A Good Habit is Hard to Find

I’m trying to change my habits.

But the bad ones just seem so engrained into me that if I were to exfoliate them like dead skin off of a calloused foot, I would have to keep going until I hit a bone.

My bad habits are the axis on which my bizarre world turns. They make up who I am.

Luckily I don’t smoke or drink in excess. However, my propensity to procrastinate on my life goals and resist improvement are just as hazardous to my future.

If I have an assignment or task given to me by a third party, I have no issue doing it. When it comes to providing goals for myself that have no consequences for anyone else, however, I struggle to keep them.

Especially when it comes to my writing goals.

I open the story, type one sentence, decide it sucks, and then set my laptop on fire.

My Instagram feed is awash with inspirational quotes about persistence, but none of them sink in. Even if a chubby old nun were to burst into my room one morning and sing at me to climb every mountain, I’m still not sure if the message would come through.

Regardless, I desperately want to be the type of person that sets goals and achieves them.

I also want to be the person that can look up funny internet videos until 1:00 in the morning and be fully awake for their morning shift.

But mostly that first one.

I just have to remember that others have stood where I stand right now and were able to overcome even greater odds. I will keep my head high and remind myself:

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How to Become the Best Writer Ever in the History of the Universe!

Hello, reader. I am a writer person like you. Definitely not someone strapped to a chair against their will.

Do you want to learn how to write like a super-awesome writer guy?

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Becoming one of the giants of literature is easy with these simple steps.

Step One: 

Take something you’ve written. Just anything. It could be a poem, a play, a short story, just whatever. You got it? Okay, now set it on fire. Now take a picture of your literally flaming passion and upload it to Instagram. This is guaranteed to catch people’s attention.

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Step Two: 

Take your college degree off the wall and caress it lovingly. Are you caressing it? Good. Now weep. Go ahead, I’ll wait. That’s it. Let it all out. Let the debt and unemployment flow through you like a river. It’s okay. Your parents were never proud of you to begin with.

Step Three:

Keep a physical diary of all your failures. If you have been failing that means you’ve been trying. And, boy, have you been trying a lot. It’s alright if your tears smudge the ink. This is just your own personal record. No one else will read this. Just like no one else will read those books you self-published or blog entries you posted on WordPress.

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Step Four: 

Drink heavily while you write. This will inspire you to write more and will totally not convince you to phone your ex-lover. All the best writers drank. And they all lived happy, productive lives. Well, aside from the ones that committed suicide or died under suspicious circumstances. But that’s beside the point.

Step Five: 

Tweet every single thought that passes through your mind. Don’t even think about it. Just Tweet it. There is no way this could possibly go wrong. Tweet your politics. Tweet your religion. Tweet about people you don’t know but have heard through third-party sources that they did something terrible and so you must condemn them for actions you don’t know they committed for sure. Why? Because certainty is for plebs.

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Step Six: 

Tell everyone you are a writer. EVERYONE!! Hand out business cards at the grocery store. Give one to that chick at McDonalds who looks like the grease fumes have liquified her brain, give it to those Mormons who will show up at your door any second now. Have you done that? Okay, don’t write now. Don’t write a single word. Go to Youtube. Your work is done. Everyone knows your brilliance.

Follow these steps and I promise you that…something will probably happen.

What?

I don’t have all the answers.

This is a Story about YOU: a Documentary

A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment to create an autobiographical piece for my documentary class.

No big deal, I thought. I talk about myself on my blog all the time. Producing a 10 minute video over a subject I know intimately should be no struggle.

It is such a struggle.

I’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection of B-roll (a supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot), but I am completely blanking on what to write for my voice-over narration.

I decided that the scope of the video should be over my writing. However, writing has encompassed so much of my life, it seems nearly impossible to cover the things that have influenced my craft.

Because everything has impacted my writing: relationships, moves, friends, adventures, boredom, books, journals, good days, bad days, age, etc.

There are so many moments, too many to count, that have changed how I view the world. However, I can’t, nor should I try to, address every instance. For one thing it would be too long, for another it would be too boring.

Melodrama is also a factor I am trying to avoid.

Nothing is worse than watching a self-indulgent cheese-fest for 10 minutes while trapped in a classroom for over an hour.

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Nobody cares about your dead parakeet, Judith! No one!

Well, time for screenwriting attempt number 300.

Anyone have a tragic background story they aren’t using?

When Life Throws Off Your Writing Groove

So you’ve been writing for a while, but you aren’t getting very far. You spin your wheels day after day, hoping soon it’ll all come together. You know it’s a good idea, you’re just having a hard time getting it started.

You think it’s just another day. You sit at your desk, grab your pen, and begin marking up the page. All of the sudden-

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It’s like the material isn’t even coming from you. It’s like you are taking dictation from a genius.

Your characters are timeless, your plot is interesting and unique. At this rate, you’ll be done before the sun comes down. That’s when you get a text…..

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Your kid needs to be picked up, or your boss wants you to come in early, or your significant other needs you to pick up something before the store closes.

You think, “I’ll just do this one thing, then I’ll go back to writing.”

Life: Hehe hehe hehehe ha ha haha hahahaha AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Once the groove is lost, it can be hard to find again. Particularly when your chaotic life is trying to force down your door with a battering ram.

When you return, you’ll read the same line over and over again. However, it’s like trying to start a fire with two wet rocks.

Your distractors will be largely unapologetic.

Unless you throw them out a window.

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“Well,” they’ll say, “You’re a writer. You just wiggle your pencil about and stuff comes out, right?”

They are right. Only most of what is coming out now is crap.

Don’t worry, writer. What once was will come again.

If you keep at it for long enough, the groove will come again. You’ll be so full of groove you will terrify your friends and family with your mad skills. So much so, they will be too frightened to bother you.

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And isn’t inspiring terror what writing is all about?

A Nerd’s Adventure in Tollymore Forest

As part of our study tour through the British Isles, my class took a bus across Northern Ireland.

This was unquestionably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Our guide told us Northern Ireland has inspired countless writers like C.S Lewis, the Brontës, etc, and I can easily see why.

While riding in the tour bus from location to location –trying not to think about all the times we nearly hit someone because the roads are roughly the size of Jenna Louise Coleman’s waistline–I saw stone fences, wooly sheep, and rolling hills that seemed to go on forever.

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I loved all the shacks and follies frozen in time. I could just imagine sitting down to write in these areas or around a fire and peering out the window to look at all this.

The locals pointed out that we were visiting on an uncharacteristically sunny day and most of the time it’s freezing, wet, and miserable, but I can dream, can’t I?

My favorite location was Tollymore Forest Park where they filmed several scenes in the first season of Game of Thrones.

Our guide carried with her a book full of blown-up screen shots from the film and pointed out several of the landmarks seen in the episodes.

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This made the experience so much more immersive and the episodes all the more intimate because we now know what it is like to stand where the actors stood.

I enjoyed it as a fan, but I think I enjoyed it even more as a writer.

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Is there anyone that can see anything like this and not be inspired?

I frequently had to run to catch up with my party because I was constantly stopping and taking pictures.

Truth is you could be in one spot for two hours and still not take enough photos.

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It is that beautiful.

If anyone wants to write fantasy, they need to go to this forest. It’s one thing to write “they went into a forest,” it’s another to describe all the intricate workings of such a place. A forest is so much more than trees and rocks.

Although the trees are incredible as well.

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The forest is like a body, each part of it working in tandem to form something spectacular. It’s difficult to get a firm grasp of this unless you see it first hand.

Also, wear a cloak. Nothing is better than strolling about an ancient forest in a cloak.

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Writers Need To Travel

I was hesitant to write this because I know how tight a writer’s budget can be, and I didn’t want to make it sound like everyone has the same opportunities that I have been presented with. However, I feel strongly enough about it that I think I can give it a strong endorsement.

Writers, travel.

If possible, travel to another country.

Take in the day-to-day, learn the stories, visit all the touristy sites, go explore the countryside.

You don’t have to stay long.

Just absorb as much as you can.

There are so many stories I’ve accumulated during this British Isle Study Tour I think I have enough inspiration to last me for several years, if not the rest of my life.

I’ll be blogging about some of these experiences in future posts.

I know I’ve been complacent with updates, but I promise to be more frequent in the future.

 

Finding Life Advice in the Restroom

I was using the bathroom before my 11:00 class, when I noticed the utility cupboard was open for some reason. It had multiple quotes written on the inside of it, all in magic marker or pencil.

I have no idea why people wrote on the cupboard or why it just happened to be ajar when I walked in. Regardless, curiosity got the better or me and I decided to inspect it.

I expected there to be your standard “Class of ’16!” or “Joe is hott,” but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and beauty of each quote. I chose a few of my favorites:

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(By the way, quoting Harry Potter is always a good idea.)

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In case you can’t read it: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body”-C.S. Lewis

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………I have absolutely no idea who Leroy is since The Doctor said this to Rose but, for some reason, not knowing makes it better.

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I found all of these quotes gorgeous and awe-inspiring. However, none of them quite encapsulated the spirit of the school season quite like this one:

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Have a good day, everyone!

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Interview With Author Anne Lauppe-Dunbar

Anne Lauppe-Dunbar is the author of “Dark Mermaids,” an award-winning novel about the East Germany doping scandal that lead to the mental and physical decline of many German athletes. Her main protagonist, Sophia, is a East German swimmer whose health has declined to such a degree doctors deny her treatment.

I was given the opportunity to interview Dr. Lauppe-Dunbar while she was visiting the United States on her book-release tour, and I asked her about her experiences as a writer. 

Me: Do you ever get writers block? What’s your advice to those who struggle with it?

LD: Yes, I do. The best advice my Ph.D tutor gave me was “don’t be worried about just staring out the window, it’s actually part of the creative process.” So if your mind is blank and you feel overwhelmed, let it happen. Don’t fight it, because if you fight it you’re pushing against it. Just accept it and read for a bit. Or do a bit of research, or go and read a book about the subject. Or go for a walk. You know, swim, anything. Just don’t try and push it.

Me: What is your favorite genre to write?

LD: Thriller, I think. I like characters, I’m a character writer. I like the type of writing where you feel like you’re inside the character’s skin. We’re contradictory as a species so you’ve got to allow those characters to show that aspect of humanity. I like anything as long as it’s got strong characters in it. I love fantasy as well.

Me: Which comes first: character or story?

LD: Both have to be intertwined. I think if you start with a character and have a story in mind, you can then follow your character and see how he/she reacts to things. Like with my character, Sophia, I tried to make her do something she did not want to do and it was difficult to progress from there. You must let your character lead the way.

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Me: What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

LD: Finding time. And then allowing myself the first draft without getting really finicky about it. I have to give myself permission to make a mess. I find that quite difficult because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think I went through about 30-40 drafts before I finished my first book.

Me: What advice do you have for people who want to become a writer?

LD: Be realistic. Be aware it’s a very long journey. I think getting published is really, really hard. And some people want the validation more than they want the work to be done. More than they want a challenge. At times, I was one of those people. You get to a breaking point, really. So I would say, you know, you have to look at it as if you’re going to be challenged more than you’ve ever been challenged before. And if you’re a writer, then you’re a writer. Take it bit by bit.

Me: It took you two years of submitting before you were published. Why did you stick by your story for so long?

LD: Because I thought the work was good enough. I never thought of myself as good enough, but the work itself— what I had created outside of myself— was. I had a sense that this work was ready. Sometimes you have to just defy any doubts. Even if you have worries about yourself and you think you’re getting pushed back. Sometimes you have to keep going.

Me: How do you know when your book is finished?

LD: You don’t. Not really. I think that’s normal. There comes a point when you just have to send it out. The things you have to ask yourself are ‘Do the sentences work?’ or ‘Are the ideas coming together?’ ‘If I give this to a stranger, are they going to get that idea?’ That’s the most important thing, I say. That’s when it’s ready.

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