7 Things NOT to Say to a Writer

Everyone should have one friend who is a writer. writer pens

In case, you don’t have one, you may consider me your friend via the interwebs because I hate people being left out. But really, everyone needs an in real life writer-friend if for nothing else, you may be immortalized in her work.

Maybe, you are a part of the lucky few who do have real live writers for friends, and you might want to keep them as friends. Because there is nothing worse than a pissed off writer working on a zombie novel–hint, hint, your character isn’t going to make it.

Of course, I digress. 

As a writer, I have a vested interest in bridging the growing chasm between writers and non-writers, simply because non-writers have a tendency to say or ask certain things that make writers crazy.

Here are 7 things NOT to say to a writer:

  1. “I don’t really like to read much.” Well, to borrow the cliche–this puts your relationship with said writer behind the 8 ball made out of C4. I’m not sure what compels sweet, caring people to tell me, a writer, that they don’t like to read. Of course, it is always AFTER I tell them I’m a writer. Even if reading isn’t your thing(I don’t understand why not, but okay), don’t tell me. A safe way to fix this faux pas is to ask me about my writing. I always like people to ask me about my writing.
  2. “When’s your book getting published?” A fair question, but let me be clear–publishing is NOT the end goal of writing. Just like being thinner or prettier or richer won’t make you happier, being published doesn’t make a writer any happier either. Writing is the end and reward.
  3. “Hasn’t somebody already written that?” The answer is probably. In fact, we could go even say that most of the truly “original” ideas for novels, short stories, plays, etc. already exist. The whole point of writing isn’t to say something new, but to say it in a new and creative way. How many riffs of Romeo and Juliet exist? A lot. Also, that idea wasn’t even “original” with Shakespeare either.
  4. “Aren’t there enough books already?” Enough? Are there enough scarves or quilts or crafts that involve mason jars? Yet, we don’t ask people who sew or craft or scrapbook if there is ENOUGH of whatever they make. So, rule of thumb: don’t ask a writer if there are enough books out there already. Just don’t do it.
  5. “What if you run out of ideas?” This is loosely translated in any writer’s mind into: WHAT IF YOU FAIL! We writers always have that worry, the horrible specter of writer’s block hovering in the shadows, so reminding us of it doesn’t really help. For most of us, we sit our bottoms in our chairs and hit those keyboard keys until something starts clicking. Then, thank God that revision exists.
  6. “Oh, well, everyone needs a hobby.” Let me be clear–writing is not a hobby. For me, writing is my life, my obsession, what keeps  me both sane and tipping toward the chasm of insanity. A hobby suggests that I can just leave it when it isn’t fun any more or I find something better. This is not writing. Even when I’m not writing, I’m listening to how people talk, waiting for inspiration–a phrase, an image– anything, composing plot lines in my head. Writing is my life.
  7. “What if no one reads your stuff?” Of all the other 6 things not to say to a writer, this one hurts the most. All writers want someone to read their work. In fact, this writer would love nothing more than if you would subscribe to my blog and read my stuff. We worry that what we write won’t resonate with anyone besides ourselves, and what makes this hurt the most is that a friend is asking this question. If a writer shares her work with you, take a minute to read it.

What else would you add to this list? Share in the comments section.

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31 Days of Poetry {day 15} Create

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Right now, we are almost half way through the month, and I hope that you are enjoying sharing this haphazard poet’s musings about poetry.

Today, I want us to create something.

A bit of poetry to be specific.

In fact, I’m going to make easy for us, and we are going to put into practice a few of the things that we have learned about poetry:

  1. Gives us an image
  2. Presents us with an experience
  3. Invites an emotional response

 So, take a look at this lovely picture

What do you see?

Write a poem.

What do you feel?

Write a poem.

What memories does it conjure up?

Write a poem.

In the comments, write a short three lined poem about the picture?

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Twilight

I.

I watch twilight ease behind the towering pines, the overgrown honeysuckle vines sucking all the life out of the scraggly maples. Above the fading outlines, the only color left, a soft orange-red-pink, then blackness. Night wraps her arms around the world, my part of North Carolina, the soil I rent from the bank. In the dark, the outside is invisible, and I pull back the curtains to watch a moment, to feel the coldness of autumn whisper on my neck.

II.

Up the gray trunk, twisting round, clinging–muscadines dangle above my head too high to reach. I linger in the shadows of the tree. I stare at the black-purple fruit, the green tops turning red from bottom up. Bitter changes to sweet, but it is slow work. Everything here is slow, careful. I want to jerk the tree, shake down the fruit, gather it all up. But I don’t. The work of sun and rain and heat and cold isn’t finished with their magic spell. Learn to wait, they whisper. I walk on.

III.

Night and day feel too much alike. Both bleeding headlong into the other. Never stopping, always moving into the next cycle, the next, the next, the next like some careless drummer in a marching band. I catch my breath on the end of another day that I just went through the motions. Clean, wash, write, do. Always the same motions, I dig ruts so deep that they become my prison cells, and I can’t climb out–the red clay mud slams me back in the deepness. So, I continue to dig my way toward China, to write myself out of this mess because I can’t make anymore sense of the world until it forms words. All these words muddle together in the cocktail shaker, and I shake and dump them on the page.

 

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A Moment of Soul Care

I refuse my soul to shrivel up

Like a shrunken head

For a new exhibit at Ripley’s.

 

 

I believe in soul care –the kind that stares at the early morning bathed in dew, sips coffee, and learns to breathe again. The soft tendrils of gray smoke curl around the  Tulip Poplars whispering secrets before the wind lifts them too high for tree-ears. Then, dog paws stretch out and yawn in the fullness of the morning. Scratch their ears and flop back down on the earth, dogs understand soul-care. Maybe, this is why I keep a few around my feet–to show me how to take care of myself(it is most certainly not for their smell).

I am learning, 

To pump life-blood

Into this heart, once broken.

I woke up this morning, my life rearranged, and I find myself with new puzzle pieces to fit together. I jamb the old ones down in the back of a drawer because the pain hurts too deeply, but stuffing the fragments of an old life–for now, a temporary one– discredits their existence, their beauty. I pull them out and mingled them with my new pieces, and I find my life, my soul.

For many, today is the first day of school, and today is another chance to care for my soul. Right now, I need to read poetry and write short stories and finish this damn novel, drink more coffee, attend more writing classes, heading to the library for books. This is soul care. I will change my writing schedule for this little blog to a Monday, Wednesday Friday. I am feeling the pull to a bit of prose each week in addition to the poetry. What do you say to that? I ask for a measure of grace as I venture into this brave new world(ah, literary references, no matter how cliche, make me happy too).

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Short Story Beginnings

Today, I’m offering up a bit of a short story for this Monday…Monday should always include a bit of fiction.

Rufus

It was the night of the mosquito orgy. All buzzing, low sultry lovemaking—too bad it would only end in more mosquitos. Every summer evening, Rufus sat on his porch slapping half-heartedly as the humming rhythm intensified and waned then climaxed again. Any sensible person would have gone inside, moved away, but Rufus didn’t mind. His only concern was sipping his whiskey, Jack Daniels Green Label, the only kind he would ever drink. Curled up at his feet, his coon dog Mutt, the only kind of dog he would ever own. Staring across the knee high grass in front of his trailer, he could see the large farm house where he grew up. His mother rented out his room only. She kept hoping his brother Donny would come back, but Donny had been dead for sixteen years. Snaking through the long hay and unkempt yard, his drive way ended at the beginning of Highway 52, the main road in and out of Junction. No one came up this far to his house. The only visitors out this way came from the Baptist Women’s Alliance to see his ailing mother.

Leaning back in his chair, he stared toward the white clapboard farmhouse and watched the hired painters leave. A few lights flickered on and off, and his mother would have by now settled on the couch. She probably gave those poor guys an earful about her alcoholic son living in the trailer over yonder. Looking down at his whiskey, he remembered that first sip. The bitter burning liquor almost drove him back to being a lifetime teetotaler, but a few more did the trick. Like every man, he needed something to piss the Jesus fire of his mother off. Not that she would notice. These days, she rarely moved far from the farmhouse sofa feigning illness. She didn’t notice the maid Eva who cleaned. She didn’t notice all of the school’s phone calls and messages about Rufus’s absences, his official withdrawal forms, and his constant work on the farm.

Spitting his chewing tobacco into an old coffee can, he watched the lightening bugs in his yard. He never apologizing for being a bad country song cliché. He loved the farm. The cattle, the large plot for his garden, his large blue Ford tractor. He always dated the waitresses at Jenny’s. Perky, small town girls looking for a small town fella, just like Rufus. His broad shoulders, bronze hair, and full teeth smile got him everything from extra tea to an extra piece of chicken. And an extra piece of pie to share later after work complete with whipped topping.

Now, his leathery hands scarred from working the land. His hair streaking silver only garnered the attention of the divorcee crowd with their silicon enhanced cleavage, but he was done chasing after those types. Only one woman ever lived up to his expectations, and she was too busy bothering the Bennett twins or batting her fake eyelashes at Dave Pike. Another sip of whiskey, and he would call it a night. His knees creaked as he stood up, but the rumble of a car wheels and door slamming jolted him from his usual routine. Never one for disruptions, he kept going in the house hoping whoever it was would take the hint that he wasn’t interested.

“You Rufus?” A strong female voice hollered from the gravel drive. He turned to see a short, well-endowed teenager with bronze hair and fiery blue eyes. She stood next to her car in a tank top and jeans complete with pink leather cowboy boots. He stared long at her since she looked just like, but no, not really.

 

What do you think should happen next? Who is the young woman wanting to find Rufus?


Fortune Cookie Writing Tips 2

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Images of Money

 

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you several writing tips based upon fortune cookies. Now, it’s your turn to come up with the best writing tip based on this fortune:

Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

What tidbit of writing wisdom, pithy tip, or hilarious anecdote can you offer today? Or let me know what your best writing tip is in the comments!

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Moon Dance

Picture courtesy of Mark Askins

Last night,

Moon so close

I asked her for a dance.

Standing in silver grass

Almost knee-high,

We twirled

To the wind’s

Unsteady rhythms.

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Prison

Image courtesy of Keith Williamson and Flickr Creative Commons

Dirt crumbles,

Fingers trace a square

In the dust.

Squatting in the middle, I wait.

You fling a flurry

Of poisoned barbed words.

Silence– I refuse to answer,

Except for my trowel, mortar, bricks.

Slowly, my shield rises up

From bone dry earth.

Higher, higher, I build this perfect room

To keep you out.

But I never intended

To wall myself inside

This prison tomb.

 

Life: Unmasked Today, I am linking up with Joy in this Journey and Life: Unmasked. Come Join us here.

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The Queen of Quantity

Quality is always better than quantity, right?

As I writer, I believed it. Shouldn’t we always look for the best word, the most tantalizing sentence, the perfect description? Under this paradigm, I labored and toiled. Second guessed my muse, begged forgiveness of my muse(her name is Winifred Eugenia Blowfish. She is a horrid harpy who praises mediocre bullshit and entices me to sofa sitting, Downton Abbey watching utopia. Or perhaps, she is merely personified writer’s block. Never quite sure.).

In the search for quality, I wrote nothing. I waited for the right conditions to write–kids in bed, husband distracted with video games, dogs snoring and farting very far away from my desk. Then, I bought new pens and purple legal pads and neon green Post-It notes. No quality writing. In my mind, I created everything I need for some kick ass poetry and prose. But the blinking cursor counted each second like a scowling metronome .

But what if I were focused on the wrong thing? What if it isn’t quality, but quantity?

Somehow, I existed underneath the hegemonic rule of my quality driven muse. I needed a paradigm shifting, parallel writing universe where I could simply write and write and write eschewing grammar, syntax, and stuffy formalities. Perhaps, I suffered from the classic writer’s block lie–if it isn’t amazing the first time, it isn’t worth writing. I berated myself for not writing like a mother scolds her children for untidy rooms. The passion, the enjoyment seeped out, and in its place, I found nothing.

But when I would sit in writing class, I threw off my need to perfect. Relaxed and allowed the words to flow trippingly on the tongue or in this case, the pen (ahh, Hamlet, I do so love thee).  I didn’t self-edit. There wasn’t time. I focused not on quality, but getting those damn words out on paper. Giving life to those faded memories, blowing the dust off my imagination, I gave myself permission to fuck up as a writer.

So, I became  The Queen of Quantity.

For May, I am committing to writing in mass quantity. Lots of shitty first drafts cobbled together, but it will all be inked out upon paper. My writing goal is to fill one 70 page notebook before the end of this month. And all this month, I am going to blog about this quantity over quality journey. Perhaps, I shall let you see a few first drafts. Perhaps, not.

Question: What has been the most freeing moment for you as a writer, artist, or person?

 

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Binary Code Community

Hello Friday! 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Kevin Dooley

Most Fridays, I participate in the 5 Minute Friday link-up with the lovely Lisa-Jo at The Gypsy Mama. We write our hearts out in 5 minutes. No editing, no waiting for the most beautiful, most perfect, most killer blog. We write…cause we are a community of writers.

Topic: Community

Start:

We are community.

We live in source code, HTML, a series of 1’s and 0’s. For the first time, we shrink ourselves down to 1 inch squares, smiling as we fill up our Twitter feeds, Facebook pages.

We are a community.

From the first clicks to the blog posts, we write and savor and eat up each others’ hard fought victories, our moments of despair, our moments of change.

We are community.

This morning, I can’t sip my coffee with mocha and Almond Joy creamer without thinking of my #coffeeclub friends. I think of Alise and Liza and Joy and Tamara–our mantra: coffee, prayer, and donkey balls. I love their open hearts and hands and willingness to cry with each other, to enjoy that double meaning one liner, and to make the blogosphere not so cliquey and shit.

We are community.

Stop.

 

Now, you go write and link up too! And why not subscribe and be a part of my community?

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