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Archive for September, 2013

On life and writing: disconnect to connect

September 27, 2013 31 comments

Ever feel connected to the world through your iPhone, or even your iPad? You can pretty much do anything with these devices: play games, read the news, send and receive email, check Facebook. Know what you can’t do with a smart phone? Well, watch this great video and find out.

As time goes by, I feel myself wanting to pull away from technology and spend more time in the real world. You know, that place where we all spent our time long before instant connection, instant communication, and constant interruption? As the video illustrates so well, as we are absorbed by our technology (or assimilated for those STTNG fans out there), we become disconnected from one another, and soon, our focus shifts from the world in which we live, and the people we love, to our gadgets. Eventually, for all practical purposes, we end up alone in a world of our own making, a world consisting of the Internet and everyone except those who are actually physically present with you. And sometimes, it can get even worse. Read this post to see how.

We writers should take note. For us, it’s especially important we take in the world around us — people, places, things — and use it to create stories filled with characters and places and events made real by that which we’ve experienced firsthand. Sure, there’s a place for the Internet and those gadgets we all love to own (click here to see my own technology obsession). They’re great for helping with research, keeping up with the news, reading about new things and new ideas, and providing a little entertainment. It’s only when our digital world becomes more important than the real world that we run into trouble.

Is anything worth losing the connection with those closest to us?

–dp

On writing: show … don’t tell

September 25, 2013 12 comments

Show, don’t tell. Show, don’t tell. That’s the mantra, right? Well, I read the following quote today:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
– Anton Chekhov

Not sure why, but this quote really struck me. Perhaps it’s because the same old advice you hear, and often forget, is immediately followed with a wonderful example of how words can create images. If I can remember this quote every time I sit down to write, beautiful pictures just might spring forth from my fingertips.

–dp

On writing: slow down to speed up

September 18, 2013 25 comments

Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Write slower to write more. Yeah, didn’t seem reasonable to me, either … at first. But, after reading The Secret to Writing Faster, I thought a bit more about the proposition. And you know what? It makes sense.

If you didn’t go and read the article, I can summarize it by saying the author, Karen Dionne, believes that writing longhand can actually be faster, in the end, than using a computer. Pretty outlandish, huh? Well, not necessarily. Many years ago, I wrote a fair amount of my first novel by hand (I mention this briefly in an old blog post My first novel: a retrospective – part I) Though I didn’t expound much on the experience in the older post, I can say now that I did see some of the two main advantages Dionne describes in her article. She said that

My sentences are also cleaner. Because I write more slowly by hand than I can type, I give more thought to what I’m writing, and am thus more careful about what I put on page.

and

… that’s the corollary to writing faster. Slow down. Think about the words before you put them to paper, and the words you write are more likely to be ones that will stay.

Looking back, I can say I think this was true for me as well. Yes, I bemoaned the need for typing in all those well-crafted words after having already written them in notebooks, but I think overall the sentences and the story were better for having been written by hand. Now to be fair, even though I believe what I just said, I haven’t, as of yet, given up my MacBook and Scrivener.

Where I write

My Desk

It should be noted that the idea of writing slower can also be applied even when sitting in front of a computer and keyboard. It’s just harder, that’s all 🙂

So, anyone out there like to do things old-school? Done it before and hated it? Loved it? Never going to give up on the computer?

–dp

Couch to 5K – brief update

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday I completed my first run of week 4 (out of 8) using my couch to 5K iPhone app. This is the first week where I’ll spend more time running than walking. At first I was worried, but after yesterday, I think I’ll do fine. Even when the app told me it was time to stop, I felt like I could have kept on running. That was a good feeling.

I guess the guilt over the new shoes and the app is still working 🙂

–dp

What Not to Say – 5 Ways to Talk to Your Writer

September 7, 2013 4 comments

Good advice for those who have friends or family who write …

Word Savant

Snoopy-typing

As I read “Don’t Ask Me What I’m Writing” in the Sunday New York Times, I thought, “That is the worst question anyone can ask a writer.”

The question was, How is your novel going?

When someone asks me that question, I have the panicky feeling I used to get when I took a test and realized I didn’t study hard enough for it.

Slouka was writing specifically of what happens when a friend asks their writer this question within the first few months.

The novel is a new-born babe, a primitive and undeveloped idea in the writer’s mind. A well-intentioned friend might ask them, “How is the novel going?”

As Slouka points out this question is a double-edged sword that cuts both writer and well-meaning friend.

But no matter what the progress of the book, you can’t win with that kind of question.  I’ve been asked that question many…

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On writing: get lost

September 5, 2013 20 comments

The other day, I read an interesting article entitled, Letter to a Young Writer: ‘Get Lost’.

The subject of the article wasn’t new, but it was presented in a fresh way from a different perspective. It was written by a journalist, who after a number of years of writing articles for a newspaper, decided he wanted something more, something beyond just writing facts about the news. He wanted to do something creative.

After enrolling in a writing workshop and going through a number of exercises intended to spur creativity, the instructor gave an assignment consisting of daily unstructured writing, where all that was required was to type/write three pages of words. That’s it, just three pages. Oh, and you’re not to read what you’ve written. The idea behind this was, of course, to encourage people to sit and write, to put words to paper on a consistent basis, to get those creative juices flowing.

Most of us are familiar with this idea, and some of us actually put it into practice. Then there are some, like me, who are still finding their way through this thing called writing. It’s helpful to hear good ideas like this multiple times, because eventually they will sink in.

Some snippets from the article that caught my attention:

“In the creative process, the work of art comes from the process.”

“I found that my best sentence of the day almost always came after two or three pages of drivel. But I needed the drivel to get to it.”

“Now, when I feel stuck in a writing project or simply run out of ideas, I don’t panic, nor do I start trying to plan. I just sit down and start writing, confident that if I stick with it, I’ll lose my way and find my story.”

So now, the next time you feel like you’re struggling to get words out and onto the page, remember what the author of this article said:

“The best writing advice I ever got was to get lost.”

–dp

Couch to 5K update – short update

September 5, 2013 8 comments

Today was my first run of week 3 (out of 8) using my couch to 5K iPhone app. Felt pretty good today, too. I must admit to being surprised that this run felt better than the last run of week 2. Go figure. Anyway, I’m happy with my progress.

Oh, btw, I did get new running shoes *and* I bought the couch to 5K app. That should be enough guilt to keep me going for a while 🙂

–dp