believe you will be much more focused, clear-minded and productive in silence.

-Brittany

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“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” (Happy Holidays!)

Happy Holidays, folks!

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I tend to be a bit more retrospective than usual. I like to look back at the previous year and see what I’ve accomplished, what I enjoyed, what I struggled with, and what I need to learn. A new year approaches, a new chance to start fresh to set new goals, new objectives (but hey, you can do that any time you’d like). This year, especially, the last full year in my 20s, I’ve thought a lot about what I’d like to accomplish, where I’d like to see myself in the future, asking myself the classic job interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?” That’s a question has always been a little tricky for me to answer. It’s easy to identify what you’d like to be doing at that point, but what actionable steps are you taking now to reach that?

I have a note on my laptop that I reference pretty often called my “lofty list of goals.” I’m always thinking of things I’d like to achieve and accomplish within the scope of art, such as publications I’d like to be a part of, projects I’d like to work on, and skills I’d like to develop. For instance, from the time I was in college, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the “Spectrum: The Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art” annual. This is basically the who’s who of illustration, featuring another of my end-goals, to create the card art for a MTG card. These are both terminal goals. I am far from reaching either of them with my current body of work and skillset, but they’re goals all the same. So when I answer the “Where do you see yourself…” question, the answer is easy, but how do you get there? Well, I try to set intermediary or tertiary goals to achieve to set a sort of “path” to reach them. Too much of a disconnect between where you’re currently at and where you’d like to be and it’s easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and give up. Even with all of these things in mind, it’s an issue I’ve battled with a bit lately. I was watching an interview with my current favorite draftsman, Kim Jung Gi, and it gave me a lot of perspective. For reference, the following video is a drawing from Kim Jung Gi. He’s a world-renowned draftsman, known for his ability to draw massive compositions, in ink, without sketching, with remarkable likeness. It’s easy to look at it and thing, “Sheesh, I can never get to that point. The guy is just too good.”

So in the interview, he says that he draws, constantly, every single day. His memory is no more spectacular than anyone else’s, he just spends so much time practicing his craft, learning about as much as he can to dedicate to his visual memory. If he wants to draw a lion, he’s probably drawn a lion enough before to know how they work. By extension, a tiger likely works similarly, so it’s not a far stretch to draw a tiger given his practice with lions. Years of this practice leads to mastery, and leads to meeting those goals you’ve set for yourself. Finding those small steps that lead to the larger goal makes them much more feasible. Instead of winding down at the end of the day, instead of going directly to Netflix, put on some headphones and draw instead. Of course, this can be used for much more than art. Maybe you’re trying to write a new character. Maybe they’re from a different culture, with a different background and upbringing. How do you write them? Meet people that you can draw reference from. Have conversations with them, learn from them, and commit it to memory. The more you experience, the easier it will be to write more naturally. It’s the same way with drawings like the one below (Also from Kim Jung Gi). Looking at this, I am completely overwhelmed thinking about planning a composition such as this, but these are composites from years of experience, studying, and observation.

So as the year winds down and comes to an end, spend time with folks you’re closest to, immerse yourself in things you’re inspired by, and let’s go into the next year full of creative energy to work on A L L of the goals. I’m excited to see what you all create, and what you send to us. What kind of goals do you have for your work in 2019?

From all of us at The Ginger Collect, have a happy, safe, and creative holiday season.

-Jonathan

 

 

Non-Fiction Inspiration

Having kept journals since fourth grade, non-fiction naturally tends to be my go-to writing genre. In school, my creative non-fiction workshop class was one of my favorites, as well as all of the people I met and bonded with over writing. There’s a lot to say about why people stray from non-fiction and in some cases, I think it takes a certain person to want to put their personal stories out there. In my case, I like to put it all out there because, at the end of the day, we’re all writers.

When we decided to start accepting non-fiction submissions, I was, of course, so excited. I knew that I wanted to write one of our blog posts about something non-fiction related, but it took me a bit to narrow down what I wanted to say. Overall, the objective of my post is to encourage exploration in non-fiction writing. With that said, I want to mention some of my favorite creative non-fiction books I’ve acquired and hopefully spark some writing ideas and show that not all non-fiction is about trauma or self-realization, although it still can be.

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I have to start with my favorite, who first inspired me to pursue journalism: Hunter S. Thompson. I know he’s quite radical and edgy, but his style of writing, gonzo, inspired me to write a lot of my own pieces similarly. This would be, going to an event or going on some adventure with the intentions of writing about it. You have probably read these famous stories such as, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Rum Diaries,” “Hells Angels,” and a short story close to the heart of Kentucky- “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” The key in all these stories is that he was sent to report on one topic, but ended up writing about the other mishaps he encountered, or as I like to call, the behind-the-scenes, in-between-the-line stories. I could go on forever, but my point with Thompson is that you may not have a non-fiction piece in mind to write about right now, but you could decide to try something new, travel somewhere, attend a local event or group meeting- literally anything and I’m sure if you’re adventurous enough, you can make a story out of it.

A more modern Thompson is A.J. Jacobs. He has a collection of books, all similar styles of gonzo-type writing. The particular book of his that I read was, “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he set out, for a year, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. Yes- that takes a lot of dedication, but the outcome was amazing. Again, another situation where you can pick something that interests you or something you think that might interest other people, explore it and just tell us how it went. We like spooky and weird things here at The Ginger Collect. If you’re really up for a challenge, shadow a mortician for a week, work in a graveyard, sleep overnight in a haunted house, interview someone who has been abducted by aliens- you see where I’m going with this.

William S. Burroughs is also similar to Thompson, but I wanted to mention him for one specific book of his that I read, “my education.” This book is literally a memoir of dreams. Now, dreams tend to be controversial in the fiction/non-fiction realm, but in the way that he wrote his book, it’s literally his dreams, one after another, some a few sentences long, others pages, I personally consider it creative non-fiction. A way that you could make this more non-fiction is to add a narrative voice.

One author, James Bowen, wrote a whole book on a cat he met in the streets of London. “A Street Cat Named Bob,” sold millions of books because, for one, people like cats, but two, because it was a true story. So yes, you can write non-fiction and not put your life in danger, it just might not be as exciting, so you had better find a character that people can love.

Lastly, it’s okay to write personal memoirs. In Brenda Miller’s, “Season of the Body,” she weaves a braided story of current and past tense experiences through massage school, relationships and very personal overcoming. While this book is described as essays, I like to call it inspirations. Sometimes your non-fiction doesn’t have to be hell-bent and life-risking or altering. As much as you can use your words for entertaining, you can use them for helping.

I hope this brief look into non-fiction has sparked some creative ideas to explore and try. Just remember, there is always a story out there waiting to be told! I hope to see some of them in our submission inboxes soon!

-Brittany

Proceed with Caution: Writing Workshops and You and Me and You and That Guy

I’ve been around the sun long enough to have a few well thought out opinions and theories. The downside of this is that most of the subjects that I have a solid foundation of knowledge and theory are things that aren’t useful to you, dearest of readers, or even to me. Large portions of my brain have been dedicated to the useless. For example, I could, at any time, close my eyes and draw the original Call of Duty: United Offensive maps. Or, I could talk about the lore behind World of Warcraft, Warhammer 40k, or expound on how great and amazing Ants are. But none of this would really concern you (but if it does, look me up, we’ll have coffee and pretend to talk about uppity things in public) except that sometimes I think about writing.

And I’ve been thinking about one aspect of writing that is overlooked or maybe, needs a rework: the writing workshop. If you haven’t been able to take a creative writing class as of yet, a writing workshop consists of a mentor/leader/teacher with a group of writers of all different skills in a room sharing their work and getting constructive criticism. And for those of you that haven’t had the opportunity to do so, you need to do this, especially if you’re new at this.

There are benefits to a writing workshop and I could spend all day sharing the moments that I’ve had that forever changed my writing and person. Instead of regaling you with the good old days brought to you through the lens of Patrick Johnson, I’ll just throw a few reasons as to why workshops are a good idea.

There is community building. The idea of throwing a bunch of writers in a room and forcing them to read their work out loud to one another does something. Everyone feels vulnerable and exposed and because of this, the peers can become some of the best people to share with for the rest of a writer’s life. And working with a published writer is always a valuable experience. They have a different perspective and can open doors to ideas about writing that only comes with experience. And on top of that, at the core, a writer will get numerous new perspectives on their work that they can use to improve their work.

The previous paragraph does not, and should not be what people take away from this. Again, a writing workshop is so much more than what I could ever say. It’s a special experience that everyone needs.

But there’s something I’ve been worrying about when it concerns workshops. Though they are useful, sometimes I watched a good piece of writing from someone become a mediocre piece of writing. And I could never figure out why or what was happening until I had a discussion with one of my colleagues who has moved on to better places.

We spoke about how having a reader’s perspective on work is a great thing to have. Writers struggle to find active readers that do more than read something and say “that’s good” and then wander off. So having a room full of them has to be great. Right? And this is where I have to say that no, it’s not always good.

Because we desire feedback so much, sometimes we take everyone’s ideas and opinions and try to incorporate them into the work to please the workshop community. And though it is hard, we manage to do this and they, at the end of the year, read our revised work and praise our improvement. Then we move on with our lives and find, later, that the draft isn’t as good as we thought it was. And why is that?

During my conversation with my colleague, we came to the conclusion that when we’re in a workshop, we sometimes try and write to please the workshop. And though that seems like something we should be doing, a lot of the ideas that are given to us during that time may sound good initially, it turns out later, that it wasn’t such a good idea.

This has went on longer than it should and I can tell, if we were in a room together you’d have a glazed over look or be thinking about food. I know I’m thinking about food. Anyways, the whole idea is that workshops can be beneficial, but at the end of the day, a writer ends back up alone with their work and they have to know what’s good and what’s not. So take caution when in workshops. We’re all still learning.

Revisiting Old Favorites

Growing up I found inspiration in the books I read. I loved anything that could pull me out of reality and into a new, exciting world. I especially loved the book if it made me believe that magic, elves, and even secret castles could exist in this world. This stories stuck with me throughout childhood and into adulthood. They left me with a sense of wonder and curiosity that drove me to continue writing and researching and believing in the unbelievable. They’ve influenced almost everything I’ve written and chosen to read since. I owe a lot to the stories I read as a kid and to my parents for allowing me to read some stories that were deemed controversial for children at the time (cough, Harry Potter, cough).

I can remember picking up Lord of the Rings for the first time and trying as hard as I could to understand it, at about nine. I was still interested in other things, though, and I think this kept me distracted and unable to comprehend the story. I tried again at eleven and something must have just clicked because suddenly, it made all the sense in the world. I devoured these books. Tolkien’s stories became my life. I tried to teach myself Elvish, I could write Dwarfish, and I could recite poems and songs from the Halflings culture. My very best friend and I went by Merry and Pippin. I watched the movies every single weekend until I was burned out. I was deeply obsessed with this story, as many others are to this day. At 22, I finally got my first (and only, for now) tattoo of the one ring on my shoulder.

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This was fresh four years ago.

Now, at 26 I realize how important it is to revisit these old favorites when your think tank is running a little low. I have both Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings by my bedside, allowing me to read and draw that old inspiration I ran on back then. It’s one thing to want to pull all imagination and inspiration from yourself, and I find that quite admirable, but I love when writers are able to create an homage to those that have inspired them over the years, those considered masters or have worked and studied for years to create masterpieces. I don’t really care that Lord of the Rings is extremely “mainstream” and I feel the same way about Harry Potter and how wild the fandom can get, I adore both stories and I feel they’re excellent sources of inspiration for myself. Everyone has stories like these.

Discussing those stories that you love, the ones that really get your fire roaring inside is a good way to find new stories that do the same. Talking about those books you loved as a kid can open new doors for writers and readers. I feel no shame in admitting I read a lot of YA literature now that I’m out of college and don’t have to read stuffy old white man bullshit anymore. I think the stories written for kids can be some of the most important, as they incite and foster that sense of self as a person and a writer for years to come.

So, break out your copies of Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Mortal Instruments, Glass, or any other work you read while in high school or middle school. There’s a reason they captivated you and inspired you. Sometimes it’s good to go back and find those reasons and maybe borrow them for yourself. Let that writer know how much their hard work means to you.

Or, just simply enjoy a story that brought you joy then, and still does now.

-Lauren

A little note on Thanksgiving

Hey, everyone. It’s Jonathan. While I haven’t been here quite as long as Lauren or Patrick, and I’ve been here just a little longer than Brittany, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are e x t r e m e l y thankful for all of you, our strange, weird, and new age writers and artists. For some, it may be your first time in a literary magazine, others may be in billions of them, but we appreciate you all the same. Our little corner of the literary and artistic world wouldn’t exist without your ideas and your work. I personally love reading through our social media and seeing the little community that has been developed with everyone, both our participants and the followers of their work.

Me with Takashi Murakami’s “Mr. Pointy”

This post isn’t necessarily just about that. This post is about the other things I’m thankful for in art. I was in Chicago over the weekend, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago museum (one of my favorite art museums). From art of the earliest civilizations, to contemporary work, you’re seeing history and opinion presented in a visual, tangible way. More importantly for artists and writers, you’re seeing years, decades, centuries of successes, progress, and failures. I’m thankful for everyone that paved the way before me, that carved a path with all these different media, to learn from, to study. Without their successes, and more importantly, their failures with the media, we’re able to learn from them to avoid making those same mistakes.

Ivan Albright, “Picture of Dorian Gray”

I’m thankful for the community of artists and writers that are connecting each day, both in person and through the internet, and the friendships and relationships that blossom as a result. I’m thankful for the creatives that hold you accountable, that give you criticism, feedback, and uplift you when you’re feeling uninspired or unconfident.

Francesco Buoneri, “The Resurrection”

I’m thankful for newer creatives who are experimenting, excited, and hungry to be creating and learning . You keep us inspired with fresh ideas, breaking from the mold, with a young, uninhibited passion for making your art. I’m thankful for all of the creatives who leave their day job to come home to create, to sacrifice their time, their sleep, and their energy to make the world a little more beautiful, weird, and strange. Your dedication and passion keeps this community as vibrant as it is, and I’m glad we’re able to be a small part of it. Thank you all.

Keep making things, and keep sharing it. Everything’s a little better with good art.

-Jonathan