So Many Dreams, So Little Time…

This article is reposted with permission from Writing-World.com100_0990

by Moira Allen

I’ve written before about the myths that surround the idea of “being a writer.”  All too often, we imagine that a “writer” is so many things that we are not — and because we don’t measure up to our own idealized view of “what a writer is,” we assume we aren’t REALLY writers.  This problem tends to plague us no matter how much we’ve actually written; even experienced writers tend to measure themselves against myths rather than realities!

One myth that plagues writers is the myth of the “One Dream.”  Real writers, we often assume, are driven by this “one dream” — the dream of BEING a writer.  That dream is more important, more powerful, more motivating than any other force or desire in a writer’s life.  It’s the dream that keeps you writing, no matter what.  It’s the desire that outweighs all other desires, the burning  hunger, the aching need, the… well, you get my drift.

It’s a bit like Frodo’s “One Ring” — the ring that rules, and binds, them all.

The flip side of this myth, of course, is the notion that if you AREN’T driven by this single, all-encompassing dream, you aren’t really a 100% motivated writer.  Oh, sure, you may WRITE, but you’re not consumed by the passion for writing — you’re not giving it your all.  If you’ve bought into the one-dream myth, you may assume that if writing isn’t the most important thing in your life (as measured by your devotion to it), you don’t “have what it takes,” and you’re doomed to failure.  (Or, at least, to the mid-lists.)

There may certainly be writers out there who have one dream, and one dream only.  But in talking to writers from all walks of life and from all around the world, I’ve begun to see how dangerous this myth is.  Because MOST of us are, let’s face it, basically “ordinary” people.  We aren’t starving artists laboring by candle-light in a garret on the Left Bank, swilling absinthe to fuel the muse.  We’re spouses.  We’re parents.  We’re employees.

We’re homemakers.  We’re students. We’re teachers.  We run businesses, volunteer, work out.  We have cats, dogs, budgies, hobbies.  We have many hats.  And we have many dreams.

For example, one dear friend has, after years of striving, found herself achieving her dream of a successful illustrating career.

Suddenly, she says, she has more offers than she can handle.  This is the fulfillment of a dream — but ironically, she says, it means her dream of becoming a novelist must go on hold.  “People are surprised to hear that I’m also a writer!” she tells me.

As another example, our intrepid newsletter editor put her writing dreams on hold for a couple of years so that she could focus on home-schooling her daughter.  For her, the dream of ensuring that her daughter had the best possible education — which, in turn, involves the dream of giving her daughter the best possible chances for the future — took precedence over the dream of writing that novel.

book stackFor many, the dream of making a better life for oneself or one’s family — or, in these troubled times, just ensuring that one keeps a roof overhead and food on the table — outweighs the dream of “being a writer.”  If we have families and loved ones, our dreams typically focus on their well-being and happiness as well as our own goals and desires.  Often, those dreams are time-sensitive: We can’t put a child’s future “on hold” while writing a novel, so more often than not, it’s the novel that goes on hold while we give our children the love, skills, and support they’ll need to be able to pursue their OWN dreams down the road.

Besides having dreams, we also have what Patricia Fry describes in her new newsletter as “passions.”  (Find out more about Patricia’s new newsletter, “Publishing/Marketing News and Views,” at

http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/?page_id=2727.)

Passions are a bit different from dreams, as they tend to involve the here-and-now, rather than long-term goals.  But they are no less important.  Fry mentions her passion for cats, walking, and writing.  My husband has a passion for archaeology; I have a passion for photography.  He plays computer games; I collect Victorian magazines.  We’re both just a wee bit obsessive about our cat.  Most writers have a passion for reading (when my sister asked how I “found so much time for reading,” I thought, if I had to explain it, she’d never understand!).  Passions are a part of what defines us.  Like dreams, they help us define what “matters” in life, and where we’re willing to invest our time, energy and resources.

But there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a year.

Having multiple dreams and multiple passions means making multiple trade-offs.  Inevitably, that means that some dreams (and perhaps some passions) get postponed, put on hold, shifted to the back burner.  Some dreams (like raising a child) are time-sensitive; when their window is gone, it’s gone.  Other dreams may be unattainable until more time has passed — until one has learned a skill, overcome an obstacle, or just reached a different place in life.

And here’s where it gets sticky for writers.  Too often, when our career isn’t where we want it to be, or where we think it ought to be, we assume the fault is “lack of motivation.”  If I really, REALLY wanted to be a writer, more than anything else in the world, I’d be writing more.  I’d be farther along in my novel.  I’d be published by now.  I’d… well, I’d be somewhere I’m not.  And once we assume that we WOULD be “somewhere else” in our writing career if writing were truly that important to us, it’s easy to assume that, because we’re NOT “there” yet (wherever “there” is), that must mean writing ISN’T that important.  And if it isn’t — if it’s not our all-consuming dream, desire and passion — then perhaps that means we’re not cut out to be “real” writers.

If this sounds at all like you, then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and look seriously at your dreams — ALL of them.

Perhaps you haven’t even thought of what you’re doing as pursuing a dream — educating your child, for example.  You just know that it’s important, perhaps more important than anything else.  Or, perhaps, you’ll find that you’re pursuing dreams that no longer have as much meaning, that have become a habit, and that could be put aside for something else.  But you’re certainly going to find out that you have, not just one, but many dreams — and many that are truly important and worthwhile.

The myth of the single-minded writer who lives to pursue one dream and one only may indeed apply to some.  Most of us, however, are not so much single-minded as “multi-faceted.”  And I can’t help but believe that, though it can be frustrating at times, it’s also a useful quality.  A writer who has many dreams, many passions, and many things going on in life is one who will, ultimately, have a great deal to say!

Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com (http://www.writing-world.com) and the author of more than 350 published articles. Her books on writing include Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests.

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 6:45 am  Comments (1)  

Fun Facts Trivia

  • The first novel ever written on a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyertypewriter-clip-art
  • Dr. Seuss coined the word “nerd” in his 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo.
  • It’s estimated that more than 6 billion copies of The Bible have been printed.
  • The Bible is the most shoplifted book in the United States.
  • “Pennsylvania” is missing an “n” and thus misspelled on the Liberty Bell.
  • The longest one-syllable word in the English language is “screeched.”
  •  All of the clocks in Pulp Fiction are stuck on 4:20.
  •  No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple.
  •  “Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”.
  • “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.” —   Groucho Marx

Where Do Story Ideas Come From?

Student_Needs_HelpIdeas can come from anywhere…like the piece of family history that my grandmother rode bucking stock in rodeos. Or a newspaper story, like the one my author friend Maryann Miller found: when a woman died and authorities went into her home, they found skeletons of babies in boxes in her attic. This resulted in her novel Boxes for Beds.

But when you are truly “stuck,” here are some websites I’ve read about that might help.

The Story Starter http://www.thestorystarter.com/  This is as simple as it gets. Click a button, and you can get a first sentence for your story.

Random Story Generator http://www.school-for-champions.com/fiction/random_story.htm  This site shows you a simple plot, and illustrates it with the help of a random story.

Serendipity http://nine.frenchboys.net/ Generators for names, stories, places, and characters. The generated content isn’t too long,  just a couple sentences to get your brain kicking.

Seventh Sanctum http://www.seventhsanctum.com/  Tons of story generators. They have the usual name, character, and story generators, but they also have generators for things like equipment (magic items, weapons and so on), powers (super powers, special abilities and so forth), and even a technology generator for the gadget lovers.

How about you? Where do your ideas come from? Have you found story prompts and generators helpful?

Published in: on September 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

Words for Writers

Here is a list of some important and interesting words for writers to think about, know and use. Have fun!

ACTION:  Action and plot grow out of compelling, interesting characters.  Suspense, action, and conflict are what keep the reader interested.  Action is presenting the real life evidence through characters, by showing, not telling the story.

BEATS: Beats can be the little bits of action interspersed through a scene, especially in dialogue. For example:

“I don’t even want to go there,” I said.

He laid a hand on my arm. “You want me to drive?”

CONSONANCE:  Is the close repetition of the same consonants of stressed syllables, especially at the end of words, with differing vowel sounds.  Example: Boat and Night.Ear

DISSONANCE: Is a mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds that are grating to the ear.  Often used to create a disturbing or tumultuous atmosphere or confusion or bewilderment in poetry.

EUPHONY:  Is the harmony or beauty of a sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear.  It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.

FLASHBACK: A window to your character’s past.  A flashback gives you a way to “show” your character’s past through a scene without “telling” the story through narration.  Be very careful in using these so it doesn’t “bump” the reader out of the action & story flow while you are explaining what happened sometime in the past. It can be passive. Keep it very brief and try to use a sense to trigger the memory, e.g. a smell or a sound, etc.

HOMOPHONE:  Is a word that has the same in sound as another word, but different spelling and meaning.  (For example: Pair as in set of two, and pear as in edible fruit.)

METAPHOR:  An analogy between two objects or ideas when you say one item IS another. For example: “Then it was there alongside, the locomotive a sudden tornado, black, huge, screaming…”  A SIMILE is saying something is LIKE another: “The bird’s wings were blue as the sky.”

ONOMATOPOEIA:  Words that imitate sounds, or any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.  Using words like a musical instrument to create a specific sound. For example: the words “Splash” or “Plop.”

PARADOX:  Is a statement that contains seemingly contradictory elements or appears contradictory to common sense, yet can be true when viewed from another angle. A good character trait to experiment with.

STORY LINE:  The plot of a book, film, or dramatic work.

THEME:  An idea, point of view, or perception expressed as a phrase, proposition, or question.  The root or core of what is expressed.

VISION:  A mental image produced by imagination. How someone sees or conceives of something.  Discernment or perception; intelligent foresight. The mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes of characters within your writing.

Published in: on May 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

32 Great Reasons to Read Good Book

by John Kremer

Here are 32 great reasons to read more books. Please share.Book pile_reading

To escape your normal life.

To travel to real destinations.

To explore new worlds.

To imagine more than you could on your own.

To understand something new.

To understand something old.

To connect with the author.

To connect with other readers.

Book and contentsTo dream a new life.

To compare dreams, realities, and in-between.

To laugh and enjoy.

To deepen your understanding and insight.

To know more than you could learn on your own.

To learn what you don’t know.

To learn what you do know.

To discover something extraordinary.

To meet incredible characters.

To build a larger vocabulary.

To cry after a great read.

To be entertained by a great story.

To relax with a great storyteller.

To stimulate thought.

To grow your spirit.

To find motivation to do more.

To go on a great adventure.

To learn how others live or have lived.

To expand your horizons.Giant notebook_pencil

To explore inner dimensions.

To educate yourself.

To inspire your own writing.

To learn how to change the world.

To discuss in a reading group.

To share a good book with your friends.

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 6:03 am  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Why Write a Memoir?

You may say, “I’m too young” or “My life is boring,” but you might be surprised.

What seems like mundane everyday life may very well be utterly fascinating to your grandchildren. For example, my grandmother rode steers in rodeos. That was a bit unusual, but still, when I found her journal from the 1940s that maybe listed only one item on a day: “Gathered seven eggs today” or “Rained today” or “Stayed in bed with a sick headache,” I felt like I’d gotten to know her a little better. I surmised she suffered from migraines. Having gone through a period of time when I had those terrible headaches, I could identify with what she went through.

A memoir is not the same as an autobiography. It can be a story based on one incident or one year or one decade of your life. It can have a theme, a storyline, a message, a lesson learned.

An autobiography is your whole life story, from beginning to end. Either version is important, because I see so much family history being lost. We don’t write letters anymore and I don’t know how many people keep journals. When I was young, I heard stories about my grandparents or parents when they were growing up and more or less dismissed them as just “that story grandpa always tells.” But after they had passed and I was older, I’ve so often wished I could hear those stories again and ask them more questions.

Even if you simply make a list of events or a chronological timeline of your life (or your parents’ or grandparents’ lives), that is something your descendents can draw on.

Image from Flikr Creative Commons via Scott Davies

Image from Flikr Creative Commons via Scott Davies

To start, I recommend writing down 5-10 ideas. That’s a great start. Continue to add to that list as you go about your day and your week. Keep a small notebook with you to jot down ideas, notes, impressions, descriptions, etc. Write down two or three quick phrases that come to mind. Keep the thoughts loose. Maybe just write, “Trip to Cape May with the cousins” or “Hunting snakes with Dad.” Maybe a few more will come to you – write those down, too.

One of those notes may start to take shape in your mind. Try to remember the specific details—the weather that day, what you were wearing, how you felt doing that activity or being with those people. Just keep writing phrases and don’t worry about making it feel like a story just yet. You might write, “Hot weather and lots of mosquitoes at the beach. Kids in the water all day long. Everyone got sunburned.” Later, you can fill in the transitions and descriptions that make this story feel like a whole narrative.

Another good way to get ideas is to go through old pictures or albums and make some of the same notes as you remember—what you were doing that day, why you were smiling and your brother wasn’t, etc.

Give it a try. You may get hooked on the memoir.

Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 5:28 am  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , ,

English Can be a Foreign Language

I’ve often scratched my head, thinking how difficult English must be to learn. This post exemplifies some our language quirks. I don’t know where this originated, but possibly a bored, retired English teacher?  It must have taken a lot of work to put together!

You think English is easy??

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to  desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row .

13) They were too close to the door to close   it.

14) The buck does  funny things when the does  are present.

15) A seamstress and a  sewer fell down into a sewer   line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate  friend?

Let’s face it, English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England , nor French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing , grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth,   beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital, ship by truck and send cargo by ship, have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down; you fill in a form by filling it out; an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. – Why doesn’t   ‘Buick’   rhyme with   ‘quick’ ?

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

13 Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

We all have something that trips us up, grammar-wise, in writing, whether it’s the use of lie/lay or adding apostrophes with plurals. I want to share a wonderful resource with you, Mignon Fogerty’s GrammarGirl . Here is an article she wrote for Writers Digest, “The 13 Trickiest Grammar Hang-Ups.”

by Mignon Fogerty

I trust that you all know the difference between who and whom, and I trust that typos are the only reason you use the wrong it’s. It happens to the best of us. For most writers, if you can just maintain your focus (perhaps with caffeine and frequent breaks), you’ll get the basics right. The following problems, however, may have you scrambling for a refresher.

1. Half can be both singular and plural.

Typically, subjects and verbs agree: If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb is plural. Easy peasy. However, sentences that start with half don’t follow this rule.

Half alone is singular: My half of the pizza is pepperoni. Yet although half is the subject in a sentence such as Half of the pizzas are missing, we use a plural verb because of something called notional agreement. It simply means that although half is singular, half of the pizzas has a notion of being plural, so you use a plural verb. Follow this rule when half is the subject of a sentence: If half is followed by a singular noun, use a singular verb. If half is followed by a plural noun, use a plural verb. Half of the pepperoni is ruined, but half of the tomatoes are missing.

Compound words that start with half are quirky too. They can be open, closed or hyphenated (e.g., half note, halfhearted, half-baked). There’s no rule that applies across the board, so you’ll have to check a dictionary.

For more tips, go to the article at Writers Digest.

Wasted Words

 

As writers we are told to avoid clichés, to come up with a new and better way to describe and characterize.

Here are some of my pet peeves:

  • Irregardless. It’s just plain regardless.
  • We’ll meet at 9 a.m. in the morning. As opposed to 9 a.m. in the evening?
  • The good doctor. Maybe he’s a bad doctor.
  • Very unique. Unique is a word unto itself. It doesn’t need any qualifiers. What is fairly unique? Uniquely unique?
  • At this point in time. Where else would it be?
  • At the end of the day. Probably a good phrase the first 5 times it was used, but now…sick of it!
  • Think outside the box. Again a good one the first 10 times, but…
  • I personally believe. As opposed to I impersonally believe?
  • It is what it is. Huh?
  • To be honest. That makes me think you might NOT be!

 

BBC’s Magazine has posted a funny list of its readers’ most hated cliché phrases.

To be honest and fair, going forward, this is basically something that, at the end of the day, we’re likely to touch base about again.

Let’s face it, the fact of the matter is that literally all of us succumb to the use of these stock phrases — even when bringing our A game and giving 110%.

What are your most hated clichés — and how do you avoid them?

 

 

Published in: on September 21, 2012 at 6:30 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

Favorite Quotes About Writing

I love collecting great quotes about writing. Here are ten I’ve culled from Zachary Petit‘s “72 of the Best Quotes About Writing” for Writers Digest

1. “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
Philip Roth

2. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Stephen King

3. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
George Orwell

4. “Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life.”
Hunter S. Thompson

5. “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
Roald Dahl, WD


—Ernest Hemingway

7. “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
Virginia Woolf

8. “If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke

9. “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
Catherine Drinker Bowen

10. “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Samuel Johnson

And a bonus quote I love:

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. Elmore Leonard

%d bloggers like this: