Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Khalid Warsame’s “A Writer’s Guide To Keeping Sane”

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Happy Monday dear readers! For many of you, this is the last Monday at work before the winter holidays, which, if you’re like me, makes it even harder to feel motivated to be productive today. So close and yet so far, right? I feel you, dear readers, I really do!

This is going to be a very busy writing week for me, full of large chapter overhauls and heavy duty revisions. Reading and revising my first drafts is my least favorite part of the writing process, mostly because I find lines like “They buzzed around like jet fighters” and I’m left wondering why on earth my past self could have possibly thought that that was a good simile to include as a narrative description (Fun fact: the “they” in that sentence was a pair of hummingbirds. Yeah. Writing fail.). These are the times when I’m most likely to give up on projects, and so I’m even more in need of a reminder that I’m not the only one who thinks writing is hard than I usually am (which, admittedly, is all the time).

This is why I couldn’t have been happier when I stumbled across Khalid Warsame’s piece “A Writer’s Guide to Keeping Sane” over at Medium. The piece is a quirky, quick read that I at least could relate to and glean some advice from, and I think some of you, dear readers, might as well. I’ve copied it out here for your convenience, but be sure to check out the original piece over at Medium and their other great stories as well. Happy Monday, dear readers!

Sanity is a cozy lie. ~Susan Sontag

  1. I’m staring at a blank page right now. I have a title but little else. My cat is looking at me funny; I can’t handle this. I think I’ll clean my room.
  2. A good way to avoid the terror of the blank page is to never start a new document. Simply pick up where you left off, and if it’s a different story, separate it with a new page or line. I had one word document that was three hundred pages long, full of dead novels, fragmented bits of prose, and aborted articles. Going through it was like going through an ancient battlefield.
  3. Nobody follows their own advice.
  4. I once heard that writing is mostly an exercise in self flagellation. There’s a lot of aphorisms like this about writing. I think I’ve spent more time thinking about writing and reading about writing than actually writing. 
  5. Thomas Mann was my age when he started Buddenbrooks. How old was Bret Easton Ellis, the bastard? I hear some eighteen year old got a book deal. They gave that kid a million dollars. What am I doing? I hate them all.
  6. Think about it this way: if you weren’t worrying about writing, you’d probably be worrying about serious things that actually matter. So maybe writing is keeping you sane by distracting you from worse things.
  7. Because, let’s face it, you sure as hell ain’t gonna feed yourself with words.
  8. I buy pens compulsively. I hoard them. Some are on my desk, some are in my bag, but most end up in the nooks and crannies of my apartment; behind the sofa, under the bed, inside picture frames. I don’t know why I keep on buying/stealing them. I barely ever write by hand anymore, and when I do, it comes out baffling and asemic. I think having a pen nearby gives me a sense of control over my life.
  9. Don’t delete anything, even the three pages of the letter “D” you wrote when you were drunk alone at home that one time. Nobody runs out of hard drive space anymore, you have no excuse.
  10. Love and hate occupy the same space in my head when it comes to other writers. I love Nabokov with my entire soul, but hate him for writing so perfectly.
  11. Doubt is everything. Doubt is always there. If my fingernails aren’t horribly mangled with worried nibbling then I’m probably not writing that much.
  12. Writing is mostly not letting your doubts overwhelm you; that’s why you should leave editing till last.
  13. Jonathan Franzen says that no interesting fiction was ever written on a computer with internet access. I’m inclined to dismiss this, in principle if nothing else, as more of his usual bouts of mouth turbulence, but I think he has a point. The internet is a Great Enemy of the writer. It’s as implacable as Napoleon at his height and as demanding of your attention as a baby in peril. There’s this program you can buy that blocks your computer’s internet for a predetermined set of time, but in my experience, you’ll just end up rebooting the computer so that you can read a Wikipedia article about LGBT rights in The Gambia. Try it though, it’s called Freedom, and see if it helps. Zadie Smith swears by it, and Zadie Smith is a perfect human being and everything she says is true.
  14. I thought I had found a solution to this problem when I bought a note book. But I spilled coffee all over it and now I have a three hundred pens and one stained and deformed note book.
  15. Don’t ever tell people about the novel you’re working on. They won’t care enough to pay attention, but remember enough to always bring it up. “So… how’s the novel going?” is the worst combination of words in the English language.
  16. Whenever I try write something funny, I set the font to Comic Sans. That way, I figure, if anything can overcome it’s inherent Comic Sans-iness to make me laugh, I know that it’s pretty damn funny. It’s not a foolproof method. In fact, it’s not an effective method at all. I just like doing it. 
  17. I subscribed, once, to Neil Gaiman’s tumblr blog. It seemed like a good idea at first; but after doing so I quickly unsubscribed. It was too real, hearing bout his day and his lovely interactions with his lovely fans. I prefer the relationship between a writer and his audience to be distant, preferably separated by a buttressed wall and miles of inhospitable terrain. Even the prospect of seeing him seems almost obscene.
  18. Death, for a writer, is just another way to ignore critics. Interestingly, it is also the only way that actually works.

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Joyce Carol Oates’ 10 Tip Tweets For Writers

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Happy Monday dear readers! I’ve always had a hard time getting motivated to work on Mondays, and this Monday is no exception (waking up with a cold=bad “go to work” motivator). On days like these, it sometimes helps me to turn to the prolific writers and see what words of wisdom they have to offer the rest of us. And who in this day and age is more prolific in American literature than Joyce Carol Oates? Not many, that’s for sure!

What’s more, JCO is well known for frequently sending out Tweets via her Twitter handle, JoyceCarolOates. It was there that earlier this year JCO Tweeted out her top 10 tips for writers, which I’ve written out here for your convenience, dear readers. Short and sweet and to the point, they’re just the thing to help you get motivated to pick up that pen and get to work. Enjoy, and have a wonderful rest of your Monday.

  1. Write your heart out
  2. The first sentence can be written only after the last sentence has been written. FIRST DRAFTS ARE HELL. FINAL DRAFTS, PARADISE.
  3. You are writing for your contemporaries–not for Posterity. If you are lucky, your contemporaries will become Posterity.
  4. Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
  5. When in doubt how to end a chapter, bring in a man with a gun. (This is Raymond Chandler’s advice, not mine. I would not try this.)
  6. Unless you are experimenting with form–gnarled, snarled & obscure–be alert for possibilities of paragraphing.
  7. Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!
  8. Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader–or any reader. He/she might exist–but is reading someone else.
  9. Read, observe, listen intensely!–as if your life depended upon it.
  10. Write your heart out.

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Books Vs. Films Infographic

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Happy Monday dear readers! I hope your first day back to the grindstone is going as smoothly as possible, and for my American readers, that you have some tasty, tasty leftover turkey sandwiches waiting for you come lunchtime. This week’s brief reprieve from the workday drag is a fun little infographic comparing the critics’ ratings for books and their film adaptations that popped up on Shortlist last week.

The infographic was put together by the people over at LoveReading.co.uk in an attempt to answer the age old question of which is better more often than not: book or movie? I didn’t know we were still debating that (almost always book; duh), but either way, it’s fun to compare and contrast the different versions’ ratings, especially for those that you’ve read and/or seen. So take a look, dear readers, and let me know if you agree or disagree with these findings, and what books and films are missing that you wish would’ve been included.

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Cafe Press

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Happy Monday dear readers! I hope the Monday morning blues aren’t getting you down and that your first day back at work is going as well as can be expected on a chilly autumn Monday like today. On the off chance it isn’t and you’re in dire need of a reprieve, today’s Miscellaneous Monday Morning post is the perfect way for you to take a good old fashioned (online) shopping break! Cafe Press is a fun online shopping site that has a number of great things for sale, including an entire section dedicated to Writers Gifts that features cute novelty items like mugs, T-shirts, even wall clocks. Seeing as the holidays are fast approaching, you might want to check it out and see if you can find any good gifts for the writers in your life. Maybe one of these, perhaps?

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Storybird

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Happy Monday dear readers! As always, I hope that your Monday morning is going as well as a Monday morning can go, and that the upcoming workweek will be smooth sailing from now until Friday. This week’s Miscellaneous Monday Morning distraction post is perfect for all of you readers who have ever wanted to write a picture book, even if it was just for a second. Storybird is a very nifty site and online community where aspiring picture book writers can go and create their own picture books using the gorgeous artwork provided by the site. When you finish, you publish the book and members on the site can read it. How cool is that?

Storybird

Is this not absolutely adorable?

The site offers both a free and a paid membership, with the paid membership including perks like being able to print out the picture book once it’s done. Check out the site here when you need to take a break today, and have a wonderful rest of your Monday, dear readers!

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: 30 Free David Foster Wallace Pieces

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Happy Monday dear readers! I hope your Monday morning is as swell as can be on this fine November day. To give you a bit of a break from the Monday morning droll, I bring you a list of 30 (that’s right, 30!) different David Foster Wallace pieces that you can read online for free! The list was put together by Open Culture, an awesome site where you can find literally thousands of free educational and cultural materials ranging from free movies and ebooks to free online courses; they even have free language lessons! The DFW list is comprised of pieces published between 1989 and 2011 in magazines like The New Yorker and The Paris Review, and notable works on the list include “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” and “9/11: The View from the Midwest.”

Make sure you check out the entire list here so you’ll have some good reading material come lunch break time!

Miscellaneous Monday Morning: Paulo Coehlo’s 8 Tips on Writing

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Happy Monday dear readers! Oftentimes, I find it hard to get inspired to write on Monday mornings, because it seems like the finish line, much like the upcoming weekend, is too far off to even be able to conceptualize, let alone see. When this happens, it helps me to turn to some of my favorite writers and see if they’ve said any profound words of wisdom or given any enlightening tips to aspiring writers like myself.

One of the writers who routinely inspires me to stop being lazy and get writing is Brazilian author, Paulo Coehlo. Not only does he write absolutely lovely books, but he also has a consistent presence online, fairly regularly posting things on various social media platforms, including his blog, rather appropriately named Paulo Coehlo’s Blog. It is here that he posted an article last year on his 8 Tips on Writing, a short compilation of his comments on various aspects of the writing craft that I think both aspiring and established writers alike can take something away from. Check them out below, and have a fantastic rest of your Monday, dear readers!

On Confidence: You cannot sell your next book by underrating your book that was just published. Be proud of what you have.

On Trust:
 Trust your reader, don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.

On Expertise: You cannot take something out of nothing. When you write a book, use your experience.

On Critics:
 Some writers want to please their peers, they want to be “recognized”. This shows insecurity and nothing else, please forget about this. You should care to share your soul and not to please other writers.

On Notetaking:
 If you want to capture ideas, you are lost. You are going to be detached from emotions and forget to live your life. You will be an observer and not a human being living his or her life. Forget taking notes, what important remains what is not important goes away.

On Research: 
If you overload your book with a lot of research, you are going to be very boring to yourself and to your reader. Books are not there to show how intelligent you are. Books are there to show your soul.

On Writing: I write the book that wants to be written. Behind the first sentence is a thread that takes you to the last.

On Style: Don’t try to innovate storytelling, tell a good story and it is magical. I see people trying to work so much in style, finding different ways to tell the same thing. It’s like fashion. Style is the dress, but the dress does not dictate what is inside the dress.