Posts tagged: reading

May 30 2016

When Writing is Hard

I post here about words, about my addiction to words, about how to use words and punctuation to communicate. I try to educate my readers, to help them become better at communicating via the written word. And I talk sometimes about my personal projects, the writing I do for myself that someday will be released to the world.

When I was in school, I wrote all the time. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. I used to write stories in Chemistry class in high school. I was adept at both hiding a book below my desktop and reading it in my lap during class and walking from one class to the next while reading. The story ideas came fast and furious. I always had characters to write about and stories to tell.

At some point in university, that began to change. I wrote my second novel in first year and then gradually I stopped writing. Reading was replaced with TV by third year.

I suppose “stopped” isn’t quite right. I still wrote stories and poems, and I continued to read books (both fiction and non-fiction, for fun). They just weren’t activities that I did every spare moment anymore. Other things began to take up my time, like the internet and TV and so on. But I did also begin journalling more, so maybe my creativity was being expended in my schooling (I was a composition major, after all) and in writing out all of my thoughts about my life.

I started reading and writing more often a few years ago (not ten years ago, but I think more than five years ago). I made a point of writing all year, not just during November. I started going to the library and to the book store more often and did my best to make the time for both activities. (You can’t be a writer if you are not also a reader, after all.) Doing things like this requires mindfulness and purpose, neither of which I am consistently great at. But I try.

Writing is still my joy. I love words. I love finding new ways to say what I need to say, the combination of words that will get the story right.

If I am honest, I will say that I have not written any fiction in over a week. I have many projects on the go and many more waiting in the wings, because the ideas keep coming. But actually making the writing happen is very hard.

I thought I would confess this now because I think authors do our readers a disservice if we pretend that it is easy to make words happen. Sometimes words are not coming because we are having trouble figuring out what we want to say or how to say it; sometimes words are not coming because we are not making the time to put them on the page. Life happens to everyone, usually at the most inopportune moments. And it is good that it does happen, because that is how we get the experiences we need in order to be able to write real stories, to speak Truth through our writing.

But it can be so frustrating when the words are rattling around inside, aching to get out, and it just isn’t happening.

I hope to let more of mine out soon.

Feb 08 2013

Encouragement.

Writing is a fairly solitary kind of activity. You sit alone, you type out the words in your head (or write them on a piece of paper), and then you edit and revise until you think it’s ready for someone else to see. Then you pass it on to someone and they give you feedback, and you do it again until it’s truly finished.

This morning I was chatting with a friend on Facebook, and she asked me about my writing. I told her about my current projects and some of my ideas for future projects, and she told me to do it. She said it’s important work that I’m doing with this writing.

I haven’t done much writing at all this week (a bit of editing on one project on Tuesday). I’ve had a lot of work this week, so I’ve been busy, and somehow I always run out of hours in the day before I get a chance to open a file or crack open a binder.

But I feel rejuvenated, somehow, after that conversation. I feel like my writing is important, it isn’t futile. There are people out there who do want to read what I have to say, who want to read my stories.

So I’m going to keep writing, keep plugging away. Hopefully by the end of this year I will either have a publishing contract or be embroiled in the wonderful world of self-publishing.

My next post here will be about the new direction I’m taking this blog. In the meantime, if you have any editing or writing work you would like me to take on, please fill out the form on my Contact page (main site) and include the discount code FEB13 to get 14% off (in honour of Valentine’s Day).

Apr 03 2010

About reading.

I’m a writer, but I’m also a reader. When I was in grade school, I read constantly. I devoured novels as though my life depended on it. And my writing has been greatly influenced by what I read back then.

When I went to university, I stopped reading fiction as much and started reading non-fiction: text books, to be sure, but also books to research my papers and other books that I discovered through my research. My writing has also been influenced by this reading.

After university, there was the Internet. Reading blogs, reading articles online, doing research online, reading web comics… there is a wealth of words out there, and if you sift through the chaff you can find amazing nourishment for your mind.

It has been difficult to get back into reading fiction. I probably will never again read as voraciously as I once did, but it’s definitely not something I will ever give up completely, just as there have been certain authors who have consistently retained me as a reader through the years.

Four Authors I Read Regularly

Orson Scott Card (Science Fiction, Fantasy)
Lurlene McDaniel (Young Adult Inspirational)
Charles De Lint (Fantasy)
Robin McKinley (Fantasy)

Four Books I Recommend

Concerning the Spiritual in Art, by Wassily Kandinsky (Non-Fiction; an insightful look at the nature of art)
On Writing, by Stephen King (Non-Fiction; a by turns funny and serious book about the craft)
Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy, by Matt Ruff (Futuristic Fiction; a very humourous novel that is well-written and has some amazing characters, as well as a great plot)
Lottery, by Patricia Wood (Fiction; a novel from the point-of-view of a man with an intellectual disability that has well-developed characters, an entertaining plot, and is incredibly believable across the board)

I read other authors, of course, but those are the four I look for most often in the bookstore. I own over 20 of Lurlene McDaniels’ books. And I would recommend other books, but these four, I think, offer an excellent assortment of theory, practice, and example.

Oh, by the way, if you go to the Artful Words web site, the April newsletter came out yesterday. Go check it out!

Feb 19 2010

Missed a week – but I have a good reason!

Last week, when I normally would have posted an update, I was in Calgary, shopping for a wedding dress and making a few arrangements. The wedding is July 3, it will be in Calgary, and we’re nowhere near ready. (I have a blog about it; you can read updates there.)

Bad news: Fortresses Crash to the Sea was rejected; this time with a form letter. I’m going to go back to the place I think should be a perfect fit and see if they’re accepting new submissions, because I really do think this story deserves to be read widely. (And I’m not just saying that because I wrote it!)

I have some good news, though! On the flight to Calgary, I finished reading Stephen King’s On Writing, one of those writing books everyone recommends constantly. Well, I’ll be recommending this one, too. Excellent book! Inspiring and funny and full of awesome advice. And a few days prior, the book inspired me to redo the basic outline for We’ll Write You an Opera You Can’t Refuse… and I managed to get half of the next scene written, to boot! So I’m still way behind on my writing goals, but this story is going to be finished eventually, and that makes me happy!

Just a short update this week. I’ll try to have something more substantial to report next week. 🙂

Aug 02 2009

Discovering an author.

How did you discover your favourite author?

I found Robin McKinley when I borrowed Deerskin from a friend. I wound up keeping her copy for so long that I eventually just bought her a new copy.

I found Orson Scott Card when my aunt, who was living in Salt Lake City at the time, gave me Buffalo Girls for Christmas. It took a few years, but I did eventually read it, and I followed that up with Song Master and Ender’s Game.

But Charles de Lint… that was a roundabout discovery, to be sure.

What I recalled, until I started the search today, was that I had read Tam Lin when I was a young teen. I loved that book. I read it when we were on summer holidays, visiting my cousins in Ontario. They were in Canada on furlough; their parents are missionaries in Africa. We went to the library at some point, and one of them let me use their library card to borrow the book. I did finish it before we left, though it was a very thick hard cover.

All I really remembered of the book was that I found it in the ‘D’s. That and the cover art.

Until today, I was convinced that Tam Lin was the first de Lint novel I read. I was wrong.

As it turns out, Tam Lin was written by Pamela Dean. Now that I know the name of the actual author, I’ll have to see if I can order it in. The book is, however, a part of the Fairy Tales series, edited by Terri Windling. Each book in the series is a retelling of a fairy tale, written by a different author. Given my fascination with fairy tales and their retellings, I am somewhat enamoured with the whole idea. I found some others in the series via the cover art, and I own both Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose and Patricia Wrede’s Snow White and Rose Red. Eventually, I will locate and purchase a copy of each book.

But I digress.

Apparently, in my search for another book in the Fairy Tale series, I happened upon Jack the Giant-Killer, by Charles de Lint. It makes sense that this would be the next I found, given my certainty that the author I was looking for would be housed with other ‘D’ authors on the library shelves, and this makes clear my assumption that it was de Lint who wrote Tam Lin, as well.

I’m not sure what I read after Jack the Giant-Killer. I know that I have made it a point to seek out de Lint’s books in libraries and book stores (both new and second-hand), and I am currently reading The Little Country, having just finished Spirits in the Wires. I’m not concerned with reading the books in chronological order; I read Widdershins before The Onion Girl, and was pleased with myself when I figured out that Spirits in the Wires falls in between the two latter books, chronologically.

Charles de Lint is counted as one of my favourite authors because he is so good at drawing me into the between – that world that exists just on the edge of consciousness, where the fey live. When I am reading one of his novels, I believe that what I am reading is true – that it is real. I suppose I must halfway believe it anyway, or I wouldn’t write fiction myself.

But being able to make it real to someone else, if only for the time they are reading the work…

That, my friends, is the goal of a true writer.

Jun 12 2009

The passion behind the words.

I read a short novel today. It’s a young adult novel by Canadian author William Bell. His books have won awards. I discovered him when I was in high school and read what I could find; I found another two books of his at our local library a few weeks ago and have finally had time to read the first. It is called Alma, and it is about a young girl who loves to read and longs to be a writer. (Sound familiar?)

Alma befriends an author – her favourite author, no less – and near the end of the book, the author says a few words about the passion writers have for telling stories. Tears threatened as I read the words, for they are true:

“But the main thing, I think, was that I had simply lost my passion for telling stories. That’s something you know about, Alma, the passion, because you have it.”

Alma thought she knew what Miss Lily meant, but she wasn’t sure. “Tell me what it’s like,” she said. “Please.”

“Perhaps,” Miss Lily began, “it is, above all things, lonely. So many hours by oneslf, lost in research or imaginings. Then there is the lack of understanding. So many people seem to think that all one has to do is find an idea for a story and write it down. They talk of inspiration as if it replaced grinding toil, the wrestling with ideas and character and narrative structure, the revising, the arguments with editors. And worst of all, the corroding self-doubt that will not go away no matter how well received the books are.”

Miss Lily looked away again.

“All of which sounds like a complaint,” she went on, “but I don’t mean it that way. What gets us through is the thrill of making something out of nothing. It’s the passion to tell the story that means so much to us.”

William Bell, Alma (Doubleday Canada, 2003) 112-113

I don’t think there is much else to say on the topic; Mr Bell has summed it up so well here.

May 31 2009

My addiction to words

I love words. I have, in fact, loved words for as long as I can remember – probably longer.

My mother says that, when I was two years old, I got up on a stool at a party (clergy parties at the bishop’s tended to include children, for whatever reason) and recited a poem about my new baby brother.

When I was three years old, my mother taught me how to read using those Ladybird readers about Peter and Jane and their dog, Pat. It was sight reading; phonics came naturally to me.

Before I knew how to form letters myself, I was “writing” stories in the little notebooks my parents kept me supplied with. It sure looked like handwriting to me! Never mind that the story changed every time I “read” it.

I was a voracious reader, and when I ran out of “age-appropriate” reading material, I would raid my parents’ book cases. I read parenting books at the age of eleven, which happened to be the same year I read Jane Eyre, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Gone With the Wind.

These days, I raid the library when funds are too tight to allow me to feed my habit at the book store. I toe the line and will never attempt to have more than the allowed 50 books out at one time.

I read practically anything. My tastes are diverse. Give me a well-written story, with characters I can care about, and I will devour the words as fast as I can.

I have my favourite authors, of course: L.M. Montgomery, Orson Scott Card, Lurlene McDaniel, Robin McKinley, Margaret Atwood, Charles de Lint, Jane Yolen, and Ursula K. LeGuin are mainstays in my collection. They are the authors I look for in a book store – their presence on the shelves (all of them) tells me I am in a quality establishment, for it stocks the authors from whom I take my inspiration.

I read Young Adult novels (and I write them). I read science fiction novels (and am working on a science fiction screenplay). I read fantasy novels (and I write them).

I also read non-fiction, more than I do fiction, at times. I got into the habit when I was in University all those years ago, and it never quite faded. I read biographies, autobiographies, books by psychologists, books about writing, books about philosophy, about creation, about religion. I read to learn, to educate myself, to build the foundation for my fiction – and, more importantly, my life.

Though, I suppose, words are my life. I live in them. I move in them. I breathe them in and I breathe them out.

Yet, oddly enough, I sometimes think in pictures.

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