National Poetry Month continues! Here’s the deal. I love magnetic poetry, but I hate the tiny little word tiles. They have a tendency to fall off and get misplaced. Plus, transporting the tiles from place to place is an exercise in futility; that is unless plucking each tab off one surface and then tediously placing it on a new one is your idea of fun. That aside, magnetic poetry can provide tons of word amusement. Continue reading
Charles Frazier’s Writerly Melancholy
A public reading by author Charles Frazier from his novel Nightwoods was one of my first solo-outings shortly after moving to Charlotte, North Carolina in July 2011. I’m now re-posting this to share the experience with the blog readers I’ve gained. To hear an author read with the cadence only they can give their prose is a treat that lingers when one sits down to read on their own. Continue reading
“Breaking Habits of Seeing” is a fun activity from Discovering the Writer Within by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane. Practiced writers make unique observations almost as second nature, but all writers occasionally fall victim to complacency. If you want to challenge yourself or introduce others to the process of making “writerly” observations, try this exercise. Later posts will then use today’s photography and associated freewriting as a way to engage in the revision process.
Breaking Habits of Seeing
Whether done alone, with members of a writers’ group, or with students, always remember to let yourself indulge in the playfulness of language.
- Find a small rock. If not, any small, natural object will do: a stick, leaf, flower, pine cone, etc.
- Generate a list of observations related to your rock. Go beyond the obvious. Keep passing the object around and adding to the list (if done as part of a group).
- Keep looking closer. Don’t stop thinking and adding the list!!!
- Now circle any observations that another person would not immediately see as obvious.
Consider what this silly exercise has to do with becoming a better writer. What do the lists reveal? Were your observations mostly obvious or were you able to see things in new and interesting ways? Do you make things hard on yourself or is it easy to let the observations flow? How can over-thinking harm your writing?
The authors of Discovering the Writer Within then write, “What makes familiar things worth writing about is that we are able to find a way to see them that makes them new, both for us and the people we write for.”
I’ve made a habit out of reminding myself that it’s my duty as a writer to try to treat my subjects in novel ways. If I fail to do that, I know I will fail to engage my readers.
It can be hard to make observations that go beyond the obvious. To hasten the process, you will do the following:
- Grab a camera and head outside.
- Pick an inanimate object, preferably something that is familiar to you.
- Set aside at least 15 minutes (it’s easy to get carried away with this one, believe me).
- Limit yourself to no more than one roll of film and/or 50 digital pictures.
- Make each shot as varied as possible. Aim for a variety of angles and distances. Better yet, if you have time, return to take pictures of the object as the light changes throughout the day.
Freewrite for five minutes about the taking the pictures. What did you find easy or difficult?
You will continue to do more with your pictures for a future activity called “Twenty Ways to See an Elm Tree.” Photography and the revision process have a lot in common when it comes to re-seeing subject matter in a variety of ways.
This exercise shares the same basic premise as “Finding the Questions” as featured in the book The Curious Researcher. Many approaches exist to find what is interesting or unit about any subject. Never stop trying to bring fresh angles to your writing. Your audience will respond in kind.
Teachers Helping Teachers
Have you tried this or a similar exercise with students? I’d love to know so why not leave a comment below?
Now that I’ve covered the what, when, where, how, and why of my writing process, I’m left to tackle the final installment. Who do I write for? Any writer is a liar if their foremost answer to that question is not as follows: I write for myself. Plain and simple. Yet, a writer’s narcissism is fed by the desire to share their perspective with others. We dream of recognition. We dream of making it big. As I continue my year-long journey to regain lost footing on my writing dreams, I must re-phrase the question: What audience can my work best be marketed toward?
After all I am the product of numerous college writing workshops. Which, of course, means that I’d like to think that I write literary fiction and nonfiction. So imagine my horror and surprise that my work in progress, Lost Girl Road, is turning into a ghost story. A paranormal mystery! Am I that lame?
You’d have to be living under a rock to not be influenced by today’s vampires, werewolves, and oodles of other fantastical creatures. But so much of what’s out there is fluff. Not literature. I like my vampires and werewolves to be old school. And ghosts? I honestly do not know what a ghost should or should not be, or what a ghost can or cannot do. (Guess it’s time for some research!) The idea for my book came to me over a decade ago. At the time, I kept seeing an image of a little girl wandering on this road in the woods of northwest Montana. It wasn’t until I started to write the story that she turned into a ghost.
Here and there, I’ve greatly enjoyed books that would fall into the science fiction or fantasy genre. But I don’t actively seek out that type of literature. Yet, due to a few students that took writing classes from me, I’ve grown more appreciative of the allure that such literature can hold. Or at least it holds merit when it’s well-done, when it has depth. Plus, now my husband has me watching Game of Thrones. Alas, and I gotta admit it takes a pretty powerful writer to so intricately create an entire world unto itself.
My writing goes to bipolar extremes. My best efforts have either been extremely dark or sarcastically frank. So at this point, what I’m out to write is a literary paranormal mystery. I guess I’ll have to get on Amazon and check-out the competition.
In the meantime, I’m tweeting away, klouting up a storm, and blogging like there is no tomorrow. All in the hopes I can find an audience. I standby my decision to self-publish and relish the challenge of learning how to self-promote.