Category Archives: personal

How Getting A Day Job Can Improve Your Writing Life

As writers, we are all familiar with the frustrated feeling we may get when faced with the prospect of being unproductive. Many have dubbed this fruitless state “writers’ block,” but I find that a poor excuse for a blank screen and stagnant word count. Perhaps the most frustrating part about this futile state is the potential of it. So much time on our hands, but nothing accomplished. This is enough to drive anyone mad, which is why, until you pump out that first best seller, you should tuck away those dreams of writing full time and get a day job.

I know, remaining hunched over a desk all day, scribbling like a hermit is a tempting lifestyle, especially if you are living off of more than your own income (say, a spouse or parent), but there are several reasons a part-time job can boost not only your writing productivity, but your physical health as well, these being (saving the best for last):

  • A steady source of income. Enough romanticizing the dirt-poor scrivener who writes for every meal. It’s a very nice idea to live off of one’s words, but let’s put that on hold until we’re selling books by the million, shall we? We want to be successful, and the first step to being successful is to stay alive. Keep your house; keep your job! And keep your sanity and your dignity while you’re at it.
  • The opportunity to stretch! You can make any excuse you want (I make plenty–“I’m stretching over my laptop!”) but no matter how you look at it, sitting in a desk chair for extended periods of time is terrible for your body. For example, I have a handicap stemming from partial sacralization in my back (see Dictionary.com’s Medical Dictionary), which causes pain that is worsened by remaining in one position for more than a few minutes. I now have a part-time waitressing job. I never get a chance to sit. I’m always walking back and forth, which is very good for my back. The lifting and carrying of heavy trays? Not so much. But you get the point. It’s unhealthy to sit around all day–go to work, or do some chores.
  • More time in the real world. A writer must be constantly observant of his surroundings. Leaving your house once and a while to go to work will expose you to new people and places, broadening the subject matter you will use in your writing. You’ll come across interesting people, hear realistic dialogue, and experience new occurrences every day. You may even find open time windows throughout your job for mini writing sessions. My job as a waitress, for example, allows me to jot things down in my booklet next to customers’ orders. Your job does not have to be in the writing field. The whole point is to have time away from your writing so that you are more focused when the time comes to sit down and produce more words.
  • Less time to write. It’s a good thing. Really. Taking time away from your projects (or lack thereof) will give you other things to think about and leave you creatively stimulated and hungry to write next time you sit down at your desk. Comparatively, having short spans of time as opposed to long, fruitless periods will press you to write more productively. Have a word goal and cut-off time, or go to the extreme of using Write or Die (“putting the ‘prod’ in productivity!”) or a similar program. However you do it, manage your time wisely (I’ll be posting an article on various methods shortly). Until then, form efficient habits now; they will make or break your writing career in the future.
Do you have a job that is outside the sphere of writing? How do you manage your schedule in order to make time for writing? What other benefits of keeping a day job have I missed? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.

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Cinnamon Roast Almonds Are My Cup of Tea

I feel lucky to have the time to be typing a blog post right now. (These minutes are coming out of my study time, actually, but we all have our priorities.)  My weekend is only just now slowing down; being a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding last Saturday, I was swamped all weekend with formal dinners, dress rehearsals, and so on. I tried studying for finals (this week!) at Dave & Busters, and even brought my Precalculus book to the beach to study, but all in vain (I failed the test yesterday).

*sigh* I still have one more week to plow through and finish the semester with flying colours (in the English department, anyway).

Speaking of English, here’s what I’ve been up to lately in the writing world…

  • Finishing my first biblical retelling. As listed in my this month’s projects, I rewrote a biblical event. For the first one, I chose to retell I Kings 17:1-16 as a fairy tale of some sort. I finished the first draft some time last week, but read over it and made final changes last night.
  • Reading submissions for Whispered Vespers. I am pleased with the turnout of submissions we’ve had for the magazine. Already, Brandon and I have read the work of several talented poets. We still have plenty of room in the first issue, however, for both poetry and prose. Cover art submissions are especially welcome as we have yet to receive any illustrations.
  • Hustling for scholarships. I’m transferring to another school over this  summer, so I have had a load of applications to fill out and letters to write. It is not the fun kind of writing.
  • Reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is such a great read, and I’m sure there have been many to revisit it several times. I’ll be posting an article about writing techniques to be learned from it soon, so keep an eye out for that. 😉 My goal is to finish the entire series before the release of the last movie this summer. 😀
  • Switching from coffee to tea. This has not been an easy transition. I also try drinking decaf, but coming across a pretty little tea set in my garage has impelled me to start experimenting with new flavors of tea to drink while writing. Oh, and cinnamon roast almonds? Best reading snack ever. I munch on these while reading Harry Potter. Yes. I do.
That about sums up what I’ve been up to lately. Not studying for finals. I’m getting there. Oh, and doing some research for a couple of new stories I’ll be writing this summer. (After finals, I suppose. :cry:)

This will all be over soon. Until then!

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On Burning Books

From a young age and throughout my life, I’ve kept diaries.  I look through them every now and then, if I’m feeling nostalgic. I have a total of seventeen that have survived the years of journaling (maybe I’ll post a picture soon). I remember the ache I had to fill up a book of my own and the satisfaction I felt from finally having my first journal. I even read non-fiction books about famous journals and diaries, how people utilize the craft of journaling, etc. I was fond of the Dear America and Royal Diaries series when I was younger, and found solace in The Diary of Anne Frank as I grew older.

During my research of the journaling craft, however, I was shocked to find that writers like Franz Kafka would request their precious writing be destroyed, or as in the case of playwright Carlo Goldoni, even destroy it themselves. How terrible, I thought. How could one be that ashamed or disgusted by his work? Within what other reasoning would someone suffer that kind of loss (or induce that suffering on a world of readers who would benefit from such writing)? What if Anne Frank had destroyed her diary for fear that critical eyes may read it? I was shocked the first time I read the book, to see that another girl (my age at the time) had written words of the vulnerable, personal content I myself was too afraid to put down on paper.

I learned from reading that diary that we’re all human, full of awkwardness, ugliness, and insecurities. No diary should ever be destroyed, I thought, or any other personal writing for that matter. I’ve been pondering this mindset over the past few days, however, and affirmed today by tearing out twenty pages from an old journal and ripping them to shreds that I do not hold that belief anymore.

What changed? I did. The people around me. My thoughts about people. And my understanding of the most important person in my world.

What about all that change? All that I learned, the transition from adolescence to adulthood, recorded in pen? It would do more hurt than good, I concluded. So the elimination of those words commenced. Take a look at this girl’s thoughts on destroying her diary (I pulled a screenshot from Yahoo answers).

The support she received from other users surprised me:

Yes destroy it.

I did that to my old diary and dont regret it one bit

And another:

burning things is always fun. plus it would symbolic. the end of your old life

And one more:

…delete…things that remind you of the past you dont like. It really does help!!!

 

How encouraging.

Have you ever destroyed personal documents? Would you ever consider destroying your writing? What would be your reasoning behind it? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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“Shall the poor transport of an hour…

Repay long years of sore distress–

The fragrance of a lonely flower

Make glad the wilderness?”

From Lewis Carroll’s “Solitude.” Inspiration doesn’t always come happily, like springtime flowers or light bulbs. Sometimes it rears up without warning and knocks you out cold. I experienced this firsthand today.

My dearest friend and I were walking as we like to do, and came across a small park. I had forgotten that we were on the premises of the school where he’d spent most of his childhood years. The minute we set foot on the playground, I could see the heaps of nostalgia flushing through him and instantly, he began to lead me from the swings to the monkey bars, and from there to the balancing beams and rows of large embedded  tires, all while spilling out stories of games he used to play, the classmates he would interact with, and all the trouble he’d gotten into during those early years.

To see him relate all these memories to me with such enthusiasm moved me. I couldn’t help but reflect upon my own childhood. But I didn’t find anything of the sort he was describing. Instead, every cold feeling from my younger days swept through me at once; faint howls welled up inside me without warning and I found myself overcome by emotion.

These feelings haunted me for the rest of the day. I find it difficult to speak when I’m upset, so I was quiet until I got back home. I jotted down whatever words that came to mind in my pocket notebook, and even began a “prose-poem-essay,” as Ray Bradbury likes to call them. I’m still practicing this method of naked writing; as uncomfortable as it is to get started, it is incredibly rewarding. I estimate at least three poems and a short-short story coming out of this one. No doubt you’ll know them when you see them.

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“Mumford Street” – Publish an Ancient Poem?

I had an opportunity to see some friends from New York today; they usually come down to Florida once or twice a year, and this time, my family and theirs got to have a one-day reunion in St. Augustine. My mother always insists that I bring my poetry notebooks and most recent publications for her friend, Diane, to see.

Diane has always liked my writing and remains an encouraging reader. She confesses that she knows little to nothing of poetry and literature, but somehow she always understands where I’m coming from, and what I’m trying to convey. One of her favourite poems of mine is “Mumford Street,” a four-stanza rhyming poem I’m ashamed to say I wrote at the age of 12. (Maybe if I wrote it at age 6, I’d be more proud of it. )

Anyhow, Diane spoke with me for hours about what inspired me to write such a thing, why I loved Schenectady so much when everyone who lived there loathed the place, and whether or not I was saddened by the shortage of friends I suffered from living in such a dangerous place.

These are all questions I hadn’t thought about in a while…growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood had taught me a lot, I suppose. I spent thousands of hours alone, and was saddened at times by my lack of genuine friends, but in those hours, I could think about life, and what it meant to me, and what I wanted to do with mine. I had time to write, and learn from the writing of other writers before me; (the library was my haven from the domicile). I loved Schenectady for these reasons, even the dangerous parts of it; I used to climb the tallest tree in my yard and just stare for hours at all the lights of the city and cars and people walking by. The atmosphere inspired a great deal of my writing.

Diane begged me to publish the poem. “The people here need to see their community through the eyes of a child,” she told me, referring to my home in New York. And then she told me to send it to the Times Union.

A promise is a promise. I told her I’d do it, so I did. I sent an e-mail explaining the purpose in publishing the poem and asked whether they would be more likely to publish it on the Schenectady blog or in the actual paper. (Or neither, hm…)

I will certainly update you if they respond. If not, well–maybe I’ll publish it here on the blog. *shivers*

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