Writing, Reading, and Smiling . . . It's Contagious.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seanachaí's News

ON THE LAST SUNDAY of each month, I compile "Seanachaí's News," a status report that assesses my work during the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming months. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.

My Work During the Current Month

  1. Have you lost your motivation? Get it back with "The Golden Flower of Inspiration."
  2. "Striving for Greatness" is all about the beauty of individuality.
  3. When you read your work, do you feel like you're looking into a mirror? Step back from it and think about "The Real You."
  4. "Unplug the Robots!" Just read it.

My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. The Bad News: I had a complete system meltdown this week. Yeah, really. I'm using a friend's computer to write this blog post because Hal—my computer—is dead and I have no idea how to revive him. I'm also mourning the loss of irreplaceable files. Always, always, always remember to take a few extra minutes out of your day to back up those files!
  2. The Good News:  I did not lose my book or my outline because I saved both to my flash drive about two hours before the crash. However, without a computer, my time to work is limited, so my online presence will be brief. A friend is going to give me the number of another friend who is a whiz with computers, so hopefully by this time next week I'll be up and running again. If you don't hear from me next week, know that I'm working on the problem and I'll be back as soon as possible.


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unplug the Robots

I'M DROWNING in my latest WIP, so I'm going to make this brief. 

To all of you who have children, children who are unable to breathe or walk without the aid of headphones or earbuds or whatever they are and unable to speak or write without sliding their thumbs over a keyboard or keypad or whatever they are…

Please, please, PLEASE, unplug these robots from their hardware for a few hours a day and give them something new to play with like a book—sheets of typed paper that are bound and have designs on the first and last pages—or a number-two pencil and a tablet—a long yellow wooden stick with a pink end and sheets of blue-lined paper bound with a silver coil. 

Remember, in thirty years these children will be writing YOUR social security checks (unless these children decide to throw out the word "humanity") and they will be managing YOUR funds and YOUR life…that is, if they haven't forgotten how to think or write.

Oh, and after you've unplugged your children and you hear them making noises other than beeps (that's a good thing!), don't forget to unplug yourself.


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The "Real" You

IF YOU FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER, you'll recall that earlier this week I mentioned having a life-changing discussion with a writer-friend of mine. Although the discussion had nothing to do with writing, it sparked an awareness and determination that had been missing in my life and my writing.

So, what was the discussion about? Before I go any further, I want to say this, "I'm not telling."

The Reason I'm Not Telling
No, I'm not trying to be coy. The topic of the discussion that changed my life would be of no significance to anyone but me. Despite the unintentional subterfuge, I do want to say that I've discovered more about myself in one afternoon than I have in the past five years.

The Problem
I've been lacking the motivation to work on my current project which happens to be a lengthy novel of fiction involving certain aspects of the human condition. After this discussion that I mentioned, I've now discovered that I'm writing a pseudo-biographical work on aspects of my condition; hence, the avoidance of writing. I know I've written on the subject of fact versus fiction before, but with each work I compose—whether it be fiction or nonfiction—I discover something new about my writing and about myself. Sometimes I like what I see and sometimes I don't, but with each truth I uncover, I need to realize that each is a part of me whether I want to admit it or not.

Solving the Problem
This is no easy task due to the unexpectedness of the situation in which I now find myself. Each day before I begin working on my project, I'm going to bear in mind that although this work is an extension of J.E. the writer, it's also a fabrication, a dream world for misguided characters and agendas that may or may not be facets of J.E. the person. I cannot allow myself to become lost in this world and I cannot allow myself to be swallowed up by the manifestation, glorification, or fictionalization of the thoughts and insecurities that lie deep within me.

What about you? 
Are you struggling with a particular piece? Are you having trouble finding motivation? Is it possible that this piece says more about the "real" you, then you care to admit? 

Step back from it. While you may see your beliefs, your fears, and your dreams unfolding in this work, realize and understand that you are your own person and that this work—I don't care if it's fiction or not—is nothing more than an illusion that you're creating for your readers.

Coming Full Circle
So, you're still wanting to know the topic of the discussion that made me realize I was writing about the "real" me. All right, it had to do with the inaccuracy of the globe on my bookshelf. See? I told you it would mean nothing to anyone but me.


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Striving for Greatness

Double-spaced, left-justified, 12 pt. font, MLA style, 
FIVE pages!

IF YOU CAN EXPLAIN the fall of Rome in three pages, tack on an extra two pages of fluff, so you can get an A. Ten pages about Einstein's theory of relativity? You'd better cut it down to five or face Dr. So-and-so's paper shredder. 

Remember writing essays like that? As a student I never had a problem with the  issue of making my work reader-friendly, but I did have a problem with the length requirement. No matter the class, the teacher always dictated a required page count which students dared not adjust to fit their thesis or writing style.

"Sages" also tout average word counts for books, factoring in the intended audience, the genre, the marketability, the author's reputation/experience, the production cost, etc. I remember the nausea I felt after reading that the average word count for a work of fiction is in the neighborhood of 80,000 to 100,000 words. My work of historical fiction, Dead Bird in the Weeds, is nearly twice the "maximum" length. I've asked myself many times if I should have cut 80,000 words in order to "fit in." The answer is always "no," despite the fact that many proclaim that a writer who doesn't stick to the rules is either a bad writer or doesn't understand or care about marketability.

Although I'm confident about my work, this length obsession haunts me daily. Regardless of what I'm writing, I constantly check the page count and the word count as if the work's merit rests in the hands of a magic number. At times it has driven me to the point of adding extra paragraphs or scenes simply because the chapter didn't look long enough. That's nothing more than commercialism, and unless you're considering approaching traditional publishers or agents who are looking to market the latest fad, it has no place in serious fiction.

Despite my conviction, it's hard to break away from the word-count frenzy. Before I start a work, I say to myself, "X (the work) is going to be approximately Y number of words (because of either the genre or complexity of the subject), so plan on X to be Z number of pages." To give you an idea of how instinctive this behavior is, read the following conversation I had earlier this week with a friend of mine:

FRIEND.  I really like this last chapter. You're probably about, what, halfway through this book, aren't you? [Keep in mind that this person knows most of the plot.]

ME.  No, I've only written about one-third of it. [Note that I've been struggling with the length of this book to the point that I've sat for hours staring at the computer while trying to think of a way to stretch it out].

FRIEND.  Oh, really?

ME.  Yeah, this book is going to be about 100,000 words.

FRIEND.  How can you know that when you haven't finished it?

Good point. How can you know the length of a work before it's finished? The answer is simple: You can't! There is no magic word count or page count. A work is as long as it needs to be, no more, no less. Because of this realization, I have now accepted the fact that my book may only be half of what I had originally planned. And do you know what? Nothing is wrong with that.

Another plus is that the pressure is gone. The words are flowing—faster than before—and I'm more confident about what I'm writing. I'm not being sidetracked by the word-count calculator and I've stopped looking at the page count.

So, to all those professors and sages touting average word counts for average essays, books, etc., I have one thing to say, "Sorry, I have no desire to fit into a mold so I can be 'average.'"

I'm striving for greatness.


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Golden Flower of Inspiration

THE MAPLE TREES on the farm are donning their fall colors and the garden on the edge of the south field is preparing to hibernate. Before tucking the garden in for a long winter's nap, I grabbed my gardening shears and harvested the spaghetti squash on the west end. As I plodded through a tangle of dried leaves and vines, I stumbled upon an amazing find: one large yellow squash flower.

This golden miracle managed to grow beneath several inches of rotting plant matter despite the chilly temperatures and the lateness of the year. Nature had found a way to persevere in the most illogical and improbable of circumstances.

Writing is like that, too. After the birth—or flowering—of an idea and the construction of paragraphs begins, the madness of creating, writing, and editing can sometimes smother motivation and creativity. As a result, the easy way out—desertion—often tempts the writer before the piece has reached maturity.

What happens next? The writer throws out the idea and waits impatiently for another epiphany that may or may not appear. If and when it does, the writer is often duped into another false start and another great idea hits the compost heap.

We can blame this endless cycle on many things: frustration, laziness, or disgust, but rather than giving up on our work and ourselves, we need to meet the problem head-on.  Whether we're writing—or reading—a short poem or a lengthy novel, we need to realize and appreciate the great amount of effort and time it takes to create a work of art. 

When you're overwhelmed and ready to give in, take a moment to clear away the debris so you don't lose sight of that golden flower of inspiration.


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.