Are Writers Producers, Consumers, or Both?

As some of you may know from reading my previous blog posts, I’m not writing much right now. In fact, I’m writing nothing. I’m still trying to figure out that whole confusion between Writer’s Block and Writer’s Lethargy, but it’s given me no magical key to open my passion for writing once more. In fact, it’s only given me a blog post.

However,though I am not writing, I am doing a lot of other things. I’m reading: yesterday I finished Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, then I started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. (Swedish writers are awesome, apparently.) I’ve been watching so many movies: Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and Let the Right One In (Swedish film version of aforementioned novel). I’ve also been listening to music every chance I get. Do I feel bad that I’m not writing right now? Yeah, a little bit. Do I think it’s a huge problem? No! I’m having a great time.

And that’s why I think, as writers, we should give ourselves the right to be consumers. Often times, writers are told that all we should do is write, write, write. If we’re not producers, there is something wrong with us and we should be stripped of our dear titles as writers until we can, once again, produce some kind of mangled piece of writing.

But why does there have to be this kind of fight? Why can’t I decide that for a month or two, maybe even three, I don’t want to write – I just want to read good books, watch good movies, and enjoy myself. Am I not a writer as soon as I make this decision to consciously stop writing? Has my movement from producer to consumer made me less of what I was before?

I think consuming creativity is just as important as using our creativity. Like other writers I know, I think one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read. Reading is as much of a neccessary act of being a writer as writing itself is. But I’m not the kind of person to go around saying that if you aren’t reading every day when you’re writing, you’re a failure. (*cough Stephen King cough* “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time, or the tools, to write. Simple as that.”) I don’t even think you need to read, at least not all the time. Obviously, if you’re writing I’d hope you’ve read before. But watching movies are just as important. So much structure goes into building a good movie, or even a TV series (What “Lost” Taught me about my Novel). Anything that involves some kind of creative production – music, painting, drawing, cooking, knitting – helps your creative mind as a whole.

It forces you to look at the world in a different way, open your eyes and breathe in the creativity that someone else left behind. I really don’t care that I’m not writing right now. Once I realized that I can replace my own lack of creativity with the creativity of others, I was satisfied. I haven’t lost my writerly-self, I’m simply rebuilding it. Giving it time to regain its strength and passion through others’ artistic acts.

More important than anything: I’m enjoying myself. Whether I’m writing, reading, eating, or watching TV I want to be enjoying myself. Why write if you aren’t having fun? Why read if the book is boring? And don’t get me started on eating gross food. The enjoyment that comes from the creativity, whether being produced or consumed, is more important than anything. And this is why I firmly believe that as writers, it is PERFECTLY OKAY AND AWESOME to be consumers instead of produce. It makes us happy.

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Writer’s Block or Writer’s Lethargy?

I’d like to start this blog post by stating that I do not believe in writer’s block. But, then, what are we even calling writer’s block? Wikipedia defines writer’s block as:

…a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. – Wikipedia page on Writer’s Block

So it has to do with new work? That’s a significant difference from how I see many people using the phrase “writer’s block”. Generally, writer’s block refers to the inability to write. You stare at your manuscript, your blank page, your notebook and just can’t get the words out of you. It will not go. Sure, I’ve experienced this like the rest of the writers I know, so why don’t I believe in writer’s block?

Generally, when my writing won’t work the way I want it to, when it won’t come out, I step back for a moment and realize there is something wrong with what I’m working on. I, likely, don’t know what I’m actually trying to write about. What is the focal point of my scene? What is the conflict, the purpose? What happens in this scene? If I don’t know these things, it’s going to make it awfully hard to write. But that’s not a block; that’s just not knowing enough information about the scene to actually write it. Makes sense, right?

But I am finding myself incapable of writing right now. I can’t do it. I open the word processor and nothing wants to work. I have ideas, but they don’t spill out of my brain and onto the page. I stare at the typewriter, wonder if I’ll get some words done today… but I inevitably don’t. So, is this writer’s block?

Nope. I don’t think so anyway.  I think a better term for it is writer’s lethargy.

Lethargy is defined as:

1. A state of sluggishness, inactivity, and apathy.
2. A state of unconsciousness resembling deep sleep.

Basically: I don’t care about writing. I have no desire to write. I mean I want to write. But why? Because it’s what I do. Because I feel like I should. Because I haven’t written in so long. But do I really want to write? No. Otherwise I would be writing! It’s this strange mixture of wanting to write (because I should be) and not wanting to write (because I’ve lost interest in the action).

So what am I supposed to do? How do I fix this? I have no idea, to be honest. I wish I could end this post with some witty fix-it-all but I can’t. All I can do is wait and hope that in time I feel more enthusiastic about writing again. And maybe, just maybe, once I’ve gotten rid of the pressure to write, I’ll come back to it.

I can only hope.

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Are You a Writer or a Re-Writer?

I love editing. Not kidding you. I mean, sure editing is one of the hardest things you will ever do as a writer, (you know, not including… everything else) but I love the great rewarding feeling of making my writing better. THAT is why I love editing. I get to watch my writing get better.

But I can’t edit right now. Nope. I can’t rewrite. Why? Because I have nothing to rewrite! I have blank paper. And all it does is make me nervous and frustrated. I hatehatehate the blank page. I’m tired of just writing, I want to rewrite something so I can have that rushing high of editing and seeing that yeah I can actually write something pretty good once I tear it to shreds. So my solution is to write a short story or a novella to get my editing-angst out. I’m hoping that’ll let me get back into the normal mode of writing my novel.

Here is a brief explanation of how I think of Writing and Re-Writing.

Writing: Nothing – > Something

Re-Writing: Something -> Something Better.

I prefer the “something better”. But is there something wrong with me because I love editing way more than I love writing? I’m trying to love writing; that’s why I picked up the typewriter. It slows me down, it gets me into the thick of things. I feel like I should learn to love the fresh, blank page writing. Otherwise, what the heck am I doing as a writer?

So I would love to know – are you a writer or a re-writer? Why do you like one more than the other? And most importantly, is there something inherently wrong with a writer who doesn’t straight up love writing?

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My New Toy: ’50s or 60s Typewriter

I rolled out of bed this morning and the first thing my father says is to get dressed so we can go look at the garage sale. So, I do because you never know what you’re going to find and the sun felt real nice on our skin. I comb through some of their “junk” then I find this baby:

It’s a Brother Charger 11 from some time around the 1950s or 1960s. I can’t find an exact date. I wanted it so bad. I had to have it. The sticker price was $10 but the kid selling dropped it to $5 because, well, I really wanted it and I was their neighbors. But then my sweet brother bought it for me instead, because my birthday is Monday!

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The Jealous Writer

First, I must say, I am terribly sorry I have not been posting on any regular kind of basis. I’ll try to do better in the future and make a schedule, that’s the only way to do blogs, yes? And yet, I keep getting page views, if small. Makes me happy! Thanks for viewing, if you do come by. Greatly appreciated.

Anyhow, to my topic at hand: The Jealous Writer. I’ve hit a small bump in my own writing, realizing I need to plot out the scenes and POV of my first section before I can move forward, so I decided to take a mental break and finish rereading a dear favorite of mine, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindvist. I am fairly certain it’s my favorite novel of them all, beating out Dostoevsky and Jonathan Safran Foer even. There’s a simple, wonderful beauty to it all, and he has no pretentiousness in any of his words. One more reason I wish I knew Swedish – to read the novel in its own text.

But, as I read it, I feel that creepy writerly feeling. I will never write something this amazing. It whispers in the back of my head when I read my favorite lines. I am not this brilliant. It itches my brain when I pick up on the small intricacies of his novel, the way characters are interlaced. I am incapable of this.

It’s a terrible feeling. I admire, and am jealous of, Lindqvist. Part of me knows I shouldn’t be beating on myself about my writing in relation to someone else’s. I was talking to a friend about this and he said, simply, “Youth.” I am young – twenty in less than a week now. I have many, many years in which to improve myself. But I have a great jealousy to master my skills now, to create something that causes breathless beauty. But instead I have to “suffer” while I get to that point of success. I may never even make it. Like I told my friend, it makes me restless, frustrated.

For now I think my solution will be to work on a short story or novella, something encased that I can work on to prove to myself I can make something beautiful. This usually cheers me up. But in the long term, I know I only have to forget what Lindqvist has written and only think about myself. It’s the same way I would try to work in school. It doesn’t matter how others’ do in class, it only matters how I am doing and what I want out of myself. I, obviously, want so much more than what I’m getting out of myself right now. But all I can do is practice. Practice, practice, practice… Doesn’t that sound fun?

Have you ever been envious of a writer? How did you over come it?

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What “Lost” Taught me about My Novel

This evening, I finished watching ABC’s TV series Lost. Yeah, I’m behind the times. I watched the series when it was originally on up to the first episode of season 4 and then I decided I didn’t care anymore. Flash forward to this year, and I meet a new friend (now, my future roommate) who is obsessed with the show and convinces me to start watching again. So I watched the whole series in about three months.

As much as I’d love to talk about the crazy ending and all my thoughts on it, I won’t in case there is anyone else out there who didn’t see it when it aired. I had the ending of Shutter Island spoiled for me, and it killed it. I won’t do that for Lost. But, the ending did teach me something that I can transfer over to my novel, and tell you about without spoiling everything.

For those of you who don’t want Lost, there are many, many characters on this show. Throughout the six series we not only get real-time action of the show but also flashbacks about people’s past. The cast was huge, some characters only lasting a few seasons, and yet having intricate background stories. But in the end of things, the show was really only about one person, one journey, one man’s story. Sure, you learned a lot about all the other characters and their stories were important, but the ending tells it like it is: one man matters more than all the others, at least in view of the show’s story.

My novel, so I’m hoping, is going to be the same way. I have four main characters, four points of view that jump around a bit randomly. They’re all important characters, all important events, all meaningful to the story. But one character needs to be the center focus. Of course, I knew one character needed to be the center focus before all this, but watching it happen on the show makes it a lot easier for me to consider doing it in my own novel. I felt just as attached to the “minor” characters as I did the lead character. I feel satisfied with who was most important, whose story it was because it was well crafted. It started and ended with the most important person. I know not only what I need to do (focus on a single character) but how to make it work. You know, if you can transfer TV show logic to writing.

I’m going to hope I can. Have any of you found technical or otherwise inspiration from TV shows, movies, anything else?

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Day One, Page One: My Experience with the Typewriter

I know I said in my last post (yesterday) that I wasn’t going to start my novel yet, but I did anyway. Because I missed it a lot and I was anxious to start up again.

I’ve only written one double-sided page, but I feel that’s good for right now. I ended mid scene, but at a transition point so it isn’t too awkward. I’m not in much of a hype right now so it was easy to quit. It was a rocky beginning, but I read over it and it isn’t so terribly bad.

But I really want to talk about is the typewriter. Oh hell, was that a nervous experience. I hadn’t expected myself to feel so awfully nervous about writing. I felt hesitant about everything I was putting down. I think it was because of the absolute feeling of permanency that the typewriter gives to my words. They’re laid down in ink, set on a piece of paper for ever. I can’t go back into the document and fix things. Hell, I don’t even have spell check! Or thesaurus, or word look up. That was possibly the most frustrating aspect, having to turn to my computer to make sure I was spelling a word right (not that it matters, though?). It just felt completely nerve-wracking to be putting words down, in ink, for my writing.

But it also gave me a forced forward motion. I have it set so that I can view 17 characters on the LCD screen at a time, and I can edit those 17 characters, but everything before those characters prints immediately. So I have room to edit one or two words, but for that’s not too many. In one case, I had already started writing the word “only” (and by already writing, I mean it was already printed onto the page) and even though I didn’t want to use the phrase I had started, I wasn’t going to ink over it and start over, so I just went with it. I like that’s it’s forcing me to move forward, I can’t obsess over whole paragraphs after the fact; I can only think about them before writing, and then only edit within a 17 character block.

So, as it is, my first day with the typewriter was good, but nervous. I like it. I have my page neatly placed inside of a clear, plastic folder to keep it safe. The only major difficulty I found was that I accidentally printed over words. The typewriter had dinged, telling me the page was done, but I hadn’t realized it, so I typed over a bit. Then I tried adding page numbers, and accidentally typed over some words. Another awkward experience was how frequently I had to use carriage return, or enter. On a computer, when you’re writing and text started getting longer than the width of space in which you’re writing, the word automatically hope down to the next line and you keep writing – we don’t think anything of it. But with a typewriter, it beeps at you until you hit carriage return. It also doesn’t do automatic indents, so I have to hit tab. I get nervous I’m going to screw things up, but all and all it gets me running slower and I like that.

I’m wondering, though, should I consider word count? Do I want to count it by hand, average it? Or should I ignore word count all together? Either way, I’m excited to have begun again!

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