I admit it, I have a competitive streak. When I check out my friends at iStockphoto, I get a bit perturbed if their downloads outpace mine. When I read a particularly banal Disney princess adaptation to Mud Pie, I think, "Good lord, a monkey could do better!" More often than not, however, I am my own prime competitor. Which is a lose-lose situation; I can never measure up to my own ideals.
As a writer, I once believed to be Real I had to face unflinchingly the dark, shadowy things on the edge of existence. There was no backing down, no escape. Happy sunshine and cute little bunnies, well, that's what those other writers did. The sentimental ones, the ones stuck on believing their childhood was happy. I saw it as my mission to stare down the darkness and make it retreat.
There's a certain similarity between winter and summer in Michigan. In winter we have a landscape of white and white and white and gray and black. Summer, it's all green. Green is lovely. Warm and shady. But it's still green.
Autumn is creeping through the forest now. For the first time all year I can see the maple trees springing out from the landscape, their sprawling arms reaching as far as they can to spread orange and yellow. The stately oak, rich brown, towers now over the goldenrod fields. An aspen, each leaf twinkling like a golden coin, glitters against the backdrop of color.
The sweetness of life is not tripe, not childishness or sentimentality. It provides contrast. Without contrast all detail is lost; sameness and boredom drift in. Four or so years ago much of my thinking had a sameness to it. Brooding, dark, cynical. Not that I wasn't "happy," but joy came in a more self-satisfied way, a feeling that I was more Real because I faced the ugly truths of the world without those abhorrent rose-colored glasses. Yet I didn't experience a joy or celebration of life and the world. On the contrary, if I happened to notice the quaking aspen, offering me its golden gift, I felt squeamish, unworthy. I didn't trust it, this fleeting beauty. With so much darkness, I should work to face it, to fight it, extinguish it! Shouldn't I?
A righteous calling, but impossible. Like trying to distinguish the maple in a forest from the oak - from two miles away. In summer, as in winter, it's hard to do. Darkness won't retreat unless I bring a little light in with me.
Dewitt Jones said in a video I watched Sunday, "if you celebrate what's right with the world, you will find the energy to fix what is wrong."
Slowly, over years, I've changed my emphasis. I no longer want to be the Best In The World, competing and losing against my scathing inner critic, judge, hangman. I now want to be the best for the world. This new way of thinking is liberating, healing.
During the MFA we talked a lot about the aboutness of a story. The central thrust, the take-home, the gravitas. The story I began in my mind several years ago, the one that became my creative thesis for the MFA, was once about abuse of authority, cruelty, intergenerational evil. But through re-envisioning and revision, I found a different aboutness: hope, innocence, and the triumphant power of the human spirit. The darkness is balanced by light, and the contrast makes both more meaningful.
I’m going to tell you exactly how I made Halloween Good Night’s promo trailer. I promise, this will be a thoroughly unhelpful tutorial—unless you know: Photoshop, iMovie, and scriptwriting—or are willing to learn a lot … fast. It also helps if Google is your BFF. Ready? Let’s begin!
I've been doing this writing thing for more than fifteen years. You'd think I would have an airtight process by now. You'd think I could write a book like “how to write a book.” Right? You'd think I wouldn't flounder with each new project as if I were the first one to wonder if a round stone could roll. Because really, this isn’t my first rodeo.
13 Must-Have Mobile Apps for Writers. Writing has changed since the days of typewriter and correction fluid (remember the little bottle of white-out with the brush, remember how strong it smelled, how fast it dried, how fun it was?). Pen and paper have been replaced in many fields by smartphones, mobile devices and laptops. But until recently it never occurred to me that more than just writing could be aided by technology.
I first started thinking about tension when I heard Donald Maass speak at a conference some years ago. He described how the simple scene of a man looking at his watch while waiting for a bus can go from bland to Bang in a matter of words. Since then I have often noticed the varying levels of tension, both in books I have enjoyed and in those I haven’t. Here I'll discuss the ten levels of tension, and what they mean to the writer.
I hid brochures for MFA programs in my bottom desk drawer. Every few months I’d take them out, page through, dream a little… Until finally in 2009 I enrolled in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. The program took two years of concentrated study at home, and for 60 days, spread over five residencies, I lived...
On my worktable I have two novels. Open each and you’ll see line breaks, ragged margins, the form of poetry. But after reading both I wonder, are they truly in verse? Does the poetic form fit both novels equally well in terms of voice, use of language, and creation of vivid moments? Is the poetic form necessary for both books, and if not, why?
"Anybody can come up with one right answer." The key is to look for the next right answer ...
Will you be bothered if I wax eloquent a bit, you my singular reader? If so, hmm, I don't really care. I'm going to anyway! Haha!
So here it is. I love cloth diapers. They're so ... fluffy and soft and sweet (sometimes). They're so effective and useful and inexpensive. They're so cuddly. Can you picture it?
Diapers are also much like plot, aren't they? Absolutely essential and sometimes...
I think I mentioned attending the Festival of Faith & Writing, yes? Yes. And I mentioned these workshops I attended. On poetry and on playwriting.
Well, just this minute I decided to rest my brain from a taxing revision, to read something...
It’s a common confusion – how on earth do I punctuate dialog? Punctuating dialog is the same as punctuating any sentence, isn't it? You put the end punctuation at the end of a sentence? Except with dialog, even if it’s not the end of a sentence, you still might put in end punctuation, but then you need more end punctuation, and ... it’s a confusing mess. The key is this...