Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: how to write

Writing Paradoxes


Yesterday, I re-blogged a post from Roz MorrisThree Paradoxes of the Writing LifeRoz Morris - Author

Today, I’m going to comment on those paradoxes

First, though, let me tell you a bit about Roz:

She’s an extremely successful Ghostwriter.

She’s written three excellent books about writing.

She’s written two fantastic works of fiction.

She’s available for Speaking and Tutoring.

She’s a Book Doctor.

She has her own Radio Show.

I’ve Re-blogged her numerous times.

And, I’ve written about her before

So, let’s get back to Roz’s blog post—Three Paradoxes of the Writing Life.

Obviously, I recommend you actually take that link and read her post first.

Then, my ruminations about the paradoxes she raises may make more sense

Back so soon…?

Actually, I know most of you never left—that’s totally cool—plus, her post has many links to other posts she’s written—very helpful for gaining knowledge but it will take a bit of time to read them all—though, I am comforted that there are other folks out there, like me, who do lots of internal linking :-)

O.K., I’ll lay out the paradoxes Roz wrote about and see what I can glean from my experience

1. “We must produce, but never rush.”

For many years, I thought about writing, thought I might be somewhat good at it, thought that when Life stopped yanking me around I’d make a go of it

I began serious writing in my late 50s

Since then (I’m nearly 70 now…), I’ve written and published 5 books; but, I’ve had three blogs before this one; and, this one has over 1,300 posts (that’s somewhere around 500,000 words just in this blog…).

I suppose I’ve nailed that “never rush” part—started late, have no definitive schedules, willing to wait till my Muse screams at me

Still, I hope for about 20 more years so I can be even more productive; and, the advancing years will nearly guarantee I don’t “rush” :-)

One more word about Production:

Unless you want to be sucked down a miserable materialistic hell-hole, resist the urge to write the way and publish at the speed most of the “experts” tell you to.

Well…

If you really want to produce work that folks can read swiftly, that won’t rock their boat at all, and that will soon be completely forgotten, go ahead; but, hang on tight when that hell-hole starts sucking

2. “We learn from others, but teach ourselves.”

I think that learning from others first means a writer had better read as many of the books of as many “good” writers as possible.

Defining “good” depends on the kind of writing you want to do; but, if you’re not yet sure what kind of writing you need to pursue, my advice is to read the “Classics” (ancient and modern) and read authors that you think write well

Obviously, as you progress in your reading/learning, your conception of what’s well-written will change

Still, reading a massive amount of books isn’t, by far, the only way a writer learns from others—just wake up, get dressed, and walk down the street; or, wake up, and start watching YouTube—Life activities should be learning experiences (except for those who aspire toward severe depression…).

“teach ourselves”?

For me this is simple:

You sit down and write something—anything

Perhaps you then get up and do a few chores

You sit back down and read what you wrote and, perhaps, change it

If you really get into a stint of writing, you may have to do a bit of research

Just be sure to sit back down and incorporate the research into what you’ve already written

Keep this kind of activity up for prolonged periods and you just might become a good writer.

I can’t help but say, though, that a particularly good way to learn from someone else while teaching yourself would be to study Roz Morris’ books about writing.

3. “We make our own rules but recognise when we’re wrong.”

Obviously, if you’re just starting out as a writer, you may have a very small kit of “rules”; and, I certainly hope you haven’t “borrowed” those “rules” from the ever-present and exceedingly pushy “WebWritingExperts”

Crafting a story may be relatively easy—crafting your own endurable rules of writing is a labor of love.

If you’re intent on nailing down some rules for yourself, try starting by making sure you’re somewhat clear about Why you want to write

Hows are meaningless without Whys.

But, even my own all-time fav fiction writer, C. J. Cherryh, finished her short set of “rules” with, NO RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED OFF A CLIFF…

So, there are a few of my thoughts on those writing paradoxes.

Now, I heartily encourage you to go read Roz
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” I Don’t Have to Pay for an MFA in Creative Writing ? “


diyMFA - Do It Yourself MFA

Click the Image to Enter the Do It Yourself Master in Fine Arts (creative writing) Site

Just in case you don’t know what an MFA is, it’s a Master of Fine Arts degree and, according to one source, it can cost $US 13,800 in a public institution or $US 36,300 at a private school.

I want to introduce the idea of doing the work for an MFA without paying for it; but, I should share a bit about a lesser goal first—the bare beginnings of learning how to write.

If you scroll down the left side-bar, you’ll come to an area called Top Tags.

The larger the words of an entry in that list, the more posts I’ve written about that topic (hovering your cursor over the entry’s words will show you how many posts…).

So, two particular Top Tags you can explore to read posts that might help you learn to write are Creative Writing (with 29 posts) and Writing Advice (with 60 posts)…

However, I’m not a professor of creative writing—I’m a self-taught creative writer who also blogs.

So, what my posts usually tell you are my opinions on what to avoid; plus, I give you plenty of links to other resources

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter—doing the work of an MFA in creative writing without paying thousands of dollars.

First, check out the site diyMFADo It Yourself Master of Fine Arts.

Read about the formula they use—Writing + Reading + Community = MFA.

Check out their Writing Resources Page.

Check out their Reading Resources Page.

And, check out their Community Resources Page.

And, if you’re extremely serious about learning to write, you should also check out what the founder of diyMFA—Gabriela Pereira—has to say about the site

One more, possibly important, point.

If you pay for a normal MFA in creative writing, you also earn the right to teach creative writing.

However, let me quote Michael Nye, managing editor of The Missouri Review, in the article, The MFA Degree: A Bad Decision?:

“There are many excellent professors, brand spankin’ new and decades old veterans, who hold only MFA degrees. One could absolutely be a terrific professor and a write a dozen wonderful books: they exist now and probably always will. But if asked, I’d suggest taking a long, hard look at pursuing a doctorate at a program like Florida State, the University of Cincinnati, or any of the other thirty departments that offer creative writing doctorates. It might be the wave, the next great shift in creative writing programs, and isn’t it better to be ahead of that curve?”

By the way, I’m sorry this post leans so heavily toward the MFA in the USA—true, most of my readers are in the USA—still, I’d love to hear about similar programs in other countries in the Comments of this post

I’ll wrap up with a video from the diyMFA site:

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Read Some Strange Fantasies
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Oh, No! Not More Advice About How To Write!!


I’ve read very few books about how to write.

writer

Image courtesy of sanja gjenero ~ http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi

But, I have read tons of books that were well-written—they taught me how to write.

Plus, writing stuff till it “sounded right” helped.

Then, there was that find you own writing voice period

And, I’ve blogged about writing advice and the dangers of accepting most of it.

Perhaps, my most useful post, so far, is Bad Advice for Writers = Most Advice for Writers.

Then there are the other 42 posts I’ve done about writing advice >>> this post will show up at the top of that list since I tagged it with “writing advice”—just scroll down for more :-)

So, there’s this guy called Leo Babauta—“blogger, journalist, and published author”—used to write about productivity then switched to writing about minimalism

He has a blog called ZenHabits and wrote an article called, What I’ve Learned as a Writer.

Do go to that link and read what he wrote—I’ll list his main points here and give my opinions:

“Write every damn day.”

O.K., not bad advice; but, please don’t feel bad if you skip one or four or seven.

“Create a blog if you don’t have one.”

Leo mentions something I also think about blogs—they might help you write every day; but, if you get a readership and don’t stick to some schedule, you may lose those readers…

“Write plainly.

Well Let’s say write as plainly as the topic demands. Some themes and plots demand something a bit above “plain”.

“Don’t write just to hear yourself talk.

Perhaps Unless hearing yourself talk is important for knowing what you need to write about.

“Nearly everything can be shortened.

Yep.

“Fear stops most potential writers.

Again, yep.

“Read regularly for inspiration.

Three yeps in a row.

“Procrastination is your friend.

Considering that the etymology of procrastination has a root that means “belonging to tomorrow—forward”, it sure seems that some of my writing did belong to my mind and heart after they lived through a day or so more

“Have people expect your writing.

This might give you the motivation to keep writing; or, it may scare your wits to a frazzle.

“Email is an excuse.

Maybe

“Writing tools don’t matter.

Well, most of them don’t matter; except, perhaps:

A good text editor like Jarte (free).

A decent word processor like LibreOffice (which is also free).

And, the Writing Tool of all writing tools, Scrivener (free trial and cheap at any price).

“Jealousy is idiotic.

Yeah, a writer should be creating their own gig, not worrying that they can’t write like someone else.

“Writing can change lives.

I agree and end the post with Leo’s comment on that last topic:

one thing I’ve learned, above all, is this: the life that my writing has changed more than any other is my own.”
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Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write…


Here I am again, out on the limb I’m so used to—sharing what I think

I think learning to write means Way more than reading about how to write. It also means more than just writing every day.

Let’s be clear, writing regularly to hone one’s craft and reading competent authors’ views on the profession definitely have their place in a writer’s growth.

Yet

There’s a lot more to learn—about life, about people, and about yourself.

I found a blog post about the average age at debut publication for 29 authors. It’s a shame the blog appeared to die about three years ago

For those authors, the average age of their debut was 32.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, there was a common saying about age, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”.

I think the reason for the saying is that certain things usually happen around that age–a certain sprouting of maturity, a decided seriousness that begins to take hold, the beginning of a sober search for a solid identity.

By definition, youth is not maturity and the youthful spirit tends toward a carefree attitude which keeps the identity somewhat amorphous.

Of course, all generalizations are prone to falsification in specific instances. Yet, many generalizations have the germ of possible truth.

So, obviously, there are writers who mature in their early twenties. There are writers who know more at thirty than most writers will ever learn. And, there are writers who break all the “rules”

Still, knowing as much as possible about life is critical to a writer’s craft. Learning, at depth, what makes people the way they are is the solid ground of creating living characters. And, knowing oneself, though a task that never ends, is the component of a writer’s knowledge which brings everything to its proper place.

I’m still out on that limb and feel like admitting one of my basic beliefs: Writers are writers before they know they are. The urge to use words creatively is a disposition of a person’s character. Not everyone with that proclivity will end up pursuing writing but the people who labor, day after day, to craft new realities had the inclination before they learned what to do with it.

My favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, was 34 when her first book was published. She’s written over 60 and won numerous awards.

I’ll leave you with a few words, from The Night Bazaar, by Ms. Cherryh:

“Writing drives your interests in life. When they ask who wants to ride the elephant, you know suddenly you really need to do that, more than just about anybody. I draw the line at jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, but that’s because I’m a bit of a klutz, and if anybody would screw up the ripcord, it would be me.

“Travel is good for you. Meeting unfamiliar situations is bread and butter to you. Where do you get your ideas? You inhale them, breath by breath, and stale air is just not good for creativity.”

I can’t avoid leaving you with one more, ever so insightful, Cherryh quote:

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency–and don’t complain about the heat.”
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