I Am Legion (a personal essay)

I’m unshakable when it comes to my dreams of being an author. I’m not sure why I haven’t grown out of it or if I ever will. I suppose naysayers are the reason why it has so much staying power.

When I’m told “You can’t [insert reason why authorship is preposterous]” a sudden and passionate emotion wells up. I can’t pinpoint what that emotion is, because it’s a cacophony of feelings combined to make one entity.

“I am Legion,” would be its response if asked to name itself.

Legion, however, is my cheerleader. My only believer. My pilot light. My muse. My best quality. It is reliant, unshakable and stubborn.

Legion floods me with so much energy and emotion that its difficult to communicate its grievances in the real world. It’s akin to standing in the center of a packed football stadium where everyone is simultaneously giving you their opinion on a subject and expect you to repeat it on the spot.

It’s impossible. In fact, I usually babble or seem incoherent.

“You cant [reason].”
“Yes. Maybe. Watch me! Someday. I dont know…”

Legion, however, is my cheerleader. My only believer. My pilot light. My muse. My best quality. It is reliant, unshakable and stubborn. Birthed the day I first created. The day I first put pen to paper. Tongue in cheek. The day I first felt worth existing.


A few months back, I was in a nasty rut and needed a change of pace. That’s when I found Yoga Girl Daily podcast on Spotify. The episode I listened to inspired this journal prompt.

Prompt: One of my greatest qualities is _______. How did this quality come about?

Credits

Prompt / Inspiration: Yoga Girl Daily Podcast (17 Sep 2019)

Picture: Woman Holding Her Head by by David Garrison via Pexels

Fiction, Life, and the Suffering Writer (Virginia Woolf)

For fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Self-Ownership (John Stuart Mill)

The only part of conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part, which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Staying Motivated through Camp NaNo and Beyond

For this year’s Camp NaNo, I decided to challenge myself to be creative. My goal is to write a piece of flashfiction (maybe post some and submit others), work on my neglected WIP(s), and brush letter for a 1hr and 30mins every day.

Now I made up this goal on a coffee high, so I wasn’t in my right mind. A whole month? Everyday? Do I have the motivation for that?

Then I started thinking: July is just another month on the calendar. I’m going to face the same troubles as I would any other month: writer’s block, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and etc.

So I decided to write this post as a preemptive measure whenever I’m not feeling motivated to write. Maybe my words of wisdom will also help you during your NaNo-ing adventures and beyond.

Whenever you’re not feeling motivated, remember to…

Employ good ole’ fashioned grit

Honestly, this is going to be your default all through your writing life. Just shut up, sit down, and start working.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper

E.B. White

Expect “good ole’ fashioned grit” to fail you

Grit, like most of the tips in this post, will only take you so far. You have to keep in mind why you decided to start writing in the first place.

Plan the day out

Before you go to bed, sit down and plan out what you want to do the following day. Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals (ex. “Outline the whole novel in a day” isn’t realistic).

Expect your plans to fall apart

SOMETHING will always get in the way of writing time. The trick is knowing how to be flexible. Plan for interruptions by creating make-up days or lightly scheduling your week.

Get up early

It’s ten times easier to write when the majority of the household is asleep. No one will interrupt you, meaning you can finish your work early and go about your day guilt free.

Expect to miss the alarm

Morning GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I know, sometimes the pillow is more comfortable than sitting in an office chair. Just crawl out of bed when you can and find a quiet place somewhere. There’s always a quiet place.

Know your bad habits, and prevent them

Pull yourself away from things that’ll distract. If you have to hide your devices in the sock drawer or unplug the internet modem just to stay off social media, do it!

Expect relapses

It happens. Just dust yourself off, get something done before bed (no matter how small), and plan to do better tomorrow.

Good luck wrimoes!

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

Life is Beyond Conventions (D.H. Lawrence)

Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.

We, likewise, in life have got to live, or we are nothing.

D.H. Lawrence, Why the Novel Matters

Book Review: “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It” by Steven Pressfield

Advertiser. Scriptwriter. Author.

Do you know what these three careers have in common? According to Steven Pressfield, storytelling.

If you’ve read last week’s post or are following me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I’ve recently picked up Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why that is and What You Can Do About It. I’m a big fan of Pressfield’s no-nonsense writing style and intended to buy his book the moment I heard about it. That was until Marie Forleo gifted a free version to her mailing list subscribers (woot!).

This book didn’t disappoint (not that expected it to). It’s so informative and inspiring that it should be on every writer’s TBR list. Lets talk about why that is.

What was it about?

Similar to On Writing by Stephen King, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t walks us through Pressfield’s career as a creative. Each career has taught him something about storytelling and he’s sharing those techniques/life lessons with us in short, vignette-like, chapters. He also discusses how writers can use these techniques in all forms of writing (novel, script, self-help, non-fiction, etc.).

What are my thoughts?

30556551When I first read the title, I thought “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.”

Then I read the subheading and thought, “Okay. Now this makes sense.”

I like the title because it’s a sneaky, yet brilliant, way to get your attention😈. Love it. Good job Pressfield!

Anyway, the first three chapters set the stage for the entire book. But, well, as shameful as this was, I…uh…I skipped them.

They weren’t bad! I just really really really wanted to get to the meat of the book. And boy, was it juicy!

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t reads like a narrative with Pressfield being the main character. So you’re getting some sweet advice on writing but you’re also learning about Pressfield’s personal struggles with the craft. In my opinion, this little snippet into his life was uplifting because he never gave up.

Grit and determination can help anyone succeed.

Whenever he introduces a new storytelling technique, the narrative pauses so he can explain it. He explains some techniques/lessons better than others, but I think this is because the “less explained” ones are pretty self-explanatory. He also repeats the complicated techniques throughout the prose so you can’t forget them (at least, I can’t).

Overall, this book is packed with value. The underlining lesson is that us writers must take our readers into account. If we fail to do that, we’ll have one heck of a time trying to get them to read our writing.

What was my favorite part(s)?

After the first eight chapters, the book is broken down into eight parts. The two parts that I like the most are “Book 3: Hollywood” and “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time.”

“Book 3: Hollywood” is where Pressfield learns about story formula. He delves into my favorite topic, the Hero’s Journey, which is an ancient story structure that (believe or not) every story follows.

(Warning: This book isn’t technically a novel, but it reads like one. So if you don’t want me to spoil the effect for you, skip to the next heading.)

“Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” is where Pressfield uses the life lessons and writing techniques he learned form his previous careers and applies them to writing his first novel.

This is an intense time in Pressfield’s life because novel writing has impacted his life in a negative way in the past: his manuscripts were never”good enough,” his marriage faltered, and he was jobless.

Despite all this, he still had a burning desire to be a creative and he fought for it even though resistance held him back. This struggle makes his triumph in book “Book 4” especially moving in my opinion.

What are some key take-aways?

Do you want to know what Pressfield means when he says “nobody wants you read your sh*t”? He means:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with ev­ery sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?

Pressfield on the struggles of writing a novel:

As artists, you and I are struggling each day to dominate our material, to shape it into a cohesive whole with a beginning, middle, and an end. But at the same time, the raw entity defies us. It’s a living thing, with its own power and its own destiny. It ‘wants’ to be something. Our job is to discover what that something is—and to help it become that.

On structuring a story:

The ending dictates the beginning. I’m a huge fan of this back-to-front method. It works for anything—novels, plays, new business pitches, music albums, choreography. First figure out where you want to finish. Then work backward to set up everything you need to get you there.

What are my recommendations?

As I’ve said before, this book should be a must read for every author, writer, and aspiring author out there.

I think it could also be helpful for those who are struggling with their writing careers or are in need of some inspiration.

If you’re someone who just likes to learn new things (like me), then this book might be good for you too.

Lastly, if you’re going to read this book, please do so with pen and paper. Don’t just read it, try to apply the techniques to your W.I.P.

Links

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Website


Image result for goodreads logoWhile we’re talking about books, how about we be reading buddies on Goodreads?! I’m starting to post updates about the books that I’m reading (snippets of the reading material and my reactions to them) because, gosh, books are awesome.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in (or you just need a friend), send me a request and we’ll be book nerds together! 🙂

Trying To Be A Poet: Five Tips To Writing Better Poems (Guest Post)

MeHello, Desiree here! I have a special guest post for all of you poets and aspiring poets out there. It was written by Carol Forrester, an amazing poet in my opinion. Enjoy the post and take some time to visit her blog!

Can you remember the first time you were asked to write a poem? Most of us have written one at some point, be it because the teacher set it as class task or we wanted to find a way to express ourselves in anger or joy. Poetry is one of the most versatile forms of writing, and even if you don’t like poetry very much, it finds a way into your life no matter what.

Honestly? I don’t remember the first poem I wrote. It was probably awful, it was probably clichéd, and if I read it back now, I would probably cringe. That isn’t saying much though since I cringe at poems I wrote only three years ago.

As with any other form of writing, we all improve over time. We learn new ways of putting words down on paper and we hear new poets who completely flip our perspectives over on their heads. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard people say to me that they don’t like poetry that doesn’t rhyme or that they don’t ‘get it’. That’s fine. Different people like different things and not everything that you write will be liked. However, since writing that first poem I have learnt a few things about how to write better ones and that is what I want to share with you today. So without further ado, here are my five tips for writing better poems.

 

1. Read and listen to every type of poetry that you can get your hands on. 

On my shelves are poems by authors such as Sarah Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Jim Clarkson, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare, T S Elliot, and Megan Falley. I have poems from hundreds of years ago and I have collections published months ago. They all write differently and about different topics. Some you will have heard of, some you won’t. The point is that different is good and if you’re writing poetry then you need to read it as well as the best way to find out what works for you is to read as much as you can and to try out as many styles as you can. Poetry BlogHops also provide an amazing space for this as you have numerous poets all responding to same prompt in a different way. When I first started writing poetry, I thought poems had to rhyme or they weren’t really poems. I have written fixed form, I have written free verse. I have written about what I know and sometimes, about stuff I didn’t have a clue about. Some poems were good and some weren’t. I learnt what my strengths were and where I found weakness I also found way to improve.

2. Redrafting is your friend.

I hate sitting down to redraft a piece of poetry. At times it makes my skin crawl and makes me want to throw my poems out of the nearest window. It is important thought and over time I have learnt that it makes me a better writer. A week ago, I pulled all my poems from the last three years off of my blog, off of half-forgotten pen drives and external hard drives and stuck them into one single word document. I am now working through all of them and redrafting them one by one to create a stronger collection of work. I am not perfect and I certainly don’t write a perfect poem on the first attempt. Everything takes work and I need to be prepared to put that work in.

3. Rejections are not the end of the world, and take compliments with a pinch of salt.

There will always be those that tell you your writing is horrible and there will always be those who tell you it is fantastic. Both sets of people must be handled with care. Those who tell you that the work is not good enough? Take them as a challenge to do better. To the other side of the spectrum, be grateful but don’t let it go to your head. Positive comments are great but they can make you lazy. I know this from personal experience. If some says a poem is good then yay! That’s lovely to hear. It doesn’t mean you can’t make it better though. Remember that you are your own goal setter and you can always strive for better because you are never done learning. Everything you hear should be able to drive you forward.

4. Always hold something back.

It’s very easy to hit that publish button and not think anything of it when you’re blogging. Unfortunately, quite a lot of competitions will not take entries that have already been published online or elsewhere. I publish a lot of stuff online but more recently I’ve tried keeping some back to use as the basis for works to be entered into competitions or as submissions for anthologies. This is a balance you will need to find for yourself but it is important to keep in mind when you’re writing.

5. Step away from the computer every now and again.

Now I am one of the worst people for spending most of my time on the internet or typing away at my laptop. However, it is important you get out and see the world as a writer and as a human being. Go to poetry nights in your local area; take a walk in the countryside. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you are away from your screen and taking in the world around you. It will help fuel your creativity and meeting up with people at poetry events can open doors you never expected. Reading open mic nights can really help with getting poems right. You can gauge an audience’s reaction for yourself instead of waiting for someone to hit the comment sections.

It will also help you from going too insane. Staring at a screen all the time is not good for you and your health should always come first.

 

So there we have my top five tips for writing poetry. If you have anything to add then please do. You can also find me on my site Writing and Works, twitter, facebook and tumblr.

Twitter: @caroljforrester

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolJForrester/

Tumblr: http://caroljforrester.tumblr.com/

 

Bio: Carol Forrester is a twenty-two year old writer trying to be a better one. Don’t ask her what her hobbies are because the list doesn’t get much beyond, reading, writing and talking about the same.

She has a 2:1 BA degree in history from Bath Spa University and various poems and stories scattered across the net. 

Her flash fiction story ‘Glorious Silence’ was named as River Ram Press’ short story of the month for August 2014 and her short story ‘A Visit From The Fortune Teller’ has been showcased on the literary site Ink Pantry’s. Most recently, her poem ‘Sunsets’ was featured on Eyes Plus Words, and her personal blog Writing and Works hosts a mass of writing from across the last five years.

With hopes of publishing a novel in the next five years and perhaps a collection or two of smaller works, Carol Forrester is nothing if not ambitious. Her writing tries to cover every theme in human life and a lot of her work pulls inspiration from her own eccentric family in the rural wonders of Shropshire life.  

Keep These Things in Mind this NaNoWriMo

It’s only a day away until the start of NaNoWriMo, are you excited? Nervous? NaNoWriMoParticipant-2014-Square-Button can be a fun experience but also a stressful one. Trust me. But don’t fear! Here are eight things to keep in mind during your noveling quest:

 

1. Reading is like Oil

This is a sure fire way to keep your imagination rolling! Read your favorite author’s books and get sucked into their world. Some writers don’t agree with reading and writing at the same time because they feel that the author’s style may seep into their own. However, reading before writing isn’t a matter of imitating the craft of another writer, it’s about keeping your imagination on standby. Read for enjoyment!

2. Keep a Journal Handy

There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting a perfect scenario, idea, or conflict that would’ve brought your novel to life. Unfortunately, ideas have a way of popping up when you aren’t near a pen or paper. You can eliminate this frustration by keeping an idea journal nearby. It may also be a good idea to keep a second journal around for freewriting in order to shake off the cobwebs before delving into your manuscript.

3. Be Open

It’s a wise idea to be in a receptive mindset in order to cultivate ideas for both current and future manuscripts. Also, try to be open to new ideas that pop up during the drafting phase. Forcing your novel in these new directions could be just the thing your story needs.

4. Be Closed, Too

Negativity can appear from anywhere: from the lips of our loved ones, from our bosses, from our supervisors, from the world, or even from a complete stranger. However, the wellspring of negativity is strongest within us. Heck, writers have even given it a fancy name: the inner critic.

The critic is a major “fun sponge.”  It will find reasons to tell you why every idea you come up with is stupid. Not only that, but it will find ways to make you hesitate or doubt yourself. It’s your job to tell it “no.”

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

-Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Don’t get me wrong, the critic is a necessary force when it comes to editing but not with creating.

5. Claim Your Kingdom

When you sit down to write, make sure that it’s at a time and place that is comfortable to you. If you’re a morning person and you love to feel the rays of the sun kiss your cheek when you write—write then! If you like the feel of the carpet under your toes and a nice cup of java in your hands—write then. If you like to write in the dark with the sound of your spouse snoring—write then. Claim you spot and write like Kings/Queens.

6. Be a Time Thief!!

Always use any freetime given to you to write your quota of words. Write during your half hour breaks or as you wait for your kid in the school parking lot. If it seems like you don’t have time to write, try making a point of getting something written in the morning before starting your day. There’s always time…you just gotta seize it.

7. Follow the North Star

What got you into writing? Was it because you hoped you could make money? Become rich and famous? Was it for a loved one? Yourself? Maybe you have something to say or prove?

Whatever it is, make sure that it makes you feel like crap when you quit. Keep it in mind as you write your way through November and let it be your determination. Let it force you to the finish line and, when November is over, let it remind you that this is just the beginning.

8. Lastly, Have fun

Write what tickles your fancy and have devilish fun with it! (I don’t think I can explain that any simpler, do you? 🙂 )

 

Good luck out there, WriMos!

Do You Know What “Draft” REALLY Means?

Let me tell you what I discovered after two continuous weeks of editing a short story.

We all know what happens during the first draft. We just sit and puke “creative vomit.”

What do you do with vomit?

No seriously…

Do you sit down and pick out the orange carrots and sweet peas?

No! You flush it.

The purpose of the first draft is to get a general idea of how you want your story to go. Then you go to the second. Is that draft perfect? Of course not.

Time for the third edit. Perfect? Nope. Fourth? …You get the idea.

So when can you finally label a manuscript “my final draft” or “my finished draft” or “ready for publication?”

Never. There will always be a draft! A-L-W-A-Y-S!

You may now throw your computer at the wall.

Don’t let this bit of information discourage you. The trick to overcoming a draft is knowing when to say “enough is enough.”

Enlightening, right? You’re welcome.

 

Have you ever had something like this happen to you? Why do you think it happens to you? Lets talk in the comments!

Backhanding Procrastination when Camp NaNo isn’t Motivational Enough

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Camp NaNo started today? Swell…

Guess what?! It’s the first day of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo!!

To be honest, I’m not as enthusiastic as I may seem. I sorta feel…well look at the cat!

However, writing is important.

So, regardless of motivation, I’m going to sit and type something for my WIP. I’m not doing this for the sake of Camp NaNo or for the sake of having something to blog about. I’m doing this becausehave to.

If all I do is commit 10 or 100 words to a page–I’ll be happy.

Why?

Because I backhanded procrastination like a boss.

Kapow!