N – Night

I’ve always loved the night, when everyone else is asleep and the world is all mine. It’s quiet and dark – the perfect time for creativity.
Jonathan Harnisch, Porcelain Utopia

I confess. I am a night owl. I like staying up until the wee hours. I love to write that late. I’ve not observed any difference in my writing based on the time of day, so it must be a psychological effect. Still, when it’s dark out and all the neighbors are asleep, the creative part of my mind easily opens and delivers.

I imagine the larks of the world feel the same way in the early morning when they are alert. How would this quote have been written had the author been a lark? As the day gets moving and people appear everywhere, do the larks relish the busyness the way I relish that silent quality of 2 a.m.?

Are you a lark or a night owl? How does that affect your writing schedule? How strong is your preference to write in the morning or at night?

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M – Writers in Motion

“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”

― Sylvia PlathLetters Home

I have chosen the oft-quoted Sylvia Plath as the driving force of my post today. If you don’t have a copy of The Unabridged Diaries of Sylvia Plath (I don’t know if that quote is actually in that book), then I highly recommend it. In the late-night (more like very early morning) hours, especially in winter for some reason, I enjoy delving into some other writer’s broken brain for a while. It makes me feel slightly less alone on a lot of cold, dark nights. Also, slightly less broken. Mostly, though, what I like about reading diaries or these more introspective personal works by famous authors is that they are windows into the people within the words. And what I’ve found most interesting is that many writers share a common sort of psychological need for motion: the motion of passing moments into meaning, and meaning into something more enduring. This often indescribable need to set words free.

Each time I ponder Sylvia Plath’s words above, I think of the voice—the Voice—within myself that has always driven me to write. Not the conversations that go on in my head sometimes between characters while I’m walking down the street, or even the words I’m writing in my mind on the bus about the passing scenery or one lone passerby on the sidewalk. No, though these are all part of the thing in me that is writing, these are not what moves me to write. What truly moves me into putting words down is this feeling—this intense urge—that if I don’t write, I will shatter. The crack starts out small, but it grows and grows and grows. Before I know it, I’m breaking open in words.

A few years back, before I had other writers more consistently in my life (and the Muses), I wrote to a friend: “I hate that no one is listening . . . That no one can hear the words screaming in my head, begging to be written. That no one in my life feels the way they claw at me day and night, not like a passion or a talent, but an insanity.”

My relationship with words has always been a tenuous love affair. Though I cannot imagine a life without language, I often feel as if words dictate me rather than the other way around. I can go weeks sometimes without writing anything emotionally substantial, but the Voice, like carrion waiting on the fatal blow, circles and circles and becomes almost too heavy to carry; all those words I’ve stored up start to push back. And then BAM, I crack. Before I know it, I’m back at the computer or paper and away I go, back in motion, exhaling the Voice, releasing the words, so that I can, however briefly, come to a standstill.

As Dorothy Parker has said: “I hate writing, I love having written.”

As a confession: Sometimes I truly hate writing. You know how it is, when you’re trying to build a habit. Not to write sporadically but to sit down every day and coerce the words onto the page. Sometimes, despite the insistence of the Voice, it’s a real fight. But I love the silence within me that arrives after having written. I love feeling, however briefly, that I’ve moved some part of myself forward in the process, and, in doing so, arrived at a crossroads where nothing moves at all.

Only when I reach this point do I actually appreciate writing, at least the act of it: when my Voice is sated and my words are still and I am totally silent.


What does your writing Voice tell you?

L – Listen, or Not

 

Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. anything can be.
Shel Silverstein

This has been a favorite quote of mine for the last year. The very idea that we can choose who we listen to is liberating, isn’t it? It’s our responsibility, of course, to choose wisely and to choose balance, but the choice is still ours.

We can choose to listen to people who talk only of the difficulty of publishing traditionally, of how hard it is to be discovered or build up sales, and all the rest of the doom and gloom. And it may be that the more moderate of those voices will help us.

We can choose to listen to people who honor creativity, believe in effort and and opportunity, and general affirmations of us as a person and as a creator. And it may be that many of those voices will help us.

The important thing is that we choose who and what we listen to.

Who are you listening to? How does it affect your creative work?

K – Write What You Don’t Know

People say to write about what you know. I’m here to tell you, no one wants to read that, cos you don’t know anything. So write about something you don’t know. And don’t be scared, ever.”

–Toni Morrison

I have written before on the idea of writing what I know. I’ve also written on my own fears of not knowing enough. Sometimes I get stuck halfway through a piece because there’s a niggling worry that I’m getting it all wrong or that my world is somehow incomplete.

Worldbuilding is, for me, a true pain. I want everything in place in my work. I want systems upon systems explained, if only in my head. But I don’t even know a fraction of anything about this everyday world outside my own head. Why, then, should I expect myself to know and understand every custom, culture, geographical region, etc, in my fiction?

I recently read an article called “Against Worldbuilding” in Electric Literature by Lincoln Michel about the way the concept of worldbuilding has gone from pertaining to a specific set of fiction (particulary a set of fantasy and science fiction) to being widely applied to all genres, story types, and stories. Michel goes on to say that the concept of worldbuilding itself is a “counterproductive concept for most types of fiction” and offers the term “world conjouring” to use instead.

Theidea of world conjouring is not to know everything in order to portray reality, but to give an illusion of a reality that can carry the reader forward. Rather than getting bogged down in the details, the writer instead conjours a world that a reader can believe in—even if not everything can be explained.

My ongoing struggle is finding a way to convince myself to conjour a world without knowing the systems or the build behind the illusion. In other words, I have trouble—in a lot of ways—of letting go of my own reality. But to write well, or to write a believeable story, writers need to fall for their own illusions.

I hear characters in my head, so I guess I’m halfway there. Now I simply need to translate that world they see into one the reader can. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find I know more than I thought.


Do you write what you know? What’s your take on worldbuilding?

 

J – Joy

Whatever I do is done out of sheer joy; I drop my fruits like a ripe tree. What the general reader or the critic makes of them is not my concern.
Henry Miller

Here is a corollary to Heart. This is a two-fold topic; the first part is finding  joy in  your creativity, joy in filling empty pages with words. It should be fulfilling in some way even if we’re frustrated with a project. Immerse yourself in the process and wring from it every last drop of joy and satisfaction.

It’s an inner game. We may need to suspend thinking about our plans for the piece. We may need to shut our minds to the process of publishing (or not). It takes a bit of determination and a bit of courage at the start. Letting yourself feel the joy of creating is allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged! If you don’t enjoy it, why do it?

The second part is letting go. When the project is done to the best of your ability (including beta readers and editors perhaps) it is time to move on to your next project. There’s a saying that a book isn’t finished by the writer. It’s finished by the reader. An artist doesn’t finish a canvas. The viewer does.

Our experience with a piece ends when we’re done. We get to keep the joy and satisfaction of its creation. We get to keep all we learned and all we expressed. Now it’s time to drop it like ripe fruit. Now is the time for your work to live in the world.

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of it. Not really. The world can’t steal your joy in the creative process. And remember, people interact with books and art based on where they are and what they see. We have no control over their interpretation or experience. There’s no need to pay attention to who examines your fruit, who turns away from it, or who takes a bite. Your job is to keep making those fruits with sheer joy. No one can take that from you.

How much joy are you experiencing in your creative life?  Are you finding fulfillment? If not, what steps could you take to get more?