The Most Beautifully Awful Writing Advice Ever

Recently I was introduced to a gorgeous poem by the late Charles Bukowski called “so you want to be a writer?”

Here’s a small exert:

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.

You can read the poem in it’s entirety here of you could listen to a reading of it here.

It’s beautiful, right? Inspiring, powerful—something you would want to make a wall decal out of to impress your friends at dinner parties.

It’s also very, very, very, very, very, very wrong.

In fact, it’s difficult to recall anything that I’ve read that has been so astronomically wrong about writing.

Don’t misunderstand me, when he’s talking about writing for fame and fortune and sex he’s totally on the mark. Precious few writers reach the level of world-wide recognition and if you only want to write for accolades then you clearly don’t have what it takes to succeed in this craft. However, he also says–

“if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again/don’t do it”

and

“if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it/don’t do it.

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Uhhhh….I don’t know a single solitary person, good writer or bad, who does not struggle with sitting down and writing.

I also do not know a single solitary person who has never had to suffer through a rewrite.

You know, because first drafts are dumpster fires of confusion and poor grammar.

For those of you who are fans of Charles Bukowski , did he not rewrite any of his poetry? My education on the man is lacking so that’s entirely possible. Nevertheless, if it’s true that he didn’t then he is an anomaly.

His poem goes on to say that a person should wait until the fires of passion are so hot  they have no choice but to let them out before writing something.

“if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently/ if it never does roar out of you, do something else.”

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I have had moments where the desire to write something was so powerful that I felt like the story was literally trying to push its way out of me, but I’ll be the first to admit that these moments are few and far between.

If you wait until you feel as if you physically have no choice but to write something, odds are you will never finish anything.

The Inspiration Fairy is a very fickle creature and will oftentimes screw off at random, leaving you with no will to go on.

My favorite quote about inspiration goes as follows “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Courting inspiration is a lot like trying to find a significant other. You can’t just sit around and wait for someone to notice you.

I have found that the best way to attract inspiration is to have a set amount of time each day to write. Believe it or not, the more you write the more inspiration is likely to show up. There have been months where I have struggled to produce anything; however, once I made the decision to write for at least an hour every day, writing started to become less of a drag.

I found myself feeling more and more motivated and my writing began to suck a little bit less.

Better yet I actually started to finish things I started.

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Did that mean I never struggle? Hell no. I’m struggling right now, to be honest. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.

Same goes for you.

Struggling isn’t a sign you should quit, it’s simply a byproduct of trying.

And if you aren’t interested in trying then, and only then, would I say–

Don’t do it.

Thoughts on “The Terror” by Dan Simmons

WARNING: CONTAINS MILD TO SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK. 

The Terror and her flagship, Erebus, are stranded in the arctic.

Their food source is contaminated.

Sickness is rampant.

Their ships have been ravaged by ice.

And no rescue is expected.

…….Oh, and, also, there’s an immortal polar bear demon that can only be appeased by allowing it or someone else to play another human’s vocal cords like a flute.

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What I liked: 

The characters. I thought Simmons did a pretty stellar job distinguishing between each crew member which is saying quite a bit considering how many characters there are in this thing. As someone who often struggles with remembering who is who in most stories (another reason why I have yet to actually read the Game of Thrones series) his repetition when describing each character and their physical features and rank was very much appreciated. While many other characters could have used a bit more development, I believe he did a good job of making them come alive, especially Crozier, the Captain of The Terror and Erebus‘s Goodsir, the anatomist who remains one of my favorite characters.

The attention to detail. It’s obvious that Simmons did a lot of research with this piece from boat geography, to describing an arctic landscape without just using the word “ice” over and over again, to the ranking system. It’s impressive to read. You actually feel like you’re there, freezing along with them. Before reading this book I had no idea how awful scurvy really is, not to mention the other illnesses the crew had to suffer through. And make no mistake, this book does not skimp out on the gross details or give the dying any sort of dignity. It reports on how they crapped themselves, screamed, bled and farted. While this can be tedious to read it does a fantastic job of conveying the pure hopelessness of their situation which made this piece all the more engrossing.

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Historically accurate attitudes. While it is a bit cringy reading bits where characters go on racist or homophobic diatribes, at the very least I can say that it is historically accurate for that time period and I’m glad Simmons didn’t try to politically correct the characters in order to make them more sympathetic or likable.

Crozier’s second sight. While I didn’t think all of his visions were strictly necessary I loved the reoccurring dream he had where he is forced to partake in communion with his eccentric grandmother. It painted a perfect picture of what was to come and provided the audience with beautifully creepy imagery.

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The surprise ending. I admit I nearly quit reading this book because of the sheer hopelessness of it all. I knew that it real life none of the crewmen survived so watching them furtively cling to life in what essentially would be an exercise in futility seemed like a chore. However, I didn’t give Simmons nearly enough credit and he ended things on a note I had not expected.  Turns out my favorite character, Captain Crozier, survived after all and made a family amongst the natives.

What I didn’t like: 

It’s too damn long. I’m not opposed to slow burns, but this book went on waaaaaay longer than it needed to. I, personally, think they could have cut out maybe 100 to 200 pages or so and it would have been just fine. I actually thought about giving up on this book just because it was such an uphill climb.

Not enough monster. At a certain point in the books, after the crews decided to abandon their ships and go it alone, the monster attacks just…stop basically. And for no discernible reason. I guess it’s because the story would be over with too quickly? I’m not sure but it’s absence is sorely missed and hard to explain. In fact the monster more often than not appears as a sort of McGuffin. If you look at the story itself you wonder if the book even needs a monster at all. It’s not as if the crew didn’t have enough problems already. I mentioned the starvation, the intolerable atmosphere and the spread of illness. Then again, I did like the creature and the mythos surrounding it so I guess I can excuse it.

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Some of the character perspectives are pointless. Not many of them, you understand, but I’m still trying to figure out where Simmons was going for when he wrote the part where one of the oldest shiphand was talking to a former lover of his about the chances of rescue and Darwin and whatnot. It wasn’t a badly written scene or anything, I just don’t see why it needed to be there. Especially when neither of the characters present for that scene had that much of a part to play in the grand scheme of things.

Overall opinion: 

So, in spite of this book’s foibles, I did enjoy it quite a bit and even consider it one of my favorites now. I’m hoping to sample more of Simmons’ work in the future and hope his other pieces are just as entertaining as this one.

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A Tribute to Adam West, My First Batman

I doubt many people my age will know who Adam West is, but he is possibly the best Batman that has ever lived.

Adam West was the Batman for the hammy but earnest live-action Batman TV show from the 60s.

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Each episode was primed with colorful and strange characters, adrenaline-charged fight scenes, and impossibly creative traps. I loved all of the villains, the goofy police officers, the silly catchphrases, Robin’s random declarations like “Holy Basket-Eating Clowns, Batman!” and, most of all, those damn cliff-hangers.

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The show was campy, silly, and downright ridiculous.

I, however, had no idea and took it completely at face value.

I would marathon the crap out of this show, wearing out the many VHS tapes we had, always wanting more.

My mom was lucky enough to meet the real Adam West at a con many years ago when I was still a little girl. From what she tells me he was exactly what you’d expect: a kind man who was grateful for his lot in life, in spite of the fact that the show made it difficult for him to find work afterwards.

They discussed me at length and, eventually, he asked if she had a picture of me. He then autographed the picture for free and then told my mom to give it to me the next time she saw me.

When she came home with that picture, I was over the moon.

You don’t understand.

Batman signed a picture of me.

And this was long before the age of Twitter, or Facebook, or Amazon. I couldn’t just buy an autographed photo online. What I was holding in my hand was a treasure. A freaking golden ticket to the proverbial chocolate factory of fandom.

Luckily, in spite of him having little luck finding a job as a live-action actor, he lended his voice to many a animated character and was prevalent in many cartoons I watched as a child. He played Catman in The Fairly Odd Parents, a Kim Possible villain, Mayor Grange in The Batman animated series–he did so many voice-overs I can’t even list all of them here.

I always experienced a sudden rush of excitement whenever I heard his voice. “It’s Adam West!” I’d scream every time without fail. Especially when he made a guest appearance in Batman shows. It was like he was giving his blessing to the newest version of the character, and reminding everyone of it’s humble but wholesome roots.

I consider Adam West to be the grandfather of Batman. His Batman might not have been the “coolest” incarnation of The Dark Knight, but he still remains my favorite. So much of West’s warmth and humor went into the role and I can’t help but admire him. Who else could say those lines with a straight face?

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News of his death hit me hard. It feels like a real talent has passed from the world. Not just a real talent, a kind soul.

I’ll never forget you, Adam West.

I never got a chance to meet you, but you will always hold a place in my Bat-heart.

Opinion: Peter Capaldi is Leaving Doctor Who and That’s a Good Thing

As crappy as it is that Peter didn’t get a fair shake at being The Doctor, this decision to leave is for the show’s benefit.

Doctor Who has been in dire need of a direction change for years now and I think it would really benefit from a clean slate. Many people are complaining that ageism is somehow responsible. That the reason people haven’t been tuning in is because Capaldi is an older gentlemen and not a handsome hero like Tennant or Smith.

“Go back to your Twilight fanfictions!” they cry.

However, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case. The reason I don’t care about the show anymore isn’t because the actor playing The Doctor is older. I don’t care about the show anymore because The 12th Doctor is…kind of annoying. Sometimes he can be funny and, in rare moments, charming. But his character went from being this dark, almost Valeyardish Doctor to just being a grumpy curmudgeon that wants everyone to get off of his lawn.

I really wanted to see how dark The Doctor could be, but it seems like the writers were too scared to go all in. To make matters worse, the humor they used for Capaldi’s Doctor just…didn’t work. It’s like Steven was still trying to write lines for the 11th Doctor. It was cringey. Seriously cringey.

Also his character hasn’t really gone through a compelling metamorphosis like The Doctors past. He just essentially became another character entirely with no hint of natural progression.

Capaldi’s a good actor, but a good actor can only do so much. If a line sucks, a line sucks. It doesn’t matter how much passion you put behind it.

If I had to sum up Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor, I would say “wasted opportunity.” And that’s if I were being charitable. If I wasn’t, I would call it….well…”dull.” There were moments where I thought this Doctor was beginning to come into his own, but then he would almost immediately retreat back into his veneer of grumpiness.

I don’t wish Capaldi any ill will and I don’t blame him for the show’s downfall. However, I think his leaving is best for the show.

Here’s to hoping Chibnall can give Doctor Who the kiss of life and make it the hearts-stopping, family show that it used to be.

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

Life has been sucking recently so my writing has been put on the back burner….well, my writing is usually placed on the back burner, but now that life is not going that great, I at least have an alibi now.

I haven’t updated my blog in two weeks. From a professional standpoint there’s no excuse. Tolstoy wrote War and Peace and he had 13 kids. It’s not for nothing, I have been busy. I started a new semester and am currently working with my college’s newscast and this was my first week working at a new place, but I should be better at balancing out my life.

I also had a major life-changing event occur that totally ruins everything.

But, you know, I’m cool.

Everything is totally alright.

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I would make a promise that I’m going to try to update more frequently as I resolved to do, however, I’m not sure if that is going to happen. I just figured I owe it to people who read this blog to let them know where I am.

I’m not giving up on blogging, it’s just that the length between posts will likely increase.

I have a few ideas for posts, but I’m not sure how they will pan out.

Until then, remember me as I was: a slightly less embittered individual with a propensity to procrastinate to the point of self-paralysis.

Good night.

Amidst Political Chaos, My Novel Progresses

It’s been over a week since I’ve updated this blog and I’ve been feeling guilty about neglecting it. I would use the excuse that I’ve been busy (and I have), but more than that, I’ve been emotionally rung out (haven’t we all) and I didn’t trust myself to use this medium without making it all about my thoughts and opinions about the events that have been taking place in my country.

I didn’t want to talk about politics because a) you probably don’t care about my politics and b) that’s not what this blog was intended for.

As turbulent and scary as the events of the last few days have been, they have assisted me in getting where I want to be with my writing. It’s easier to retreat into a shell and concentrate on a fictional world of your own design when people you love and care about are engaging in a verbal civil war.

I’ve absorbed myself in enough online articles and videos about the election that my brain finally cried “enough!” and demanded that I switch gears. There’s nothing I can do about the political climate. Time to put my focus on something I can control.

I can’t control what other people say or do or think or feel. However, I can control what I do and I’ve decided that I want to write my fiction, thank you very much.

For the next several weeks my primary focus will be on school, work, and my novel. Nonetheless, I will try to update more frequently.

I hope all of you are doing well no matter what side of the political aisle you stand on.

My Blog Presentation

This is my blog presentation for my Blogging for Journalists class!

My presentation was over If Mermaids Wore Suspenders.

Special thanks to Aubrey Leaman for allowing me to interview her.

*****Interview with the blogger*****

Why do you blog?

I first started blogging in order to build a social platform for a book I am writing as part of my honors senior thesis.  The thesis explores how to connect literature to music in a concrete way in order to understand both the music and literature in new ways—essentially a “book lover’s guide to classical music.”  I use my blog, then, as an experimental tool to see how people respond to my ideas in order to tweak and expand them from there.

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging since the end of July 2015.  That makes about eight months now!

What do you do for a living?

Currently I am finishing up a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance at the University of South Carolina.  I have taught a few piano lessons at Freeway Music and tutored music theory and music history at USC over the past year, as well.  Next year I will begin pursuing a PhD in music theory.

What is the most difficult part about blogging for you?

It’s definitely challenging to find time to create blog posts at the caliber I want while also juggling school, work, friends, and personal time.  I developed a lot of post ideas over the summer when I started blogging, so if I am having a really busy week I often draw from that list.

How long did it take you to get over 100 followers?

About a month.

Who designed your banner?

I designed my own banner.  I had my sister take a picture of my face from about the nose up and then transferred it to Pixlr where I added all of the “stickers” and backgrounds to make it look like it does now!

What advice do you have for other bloggers?

Be true to yourself.  I know, I know…what a cliché.  But it can be easy to get wrapped up in trying to get more followers by overanalyzing which posts get the most hits.  Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with targeting a particular audience as you blog, but you should always write posts that are really what you want to be saying—otherwise you won’t be attracting the kind of people who are actually interested in your ideas! Plus, life’s too short to pretend to be something you’re not.

What do you look for in a blog?

Something quirky.  I love seeing how people combine different things (especially books and music) into a new creative way of thinking.   In a similar way, I love it when blogs spark my imagination about “what if” types of scenarios.

****My evaluation of the blog ****

What makes this blog unique?

-The marriage between classical (or sometimes contemporary music) to classical literature.

-She oftentimes takes scenes from a blog and will assign a song to that particular moment, and posts a song from Spotify underneath so readers may hear for themselves.

-The title  “If Mermaids Wore Suspenders” is appropriate to the theme of the blog. It’s imaginative and whimsical.

-The banner for her blog is creative and is also in keeping with the theme of her blog.

-The tidiness of the sidebar.

-Lyrical yet conversational prose.

What did I gained from reading her blog?

It pays to play the “what-if” game when it comes to different concepts. It’s interesting to toy with different ideas and to express them through writing. One example of this is she wrote a blog post, posing the question “What if instead of being mentally insane, Rochester’s secret wife was actually a werewolf?” Not everything regarding book blogging has to be serious or tackle social justice issues. That’s not to say her blog doesn’t make you think. It’s just has more of a sense of wonder than others I’ve read.