Lord knows the world has changed since I wrote this talk, but when the world falls to pieces around us, especially when the world falls to pieces, writers will still sit down to write. As Beckett tells us, even when we have “no power to express” and “no desire to express,” we still have “the obligation to express.” Telling stories allows the reader or the audience to see through the eyes of another, and generates empathy that we need now more than ever....more
Posts Tagged: writing habits
Supposedly, the most-common question for a writer is , “Where do you get your ideas?” but in my experience, it is actually, “Do you outline?” I don’t outline, but I do fill notebooks with scribbled thoughts about where the story is and where it should be, and over the years I’ve realized that these pages inevitably take the form of a hybrid between potential plot moves and an editorial note on the existing material, as if I’m offering feedback on a student’s manuscript, or another writer’s work, rather than my own.
Do you enjoy the culinary results of tossing ingredients together with some heat to create some spontaneous deliciousness? Or do you prefer the structured act of measuring and timing that create cookies and cakes? The methodological divide between cooking and baking is not so different between different types of writing: writers who write spontaneously versus writers who plan and structure....more
At The Millions, Connor Ferguson muses on writing routines, the tortured artist trope, and the role discomfort plays in the create process:
Even if they aren’t trying to be explicitly didactic, most writers feel compelled to create stories, novels, plays, and essays as a way to address discord or imbalance that they perceive in the world.
I’m not consistent like some people seem to be. Sometimes I don’t write at all. If I’m not really working on anything, I might go for quite a while without writing.
Over at the London Review of Books, Robert Hanks meditates on procrastination:
Procrastination is the main way I express anxiety and depression, if I can use these medicalised, dignifying terms. It’s franker to say that I put things off because much of the time I’m frightened and sad (too frightened and sad for procrastination to be enough of an outlet: I also have an array of psychosomatic symptoms: rashes, headaches and stomach disorders – not that the line between procrastination and illness is necessarily sharp, if it’s there at all).
Long walks are among the most common creative practices, we’re told, for writers from a certain era: Wordsworth, Thoreau, and Blake come quickly to mind. Matthew Beaumont’s new Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London from Verso is a treasure trove of stories about these ambulating authors, and Flavorwire has a piece about how walking after dark influenced the writing of Charles Dickens in particular....more
Ultimately, a writer needs to shed self-restraint and be at least slightly anti-social to succeed, and hope those they know are understanding.
At the New Statesman, Oliver Farry delves into the wide variety of ways to offend people through writing, from vengefully crafting real people into unflattering characters to accidentally causing your mom to worry where she went wrong with you....more
The cycle of writing, editing, and publishing often leads to down time between drafts. Over at Beyond the Margins, Marlene Adelstein talks about not writing during the down time between submitting a finished manuscript and waiting to hear back from agents and editors:
This non-writing time made me feel edgy and unproductive.
At my desk next morning I held my pen and hunched my shoulders and leaned my head down, physically trying to look more deeply into the page of the notebook. I did this for only a moment before writing, as a batter takes practice swings while he waits in the on-deck circle.
Julia Fierro has a debut novel Cutting Teeth, but for much of the last decade, the writer was so dispirited by the rejection of her first manuscript that she stopped writing. Instead, she launched Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a Brooklyn-based writing institution that has helped introduce a generation of successful novelists....more