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

Promoting Yourself Through Social Media

Today’s blog post is a topic near and dear to my heart: Social Media.

Let’s get started.

So you’re a writer, and you’re amazing, I’m sure, but no one will know until you get yourself out there. In our modern day and age, we have been blessed with social media, an underestimated tool that writers, companies, celebrities, and normal people use on a daily basis to reach others all over the world.

Some of the main social media sites include:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Tumblr

Snapchat

WordPress (more of a blogging site, but I’ll get to that)

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The first step is creating your image. You may already have these social media sites and now you have to decide if you want to use your personal accounts or make a professional account. There’s no right or wrong answer here as long as you 1.) represent yourself, and 2.) keep it professional, or keep your image consistent.

The benefit of creating a professional account is being able to separate from your personal life. For example, you could be having a bad night and you decide to impulse tweet about your ex or a co-worker. Do you want the public to view you in this light? Or you can also just put it all out there if you like. Some people appreciate the honesty and humanity of personal tweets from authors.

Facebook: Almost everyone has one and in my opinion, for business purposes, it’s becoming the least exciting. On the other hand, Facebook is very vital to your image. Think of it as a dating profile: You need to have an account so people can find you because honestly, that’s probably one of the first places they will look. Here, you need to put all your vital information, links to your other social media accounts and POST REGULARLY, even if it’s not getting as much traffic, post here just as often.

Twitter: My favorite social media! Back in the day, Twitter used to be a place for young people to post random one-liners and “sub-tweet” about others. Now, it is an amazing market for writers and journals, not to mention news outlets, businesses, and celebrities. The key here is to again, have a profile that represents yourself and to share and promote your work. Twitter allows you to share only limited text, so this is a good site to share articles, links and quotes of your work. It’s also an amazing and easy site to network with. You can follow, retweet, like, use hashtags and contribute to trending topics, which is a lot to get into, but easy to grasp once you start.

Instagram: Some writers and journals stray from here because this is a pictures only site. In my experience working with The Ginger Collect, I’ve found that there’s still room for lit mags on Instagram, in fact, it works similarly to Twitter with the hashtag game. This site just requires you to be a little more creative in sharing text, like creating an image with a quote from your work, or you can be more personal with it and still share photos of your everyday life. Again, people like personable people. Just remember to use your hashtags!

Tumblr: I do not use this site professionally, but I wanted to mention it because there is still a market in it. Tumblr is basically a blogging site to share and repost anything: text, pictures, links, GIF’s, videos, music. Whatever you’re promoting, you can always share it here too.

Snapchat: I am only mentioning this because it’s a very popular form of social media, but there’s really no use in it professionally for a writer. A lot of celebrities use it, but in my experience, it seems to be more of a personal interaction among friends.

Lastly, I am mentioning WordPress, not really as a social media site, but rather as a website. If you are a writer and you want to get yourself out there, you need to have a website. WordPress offers a free site that you can customize freely (or you can pay for a private domain). A personal website is important because it’s like a home base for fans. Here you can tell people more about yourself, link all of your social media sites, share to social media sites from here and if desired, run your own blog- which is another way to get yourself out there and connect with others.

Overall: Social media is vital to promoting yourself and getting your work out there for others to read. Be confident! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me or respond below.

-Brittany

Knowing your threshold

 

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This one is short and sweet. I’m reading Stephen King’s IT for reasons I’m still not sure. I think it is because I like his writing and I hate myself. Well, I mean I know I hate myself.

Moving on.

I pick large books curious to see how an author can continue to write after page twelve. Sadly, when I’m writing fiction, that’s the magic number where I either decide to keep going or throw what I’ve been working on in the trash and call it a day. Twelve pages, to some, is a whole lot of nothing, but to me, if I can’t seem to find the right fit at that number, then I know I’m finished.

Knowing your threshold is something that I think we should all be aware of. If you’re not sure if you have a threshold, go back and look at all the things that you have written but not finished (THAT’S EVERYTHING FOR ME) and see what page number you’re stopping. If it’s all over the place, average them out. Then you take that number and the next project you work on, when you get to that number, take a moment to see if this project is worth pursuing. This way, you can decide to keep going or stop.

We are here for a short while and many of us have a limited amount of time to spend working. I’ve been guilty of writing a hundred pages on a project realizing that it was going nowhere. And though you do learn something from those mistakes, I think having a threshold is healthy. That way we avoid getting bogged down, because that opens the door for a writer to hate themselves, and self-hate is the most destructive aspects that anyone can have.

Keep writing. Stay healthy. And if you’re ever drowning and need a hand, we’re here.

NaNoWriMo 2018 – Join Us!

It’s time for writer worldwide to commit a certain amount of their time and creativity to NaNoWriMo 2018!

For those who’ve done this before, you know the drill – find us on NaNoWriMo: lehamm9 and superopie.

For newcomers, I’ll give a brief overview of what to look forward to!

NaNoWriMo is a month out of the year where writers gather and encourage one another to create and finish a book in 30 days. Seems pretty intense right?

Some people pull off writing a book and others use this as a time to plan and prepare for a novel. You don’t necessarily have to write an entire epic, it can be a collection of short stories, poetry, novella, or CNF. You can work on a new screenplay, essays, or biography. There’s really no limit to what you can work on, just so long as you’re writing and documenting your word count daily.

In the past, I’ve only pulled off an entire month once. It’s an extremely hard, somewhat taxing commitment to make, especially when you’re a busy person. Being a writer, whether professionally or as a hobby, can be hard. Part of it means developing good time management. NaNoWriMo forces you to learn to set aside a certain amount of time during your day to work on whatever project(s) you’ve committed to. It’s to help you develop good habits to carry on through the year.

In fact, once November is over you can continue your project with the support of NaNoWriMo through the “Now What?” months. Instead of abandoning the project, NaNoWriMo works to help you continue on, encouraging you and offering help with writers block.

There’s also a shop where you can display your support and decision to commit through t-shirts, mugs, or a thermos!

There are some neat features offered to writers while they work:

  • upload a cover for your project
  • participation, writing, and achievement badges
  • writing goals
  • writing buddies
  • NaNo Prep and NaNo Events
  • word count helpers

So, have a book you’re wanting to start and just haven’t yet? Feeling stuck on a project that you wish would just advance already? Need support? NaNoWriMo offers you the chance to make connections with new and experienced writers willing to read and offer advice.

Finding your “Flow”

A couple days ago, I received a “memory” notification on Facebook about a painting I’d completed around 7 years ago.

At that point, I was in college, oil painting was still completely foreign to me, and I was constantly surrounded by inspiration, other artists, and a workspace dedicated exclusively to painting. F U L L I M M E R S I O N. With these circumstances, all conducive to being productive, it was easy to start painting, get lost in it, and realize I’d been working for 3 days without sleeping, with minimal eating, basic hygiene, and too much caffeine (Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme). In Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s “Flow,” he notes that state of mind where someone can get into “the zone” or “flow” in a given activity (If you haven’t read it, it’s worth checking out). When you’ve got a workspace designed to place you in this state of “flow,” it’s simple enough to be produce work. Then I graduated and moved into a fairly small apartment, removed from the workspace I’d grown so familiar.

This brought up an issue I hadn’t considered upon graduating from college: how do you tap into that “zone” or “flow” in a new environment? How can you develop your workspace, whether it be for art, crafting, writing, or any other activity, to be conducive to production? What kind of routines do you have to begin creating? For me, it’s imperative that in my apartment, without a separate studio space, that I have SOME kind of space dedicated to my work in my apartment. In that space, I need it to be free from my living areas. When I go to that space, something in my brain clicks and says, “Hey, you’re here to work, so lets do that.” Maybe you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate to your work area, then what do you do? I read one of those buzzfeed style “Routines of 20 Famous Writers” articles a few years ago, and from Hemingway to Charles Dickens, they all had specific routines for how they’d approach their day to best create work. One that stuck out to me was how many writers would go on walks before working, but the important part was developing a routine. If you want to trick your brain into thinking you’re leaving your small studio apartment to go to your dedicated studio space (That you don’t technically have), why not do something like take a walk? Leave your “living” space, walk around a couple blocks, and come back, intentions set to creating. Again, the most important part is that whatever you decide to do, and however much space you’re given, you need a routine that will allow you to have focus, free from distraction.

Here’s what I’ve found for myself. When I work, I work best at night. I’ve got a corner of my living room with my desk, easel, bookshelves, etc. to keep myself inspired, while being separated from the rest of the living area. I’ve got a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones that work wonders for keeping outside sound out (also a great neutral studio monitor headphone for you audiophile folks out there). I also have to have socks. I can’t work without socks.

So, what kinds of routines do you all have to begin working? How do you tap into that “flow” to get lost in your art or writing? Tell us about it!

 

Adventures in Writing Plan Land

I think we can all agree- sometimes it’s just hard to find time to write. If you’re like me, I work a normal forty hours a week and writing is the second job that I fit into the spaces between work and socialization, which doesn’t leave much. I decided to read a lot of suggestions from successful writers and ultimately I found that they all agreed- you have to make time to write.

With that being said, I decided to try it for myself and come up with a writing plan that I could fit into my schedule. In a Google search for writing plans, most of them suggested similar ideas: Decide how much time to set aside, write consistently at the same time of day, and keep track of your progress somewhere visible.

Easy enough- here was my writing plan:

Fifteen minutes, every morning for a week.

I should preface that I have to be at work in the mornings by seven-fifteen, so my new writing plan required me to wake up by at least six each morning that I worked, which again, is still doable, but I found I had to make some slight life adjustments.

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First of all, I had to go to bed earlier, which was hard for me because I’ve generally been a night owl and will do a lot of writing at night. Some people might ask why I didn’t decide to do my writing at night as part of my writing plan. A large part of the plan is making sure that it’s consistent and I find that my nights are not always consistent. Sometimes you get tired and go to bed early after work, or you socialize with friends or have too many drinks. The evening just wasn’t as promising as first thing in the morning.

The second thing I had to do was upgrade my coffee maker. I had been using a single cup brewer but found with getting up earlier, I was having to make multiple single cups of coffee, and it just made more sense to switch to a pot of coffee. With my upgrade to a pot of coffee, also came the ability to prep my coffee the night before and set a timer for it to brew each morning before I woke up. This was quite the game changer for me, I will admit. It is much easier to roll out of bed with the smell of coffee in the air.

The third thing I did was take the advice of the articles I read and write my progress on the large marker board calendar on my desk. I marked my beginning word count and pages and made a box to check off for each day for a week to make sure I fulfilled the day’s writing. I also kept track of my word count and pages for each day, which was nice to physically see my progress and how far I had gotten from my starting word count. It also felt nice to put a big X in the day’s box to show I did my writing for the day once I was done.

Also, to add some backstory- the writing I have been working on has been a long project of mine- a book I started a few years ago. Since I started, with no writing plan, I would just write in my spare time, between poetry and short stories and I would write at varying times and lengths of times, so there was really no organization. My book had been more of a hobby than an actual book it felt.

With doing all the suggestions, I will say that I am super pleased with the results. For one, I felt so much better going to work after getting my brain started and doing something that I love. I felt more awake, more accomplished and I found myself looking forward to the next day and continuing with my characters and what was going to happen next.

So here are the results of my writing plan:

Starting word count: 21,926 – page 75.

After one week, ending word count: 25,567 – page 87.

Each morning started with a few sips of coffee and reading the last two paragraphs over before starting my fifteen-minute timer. I learned how quickly fifteen minutes goes by the first morning. I realized that each sip of coffee took time away from my word count or if my phone wasn’t on silent and I received a notification it took time from my brain and thought process.

By the third morning, I felt like a pro. When I sat down to my computer, I was only there to write my story. I felt like I was racing my timer and that every second counted. I would look at the previous day’s word count and challenge myself to beat it. I was waking up early and I genuinely wanted to be there; it was a proud feeling.

The only downfall I would include in this plan is the lack of time to think while writing. Previously, I have always been a writer that will dwell, think about one sentence or paragraph, and make sure it was perfect before moving on. But with a timed plan, there is no time at all to sit and dwell. This, of course, is why editing exists. So I didn’t have a hard time not micro-managing my sentences, rather, I was getting to significant moments in the story where I needed to think about how I wanted a character to act or what I wanted to happen next, but I couldn’t just sit there and think it through.

This downfall was good and bad, I think. It was good in the aspect that I felt all my scenes were drawn out and more detailed. I also worked on developing the dialogue among characters because I had the time to write through the scenes while trying to think where I was taking them next. The bad part was the actual progress of the story. I wrote through maybe one vital scene in the book, but most of the writing was spent on character development.

Overall, by starting my writing plan, my book gained 12 pages and 3,641 words in two hours, and that feels like a win to me. I actually enjoyed my writing plan so much that I’ve continued it on a regular basis. I will be honest, I am more relaxed with myself on the weekends, but throughout the week, I still set aside time to meet with my characters before work and I’m continuing to see my word count grow as a result.

From one writer to another, if you find yourself reading this post and consider developing your own writing plan, I would say do it, absolutely. I think each plan should be different and cater to the writer’s lifestyle or else you might find yourself resenting your writing time and develop it into a negative experience. So go forth, stay in love, or fall in love with your craft and get the words out. Just write.

-Brittany

This isn’t about anchor tattoos.

When I talk about writing I feel confident in my viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean I’m correct at all. Writing, as you know, is organic and each writer must feel out how to approach the beast with the intention of creation and not destruction. Which, coincidentally, is how I think of trying to pet my cat’s stomach. There’s a chance that I could die every single time I tempt fate when the cats expose their belly.

But while reading three things at once that touch on very different subjects, I’ve spent some time thinking about how I choose what I choose for the journal. And then I think about how I write what I write and how I need to start writing what I write to see it make it somewhere other than the folder of shame. As writers, we’ll always be working on optimizing our mechanical skills and tightening sentences, so they’re delivered as short devastating punches. But the one singular thing that I think those of us that like to write about the weird is to accept the world of the mundane as our canvas.

When reading stories that go sideways, what I’ve found that makes them worth reading is how they’re framed. Every single time I start reading a submitted manuscript, I like to settle in a world that, at first, seems like it’s not going to have any kind of weird aspect to it. Then lo and behold a man will peel the flesh off his face to reveal he’s a giant fly. And then I buckle up my let’s fucken go seatbelt.

To make something shocking happen, or at least, for the reader to feel the shift from the normal to the strange, we need to set up rules of our small written worlds. The first one being that we should never minimalize the small details. Effective stories usually have the main character do normal things like making some coffee, worry about bills, pet a cat, or think about petting a cat. This is something that’s been said to us all over and over and over and over (make it stop) but I’m going to say it again: keep the reader grounded.

This is especially important for those of us that like to explore the idea of the weird. As a reader, I want to be immersed in the story and the world, no matter how short it is. I want to be. And to do that, we must use regular and mundane details and actions as anchors that we can latch onto. Because deep down, we’re always looking for something in a story to take for ourselves and apply it to our own lives. Maybe not an answer, but just the simple single truth that seems to keep us afloat.

But to step back a little, sometimes there are stories that I call carnival rides. Meaning that we, as the reader, are supposed to understand that this is wild from the get-go and we’re to enjoy it as a passenger. Shiver and laugh at the right places while the actors move and do their things for entertainment.

Either way, both styles have their place in our journal and in the world. Many academics will tell people that there’s just no worth (except entertainment) when it comes to the scary, weird, strange, or new age. But I think they’re the most visceral types of art. Because it peels back those layers and exposes parts unknown to us. Once the initial shock is over, we then explore the why. And truths about our darkest selves, once unraveled and understood, only makes us a little more whole.

Let’s be honest. Isn’t that what we’re looking for anyway?