Posts Tagged ‘characters’

You’re catching up with extended family at a Christmas get together. When you’re home for winter break, all your family members are asking, “how is school going?”

Then your aunt asks the question you’ve been dreading.

What’s your major?

You sigh, because you know it’s coming. “English,” I answer. I brace myself for what is sure to follow. I always hope there will be just a nod of approval, but that is never the case.

“What are you planning on doing with that major? Are you going to be a teacher?”
(There was a whole day of my life, when I was in 7th grade, that I wanted to be a teacher. After serving as a student assistant to a 3rd grade teacher for one hour a day for one semester, that notion had vanished. If you don’t think teachers are underpaid, I highly recommend sitting in on a classroom for a day.)

No, I want to be a writer…

They just look at you for a moment, trying to formulate their response as best they can. If they’re trying to be polite, their response is usually something along the lines of, “wow, that’s a tough industry.” At a glance you may think that they’re admiring your determination, but they’re silently evaluating your audacious, risky career choice.
The bolder, less polite family members may give you something like this: “A writer? Hm, not much job security in that. Good luck, though.”

Sigh.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here, really. I love my family and I know they mean well, but are they expecting their comments to give me some sort of revelation? It’s as if they’re expecting me to have an epiphany right before their eyes as I shout, “by George, you’re right! I need to get started on a med school application ASAP!”

I mean, technically they are right. There isn’t a lot of job security as a writer, or any job in the entertainment industry for that matter. However, there are a few things about writing that only writers will understand. And it is precisely these things that make being a writer worthwhile.


 

As a doctor, you would be taught about diseases, symptoms, diagnoses, procedures and treatments. The majority of a doctor’s arsenal of knowledge is learned.
Imagine if your doctor said, “I believe that your memory loss and seizures are occurring because you have a brain tumor. I haven’t been to medical school, so I’m not exactly sure how to interpret your MRI to pinpoint the location of the mass, but if you let me cut open your head and get a better look at your frontal lobe, I’m sure I’ll find it eventually.”

I think I’ll get a second opinion, but thanks anyway, Doc.

Medicine is a science; I believe that writing is an innate ability.

Sure, you can learn to diagram sentences, how to spell, and how to properly punctuate your writing. All that is very important, but if any of you are writers, I would be willing to bet that you’ve always been somewhat inclined to it; it comes easier to you than the kids who prospered in Geometry, while you struggled to understand Pythagorean Theorem.
(Maybe you were good at both writing and math, but I like to assume that the world is not that unfair.
-Sincerely, I have never made an A in math.
)

I’m not saying that formalized training isn’t important as a writer, because it is. Practice, guidance, constructive criticism and encouragement help writers’ skills to flourish. However, I can’t think of a way to teach someone to be creative. There’s no book to memorize that holds the key to imagination. There’s no formula that will give you creativity when you solve for x. Creativity is 100% your own, and that’s what makes it so special. If you were blessed with creativity, cherish it. Use it. It was given to you for a reason.

writing fabric

Writers and non-writers can both agree that writing is not a job. 
To writers, though, the reason we don’t consider it a job is because it’s simply doing what we love. It was a little known talent that fell into our laps. With a little practice, it turned into a hobby. With experience, it turned into an addiction.

If you’re truly a writer, writing does become a sort of addiction. The good kind, mostly.
The more you write, the more your fingers ache to reconnect with the keys the minute you walk away.
Some days it makes you feel hopeless. You sit down and nothing happens. You try to write, because you know you can, but it’s all garbage. You walk away clouded with frustration. Better luck next time.
Other days, the days that writers live for, words flow from your fingertips like blood from a vein. You get lost in your writing. Sometimes I feel as if it traveled from my mind to the page so quickly I wasn’t even fully aware of what I was writing. However, you know better than to stop. Finally you’ve emptied your heart, mind, and soul onto the paper. You step back to read what you’ve written. Sure, there are some spelling errors, you’re missing a few commas, and since your protagonist does not yet have a name, all the places where his or her name should be is the name of your favorite pet. It’s exactly what you wanted. You keep re-reading it, adding apostrophes and quotation marks as you go. You’ve read through it close to fifteen times now, but you don’t mind.
This is what I wish I could convey to all those people concerned with a writer’s job security.

If writing is important to you, then you understand the little things like that, which make writing worthwhile. All the stress over a title, creating the perfect characters, and crafting a story that is worthy of them. When it comes down to it, none of that matters. When you look at a finished product, I guarantee you won’t feel bitter about all the problems you had creating it. You will feel accomplished and infinitely proud. And let’s face it, it’s something that non-writers will never understand.

Leave me a comment and let me know how you guys deal with negative influence about writing, and what makes it all worthwhile to you! 
Thanks for reading!

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Every time I hear any promise of alleviation when it comes to writer’s block, I am immediately overcome with excitement, determined I have found the cure. Each and every time this happens, I am disappointed to find that I have not, in fact, discovered a groundbreaking tactic for overcoming the dreaded writer’s block. Some are more helpful than others, but when you find a technique that improves your writing or motivation, that’s a win in my book.

In a recent post, I explained the dynamics of writer’s block and other struggles that we, as writers, face. Well, I’m here to offer you a solution. Okay, there is no solution for writer’s block… But sitting around waiting for inspiration is for the weak! Go find inspiration, don’t wait for it to come to you. This post will help you learn to generate your own inspiration; it will give you new ideas, improve the ones you have, and eliminate the ones you don’t need.

The technique I am going to share with you all is inspired by two parts. One is a great post I stumbled upon called Squirrels and Killing My Inner Editor. Give this post a read, because it’s awesome. The writer of this post shared a tool that she found to be useful.

This wonderful tool is called Scrawl. Once you open Scrawl, you’ll be faced with a message telling you to “write something!” Scrawl encourages unfiltered writing; it allows you to set a writing timer, and if you stop typing for ___ amount of seconds, Scrawl will, ahem, redirect your attention back to your writing (read: make sure your volume is set to a level that won’t burst your eardrums.) You can also instruct Scrawl to keep you from deleting anything you’ve written. Explore the options, see what is most helpful to you.

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In writing my morning pages as Julia Cameron instructs, I have discovered how helpful unfiltered writing can be. Essentially as I’m writing, I’m just thinking out loud. I was facing a bad case of writer’s block working while working on my novel, so I turned to my morning pages. I had a conversation with the journal. I bounced ideas off of the journal. It was a huge help. Sometimes just thinking about it isn’t enough, but trying to formally organize your plot is a little too overwhelming. As you’re writing it, you will probably feel as if you’re accomplishing nothing, but give it time.

I find it most beneficial to begin with the absolute basics of your story. Start with a less details. As you ease into the part of the story that you’re stuck on, start giving more details. Every possible path the story could take, write it down. For example: your main character has just been offered a job in New York City to work for a fashion magazine. Does she give in to her controlling boyfriend’s urging and stay in rural Oklahoma? Does she break up with him and accept her dream job? If she stays in Oklahoma, will their relationship even last? If she moves to New York, will she find love in the city? Will her dream job turn out to be a nightmare, leaving her wondering why she ever left her hometown? How would each of these outcomes play out? How would they affect your story? Write it all down. It may seem redundant, but you never know what will inspire you, so try not to take shortcuts. If it would be more beneficial for you to draw instead of, or in addition to writing, I don’t see any reason why you can’t. Doodle away! Finish out your 3 daily morning pages, and then look back over them. It should look a little bit like this:

So I’m stuck figuring out where my main character, Peter Parker, is going to turn now. Now that he’s been bitten by a mutated turtle, he might not be able to run as fast as before. Maybe I should change it to a more lethal, intimidating animal. What about a raccoon? That could work. Peter gets rabies and turns into a raccoon. Hmm.. There has to be something better. If I was Mary Jane Watson, I totally wouldn’t be cool with my boyfriend turning into a raccoon. What about a spider? A radioactive spider. That’s it! Peter Parker by day, Spider-Man by night!

It doesn’t have to be neat. It doesn’t have to have correct spelling or proper punctuation. I encourage you to write in pen, so you’re not tempted to erase. Don’t over-think this! My reason for incorporating Scrawl into this post, is for those of you who would prefer to type your morning pages, as opposed to writing them in a journal. It’s up to you. Scrawl is a really useful resource regardless, don’t limit yourself to using it only for this exercise.

Side note: The website where you can find Scrawl has some other helpful tools. Know Thyself is a character building exercise; the computer asks you a series of rapid fire questions about your characters; answer as fast as you can. When you complete the questions, the website compiles a character profile from your answers. Even if you think you know your characters inside and out, it really makes you think. Try it out!


 

To anyone who has previously used these methods, or decides to try it after reading this post, let me know what you think. Is there something else that works better for you? Don’t hesitate to share! I’m sure I am not the only one who wants to collect as many tips and tricks as possible. Thanks for reading!

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who considers themselves a writer has dealt with two things: Writer’s block, and your ruthless inner critic.

I recently posted about my first experience with Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. The first section features a segment about what Cameron calls “The Morning Pages.” Essentially, this is a daily practice of writing three unfiltered, unedited pages of whatever you want. The point is to write without limits; not allowing yourself to look back and criticize what you’ve written. I found myself, of course, over-thinking what I was writing. Isn’t it kind of interesting that your inner critic comes out, even when you’re doing informal journaling that no one will ever lay eyes on except for you?

That’s a problem I’ve been struggling with lately; it’s somewhere between writer’s block and my inner critic. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but I can’t bring myself to write something that I don’t think is good enough. I’ll begin, writing a couple paragraphs, then look back at what I wrote. Sigh. This sounded so much better in my head. I know all of the how-to books and tips on writing say, “just write!” It’s not as easy as they say. Sure, technically I am writing, but repeated exposure to my inner critic along with lackluster writing doesn’t seem to improve my writing the way all the writing experts say it will.

prof writer

Julia Cameron stresses the endless possibilities of the morning pages. She encourages the writer to include all of the seemingly petty, silly things floating in their mind. Getting them off your chest, and into the morning pages. It will free you; once they’re out of the way, it’s just you and your creativity. The morning pages give you the power to grant yourself the freedom to make mistakes. In the beginning, I wrote my morning pages as a stream of consciousness, but as a narrative. It could be a major production of dueling dragons, chivalrous knights, and fair maidens. It could be about an alternate theory as to how Peter Parker became Spider-Man. I like to alternate my writing setting, and the local Starbucks is one of the places that I frequent. It sounds somewhat creepy, but sometimes I would pick a person in the coffee shop and make up a story about them.
I thought that writing the morning pages as a narrative could spark an idea for a real story. I really enjoyed it, and this practice did generate some worthwhile ideas that I explored further outside of the morning pages. Occasionally I would have a bad day, and wouldn’t feel like being creative. I would just write my morning pages about what ruined my day. It became progressively less artistic, and infinitely more of an angst-filled diary. In my defense, I was around 15 years old the first time I began morning pages. Oh, the pleasantries of pages upon pages, filled with documentation of teenage melodrama. I’m sure you can understand why the morning pages, at that point, were no longer beneficial to my creative process.


 

I have progressed in Julia Cameron‘s book, and am now in the stage of “creative recovery.” She essentially encourages readers to nurture their creative self; protect it from criticism. Evaluate and dissect the appraisal; expose yourself to the constructive criticism. Assess what it is about the purely negative critique that bothers you; if you can create constructive criticism from that, then do so. If not, discard it. If it can’t help you, it serves no purpose.

I wouldn’t say I’m a pessimist, but I’m certainly not an optimist. Perhaps it’s me disguising negativity as being a realist. Whatever you want to call it, I know that I will always be somewhat critical of myself when it comes to writing. I used to be able to just retrieve that spark of passion, and write eagerly. My ideas were exciting to me, and I believed in them with every fiber of my being. I had created characters that became more than characters to me. I developed them, and they were important enough to me that they served as gasoline on flames; I wanted to write more. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and it was my duty to narrate their adventures in a way that was worthy of them. Lately, while I have been writing, it feels forced. I have no passion for what I am writing. My inner perfectionist is constantly reminding myself that what I’m doing isn’t worth being passionate about.


 

My question to all of you is this: How do you overcome your inner critic? What is it that ignites passion for what you’re writing?
This post is for all my writers!

I love when I see collaboration, sharing of ideas, offering advice and constructive criticism, and most importantly praise for a great post amongst writers. Everyone has their own unique style, and writers can learn a lot from each other. Anything that you have to share; a useful tip someone once shared with you, pass it on. A source that provides you with infinite inspiration, share it in a comment below! Also, if you have a favorite author, who is it and why? Let me know! Thank you all for reading!