Nothing on My Page

Don’t say it’s writers block because I will be tempted to punch you. I can’t stand that people say that because I can’t write anything down I have writer’s block. It’s the complete opposite in fact.

I HAVE TOO MUCH TO SAY!!!

Can you imagine a time when you have so many ideas that you just don’t know where to even begin, so you don’t write? Or a time where you just had a number of options and just couldn’t choose which to start on?

I have that problem. In fact, I have several stories in the works, and unfortunately I can’t get anything down. You’d think this was a good thing, having so many ideas that you can’t count them. I can count them!

Eight.

That’s how many stories, so far, that I’ve come up with and it’s driving me crazy.

I’m sure I wrote in another post about a professor that said having multiple things to work on is never a bad thing. A writer always wants to keep busy because working on the same thing isn’t always productive. Frankly, things can lose their taste after a while, much like gum. Sometimes, you need a break. Writing other stories can often bring new ideas, give you a break so you can come back. (Personally, gnawing on a piece of Hershey’s chocolate always works for me).

Just saying.

You’ll feel refreshed with new insight when you go back to your older works. I, of course, don’t get to that because I CAN’T DECIDE WHAT THE HELL I’M GONNA

DO.

My god.

My brain hurts.

Please tell me I’m not the only one going through this. I think I’ll feel like a real troll if I’m the only one on this planet just unable to write because they have just too many things to work on. It sounds ridiculous!

It is ridiculous.

I think the worst part about it is that every time I try to write a short story, someone tells me it should be a novel. This has happened three times this semester in conference with my professor and my classmates during critique.

THREE TIMES.

How am I supposed to deal with that?

I write too much. That’s the only thing I can think of to explain this problem. Otherwise, I just can’t seem to get into writing succinct language. I just can’t write concisely enough that everything I want to say is delivered well enough. Not unless it’s a bigger piece.

It’s so sad.

I took a class a couple of weeks back on Resistance. It was a three hour course during a Saturday, meant to explore why it is that writers can’t write. I think I need to do some of the exercises again. I’m having a really hard writing short things. There is always going to be something to talk about in regards to literature: how much we hate/love Twilight, who’s better at killing off characters, George R.R. Martin or Stephen King, and why libraries need more funding so I can go in on Saturdays like I want. The problem is condensing what I want to say, and I just can’t seem to get that down. I have a couple of stories here and there on the blog that have been worked out well enough to be short. I just keep wracking my brain for something…

There are always going to be days, maybe even weeks when wrack your brain trying to think of things to say, things to do and things to share. I started this blog as a way to share stories I’ve written. I don’t have a lot of stories published, only two in an on-campus literary magazine from my undergrad (and they’re shared on the blog). I think that the more I consider publishing my stories, the more difficult it becomes to write them, to even post them. There’s this sense of indecision that I am going through right now, but I don;t want to stop doing this. Not when I can find people who genuinely want to read something that I write and amazingly enjoy it.

This blog is one of the few things that I’ve kept at without just giving up.

I’ll think of something.

Signed,
Girl with nothing on the page

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Welcome To The Literary World!

Welcome to the literary world!

I’m back with some more things to say! Isn’t that wonderful?

Personally, I think it is. Not because I like the sound of my own voice (I actually find it a little aggravating) but because that means I have things to share that I believe will be of use to you.

Whether or not that is true, of course, is up to you.

So, here’s to you readers and writers, bloggers and internet surfers. Welcome to the Literary world. More specifically, thank you for being a “literary citizen.” That’s what they call you, isn’t it?

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase. I’ve certainly been hearing it a lot since my last year of Undergrad. But lately, it’s been popping up more and more. I find that interesting and have found a good time to write about it.

When we talk about the literary world, we think literature. But it’s more than that. It’s reading, writing, publishing, trying to publish, trying to write, saying hello and goodbye to good authors and bad poets. Being a part of the literary world makes you a literary citizen. And you’ve had your citizenship card since birth, my friends. Now, have you exersized your right?

That is the major question of the day.

The literary world is a new and old world that must be ventured. Have you done so? If not, then let me help you. Let’s start with the words “Literary Citizen.”

That is what you are. Do you know what that even means? If you do, then tell someone else because the truth is every living person who has ever bought a book, read a book, stole a book (and actually read it, and I don’t mean a line or the middle or the end, but the whole darn thing; don’t try and cheat!) and made use of it is a literary citizen. You have been a part of a world that absorbs stories, memoirs, life, beyond yourself and into yourself. You have been influenced and changed, and you may not even realize it.


Some say that you have more to do than just reading books, however, in order to be a “true literary citizen.” In an article by Donna Steiner, a former professor of mine and a successfully published author, a number of articles wrote that literary citizens as individuals who:

1. “[…]work to create a world in which literature can thrive and is valued.” —LiteraryCitizenship.com

AND/ OR

2. “[…]work to nourish, cultivate, and engage with a community that values and supports the arts.” — Renegade Writers Vermont

I really do love the full quote from Renegade Writers Vermont. They even do this little cute list of things that make a literary citizen.

The point I make by mentioning this is because we need to understand that literary citizenship goes deep into the heart and soul of what it means to be a writer. As a writer you are constantly researching journals to submit to and writers you enjoy– want to emulate in some way. Writers do this to get to know the world around them, to learn and understand what they are getting into and what they want out of the writerly life. Writers need to do these things in order to see how others developed their work, their styles, their voice and to see where they fit in.

Writers can do much more than read and write as they grow. Taking classes isn’t the only thing that helps you develop. Join a writing group or make on up one with some classmates or friends. Start a blog, like I did, or go to reading events (if any in the surrounding area). All over New York City and plenty other states have a number of reading events that are free and you can see your favorite authors or discover new ones. Sometimes you can go and see one you’ve never heard of and talk to them, learn about them. The point is to go out and do something; maybe you’ll find something you like.

The job of a literary citizen as a writer is to extend your boundaries. Don’t just sit at home and stare at the screen of your computer and wait for inspiration. Most likely it may not come. You have to go out and find it. Making an effort to push yourself, to meet people, and to understand the world you are going into is important. Heck, even going to a local bookstore (not necessarily Barnes and Nobles) can be an adventure itself. Inspiration can be made.

When I was in SUNY Oswego, I was told to read as much as possible. I was surrounded by many wonderful, and not so wonderful writers. I spent time with people who loved different things, styles and always read something, wrote something, thought of something. We had ideas and we shared them or helped others to improve them. This is a literary citizen, in regards to writers. One of the most important things that was taught to me as I began to develop my craft is that as a writer I should be looking at other peoples work. When you first started, you are taught short stories, because it’s popular now. Also because the majority of the time you want to start off small and work your way into writing bigger pieces for developmental purposes. Some have made it writing novels off the bat, however building a reputation can also be helpful.

It really depends on your choice of path, but I digress.

In my MFA program I have been told to read journals. Read the journals you apply to when you’re beginning to submit works for publishing. The idea that a writer applies to a journal without even reading the type of material said journal publishes should be slightly embarrassing. One, because you could be rejected immediately for handing in something they’d never publish and Two, because you failed to understand the point of researching in the first place!

As a reader, you can do the same. You can help a friend who has an idea they want to write about or even help them. You could even write something yourself; a reader can certainly become a writer. There are no boundaries for you. If, of course, you don’t want to write but read and interact with writers, then you too should find events to go to. Keep a blog on books you like, things you’ve heard what other writers have said, things you think writers should be more contentiousness about. Write comments on their sites or write a letter to them! Read a journal from a short story publisher. Buy a book from your favorite author’s website even if it’s not their usual style online. Be unbiased and adjust, evolve. Do it! Promoting the literary world in your own unique way while expanding your own experiences is the point of being a literary citizen. It’s like going to France. You’re not going to go to France and not go up the Eiffel Tower are you?


What is wrong with you!?!?


Do it! Because you can. Because you want to. Because you love to write fan-fiction and keep a blog or read about your favorite author. Do these things because you want to and you have the time to do it. In a way, it’s a choice and a responsibility we have to one another.


Another reason I mentioned is Donna Steiner’s article because it mentions that a few critics claim literary citizenship is “just another way that writers are taken advantage of by the publishing industry. That it’s a “…hypocritical and crass way of promoting your own work and/or your own agenda.” Frankly, I find this offensive to those who actually put an effort to seeking out literary magazines, meeting writers they love and going to the library. I used to go everyday after school and borrowed twenty different books at a time. Authors/writers aren’t the only ones who promote literary citizenship. Every living person who reads a book, who writes on Facebook how much they loved a favorite novel, follows a blog or writes a review on Amazon for a book they enjoyed, is a literary citizen. More than that, literary citizenship spreads the word about authors we greatly appreciate for influencing us, for showing yo what works for some and doesn’t for others. This is a choice, a responsibility as a writer yes, but a choice nonetheless. I choose to post a million times about how much I love Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and Jane Austen, or how I just discovered T.S. Eliot on Facebook. We will always have time to write, so long as we make the effort to do it. No one takes that from us.


So, to the critic who said that,


SHUT UP!


You obviously have no passport to our awesome universe.


Or you haven’t bothered to use it.


I pity you.


We are awesomeness incarnate because we do what we do. We write, we dream, we love a book and share it on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr and you are a hater.


Yeah, I totally wrote that.


In regards, to an earlier note I wanted to address an interesting blog article someone wrote, but for the life of me the title escapes me (sorry!). In it a blogger mentioned literary citizenship was about reciprocation. I fully agree. She also mentioned that some people have a tendency to take advantage of this. This surprised me.


There was an instance where she had promoted a fellow writer, blogging about how wonderfully they were doing and she had (I may be mistaken) read a manuscript of their’s or something to that effect. Anyway, suffice it to say, someone messaged her/emailed her and said “Hey, you should look at my work and tell me what you think.”


Most people have friends in the writing world. It’s common. You’re bound to meet people with similar or vastly different interests and become friends/harshest critics. You have close circles, close friends who you want to be supportive of. These are relationships that have been established over time and you’ve learned to appreciate each others opinions. The author/blogger was surprised to get a second angry email about how she never responded to the first as well as how she was unfair in promoting a friends work and not their own.


When I say promotion, I use the term loosely, mind you. When I say promote, I mean she talked about it, mentioned it (possibly in passing) was congratulating a friend or even as a favor to her writer friend looked over a piece of work and wrote about it.


Do not be that person.


Don’t be that random person that gets angry because a complete stranger won’t read your work. People are busy. People have friends. And to be honest, would you read a strangers work if they randomly said to do so?


Some people try to take advantage of literary citizenship and this isn’t cool. The point of literary citizenship is to get to know people, to understand them, their work, their style and appreciate what they offer to the worlds you inhabit. There is nothing wrong with writing to an author and saying their wonderful, to talk about their book or story. It is wrong however, to think that because you spoke to someone once or twice they are obligated as a literary citizen to help you, to promote you, to do something for you because it’s their responsibility. That’s not true. It’s just not. Literary citizenship is a choice, you can inhabit this world and be our friend. You can come here and share your knowledge and meet like minded folks or you can come here to get ahead in the world. If the latter is the case, then you maybe you’re doing this for the wrong reasons. That’s certainly not what I’m here for. Having connections never hurts anyone, but if that’s all you concentrate on, then the relationships you’ve established are cold and hollow. You are going to lonely in the most soulful crowd you’ll ever be a part of.


If you are here because you genuinely want to be. If you are here to make friends and learn the ways of writers/authors, publishers, readers, imagineers and dreamers, then welcome.


Welcome to literary citizenship. Welcome to literary world.

A Short While (in the MFA part 2)

I’ve had a good while to think about what to write and share with you guys about being in the MFA thus far. The last time I wrote it was about how I was adjusting after the first month since my undergrad. It was hectic, and sometimes it still is, however I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it.

My professors are still insane, I’ve become a bit more sociable with my classmates, and I make sure that I got to school three hours early.

Because, quite frankly, the transportation system cannot be trusted.

This I firmly believe.

Otherwise, I’ve learned some things that I thought I might share with you, both regarding my experience as a student and as a writer in these last few weeks.

One: Getting a job is difficult.

I mean, unbelievably so. I had the hardest time just trying to get a job washing dishes, and I’ve done that for three years in a dining hall! For there being so many jobs out there, it’s ridiculous. But I did find one eventually which isn’t bad at all. It’s only part time working with admin and quite frankly, the people are wonderful. I often try to consider what I want to do with my degree in the future and I wouldn’t mind the idea of working at a college. That’s what most do with an MFA nowadays and it’s not such a bad idea. I think it’d be a fun experience and I’d get to interact with people on a daily basis. Plus, talking to other writers about what they’re working on and exchanging ideas can never go wrong. Usually.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks I’ve been through levels of hell and back. The transportation system will always be a pain, but I’ve continued to enjoy my class, and that’s what counts.

Two: Decisions

For a while I kept saying (in my head) that I would try this out for a year and if I didn’t like it or couldn’t handle it, then I would quit. I, too, have had my doubts about my decision to continue my education. Graduate school isn’t cheap. But if you think about it in terms of experience, then I’ve gained a lot more than I would have on my own. I’ve met several authors, mostly poets, and they’re not what expected. I suppose I had this childlike idea that professional writers were like how you saw teachers in middle school. They taught and went home, taught and went home, until you saw them at the grocery store with their significant other. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David Ryan (Fiction author/Editor of Post Road Magazine) and Nick Flynn (Poet/Author/Musician). They blow away my expectations and that childlike perception. They’re actually really laid back…it’s almost scary. Almost. Mostly it’s funny and genuinely writers today are pretty cool.

We don’t bite, I swear.

Three: The idea that maturity is best and that it’s required is a no brainer for writers.

Taking classes here has made me grow up, in a sense. This is what we need, both as individuals and as writers. It’s especially important with our writing. As writers we have to face the reality that it’s going to take a while for us to get as good as we’d like to see. There are a lot of talented writers out there, many of which are probably better than we are. But the point is that we keep trying, we keep writing because no one writes the way we do. No one sees the world the way we do, and that is something no one can take from you.

And let them be damned if they ever try.

Four: What You Take

The idea that everything has been done is undeniable, but the ability to make the experience unique is incredible. That is what we do as writers. I’ve learned tons of things that have helped me in the last month from Resistance (why we can’t write) to Defamiliarization (making familiar stories unique). They changed my perception and my focus regarding what is important in the text. There is more to a piece of writing then getting a good story across. You have to ask: Are the characters believable? Is the dialogue authentic? Am I giving enough information? Is the conflict coming in too soon? There’s also the question of rhythm, tone and mood being expressed. A million things go into your writing.

Five: Writing Process

When you write, I’ve been told that we tend to write as if we are telling ourselves a story. We write the first draft and we focus on who’s going to read it. Usually, it’s someone like you–the writer. Editing, the second phase, is the time where you stop that idea, stomp it into the ground, smack it a couple times as you hoist it into the air and throw it out the window. You get rid of it and become objective, maybe take a week away from the piece and come back to it with new expectations or ideas. Writing is a never ending process and sometimes even the best of us need an outside perspective. Distancing yourself from a piece, taking a break from it is never bad. Work on something else in the meantime. I was told by my professor that having more than one piece to work on at a time is never a bad thing. It just means you have ideas.

And you can never go wrong with too many ideas.

The MFA program has made me realize that I can’t do this on my own. I need to have a group of people, hell even one person, to help me see the best and the worst in my work. I take a workshop class once a week and all we do is talk about two classmates’ works. We sit for two hours in a classroom discussing what works and what needs improvement in their manuscript. Everyone has a perspective, a way of reading, a way of picking details out that not everyone else can see, even you as a writer. Having this group has helped me better my writing, narrow down what I want to say and be clearer for my reader. Because although we are trying to fulfill this innate desire to write, we are really doing all of this for just one person to read our work.

Six: The Ultimate Goal

Realize that we’re doing this for our future readers.

To You Reading This

I guess some might say “This should be obvious to you because you’re a writer.”

Sometimes, however, it needs to be seen in action. Words aren’t the only way people learn, even I know that, and words are my life. The point I want to make is that for me, the MFA has been a great learning experience. Maybe I could have learned all of this on my own in a library, and that’s fine, too. But this was my decision.

I only ask that you take from it what you will and be the best writer you can dream up.

Signed,

D.Arlene

 

P.S.

I plan on sharing some of what I learned in another post, so look forward to it in two weeks time.

See you soon.

A Brief Walk (179 words)

My shoes step onto the grass as I walk along the road.

I should have worn a different pair of pants. 

I wanted to look more mature today. The green pine trees alongside me change hues, from light to dark. The black tar road to my left shows off its highlighter yellow stripes. My shirt looks like the road. It’s too dark.

I should have gone with a brighter color. 

I look towards the tree tops. Orange, lime green, dark green, and brown—light brown. Maybe blue would have been better.

Ugh. I don’t know anymore. 

I scratch my head and trip a bit on the loose ground. A car passes by. I tried to look good for picture day today.

I hope it came out okay.

The road curves and I walk on the edge between the tar and the dirt ground.

I wonder what the picture will look like. I glance at a huge pine tree ahead. It’s bark nearly invisible, guarded by the foliage—but the tip—it’s higher than any in the wood.

I wanted to look older.