I love being excited about writing again. I love waking up every morning and the first thing I want to do is sit down and write. I missed that feeling while it was away for that short time. This feeling, or lack thereof, does not make me more or less of a writer, but it sure does make it a lot easier to write when I have this desire to do so.
There are so many achievements behind me, like finishing a novel and continuing to edit it, but there are so many more things to write in the future, near or distant. As I slowly but surely solidify what I want to do with my life (which is a big question that people like to ask very young people), I gain more and more excitement over words and writing.
As my dream of being an author is growing closer and closer to becoming a reality, I cannot help but look back into the past as well as forward into the future. I remember sitting at my mom’s desktop computer in seventh grade, writing what I thought was going to be the next best seller. In reality, it was a poorly written romance/adventure/”historical fiction” novella about the French Revolution that, for some reason, I did not feel the need to research for at all. While this little story will never be published, it was my springboard. I started there and have grown to where I am now, so I cannot forget it. That was my proudest achievement in middle school, just as my current novel-in-progress is my masterpiece now. I still have so far to grow, but the ambition and excitement is there and that is how I know I will continue to grow. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this summer, as well as this next school year, takes me.
When writing, there is often fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of what you write not being enjoyed or read, fear of writing in general. But consider this: at least you’re writing. Yes, there is fear, but slowly, those fears will diminish when you go back and read what you have written and are able to say that you did that thing. That moment is very hard to see in the beginning. I stare at the blank page, knowing I have words in me to pour onto the page, and yet fear grips my fingertips for those few moments. But then I remember why I write. And I think about what would happen if I didn’t write. I don’t know exactly what would happen, but I don’t want to ever find out, so I start with a single word on the page.
Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve been trying to come up with an idea for my next project. Before yesterday, I had nothing. Of course, when I’m working on something I have all kinds of ideas, but when I’m looking for a new idea, I draw a complete blank. I’ve been trying to write random scenes or come up with characters, but nothing stuck. At one point, I tried to convince myself that writing a romance that takes place on a bee farm was a great idea. Luckily, I quickly talked myself out of that one.
In the midst of my struggle of finding something worth sticking with, my friend J, who is also a writer and artist, decided to text me a list of random questions, which included the following:
1. Since oxygen can liquefy or even solidify under certain conditions, would it be capable of doing so in the human body?
2. If a woman in one dimension gets pregnant, does that automatically mean that in a parallel universe, she must become pregnant as well?
3. Do you ever get flashes of memory where you actually feel like you’re reliving the moment instead of just remembering?
While I obviously did not know the answers to his first two questions, the third one resonated with me. I tend to remember things very vividly, sometimes leading to a weird, almost-dreamlike memory. This got us talking about dreams, as well as different universes. Which led to a story idea that we are working on together.
All this to say, some of the weirdest, most fun and unsuspecting conversations can lead to some pretty awesome story ideas. This will be my first co-op piece in a while, and I’m looking forward to working on it with J and exploring the universes of dreams.
While I am waiting on my friends reading my novel over the summer to respond, I decided I would work on my query letter for when I actually submit my novel to literary agents. I have written cover letters for literary magazines and internships, and those are difficult in and of themselves, but there is more riding on this one than any other I’ve ever written. This letter is meant to essentially sell my novel to the agents I submit to. This is the first impression.
Not only is there quite a bit of pressure riding on this single sheet of paper, but I’ve also never gone through this process before, making it even more daunting. I’ve looked up what agents prefer and examples of successful queries, but even as I use these things to guide me, I find whatever I write to be trite, cliche, and boring. Perhaps that is only me letting my knowledge of importance judge my writing. This is highly possible. I know I have a while to go with my novel as well, but the more of the business side of things I can get done now, the more relaxed I will be later on. Any tips would also be highly appreciated from any readers who have either gone through this process, are going through it now, or just run across some helpful tips elsewhere!
I have said a few times that I have been a writer since I was very young. A lot of my first stories have been missing for a long time, either buried beneath stacks of papers in drawers or accidentally (or purposefully?) thrown away. No matter if they are thrown away, missing, or still here somewhere to be read again someday, these works are like my old friends.
There are some things I have written that I think about and become nostalgic. There are memories tucked in between those words, even if the physical copy of that piece is long gone. There are some things I remember vaguely and do not miss; I am glad I have misplaced these words. No matter my reaction to my writings of the past, whether missing or not, they have created me as a writer. I can destroy them all I want. I can forget they exist. That doesn’t change how, like old friends, they affected me as a person, and as a writer. The writings of my past can never be unwritten.
I was talking to a friend earlier today before I went in to work, of course talking about how I really didn’t want to go to work, but I would put my “customer service face” on anyway. He advised me to do the exact opposite, and put on my “screw you face” instead, which would not go over well at my workplace, of course. But that got me thinking. If I did not have to work, that would be so much more time for writing. But, if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t be able to afford to be a writer.
Despite this inner battle between my passions and my bank account (my bank account has temporarily won), I have to remind myself that even while I’m at work, I can be thinking about writing. I don’t have to entirely be unproductive in my writing while boxing groceries. I can observe people for character traits or think about new plot developments for my latest project. There does not have to be a dull moment, because where I am, my writing is.
People very easily influence other people’s writing, especially since writers tend to be hyper-observant and are inspired by the smallest things. It isn’t hard to affect a writer in those little ways, but it is a bit more difficult or tedious to impact a writer, particularly me, in a big way. My dad, of course, was one of these big influences (see Influential People Part 1), but he is not the only one.
My second day of my junior year of high school, third block, I walked into Mr. Egan’s Creative Writing class. First impression: chaos. Second impression 5 seconds later: home. While chairs were used more as footstools than actual chairs and writing assignments were on an “at least try it first,” basis and more talking about writing than actual writing occurred in class, Egan and this mess-at-first-sight helped me fall in love with writing.
Egan taught me how to love my writing, even in it’s crappy first draft stage. He taught me how to take and give criticism well. He taught through Anne Lamott, random poetry prompts, one-on-one conferences, and by example. He learned right along side us, because a writer never stops learning.
Alongside the writing and the chaos of a high school class room, amidst all the drama and hardships that year brought for many of us in that class, Egan cared. Still cares. Not only about our writing, but about us as students and as people, because how can those things ever be separated? From that first day, I knew I could always step into his classroom and would end up laughing at some point before I left. I knew I could write anything and get honest feedback. To this day, two years after I have graduated, I can walk into his classroom and talk about writing for hours, then proceed to ask his current class if they want to read an unpublished novel over the summer.
Thank you, Egan, for everything you have done to improve my writing as well as help me grow as a person. I cannot wait to see what the future brings for you and the many students you will influence!
Today’s Writing Quote Wednesday is also a question. A question every writer should consider.
Words are beautiful, powerful little things. That is what originally drew me to writing as a young child. The fact that these little letters on the page can create images and stories and emotions. I’ve met quite a few writers who are intrigued with language for this very reason, but if you think about it, the power in those words is held in the writer’s fingertips. So what are you going to do with that power?
I’m not saying every single writer should try to save the world or be deep and poetic in everything they write or anything like that, but just think about your purpose. What do you want to do? Do you want to help small children fall in love with reading? Do you want to make people laugh? Do you want to create an imaginative escape for your readers? Any of these and many many more are purposes writers take ownership of, and a writer’s purpose for writing can change. Just think about what your goal is and work toward it.
When writers think of descriptions, color is normally one of the first things to come to mind. “His blue eyes,” or “Her black hair,” or what have you. While these descriptions can be very helpful and telling, they can also get generic. I have heard of a prompt to help these types of descriptions and I just tried it tonight. I found it online, and if I could find the post again, I would link to it, but since I cannot, I won’t. Basically, the prompt said to describe a color without using the name of the color. I know this sounds hard and pointless, but it is actually very helpful in thinking about why we as writers use the colors we do. It is also helpful in expanding how to describe things and use more vibrant and surprising imagery. I encourage you all to try this prompt, and I will definitely be returning to it in the future.
To anyone who tries this prompt: feel free to post either the outcome or your opinions on this suggestion in the comments section!!
The past few days have been even more eventful and emotional than I thought they were going to be. I had prepared myself for some sort of brief outpouring of emotion, but nothing to the extent of what I actually experienced.
The past two years when I have been away from home at WKU, my best friend has been here finishing up high school. It’s been hard for both of us, I think, being away from each other sometimes for months at a time. Even though she is two years younger than me, she has helped me grow as a person and as a writer (see Ellen’s post “They’re Taking the Hobbits to… Writer’s Block?“) Yesterday, this unbelievably amazing friend graduated high school, which lucky for me, means she is coming to WKU with me in the fall!
I cannot wait for all the adventures ahead of us in the years to come, but the present requires some thoughts before those adventures begin. Ellen’s graduation party was yesterday afternoon, so of course I felt inclined to write a deep, inspiring and sappy letter to put along with my mini college survival kit I had put together, equipped with sticky notes, pens, candy, and paper cranes.
When I sat down to write this inspiring, poetic, encouraging letter, I found it more difficult than anything else I had written recently, which is saying something. This letter is definitely the most important thing I have written in a long time, and I found I could not get it to sound the way I wanted it to. Dan Kennedy sums this feeling up really well in the quote to the right. The importance of this letter and the importance of my audience didn’t necessarily get in the way of what I wanted to say, but made my perfectionism come out all the more. Eventually, I shoved it aside and wrote the letter anyway, letting my voice come out naturally. This was not easy, but in the end it definitely paid off.
I could not have spent yesterday with a better friend and I am so glad I got to be apart of all the festivities. Ellen, you’re leaving for the summer, but then we’ll have all next semester to have amazing adventures in both writing and in life!