Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Writing Prompt: A Path Through The Haze

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

Jessica Dore writes: “To know something is to be set in a way. To be set in a way makes it difficult to change. But when a way doesn’t work, what confusion does is it decimates the psychic boundaries that made it impossible to see differently. So that a new path can reveal itself through the haze.”

What new path has revealed itself through the haze to you recently?

Writing Prompt: Space and Confinement

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Right now, people across the globe are being confined to their homes. We are self-isolating. We are social distancing. Sometimes voluntarily, but increasingly in a more policed way. And unless you live alone, we are not distant from our family members, our children and partners, the people we are confined with. We are RIGHT ON TOP OF those folk. This got me thinking about how characters in fiction and nonfiction might deal with space and confinement. So, for this prompt, take a character you are writing about — and that character can be YOU if you need it to be — and either write about a) what space means for that person. (You can take that in any direction you like. Make it cosmic if you want to.) or b) write about confinement and — this part is crucial — how it can lead to growth. For you. Or your character. Because growth from confinement IS possible.

Writing Prompt: We Are the Characters

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

This used to be a blog. Ah, blogging! We were so young and cute in the time of blogging, amirite? But now we are in the time of coronavirus. And we need community. And sanity. And self-care. Writing is one path that leads to all three destinations. So now this is a stream of writing prompts. Take ‘em and use ‘em as you see fit, as is helpful.

Here’s today’s prompt:

It is hard to is to know what to do when the news is moving so fast and our lives are changing so quickly. But forcing characters to reveal themselves in moments of great stress is what writers DO, all the time. We are now those characters. So: what has been revealed? What, in all the mess and chaos and uncertainty, is now clear to you? What are you realizing about yourself? Free write on that for ten minutes.

Blame it on my High Level Brain

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Keep Calm and Check for TyposI don’t want to blow anyone’s mind or anything, but I sometimes struggle with proofreading. I know, I know, I’m a professional editor. I should rock at everything edit-y, right? But I have a blind spot when it comes to typos. Sometimes I just don’t see them, particularly in my own work. It can be kind of embarrassing, actually. Often I can spot them later — like when I look over my email correspondence to find out why that new client never got back to me and I realize that, oops, I typed “Thank you for sharting” instead of, um, sharing.

This is why I subcontract for proofreading, if a client requires it. This is also why proofing isn’t on my menu of services. Instead, what I specialize in is developmental editing. I can look at a writer’s work and understand where they want to go, and how to help get them there, and then I can break that knowledge down for the client in a way they can hear. It’s about accessing their true intent, articulating it, and sharpening meaning.

So, when I came across this article about typos (written by Nick Stockton, posted in Wired magazine) I felt so gratified, so validated, so understood. I miss typos because I’m so high level and shit. Phew. Now I know.

The reason typos get through isn’t because we’re stupid or careless, it’s because what we’re doing is actually very smart, explains psychologist Tom Stafford, who studies typos of the University of Sheffield in the UK. “When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.

Let me be clear that when I talk about my problem with proofreading, I’m referring to the occasional misplaced letter, autocorrect problems, and, every now and then, spacing issues. Words that runtogether. I’m not talking about making sure your grammar is tip-top, your sentences fluid, and your meaning clear. For me, that’s an even higher order task. As Joan Didion once said, “Grammar is  a piano I play by ear.” Like her, I might have been out of school when they went over the rules but I have nothing but respect for the infinite power of language (and copyeditors). And I’ve since had to learn how to articulate the rules of grammar, so I can pass them on to students. That was hard — because making intuitive knowledge accessible is always hard. But boy, was it useful. Now I can hammer out a tune on that piano like…

tumblr_mgq0md6VKM1s2yrvio1_500

Writing and Doubt

Friday, August 8th, 2014

I identify with this so strongly it’s kinda scary. How about you? It’s from this article in the New York Times by Mark O’Connell.

To put it in the sort of simplistic terms that I’ll no doubt come to regret using: self-doubt is the best friend and the worst enemy of the writer. Because being a writer isn’t like being a tennis player or a boxer, where you presumably have to hunt down and ruthlessly eliminate the source of any flickering shadow of suspicion that you might not be destined for victory. As a writer, you have to take your own misgivings seriously; you have to attend, now and then, to the little voice in your head or the booming baritone in your gut that wishes you to know that what you are writing is entirely without value.

The trick, of course, is to know when to listen to it and when to tell it to shut its stupid fat face. I say this as someone who has never quite learned that particular trick.

“Trust your own dark bouquet of inspiration.”

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Listen to the story you are trying to tell, that unconscious combination of imagination and memory and feeling, and trust it. Concentrate on expressing that as clearly as you can, concentrate on finding the language for it, but above all don’t second-guess it. It’s your true north. Because here’s the great thing about novels and writing and creating anything: Nobody else can possibly write the book you’re writing. It is yours, singular, and the more clearly it is expressed the more alive its singularity will be. If you want to be ruthless, be ruthless about clarity, be ruthless about trusting yourself, be ruthless about finding generosity for your characters, but most of all be ruthless about ignoring the inner demon that keeps telling you you’ll never be as good as Eudora Welty or Zadie Smith or David Mitchell or James Baldwin or whoever, that your novel will never be better than an 8. That inner demon is full of fear, and fear, if anything, is what reduces a novel and sterilizes its language. Fear, in writing, is a self-fulfilling prophesy. So banish it, banish the whole scale, and trust your own dark bouquet of inspiration. Thank god you’re not those other writers. We already have their books, but we don’t have yours, and I am of the mind that the world is almost always made better by more books.

So true. Thanks Ted Thompson.

ISO Deep Humility and Patience

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Because I have been spending too much time on parenting listservs (ISO stands for “in search of,” meaning there’s something you want to buy…) and not enough time reading Rilke.

Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Yeah…so THIS happened.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Ikkle Gangster!

Ikkle Gangster!

This my son, in a three piece baby suit. Doesn’t he look bookish and literary? I think so. Pic care of the talented Amanda Bernsohn.

More Juicy Links, and Steinbeck’s NaNoWriMo Instructions

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The Paris Review has put all their interviews with writers online. This makes me very, very happy.

I wrote a column for The Faster Times that was biting on NaNoWriMo, but only a little. When I tweeted the link to the column, Paul Constant, book editor for The Stranger newspaper in Seattle, tweeted back. “There’s something to be said for speed, too,” he wrote. “Knocks the precious out of you.” And you know, he’s right, as backed up by John Steinbeck in this quote:

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.

But then again, the next day, I came across this interview with Mary Karr in which she talks about her process in writing her new memoir. Seems like it was incredibly slow and painful, which is something I can identify with. Whether the results will be worth it remains to be seen, but I’m fan of her first two books, so fingers crossed. Here’s a preview of the interview:

Mary Karr was four years behind deadline for delivering a new memoir detailing her disintegrating marriage, alcoholism and recovery. She had scrapped more than 1,000 pages and was considering selling her Manhattan apartment to give back her advance.

“That’s how much I didn’t want to write the book,” said Ms. Karr, best-selling author of “The Liars’ Club” and “Cherry,” also memoirs. “I was clawing my way through it. It was a horror show.”

The NBCC website has kindly made available the recording of a panel discussion I attended a couple of weeks ago on “the art of reportage.” Find it here.

Then there’s this: Make your own academic sentence! Too funny.

Get Your Freedom On

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

freedom1

I am here today to tell you about two pieces of software that, combined, might just be saving my life right now. Hyperbole? Not even. I’m deadly serious.

The first is called Freedom and I’m afraid it’s for Mac users only, though there may be a PC equivalent. What Freedom does is block your access to the internet for the amount of time that you specify. It’s that simple. Free yourself from your internet addiction! Ditch the distractions! Write without checking your email every five minutes! Get your Freedom on! Download it here!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had the self-control to limit our own internet use, without the need for a technological intervention? Sure — but when every coffee shop in the metro area seems to have free wireless, to do that you’d need the will power of a superman. I don’t know about you, but that just ain’t me. I’ll take the help, thanks.

Freedom is also, um, free. But please consider making a donation if you use it and like it. In the immortal words of George Michael: You’ve got to give for what you take.

The second piece of software that is rocking my world right now… (more…)