Douglas Adams on Where Ideas Come From

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from Douglas Adams.

4Douglas Noël Adams, born March 11th 1952 was an author, scriptwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist best known for his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a “trilogy” of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime and generated a television series, several stage plays, a comic book series, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film that was completed after Adams’ death.

Adams’s contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

Adams also wrote Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff, The Deeper Meaning of Liff, Last Chance to See, and three stories for the television series Doctor Who; he also served as script editor for the show’s seventeenth season in 1979. A posthumous collection of his works, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.

In the early 1980s, Adams had an affair with novelist Sally Emerson, who was separated from her husband at that time. Adams later dedicated his book Life, the Universe and Everything to Emerson. In 1981 Emerson returned to her husband, Peter Stothard, a contemporary of Adams’s at Brentwood School, and later editor of The Times.

Adams was soon introduced by friends to Jane Belson, with whom he later became romantically involved. The two lived in Los Angeles together during 1983 while Adams worked on an early screenplay adaptation of Hitchhiker’s. When the deal fell through, they moved back to London, and after several separations and an aborted engagement, they married on November 25th, 1991.

Adams and Belson had one daughter together, Polly Jane Rocket Adams, born on June 22nd, 1994.

Adams died of a heart attack on May 11th, 2001, at the age 49.

 

Toward the end of his life, he was a sought-after lecturer on topics including technology and the environment. He was known as an advocate for environmentalism and conservation, as a lover of fast cars, cameras, technological innovation and the Apple Macintosh, and as a “devout atheist.”

“The fact is, I don’t know where my ideas come from. Nor does any writer. The only real answer is to drink way too much coffee and buy yourself a desk that doesn’t collapse when you beat your head against it.”

— Douglas Adams

I’m suffering from a real writing crisis here. I am a writer with no ideas! I love to put pen to paper, to type away all day the thoughts that pop into my head, thoughts that don’t mean much and in the end don’t leave me feeling very fulfilled, accomplished, and are not at all as lucrative as I’d like.

To say I have no ideas isn’t exactly the truth. I have ideas, they are just bad ideas, and I don’t know how to find good ones.

I want to be a good writer, and that means that I can’t write stupid or pointless things, but I’m not a good writer, yet. The catch is I can’t become a good writer without writing all the stupid and pointless things first. It seems simple enough, just write, and you will get better, so write already! But the embarrassment hurts! It’s paralyzing to be such a noob! The shame of being bad at what you love and sharing it with the world freezes you at your keyboard.

But summer is coming, and I have to use the time to move forward. I’ve been stuck lately. I had found something, a community and publication to be a part of but just as I was really getting into it, they decided to move in another direction. I’m sad, but I’m trying to think of it in a positive light. This was never something that I thought I could do as a job, it was always a stepping stone, a place for feedback and practice. I’ll miss that, but maybe now I can finally make something of my own. But what?

I want to be a freelance writer, but I’m afraid without school or a ton of connections that dream feels too far away.

I want to write a book, but I’m not sure I have enough passion or talent for fiction.

I want to be an artist too but my confidence is low, and I have no idea where to begin.

Nothing feels small enough to start with. I don’t have experience, I don’t have mentors or peers to learn from and work with. I only have idols who are light-years ahead of me and the internet which seems severely lacking in information about how to go from knowing nothing about writing to knowing something about it.

Oh, sure there is plenty of information on the rules of writing and the best practices of publishing. Even if everything contradicts everything else you at least have an idea of where to start, but what do you do if you have a desire to be a writer or an artist, but you have no idea what it is you are trying to say or how to even say it?! What do you do when you feel like a stupid noob and you can’t muster courage enough to start?

I know how to write a blog post, I know how to fill a page of my journal, I don’t know how to make something someone might pay for. I don’t know how to put together a project that is unique and valuable. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I have no idea where to begin to get an idea.

But maybe I am going about it all wrong. No, not maybe, I am certain I am. I am waiting for the ideas and the inspiration, to come to me before I get started and if there is one piece of advice I have read over and over again from author after author it has been that you just have to do something until you stumble upon something worth pursuing and sharing.

So, I’ve been rethinking everything.

I’m pushing my big dreams back to work on something small, something tangible, something that feels like a place to start. I’m working with what I know and love. I love non-fiction. I love essays. I love creative non-fiction and stories about real people and what we feel and know. I love I am putting that together with simple art, doodles, and collage, and I’m spinning these ingredients around in my mind for a little bit every day and seeing what I can come up with.

I am taking the summer to make something, and I’m doing it before I have the inspiration and the ideas all squared away. I am just going to drink coffee and bang my head until something interesting happens.

And you know what? I have a feeling that is what everyone else is doing too. It isn’t magic, or maybe it is, just not the kind of magic we are used to wishing for. We want to walk through fields of flowers, or fall in love and let the words just come to us, but that’s just not how it works. Instead, maybe we just have to brainstorm like hell, write something, post something, draw something, and decide what we think afterward. Then wake up tomorrow and do it again, only a little bit better, and a little bit better, and a little bit better, again and again. You gotta bang your head like hell and drink liquid energy, or liquid courage, whichever you need, until one day someone declares that you are finally a “good writer.”

That is the fucking magic. That is where the ideas come from, and that is the only way to get the work done. The miracle is doing the work, and I plan to work until magic and miracles happen for me too.

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Virginia Woolf on the Path from Reading to Writing

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from renowned English writer Virginia Woolf.

george_charles_beresford_-_virginia_woolf_in_1902_-_restoration

Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, London. She was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household.

Her parents had each been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household contained the children of three marriages. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a notable historian, author, critic, and mountaineer. He was a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a work that would influence Woolf’s later experimental biographies.

The sudden death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia’s several nervous breakdowns. After her mother and half-sister, she quickly lost her surrogate mother, Stella Duckworth, as well as her cherished brother Thoby, when he was in his mid-20s. She was, however, able to take courses of study (some at degree level) in Ancient Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London between 1897 and 1901. This brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women’s higher education

Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando, and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own, with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Woolf suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought to have been what is now termed bipolar disorder. She spent three short periods in 1910, 1912 and 1913 at Burley House, which is described as “a private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Though this instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continued with few breaks throughout her life.

Woolf committed suicide by drowning in 1941 at the age of 59.

“For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Every since I can remember I have loved books. I learned to read early and easily, and my comprehension levels were always well advanced for my age. Books felt to me what watching TV must feel like to other people. I was transported right into the action, the emotion, into whole different worlds with different ways of thinking and doing things. I felt most alive, most like I was becoming future myself when I was reading.

During my 6th grade year, I volunteered to work in my school for part of my lunch period. It was so quiet in there, and it smelled like books rather than sweaty kids like the rest of the building. My job was to put the returned books back on the right shelves, but most of the time I just walked the rows and ran my hands over the worn spines. I flipped through the ones with dragons or spaceships on the front and scoffed at the ones about cheerleaders and love.

The ones I took home I could never put down. I read in the dark after my mother insisted we go to be until she grew tired of trying to force me and asked that I only keep to my room and keep quiet.

My father and his father loved reading too, and I often stole books with subject matters much too advanced for me from their collections.

I loved reading so much, and then I became a teenager, and between the depression and trying to be cool, I forgot all about reading. Then I became an adult and life got too busy for books. At first, I was busy falling in love and making a home. Then I was busy fighting for love and always working harder to build a better and better home. And no matter what there never seemed to be enough time for love and home and work and friends and sleep and reading.

Things have changed. Reading has come back to me. I realized that I had let something I loved go and I wasn’t at all happier for it. I realized I wanted something for myself. I remembered how good it felt to learn things and see the world in new ways. I remembered how reading made me feel more like myself all those years ago. So, I went looking for my old friend, my first love, and I found that she had been waiting for me all along to return. We picked up right where we left off, and we’ve been going strong ever since.

I’ve also come back to writing, another old love from my childhood. I’ve come a long way since those old angsty journals, and I want to go further still, and I know that in order to get there I can never take reading or writing for granted again. I have to make them a priority in my life along with love and home and work and friends and sleep. With them, never behind. Not when I can find the time, but when I make the time!

I wish I had learned this lesson a long time ago. If I had spent more time with books than I may be a better writer now, or at least a better person. But I am still grateful for the time I had, without having experienced the magic of words being worked on me I would never have craved such power myself, to wield over other minds and time itself.

I am grateful that books never leave you entirely and that reading is a patient and understanding friend who will let you leave and return as often as you wish. I have come back to my first love and friend, and I found that our passion for one another never really waned. I had only been a stupid human who forgot what life was really about, doing what makes you happy.

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If you like this post, check out my weekly-ish newsletter for some existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + important reads from others, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

See also: Short and Sweet Reviews // Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

Featured image via George Charles Beresford [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Atwood on Existing in Two Places

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from the Canadian poet and novelist, Margaret Atwood.

mg_5527Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Because of her father’s work and research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was eight years old.

Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of six and realized she wanted to write professionally by the time she was 16.

In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy and French.

She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

She has also published fifteen books of poetry. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works.

Atwood is also the inventor, and developer, of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents.

She is a noted humanist, and, in 1987, she was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.

“I exist in two places,
here and where you are.”

— Margaret Atwood

This week I’m thinking a lot about Atwood and her book The Handmaid’s Tale. Of course, because today her book becomes a show, and I’m pretty stoked about that since I recently read it, but I’ve also been thinking about time. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be the writer and the reader, and for time to pass between both. I’ve been wondering what it means for me to exist as I am now, and for me to exist again with you when you read these words. I wonder in what forms I will exist when I am read after I am long gone?

I know that I am a human and I know that all humans are mortal and still my own death seems impossible to me. How can there ever come a time when I will not breathe, or think, or write, or love, or look to the sky and feel small, and here, and so myself and so a part of everything that exists? How can there come a time when my heart stops and with it the thoughts in my head while the world goes on spinning and humans go one warring, inventing, and evolving, doing things I will never witness or be a part of?

This makes no sense, and yet it is a certainty, and it hurts me so every time I remember it.

I am afraid, I admit, not to be anymore. I want to face the fact, but I also want to keep it out of my mind. Why let the inevitable distract me and keep me frozen? Then again, the fear can be a motivating and focusing force until my end comes. If I want to live on after my death, I must remember that I am going to die and use what I have to limit my fading into the nothingness.

When I read the works of other writers they come into me, into my time and place, or some form of them does anyway, and I am happy to give them life again. I suppose I want a bit of that too. I want to know what it feels like to exist again and again and yet still be me, growing and changing here and now.

I want to live in every person and in every time after this one and words are the only way to do that.. It is a selfish thing to want, but I can’t help wanting it either. I am afraid of not being.

I am angry too. To be limited to this body, to this mind, and to this time feels so petty and unfair. One day there may be better ways to circumvent these pesky limitations, but for now, all I have are words. I have the imperfect ability to write down who I am and the improbable hope that in the future, minutes or eons from now, you will read them and remember me.

But who will it be that you remember? By the time this goes out I will be a little different, and the longer the distance between now and then the more the difference between the Lisa that wrote this and the Lisa that exists. So, I suppose no part of me will live on really, only bits of who I was. Only a snapshot in my history. Still, it’s all I have, and I am happy to give it to you.

Because even though I am not that Lisa anymore that does not mean she cannot be of some use. She can be a friend, a comfort, and warning, or a dream for you. She can walk with you when you feel alone, same as she walks within me. She can exist far longer than I. She can travel through space and time and be what I cannot.

And because the Lisa I am now is jealous of where that past me is able to go and where she is able to be, I will send this out and immediately sit sown to write again. I will send myself out to you over and over again, and one day, if all my works, everything from my little notes and journal entries, to the stories I’ve endeavored to tell here, and the books I may one day write, were to be put together it would be the closest a person could come to time travel. To real, complete, existence in another place and time.

I hope it happens for me one day, and that something like magic will allow me to feel what it is like to be here and there, now and then, and me, with you.

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

See also: Margaret Atwood on Writing Poetry

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Jorge Luis Borges on What Writers Become

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges.

jorgeluisborgesenpalermofotoferdinandoscianna198403Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo was born into an educated middle-class family on 24 August 1899. They were in comfortable circumstances but not wealthy enough to live in downtown Buenos Aires, so the family resided in Palermo, then a poorer suburb. Borges’s mother, Leonor Acevedo Suárez, came from a traditional Uruguayan family of criollo (Spanish) origin. Her family had been much involved in the European settling of South America and the Argentine War of Independence, and she spoke often of their heroic actions.

In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. Borges was fluent in several languages. He was a target of political persecution during the Peron regime and supported the military juntas that overthrew it.

Borges was a key figure in Spanish-language literature. His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and El Aleph (The Aleph), published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, philosophy, and religion.

His works have contributed to philosophical literature and the fantasy genre. Critic Ángel Flores, the first to use the term magical realism to define a genre that reacted against the dominant realism and naturalism of the 19th century, considers the beginning of the movement to be the release of Borges’ A Universal History of Infamy (Historia universal de la infamia). However, some critics would consider Borges to be a predecessor and not actually a magical realist. His late poems dialogue with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil.

In 1914 Borges’ family moved to Switzerland, where he studied at the Collège de Genève. The family traveled widely in Europe, including stays in Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. In 1955 he was appointed the director of the National Public Library and professor of English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. He became completely blind by the age of 55; as he never learned braille, he became unable to read. Scholars have suggested that his progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination.

In 1961 he came to international attention when he received the first Formentor Prize (Prix International), which he shared with Samuel Beckett. In 1971 he won the Jerusalem Prize. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. Borges himself was fluent in several languages. He dedicated his final work, The Conspirators, to the city of Geneva, Switzerland.

His international reputation was consolidated in the 1960s, aided by his works being available in English, by the Latin American Boom and by the success of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Writer and essayist J. M. Coetzee said of him: “He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists.”

Due to a hereditary condition, Borges became blind in his late fifties. In 1955, he was appointed the director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961, he came to international attention when he received the first International Publishers’ Prize Prix Formentor. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.

J. M. Coetzee said of Borges: “He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish-American novelists.”

“When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.”

— Jorge Luis Borges

Yesterday I wrote a list of ten bookish resolutions for the new year. One of them was to read more books. Another was to read books written by the acclaimed author Jorge Luis Borges.

I first encountered Borges years ago when I came across his short story Borges and I. To me it was a little masterpiece, perfectly written. I planned to read more of his work but then I got very busy trying to be a grown up and making all the grown up mistakes I needed to make, and I forgot all about reading books, and about Borges and his little masterpiece.

I’ve been reading again for some time now. I have gotten back that old obsession for language and stories that draw me in and change me a little with every page. I have come back to books a bit more mature and ready to get more from them than just entertainment.

I want to study how they are written. I want to learn all the ways there are to say things, and I hear Borges said things in very interesting ways.

I went back and read Borges and I last night, and I think I understand better what he is saying or at least I know better what it means to me. Borges is a writer, a public figure, a persona, and a mask presented to the world. “I” is the inner self, the secret self the one who lives and dies while the persona endures in books and the minds of others.

Borges and his “I” are very similar. I think everything that Borges is must have begun in the “I” but now has become distorted and at times unrecognizable. I think as time goes on the “I” gives more to Borges and Borges distorts it all the more and eventually there will be no “I” left. The inner Borges will die because we all die one day and Borges the writer, the persona, and the memory will live on.

The whole thing is very powerful, and if you want to be a writer, artist, entertainer, etc. It is all something to consider, but the last line is what hits me the hardest. The last line — “I do not know which of us has written this page.” — is where the problem really lies.

Who is the real you? The one on paper or the one who lives inside? How much of what you write is the truth? Can you tell the difference? Does it matter to you?

All writers have a habit of exaggeration and distortion. We leave out what we feel needs leaving out, and we highlight all the action. The lows get lower, and the highs get higher. The colors become brighter and the smells more intense. We take the chaos of life and give it order and meaning. We write what we feel and forget the rest and the reader creates a version of us in their minds. This other self is who becomes what we are to the world, and slowly we fade away and the other lives on forever.

I thought that writing about myself meant being my true self, but now I think that one human can never fully and accurately explain who they are or what kind of life they have lived. We can only give approximations and caricatures.

I had thought I could obtain a sort of immortality through words, but I think that isn’t true either, not exactly. The Lisa that lives on, if one does at all, won’t really be me. I am giving birth to a new Lisa, one who is much more interesting and colorful than I. The new Lisa is something I had hoped I could be. The new Lisa is the one I dream was born the night that I was. I give her whatever I can, and she uses all that I am for selfish gains. I don’t mind. I love her all the same.

Lisa and I, which one of us has written this?

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + important reads from others, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

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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

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // John Steinbeck

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 iconic author, John Steinbeck.

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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck’s imagination as a child.

In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.

Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.

One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack and his ashes are interred in Salinas.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, The Pearl, and East of Eden, went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

“A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals.”

— John Steinbeck, The Art of Fiction No. 45

Sometimes, I am lonely. It’s not the usual kind of lonely. I don’t just feel like I wish I had companionship or someone to talk to, I wish I could be known. I wish I could share what it is like to be me, unfiltered. To use language, or even art or music feels wholly inadequate. I am lonely inside my own mind. I wish another person could come in and visit, look around, and tell me what they think.

I am loved, and that helps. I am surrounded by people who care about me, listen to me, and think highly of me, and that helps too, but still, I am lonely. I think we all are on some level. I think we all what to be known in a way that is simply humanly impossible. Still, we try. We are all doing our best to communicate what is inside with the other people around us.

But the communicating is hard, and other people feel unreachable.

That’s the things about people. We can be standing right next to one another and feel light years away. Loneliness is not about being physically alone; it is about feeling disconnected from other humans. It’s a deep pain that manifests when we are misunderstood and feel uncared for. It’s when you feel unwanted and useless. It’s when you feel like you are nothing at all to anyone.

I think writing is an act of that deep loneliness, an attempt to alleviate it. I think writers have more to say that the average person and so need more than the average feelings of acceptance and understanding. It’s hard to get that understanding in the here and now, with just the people that we know, so we reach out with our words, across the entire world and forward in time too. We are trying to connect to someone, anyone, anywhere.

I feel like something inside me is pushing to get out. I don’t even know what that thing is, but writing helps it. Writing makes me feel better, though like I’ve gotten a bit of it out. Like I’ve connected. Like a hole somewhere deep inside me has been filled in. Only, the hole is a bottomless one. My loneliness greedy, and soon the drive to write, to connect, consumes me again.

I think all writers possess that same greed, that same emptiness and a need for human connection that goes beyond the usual relationships humans form. A writer must be fully known. A writer must be fully understood. A writer will not accept that one person cannot know another. We keep churning out bits of ourselves, sending them out, and hoping, this time, we got it right.

We hope that this time we have formed the right words and sting them in the correct configuration and the reader will finally see all of who we are and why we are here.

Every time the writer will be disappointed. Humans are not built in a way that makes the accurate expression of our condition impossible, nor can we understand another’s attempts thoroughly.

Fortunately, and sometimes, unfortunately, the writer never gives up.

***

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Also, check out my review of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Original image via Pixabay

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Frank O’Hara

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, where bloggers share their favorite quotes to inspire and motivate one another.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the American writer and poet, Frank O’Hara.

o_hara_frankFrancis Russell “Frank” O’Hara was born in Baltimore, Maryland on March 27, 1926, and grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts. O’Hara served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarman on the destroyer USS Nicholas during World War II.

With the funding made available to veterans, he attended Harvard University. Although he majored in music and did some composing, his attendance was irregular and his interests disparate.

O’Hara was heavily influenced by visual art, and by contemporary music, which was his first love. While at Harvard, O’Hara met John Ashbery and began publishing poems in the Harvard Advocate. Despite his love for music, O’Hara changed his major and graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a degree in English.

He then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and moved into an apartment in New York City with Joe LeSueur, who would be his roommate and sometimes his lover for the next 11 years.

Known throughout his life for his extreme sociability, passion, and warmth, O’Hara had hundreds of friends and lovers throughout his life, many from the New York art and poetry worlds. Soon after arriving in New York, he was employed at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art and began to write seriously.

O’Hara was active in the art world, working as a reviewer for Art News, and in 1960 was made Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art. He was also friends with artists like Willem de Kooning, Norman Bluhm, Larry Rivers and Joan Mitchell. He is regarded as a leading figure in the New York School—an informal group of artists, writers and musicians who drew inspiration from jazz, surrealism, abstract expressionism, action painting and contemporary avant-garde art movements.

O’Hara’s poetry is personal in tone and in content and described as reading “like entries in a diary”. Poet and critic Mark Doty has said O’Hara’s poetry is “urbane, ironic, sometimes genuinely celebratory and often wildly funny” containing “material and associations alien to academic verse” such as “the camp icons of movie stars of the twenties and thirties, the daily landscape of social activity in Manhattan, jazz music, telephone calls from friends”. O’Hara’s writing “sought to capture in his poetry the immediacy of life, feeling that poetry should be “between two persons instead of two pages.”

The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara edited by Donald Allen (Knopf, 1971), the first of several posthumous collections, shared the 1972 National Book Award for Poetry.[3]

O’Hara died in an accident on Fire Island in which he was struck and seriously injured by a man speeding in a beach vehicle during the early morning hours of July 24, 1966. He died the next day of a ruptured liver at the age of 40 and was buried in the Green River Cemetery on Long Island.

I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Frank O’Hara, Mayakovsky (1957)

Sometimes, as much as we need people and love and all the good things that come with it, we also need to immerse ourselves in words and writing. Sometimes we need to be alone with ourselves. We need to close ourselves off from the world and make time to immerse ourselves in the parts of our minds that are beyond words.

I need that. It’s not enough to have time to write I need to fall into myself. I need to get away from the influence of other people’s words and feelings. I need to be alone to pace, and to drink copious amounts of coffee, and listen to loud music that has no words. I need to write what it is in me that lives behind the ideas planted there by the media and by my upbringing.

I need to get at the parts of myself where I don’t think with logic. The place where I am full of understanding without a word being spoken.

I have to do it. It is the secondary requirement for writing. There are the words and experienced from the outside world, and then there is the pain of processing and of bringing the dark inner world onto the page.

I need to be alone, and I need to close my heart up.

I can’t feel myself when I am with other people and I can find who I am in the background of what other people think that I am. I can’t breathe through this air of obligation and expectation.

Even from the girl I love. She has been the richest and most abundant fuel for my writing. I feel the full spectrum of human emotion because of her, love and something like hatred, friendship and loneliness, acceptance and shame, pride and lowliness, happiness and a deep sadness that may be with me forever.

She is at the base of it all. Everything I say is either about her or written to her.. but even from her, I must close myself off from time to time. I have to shut her out with the rest of the world so I can get to what it is I am trying to say. I love her. I love her more than anything, but I need to turn to my verses.

I don’t think I am alone in my need. Virgina Woolf said “I like to have space to spread my mind out in.” and I think that gets at what I mean. I want to be alone to spread out my thoughts and look at all the contents. It’s just, I need to do it without anyone else getting in to muck it up.

I love the world, I love people, I love my girlfriend too, and all these things give me so much inspiration and motivation for my writing, but there is another need too. One where despite my love for all things that exist outside of myself I need to shut them out and work from what in inside myself only.

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Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Original image via Roco Julie

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Trista Mateer

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 hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet Trista Mateer.

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Trista Mateer is a 25-year old writer currently based outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also is the author of three collections of poetry: HoneybeeThe Dogs I Have Kissed, and Small Ghost. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read.

She is currently working as a contributing editor at Words Dance literary magazine.

I stumbled across Mateer’s work while scrolling Tumblr; most user can’t scroll very far before coming upon her words on love and queerness.

Her metaphors are brilliant, and her writing is direct. Everything she says is relatable, universal, and she can tell a story and fill you with emotion in a very small amount of words.

She is my newest obsession and role model. She is the first poet contemporary poet who I have decided must grace my bookshelves and she has been a shining example of how self-publishing can lead to success.

“Write about what you need to write about even if it’s just love poems. The world could always use at least six more love poems. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise”

— Trista Mateer on advice to aspiring writers in an interview at The Wild Ones Queer Lit Rag

It feels like everything has been said already, and that can be discouraging
I was born too late to say anything for the first time. Maybe I should just give up? Maybe we should all give up. I am positive you were born too late to say anything for the first time too.

Some things resist being said again and again while provoking the same response, but there is one thing for which I believe there is an infinite number of things to be said and perspectives to be shared. That thing is love.

That thing is love.

There are countless poems professing that love has been found, and the happily ever after is in sight or already grasped. Some love poems aren’t happy poems. So many of them are sad poems because for so many of us our love ends in pain and suffering. Even a love that endures experiences moments of hurt and doubt, all of which can be translated into words that capture our unique experience and transcend time.

Love improves us and brings out the worst in us, both of which make more some of the best writing motivation you will ever find.

The lack of love hurts us, and there is much to say on that too.

Like any good writing, a good love poem tells the truth about love. It captures the way love blinds, distracts, and consumes. It brings forth a remembered or hoped for passion in the reader. It translates the desperation of jealousy, the heart-clenching pain of abandonment, and the emptiness that comes with a love lost to death from one heart to another.

Even the love poems that tell sweet lies have their purpose.  The greatest epics on love have given us the most unrealistic expectations, and if you believe them, you will surely fail. But I can’t help but think that without their promise of happily ever after we might never have enough hope to brave the possibility of pain and loss time and again to find that perfect soul mate.

There is never enough that can be said about love. There is no end to the ways to say you love someone so much that it fills you with a kind of energy you’ve never felt. There is no end to the ways to say you love someone so much that it hurts. There is no end to the ways to say the sight of that person awakens your whole body and fills you with a passion that scares you.

So write some love poems and don’t for one moment think they are too cheesy or unnecessary. All love poems have a place, and this world needs them more than ever. In a time when the rise of hatred and loneliness threatens to push us past a point of no return, write a love poem and do your part to remind the world that love is beautiful and even in the pain it causes it will always be the greatest force for good and happiness in this world.

Write a love poem and remind yourself that the time of romanticism is not over.

I’ll write mine too and remember the same.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Franz Kafka

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 hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.

For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet Franz Kafka.

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Czech writer Franz Kafka [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Franz Kafka was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia (presently the Czech Republic), Austria–Hungary. Kafka’s first language was German, but he was also fluent in Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert.

His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously—is considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.

His stories include The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony, while his novels are The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those in his writing.

Kafka’s writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels, unless The Metamorphosis is considered.

Prior to his death, Kafka wrote to his friend and literary executor Max Brod: “Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me … in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread.” Brod overrode Kafka’s wishes, believing that Kafka had given these directions to him specifically because Kafka knew he would not honor them—Brod had told him as much. Brod, in fact, would oversee the publication of most of Kafka’s work in his possession, which soon began to attract attention and high critical regard.

Max Brod encountered significant difficulty in compiling Kafka’s notebooks into any chronological order as Kafka was known to start writing in the middle of notebooks, from the last towards the first, etc.

Kafka died on June 3, 1924. The cause of death seemed to be starvation, as laryngeal tuberculosis had caused his throat to close and made eating too painful for him.

“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”

— Franz Kafka

***

I used to think I was an extrovert. I liked being around people, and I found talking and interacted to be easy. Yeah, I was a little shy with new people at first, but once I got talking, I could go on and on and on. I thought introverted meant you were very shy or found talking and interacting with people difficult or uncomfortable. That wasn’t me.

But I realized that after a few hours of being around other people, I felt exhausted. Their questions and expectation begin to irritate me. I start to wish they would all go away or that I could escape. If I can’t leave or if they won’t I usually end up putting my headphones in and choosing to ignore people so that I can pretend to be alone.

Recently I learned that being an extrovert or introvert is not about how easy it is to interact with people, the terms “actually relate to where we get our energy from.” Extroverts gain energy from being around people, introverts, on the other hand, get energy from being alone. I realized I am actually an introvert.

Looking back over my life, it all makes sense. I don’t like group activities or sports. I don’t like working as a team. I never feel very excited before seeing friends or going out among crowds. I like people, but I like being alone more.

That may be part of why I like writing so much. It’s something I can do alone, something other people cannot be a part of. After being alone and writing I feel better. I feel like I can jump back into deep and lively conversation, for a while.

I am lucky that the people around me understand and accept that I need to be alone. They don’t take it personally, and they don’t try to force me to talk or laugh with them. They think it is just because I have to write they don’t know, or understand, that I need to “recharge.”

I need the world to slow down. I need the world to quiet down. I need to be with just myself so that I can adjust myself to myself and absorb, contemplate, and categorize all that has happened to me and around me. I need to process everything slowly and deliberately and note the ways I have changed in the past few hours.

It might sound unnecessary to an extrovert, but for an introvert, and a writer, it’s important that I not let my own thoughts and feeling be overshadowed or forgotten in the flow of conversation and events that happen whenever people gather.

I need time to think about what it all means and how I feel so that I can use it in my writing and then return to the world, surer of who I am and where I fit in this world.

***

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bit of experimental writing from me—something more emotional, more private—and some interesting reads from a few other people. All made with lots of love, every week ♥

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

Featured image via Adam Lofting

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Vita Sackville-West

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 the author and poet Vita Sackville-West.

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Victoria Sackville-West was born at Knole House near Sevenoaks, Kent, the only child of Victoria and Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville, who were cousins. Her mother was the illegitimate daughter of Lionel Sackville-West, 2nd Baron Sackville and a Spanish dancer, Josefa de la Oliva (née Durán y Ortega), known as Pepita. Christened Victoria Mary Sackville-West, the girl was known as “Vita” throughout her life to distinguish her from her mother.

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Vita Sackville-West was a prolific author, poet and memoirist in early 20th-Century Britain who is known not only for her writing, but for her not-so-private, private life. While married to the diplomat Harold Nicolson, she conducted a series of scandalous amorous liaisons with many women, including the brilliant Virginia Woolf. They had an open marriage.

Both Sackville-West and her husband had same-sex relationships. She frequently traveled to Europe in the company of one or the other of her lovers and often dressed as a man to be able to gain access to places where only the couples could go.

Gardening, like writing, was a passion Vita cherished with the certainty of a vocation: she wrote books on the topic and constructed the gardens of the castle of Sissinghurst, one of England’s most beautiful gardens at her home.

She published her first book Poems of East and West in 1917. She followed this with a novel, Heritage, in 1919. A second novel, The Heir, dealt with her feelings about her family. Her next book, Knole and the Sackvilles , covered her family history.

The Edwardians and All Passion Spent are perhaps her best-known novels today. In the latter, the elderly Lady Slane courageously embraces a long suppressed sense of freedom and whimsy after a lifetime of convention.

In 1948 she was appointed a Companion of Honour for her services to literature. She continued to develop her garden at Sissinghurst Castle and for many years wrote a weekly gardening column for The Observer. In 1955 she was awarded the Gold Veitch Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society. In her last decade, she published a further biography, Daughter of France and a final novel, No Signposts in the Sea.

She died of cancer on June 2, 1962.

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.

Vita Sackville-West, in a letter to Virginia Woolf

Before I get into what this quote means to me, I want to touch on how awesome it is that Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf had an affair. I am probably the last to know about this but I still think it’s a beautiful thing. I mean,  just read these letters! I’m in love with both of them already. *swoon*

Sorry, I get excited when I learn that famous women were just like me.

As for the quote, it’s one of the truest sentences I have ever read on the subject of writing.

Every day without writing is a day not lived to the fullest. Writing gives the day meaning and purpose. It is a way of stopping time so that you can investigate a moment, a lifetime, and everything in between.

Every day without writing is a day that has gone unnoticed and undocumented. The day has slipped through my hands and is all but forgotten. Without writing, I can’t prove it ever happened. I can’t prove I existed at any other time, form, or mindset other than I do at this moment. Without writing, I have lost time, and time is all I have.

Every day without writing is a day I have not been myself. Sometimes that is good, but sometimes it feels like a sin. To let a day go by without pulling yourself out and letting your mind contemplate all that it sees and feels is to commit a cruelty on yourself and the world. When you write, you tell a truth about yourself and all people. To deprive humanity of it is a disservice to the species.

All artist, if and when they are able, should take hold of every day and squeeze all the truth they can from it. We have a responsibility to document the world inside ourselves and the world without. We have a responsibility to preserve time. We have a responsibility not to let a moment go by unnoticed.

No one writer or artist can do it on their own. All creative people must work together and tirelessly to fill every day with all the days that came before, documenting who we are and what we have done, and will do. Make the time matter. Take a bit of your time and share it with someone else. Share it with the whole world. A book, a painting, these things are the closest we have to time travel and proof of the past.

Fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter. It all happened, and it all comes from, and is about, the human mind and experience.

Write every day if you can. Share it if you can too.

Don’t let time slip by unnoticed and empty.

Fill it up with yourself and then pull from it all that you can.

***

P.S. Apparently Woolf even wrote a whole book based on Vita!

The gender-bending character in Woolf’s Orlando, in fact, was based on Sackville-West, and the entire novel is thought to have been written about the affair — so much so that Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson has described it as “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature.”

Brain Pickings

P.S.S. For LOLs you have to check out The Collected Sexts of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf

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Quote via A Woman to Know Tinyletter by Julia Carpenter

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

Original image via Unsplash