Sylvia Plath and Catching Up to Shakespeare

“I’m chock-full of ideas for new poems. I can’t wait to get time to write them down. I can’t let Shakespeare get too far ahead of me, you know.”

— Sylvia Plath

They say every writer who wants to improve their craft has to be a reader first. While I haven’t always followed the advice to a tee—I haven’t always been a writer, or a reader, or both at once—I have found that when I have, reading only makes me feel more worthless, impotent, and my efforts futile. And now these feelings seem to have come to a head, and I have come to my wit’s end, now that I have had my first taste of Shakespeare.

Growing up my teachers tried to get me to appreciate his rich wordplay, lively relatable characters, and imaginative plots, but I struggled with the language and never got very far or very much out of Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet. I gave him another try this month with Twelfth Night, and now I know I should never have tried to be a writer at all.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. I try to read and learn from many of the greats, but each one only highlighted my ignorance more and more. I’ll never have even half the talent of these authors. I will never write anything so moving, and I will never be known or remembered, so I should just give up, and sometimes I do.

Still, no matter how discouraged I get I still love writing and can’t seem to quit her entirely. So, I’m here again, lost and exhausted of my own faults but looking to try something new.

I’m far from being chock full of ideas though. I once was, and I hope to be again someday, but self-doubt is a hell of a drug, and I don’t know how to kick the nasty habit. Even when the words come slow, they still come, just never the ones I want. Never the ones I had always wanted to write. I gave up on all my dreams because I know I can never tell the story the way it appears to my mind’s eye and I can never teach the people what I know is right in my heart.

Where have all my ideas and ambitions gone? I have a feeling they are still there floating in the shadow of my self-consciousness. I suppose courage is what will get them back into the light. I suppose when you believe you can do things, or at least when you don’t know that the things you might do could be ugly, or stupid, or that you might one day lose interest or fail to finish things, there is no end to what you might do. But, it’s nearly impossible to unsee what is now painfully obvious.

And even if I was all wrong about my own ability and it was all just a matter of learning, of cracking the code and finding my voice and a good muse, I’m still far too far behind to ever catch up. I’m too old to learn new tricks. I’m too old to race the young, the strong, the flexible but maybe I’m looking at the race all wrong.

They say that practice makes perfect, but my practice rarely results in progress, let alone perfection. I’ve read that in order to get better you have to fail more and fail better, and that sounds a little more up my alley. That is how I can catch up to Plath, and Woolf, and Austen, and maybe even Shakespeare himself one day. I will embrace my fear and run by failure instead. I know I have enough failure in me to fuel a lifetime of work and more. I will stop trying to be as good as everyone else and fail the very best that I can instead.

And once you have set your heart on spectacular failure suddenly the ideas come by the dozen, and the words flow free as rivers. If I’m going to fail anyway, I can at least make it look good. If I am going to fail anyway, I might as well express myself, and tell the absolute truth. If I am going to fail anyway I might as well fail every single day and make it big, and bold, and bright! If I am going to fail anyway, I might as well make it my own and share every catastrophe with you.

I might as well be a proud failure considering failing is better than never trying at all and if I am so sure I’ll never be successful I should work to collect the same weight in flops and defeats, yes?

So, I have a new mission it seems, to fail more and better than anyone else. To earn even the possibility of my name among those greats by a paying in rejections, criticisms, and loss.

I’ll need a list, notebooks long with no two items the same, of ways I want to fail is what I want to work on now. I want each line to be a bigger and more impressive way to fail than then the last, and I have to start with them straight away!

It won’t be a hard task I’m sure. There are infinite ways to write failures out of short stories, essays, poems, hell, there are whole books I feel floating around inside my head I can fail at too. No, Shakespeare won’t get too far ahead of me now, nor Plath, nor Woolf, nor Austen or any of the rest.

I have them in my sights now as none of them could dream to fail like me!


U1889231Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer.

Known primarily for her poetry, Plath also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The plot parallels Plath’s experience interning at Mademoiselle magazine and subsequent mental breakdown and suicide attempt.

Along with Anne Sexton, Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry initiated by Robert Lowell and W.D. Snodgrass. Despite her remarkable artistic, academic, and social success at Smith, Plath suffered from severe depression and underwent a period of psychiatric hospitalization. She graduated from Smith with highest honors in 1955 and went on to Newnham College, Cambridge, in England, on a Fulbright fellowship. Here she met and married the English poet Ted Hughes in 1956. For the following two years she was an instructor in English at Smith College.

In 1960, shortly after Plath and Hughes returned to England from America, her first collection of poems appeared as The Colossus. She also gave birth to a daughter, Frieda Rebecca. Hughes’ and Plath’s son, Nicholas Farrar, was born in 1962.

Plath took her own life on the morning of February 11, 1963. Leaving out bread and milk, she completely sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with “wet towels and cloths.” Plath then placed her head in the oven while the gas was turned on.


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Anxiety into Art

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for feeling tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Mondays are do-overs, each one is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

This Monday is a hard one, I won’t lie. I spent a portion of the weekend in the doctor’s office afraid and in pain. I am okay now, mostly. My symptoms are still here, but I got the reassurance I was seeking. I will be fine for now. I came away with information and medication and a whole lot to think about. I’m feeling just a little better today, but I am on edge, wondering when it will get bad again.

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”

― T.S. Eliot

My anxiety, as a result of all these health issues, has been uncontrollable. I worry about my body. I worry about medication. I worry about what I am eating. Food has become my enemy, and every meal is stressful. I worry about how I am impacting others and what people think of me. I worry about work and how I can cope away from home.

Breathing isn’t working. I am losing sleep, and I feel myself becoming isolated. In just a few weeks I have stopped writing almost entirely because I am either too tired or worrying so much I can’t focus. I miss writing, even just for myself. I want to do something I love again.

So why can’t I use this pain and anxiety for writing, for art? I can’t breathe or meditate my way out, maybe I need the opposite. Maybe I need something that requires more effort. Maybe I need to pull my pain out by hand. Maybe I need to dig deep in the dark and work for my relief.

Maybe I need to fight for it.

I don’t know exactly what form this writing will take or where it will go, but I think it’s just what I need. It feels right to hurt through writing and sharing rather than all alone and in my own head.

This week, if you’ve been feeling anxious, afraid, angry, or alone, pull that pain out and make something of it. Push, push, push yourself to move forward until you feel better or you collapse in exhaustion. Then get back up when you can and make something more. Write, paint, and sing all about what hurt and don’t worry about what people will think or what it all means. Just express yourself.

Take what you hate about yourself, what you work so hard to control, and let if fuel your creativity. If nothing else it will at least be a change of pace and offer some distraction.

You might even be able to work magic, do the impossible, and turn hurt into hope and joy.


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Use Your Art to Fight Back

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for feeling tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Mondays are do-overs, each one is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, this Monday has been off to a rather plain and average start. Actually, thinking back just now it’s been a rather good start to the week, in the way that no news can be good news. Nothing has gone wrong. The weather is beautiful. I’m somewhat motivated, or at least I am optimistic. Plus, I have a few things to look forward to, like a movie party this Friday and a three-day weekend.

I do have a lot going on in my head, a lot of worries, anticipation, a whole lot of questions, and a few attempts at answers. I’m hoping it all can be leveraged for writing.

I’m learning to love my inner turmoil.

“Anytime you start to feel overwhelmed by the shitshow that is humanity’s impact on people, animals, and the planet, anytime you see that sentient cheeto’s awful face, anytime you think you cannot leave the house because the world is too hard, think about the art, performance, music, books, films, that made you want to be alive. Think  about how those artists, like you, felt overwhelmed by their life and time but they made the thing anyway. Your future audiences need your work.”

Beth Pickens, from her zine Making Art During Fascism. If you would like a copy just contact her and let her know, she’ll send you the PDF for free.

Last Friday I spent the later part of the day catching up on podcasts, and one of my favorites—Call Your Girlfriend—featured an interview with art consultant Beth Pickens who talked about creating and being creative as a form of political engagement.

Since the election, so many of us feel lost. Battles we thought we had won must be fought all over again even as new obstacles appear on the horizon. We may be feeling a little discouraged, run down, depressed, and angry. I know I am.

I want to do something, but I don’t know what. I don’t have a ton of money or time to give, and I feel bad for being unsure if I should give at all. My girlfriend and I are trying to plan a wedding, we have a house that needs work, and we are thinking about kids….one day, maybe. We have a dream and a plan, and I had hoped to put every dollar and minute toward that goal.

I feel selfish for saying that.

What kind of person am I that I can’t pull back from my personal life and look at the big picture. So many people throughout history gave their time and money so that I could live a better life, I should do the same. I should give back. But every time I think that I think of my girlfriend and the future we want and I can’t break the promise I made to her that we would have that perfect home and family one day, and I go on feeling bad.

But then I heard Beth Pickens talking about art, and her zine, and after, I contacted her and asked for a copy. I printed and folded it at work and read it as soon as I got home.

In it there is a questionnaire and a lot of it focuses on what you can give through your art. There is even a question about what you are not willing to give. It’s about how you should just keep doing what you are doing and do it for yourself and for the cause. It’s about doing what feels right.

Reading this little pamphlet made me realize that what I am already doing can help. I am already fighting, and I can fight even harder by using my love for words and art. I may not be the best, and I might not have the biggest audience, but what I have is valuable, and the people that follow me care. I can share my story, and I can share other stories. I can let people know I am here, that I am with them, and that I feel the way they feel.

I can spread hope, information, and encouragement.

So, this week:

Make art for self-care. The world is a harsh place and being alive is a hard thing to do. Life is confusing and terrifying, and so often sad. Art helps us express how we feel, and in doing so, we release something that was hurting us and find others who feel the same way. Art leads to comfort and community.

Make art to provide a service. One of the best ways to care for ourselves is to take the time to care for other people. Art can help people. Offer your services for a cause. Use your preferred media to raise awareness. Use your art to help someone else do good in the world.

Make art to explain what is happening. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around where we are in this country. Scientist and journalists do their best to get the information to us, but there are things about humans that are better explained through art and poetry than reporting.

Make art to teach people how to live. Humans can never be perfect but the more we know, the better we are. Art can bring each of us into worlds and experiences we would never encounter. Art can teach us how to live together in compassion and consideration.

Make art to fight back. There will always be people who want to make the world in their image and to them what is different is scary and cannot be allowed to exist. Make art and show them that you and many people like you are here and we are not giving up. Make art that is loud. Make art they cannot ignore. Make art that will make them think.

I am making art, through words and through pictures, not just this week but all year, because art is the path I hope will lead to the realization my personal dreams. I am going to create art and share it wherever I can to speak up and stand up for what I believe in. The world needs art, more now than ever, and I want to do my part.

The world needs artists, like you, now more than ever, to fight back.


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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Clifford D. Simak

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a bit too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event that calls on bloggers share their favorite quotes to inspire and motivate one another.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the American science fiction writer Clifford D. Simak.

Simak was born in Millville, Wisconsin on August 3rd, 1904, the son of John Lewis and Margaret (Wiseman) Simak. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and later worked at various newspapers in the Midwest. He began a lifelong association with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in 1939, which continued until his retirement in 1976.

23012He married Agnes Kuchenberg in 1929, and they had two children. In a blurb in Time and Again he wrote, “I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-three years and have two children. My favorite recreation is fishing (the lazy way, lying in a boat and letting them come to me). Hobbies: Chess, stamp collecting, growing roses.” He dedicated the book to his wife Kay, “without whom I’d never have written a line.” He was well liked by many of his science fiction cohorts, especially Isaac Asimov.

Simak became interested in science fiction after reading the works of H. G. Wells as a child. His first contribution to the literature was “The World of the Red Sun,” published by Hugo Gernsback in the December 1931 issue of Wonder Stories with one opening illustration by Frank R. Paul. Within a year he placed three more stories in Gernsback’s pulp magazines and one in Astounding Stories, then edited by Harry Bates. But his only science fiction publication between 1932 and 1938 was The Creator, a notable story with religious implications, which was then rare in the genre.

Simak returned and was a regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction throughout the Golden Age of Science Fiction. During this period, Simak also published a number of war and western stories in pulp magazines. His best-known book may be City, a fix-up novel based on short stories with a common theme of mankind’s eventual exodus from Earth.

Simak continued to produce award-nominated novels, writing and publishing science fiction and, later, fantasy, into his 80s. He believed that science fiction not rooted in scientific fact was responsible for the failure of the genre to be taken seriously, and stated his aim was to make the genre a part of what he called “realistic fiction.”

He died in Minneapolis in 1988.

“I’m just a propagandist and a propagandist doesn’t have to know what he is talking about, just so he talks about it most convincingly.”

— Clifford D. Simak, Time and Again

All writers, all artists, are propagandists. We work to spread ideas about ourselves, and in doing so, about all people. We write about the past, present, or future, in ways that tell the truth of the events, not just the facts. We write about what right and wrong without giving clear answers. We write about what hurts and what feels good too so that you can experience all of life.

We spin lies and tales so well you can’t hope to decern what might be true or real. You give up and fall into our world where we catch and cradle you all the way. We spoon feed you exactly what we want you to think and feel and you love every bite.

The world needs more propagandists. The world needs people who will pick a side, take a stand, and inject some color and feeling into the cold hard facts of the world. Us creative types, for the most part, have good intentions. We would do it if it weren’t of the utmost importance, for us, for you, for the future. Lat us take you on a journey. Let us into your mind and heart, give us the benefit of the doubt. Believe every world and spread our gospel. We bring the truth.

We would never steer you wrong. It’s hard to be hateful when all you wish to do is express who we are. It’s hard to be hateful when all you want to do is tell the truth, even if you use lies to do it. It’s hard to be hateful when you are creating characters who must overcome and worlds where good must triumph. A propagandist takes his title seriously and works for your trust, and your repeat business.

If you are a peddler of truthful lies and big ideas yourself, be sure you know what you mean to say. Be certain you say it with confidence and be sure to say it again and again. Convince people, push people, drag them over to your side of things by any means necessary. Use all the tricks in the book but make sure you are authentic and true at least to yourself and your message. If you aren’t, you may lose them as fast as you can gain them.

Don’t worry so much about facts. Feel free to emphasize, exaggerate, and steer the story along in whatever direction you need it to go to show your reader what it is they cannot see. Feel free to make it all up as you go.

Don’t write what you know, write what you can imagine.

Embrace the propagandist inside yourself and release them in all your art.

Let them bring readers over to your cause.

P.S. I was very sorry to read that this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday event will be the last. I have enjoyed them immensely, so much so in fact, that I think I will continue to write them. I may change the format, and the frequency, but I will continue to feature writers and their advice regularly on this blog. Thank you for reading.


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Biographical information via Wikipedia

Original image via Unsplash

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // John Banville

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from John Banville.

Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children’s novel and a reminiscence of growing up in Wexford.

91Educated at a Christian Brothers’ school and St Peter’s College in Wexford. Despite having intended to be a painter and an architect he did not attend university. Banville has described this as “A great mistake. I should have gone. I regret not taking that four years of getting drunk and falling in love. But I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to be free.”

After school, he worked as a clerk at Aer Lingus, which allowed him to travel at deeply-discounted rates. He took advantage of this to travel in Greece and Italy. He lived in the United States during 1968 and 1969. On his return to Ireland, he became a sub-editor at the Irish Press, rising eventually to the position of chief sub-editor. His first book, Long Lankin, was published in 1970.

After the Irish Press collapsed in 1995, he became a sub-editor at the Irish Times. He was appointed literary editor in 1998. The Irish Times, too, suffered severe financial problems, and Banville was offered the choice of taking a redundancy package or working as a features department sub-editor. He left.

Banville has been a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books since 1990. In 1984, he was elected to Aosdána, but resigned in 2001, so that some other artist might be allowed to receive the cnuas.

Banville also writes under the pen name Benjamin Black. His first novel under this pen name was Christine Falls, which was followed by The Silver Swan in 2007. Banville has two adult sons with his wife, the American textile artist Janet Dunham. They met during his visit to San Francisco in 1968 where she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Dunham described him during the writing process as being like “a murderer who’s just come back from a particularly bloody killing”. Banville has two daughters from his relationship with Patricia Quinn, former head of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Banville has a strong interest in vivisection and animal rights and is often featured in Irish media speaking out against vivisection in Irish university research.

Art is like sex: when you’re doing it, nothing else matters.

John Banville, The Art of Fiction No. 200

As a writer, I know that I am supposed to be an observer of the world. I am supposed to take in the people and conversations around me and use them in my work. I know I am supposed to read all that I can and learn all there is about those who have come before me.

I know that good writing means understanding humanity, telling the truths we need to hear, and showing us the hidden sides of ourselves. To do that I always have to be aware of the more subtleties and the coded messages in what people do, and don’t do, every day.

To be always observing and interacting in the world is time-consuming and because I am always writing, in my head if I do not have a screen or a pen, I forget to maintain my awareness of life. For me, writing happens all the time, and when writing is happening, nothing else matters.

When I cannot write, I want to write, and when I am writing, I can’t think of anything else. I feel very much like I am in a new relationship, where there is hardly time to talk or to get because we cannot keep our hands off of each other.

Writing and I, we think of nothing but when the next time we might be alone together again. Writing and I, we feel the kind of passion for one another that other writers have written the most beautiful and arousing poems about. Writing and I, we long for longer days and sleepless nights so we might feel the warmth of each other’s skin again and again. Writing and I can barely catch our breath.

But just like relationships that are all passion, in the beginning, I am afraid Writing and I might burn out soon if we don’t slow down. I have to make time for other things because in any relationship you should have pursuits and interest outside of the one you love. You have to go out into the world and bring something back into your little bubble. Writing and I will grow weary of one another if the fuel runs out and I have nothing new to offer.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, there may come a time when things slow down a little around here because Writing and I have to try new things, learn new things about each other, and keep our relationship fresh and strong. I love the kind of writing I do here, but passion can’t be all there is to any relationship.

There has to be more.


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If you have some time to spare, I encourage you to check out the interview with him from the Paris Review.

Oh and if you’re interested I have used another quote from John Banville in a previous Writer’s Quote Wednesday post. From the same interview too!

Original image via Iwan Gabovitch

You Have Everything You Need

You Have Everything You Need // ZEN AND PI

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I hope the work week finds you in good spirits and you were able to start on the right foot. If not remember the Mondays aren’t the worst, it is only that our attitude about them needs tweaking. Monday’s are for new chances and new opportunities. Mondays are a new chance to get it right.

So far my Monday has been a little chaotic. I woke up late and had barely any time for getting ready and no time for a good breakfast. It’s not all bad, though. I slept better than I have been lately and I feel slightly less stressed out. I’m hopeful and motivated today and that means everything right now. I’m doing what I can to hold on to it and I hope to spread a little of it around.

“You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.”

// Carlos Castaneda

This week I am taking stock of what I already have.

When I think about where things are going in my life and with my writing and creativity I often feel like I am missing something. A key piece of equipment. A new desk, a new set of pens, a more expensive notebook, new sketchbook, something the pros must have that I don’t. The thing is that is just my brain’s way of tricking me into thinking I am making progress when I am doing no such thing.

I have a lot of art supplies sitting around that I had grand plans for but are now collecting dust. I look at them sometimes and feel bad. I wasted time and money and nothing came of it. I’ve had cut myself off for a long time from buying anything more than basic pencils, pens, or notebooks. I have to buy cheap and only when necessary. I have done a good job, but still, I have all those supplies I bought before still collecting dust.

So I have decided that this summer, I am going to finally use ALL the art supplies I have sitting around. Even if I just make a whole lot of crap, I have to make something and it has to be from supplies I already own. I have plenty, some even opened. I have markers and pens and paper and pastels and even some watercolor pencils. I am going to mix and match and use it all to make some spectacularly terrible artwork.

What I hope to learn is that much can be made from parts and supplies we already have laying around. I hope to apply this lesson to other parts of my life as well. So many people buy new things they hardly even use in the hopes that it will make them feel better, like they have improved themselves in some way. It’s the same mind trick, though.

If you take a look around you might see that you have everything you need to do anything you want. You might have everything you need to be happy. It’s only that you’ve been letting it sit and collect dust while you chase more things that only fill you temporarily.

Look around you and use what you have, you may be surprised at what comes out of it :)

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

// Marcus Tullius Cicero


Featured image via Pixabay

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Michael J. Fox

Hello dear readers and fellow writers and welcome to Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. Each week bloggers share their favorite quotes to motivate and inspire one another to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution this week is from the Canadian-American actor, author, and advocate, Michael J. Fox.

77162Born Michael Andrew Fox on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Phyllis, an actress/payroll clerk, and William Fox, a police officer and Canadian Forces member. The family traveled a lot during his childhood due to his father’s career. At age 15, starred in the Canadian television series Leo and Me produced by the CBC, and in 1979, at age 18, he moved to Los Angeles to further his acting career.

Fox was discovered by producer Ronald Shedlo and made his American television debut in the television film Letters from Frank, credited under the name “Michael Fox”. He intended to continue to use the name, but when he registered with the Screen Actors Guild the name Michael Fox was already taken, he needed to come up with a different name. He didn’t like the sound of “Michael A. Fox” and he also didn’t like the sound of “Andrew” or “Andy,” so he decided to adopt a new middle initial and settled on “J”, as a homage to actor Michael J. Pollard.

Most people know him as Marty McFly from the Back to the Future trilogy (1985–1990), or as Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties (1982–1989), or as Mike Flaherty from Spin City (1996–2000). He also starred in Doc Hollywood and Secret of My Succe$s and provided the lead voices in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire and in the film Stuart Little and its sequel. He as won countless awards for these, and other roles, and is one of the most recognizable actors of our time.

Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 and disclosed his condition to the public in 1998. As the symptoms of his disease worsened, he retired from full-time acting in 2000.

Since then he has written three books: Lucky Man, “a highly personal, gorgeously written account of what it’s like to be a 30-year-old man who is told he has an 80-year-old’s disease”, Always Looking Up, “about the hard-won perspective that helped him see challenges as opportunities”, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future…, in which “Michael draws on his own life experiences to make a case that real learning happens when ‘life goes skidding sideways'”.

A creative mess is better than tidy idleness.

— Michael J. Fox

I am a chronic procrastinator, always have been, always will be. I know this about myself and I work hard to curb the bad habit the best I can. I’ve learned to keep a to-do list always in front of me, so I don’t lose track of what needs to get done. I’ve made a /Now page so I don’t lose track of my big projects. I’ve got my “creativity room” set up with a desk and a drafting table, and chairs and drawers with different pens, pencils, brushes, and markers.

And yet, with all that, I walk into that room and try to get some work done and I am stuck. I am lost and I am afraid so I do nothing.

All my organizing and planning are nothing but tidy idleness, a new way to procrastinate.

When I realized this I felt so stupid! I thought I was doing the right things but I only had half the equation. I had to do the hard work and no amount of organizing or pretty supplies was going to change that, so I made a new plan. No more organizing, planning, or preparing. I have to get down to the grueling, lonely work of it all.

That is what 2016 is going to be about.


Featured image: Painty Feet by Nicki Varkevisser

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

From Here to 2016

The end of the year is approaching and I thought it best to sit down and think about how I’d like the end of the year to find me. I haven’t done everything I wanted to this year but I’d like to make one final push to the end, and start 2016 off on the right foot.

I’m not a blogger whose stats mean everything, but they do mean something. My first goal here was to reach 100 followers, I did that just over a year ago. My next goal is to reach 500 followers. I haven’t gotten there yet but as of this writing I am very close. It’s kind of nice to have so many people want to read what I have to say. I hope to reach even more people next year. I hope to reach somewhere between 750 and 1000 readers. I absolutely think I can do it.

So from here until 2016 I’ll be working on my editorial calendar and get ahead of my posts here. I’m also going to start cross posting to Medium and Tumblr more. I want to get back into participating in Twitter chats and to comment on and share other bloggers work more. I also want to start writing posts that are more thought provoking and posts that are helpful.

This year I had my writing published for the very first time. Two of my poems were chosen for inclusion in a zine called fēlan. It was a small thing but it was also a big thing. It felt very good to be chosen. It was the first bit of validation I have felt. I want more of that. I want to feel like my work is good enough to warrant printing on real paper and offering for sale. I want know that one way or another my writing is good enough to make a living at.

So from here until 2016 I am compiling a list of publications to submit work to next year. I will have of schedule of their deadlines and I will work hard to write the best I can for them. I hope by this time next year I will have been included in many more publications.

But if I hope to make any sort of living at this I have to learn to write fiction too. So I will be joining a few writing challenges that focus on creative writing. Creative nonfiction and story telling are where I hope to go with this. I had tried this year to write fiction but I am terrible at coming up with ideas. I figure it is a matter of just practicing better though, I used to be bad at coming up with ideas for this blog. I practiced and now I see ideas everywhere.

So from here until 2016 I’m going to practice thinking of ideas. I will start with prompts and photography inspiration, writing based on pictures I see. I’m going to start with short stories, small scenes, and bits of dialog, to get the ideas flowing

The last thing I want to do next year is begin working on my art again. That will be the hardest thing to accomplish because I really have no time for it and I have not idea what I am doing. It took quite a long time to build a writing habit and now I must get myself into an “art habit”. I don’t know how I am going to do it yet but I know I have to start slow. I would like to do a Year of Creative Habits type of thing but I’m not sure how I am going to work that in.

From now until 2016 figuring out some way to become the artist I want to be. I am leaning towards breaking up a challenge of being creative for the year, into 12 smaller art challenges. A month of collages, a month of drawing portraits, a month of watercolors, you get the idea.

Which brings me to my final goal, and the point of making time for art, I’d like to write and illustrate my own graphic novel. I’ve wanted to do this for a very, very long time now but it always seemed like an impossible task. I tried to let it go but I still think about it constantly. I have ideas for characters, I have a general idea of what time period this thing will cover, and I know how I want the reader to feel while reading it, I’m just a little short on plot.

So, from here until 2016 I will be brainstorming and free writing until I have a better idea of where I am going with this thing. I think if I have a clearer vision the whole it won’t feel so impossible. I know it will take some time but I don’t want to waste anymore than I already have. This rest of this year will be about ideas so that next year can be for rough drafting.

I know this all seems like a lot. I know I might not accomplish all of my goals but by starting to think about it all now, by trying to plan ahead, I think I can give myself the best chance. I want to set myself up to do more than I ever have and get farther than I ever thought I could.

And this time next year I will be doing the same for 2017.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober?

As an aspiring writer and blogger, I am always looking for writing advice. I am also always aware of what works for me and what doesn’t. One piece of advice I like, but have been reluctant to share, is from the American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway:

Write drunk, edit sober.

Ernest Hemingway

As I said I have been reluctant to share this bit of advice and for two reasons. For one, I didn’t want to encourage a bad habit. I didn’t want anyone to take the quote too seriously. I don’t actually depend on alcohol to get the creative juices flowing. To be honest though, it has worked for me on many occasions.

Every once in a while it’s fun to mix up a couple of margaritas, get a little tipsy, throw on some music, and let the words flow. I’ve noticed that I think much faster and ideas seem to come together easier. Alcohol lubricates the wheels in my mind. I don’t get stuck trying to move from one thought to the next. I don’t get hung up wondering where I am going with a piece. I just write and it feels nice.

Another benefit is that my inner critic is completely silenced. When I “drunk write” everything I type sounds amazing. Just like any other decision you make while drinking it just sound like a good idea. When I look for writing advice I see over and over that a first draft should be messy. It should be nothing but a steaming pile of feelings and thoughts vomited on to the page. Alcohol facilitates this. It helps you shut out all the fear and anxiety until you are left with nothing but pure emotion.

The problem with making decisions while drinking is that your sober self might have different ideas about what is a good idea and what isn’t. That is where the second part of the advice comes in, edit sober! Nothing you write while drunk should be published while you are drunk. Wait until the next morning (or afternoon if you are nursing a hangover) and read it out loud to yourself. The main task you will have is to organize your thoughts.

When I write while drinking I write the way I think. I jump from thought to thought abruptly, I over explain, I go off on tangents, I sound chaotic and unorganized. My drunk writing is the same.

When I edit sober I can organize my thoughts while keeping all of the emotion. I can get my point across while keeping all the interesting stuff. I can also take out all the extra thoughts that aren’t contributing to the piece well and use it in another one later.

So writing drunk works for me, sometimes. If you are the kind of person who likes to indulge in a cocktail here and there it wouldn’t hurt to try writing after you indulge too.

The other problem with this quote is that it is more than likely not something Ernest Hemingway said. I didn’t know this when I first read it, in fact I only learned it was misattributed when I started to do a little research for this post. The consensus seems to be that the quote actually came from Peter De Vries. De Vries was a satirist with a totally different style from Hemingway’s. The original quote reads:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

According to his granddaughter  Hemingway “never wrote drunk, he never wrote beyond early, early morning”. She goes on to say that people want to believe that he said it as a way to glamorize his lifestyle as much as his work. She thinks “it’s the misperception of addiction and living life on the edge, as if it’s cool”.

As a person who has struggled with addiction and comes from a family with a long history of problems with drugs and alcohol I do not want to glorify addiction at all. Writing while drinking is nothing but a fun exercise for me. I find it interesting that I write differently while slightly under the influence. I also think other people should try it too, but only if that is something they can do without causing themselves mental health issues.

I also don’t want to perpetuate any myths about creativity or how much work is involved in writing. Being creative is not something you can turn on with drugs and alcohol. Being creative takes a ton of focus and day-to-day work. Boring and often agonizing work. It’s not cool and edgy at all.

Writing while drinking is nothing but a way to do things a little differently from time to time. Even then, I never drink on a work night and I never drink to the point where I can’t walk or I black-out. I don’t even drink enough to end up throwing up. I am very careful about the amount and the frequency of my alcohol intake. I also do not believe at all that alcohol helps me be more creative.

So while I do follow this advice from time to time, I take it with a grain of salt and you should too. Loosen up every once in a while, pour yourself a drink, and let the words pour out of you while your inner critic is put to rest for the evening. Or don’t, because you should be able to write, or paint, or whatever creative thing you do, without the use of mind altering substances.

But I will tell you, it is kinda fun when you do. :)

Written in response to the weekly blogging event Writer’s Quote Wednesday hosted buy Colleen at Silver Threading.

Original image via

Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Virginia Woolf

I know, I know, I’m late, but I really wanted to put some thought into this week’s quote. It’s a simple quote but sometimes the simplest things can be quite profound. This week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday is dedicated to the great Virginia Woolf.

Adeline Virginia Woolf, born on January 25th, 1882 to a privileged family of free-thinking parents, was an English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century. She began writing at an early age and published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. She became famous for her nonlinear prose style, especially noted in her novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.

I am again ashamed to admit I have not read yet another classic writer. I have always wanted to read Woolf’s work but I wasn’t sure if her work was something I’d be in to. What I do know is that Woolf, as a person, has fascinated me. THroughout her life Woolf suffered from mood swings and severe bouts of depression. She is thought to have had what is now known as bipolar disorder.

Woolf is said to have had a confrontational relationship with her doctors. She may have been a victim of “male medicine”. In her time there was a relative lack of understanding when it came to mental illness and the treatment she was given may not have been what she needed. It is believed that she was sexually abused by her half-brother’s when she was young and that may have contributed to her mental state.

She eventually committed suicide, by drowning, in 1941 at the age of 59.

I like to have space to spread my mind out in.

– Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 5 September 1926.

I can’t say exactly what Woolf means by “spreading her mind out” but it means something very specific to me. There are times when my thinking feels like something that happens physical. It feels like octopus tentacle reaching out and searching here and there for something to feel and explore. The tentacles are of course covered with suckers on one side that stick to and pick up things.

My mind literally feels like it spreads out into the space around me, or into the book or article I am reading, or into and around the person I am talking to. It explores the environment and collects the shiny and interesting bits for later. When I get home and everything gets quiet all those bits get brought out of my minds pockets and are spread out, categorized, and put away for later.

The quote also made me think about how I use the spaces I call my own. Our spare bedroom has come to be called the “creative room” by my girlfriend. I have two desks, a book shelf, a small area for crafts, two chairs for reading in, and my snakes, Delilah and Ava, are housed in there. I thought I would write in there but lately I have found I like to write on the couch next to my girlfriend instead.

I still need the room but I don’t use it for what I had originally thought I would. I find that when I go in there I like to just sit at the desk, and look out the window, and think. Or I swivel around in the chair and I play some music. Or I put my feet up and read some essays. I take a lot of notes in there too. I have realized it isn’t so much the place I go to do my “serious work”, I go in there to let my mind wander, to let it spread out.

I have also been thinking that with summer finally coming around, and with it the urge to spend my evenings outside under a tree in the cool grass, maybe there are other places I could spread my mind out in too. IT’s possible that with more space to spread out in my mind might go further. I’d love to have my mind fill up a whole park, or maybe a space by a peaceful lake, hell why not take a drive out west and let my mind take up a whole mountain side!

We all need space to spread our minds out in. For creative types this is where the magic happens, it might even be considered the “real work”. Human brains have to get lost sometimes, that how we stubble upon something interesting. So go spread out somewhere, and then write about what you find.