If You Want To Write

if-you-want-to-write

I Used To Think I Cordially Disliked Reading Books About Writing

I’ve discovered that this is not true.

I dislike reading books about writing which tell me how to write.

I am, however, apparently highly agreeable to books about writing which tell me that I don’t have to listen to those other books which tell me how to write.

In fact, not only that I don’t have to listen, but that I emphatically should not, and should write from myself — what is true, and free, and me-like (in my own words; look at me being all delightfully rebel like this and saying things how I want).

Let me back up a moment and explain.

I’ve gotten rather disillusioned with how-to writing advice in general, over time, because it feels too much like I’m being told what to do with my stories and how to bend them into a “proper shape” which they may not naturally want to bend into. It stifles me, fills me with doubt, and crushes my spirit and creative light — that delicate fluttering-wing flame of the artist inside a person, too easily snuffed by winds of doubt.

I recently read a book called “If You Want To Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland, and it did the opposite, telling me something quite different: that it’s important to tell your story in a way that is you, and speaking of the dangers of critics/criticism/a critical way of thinking, instead focusing on love and truth.

It is rather a good feeling to read a book which says something different than the norm of the modern-day craft of writing. Effectively saying that my instinct all along has been correct — to write how I want and let the rules go hang (at least for the present).

I’m the writer, these are my stories, my blogs, my words, and if I can’t tell them like they want to be told . . . then who will? A lot of “rules” — the ten (more like ten thousand) commandments of Proper Writing? (Which all contradict each other anyway and constantly change.) No. I don’t think so. Following a lot of made up “rules” does not a Great Novel make.

I think I’ll pause here before I go further, and have a footnote. But I’ll have it right here instead of making you scroll all the way to the bottom of the post, which is a bother, and I want this one to actually be read. (Besides, who says feet can’t occasionally put themselves up to get comfortable?)

Footnote: If This Post Is Not For You

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If you are one of those writers who likes to write according to the rules, if that is your calling, by all means: go for it! This is not to pull you down, to tell you you are doing it “wrong.” Because whatever is right for you is right for—you guessed it—you.

This post is only to say that for anyone who, like myself, has felt stifled and condemned by rules and critical thinking, that there is another way—that we can be free!

But, as Brenda Ueland often stresses in her own book which I am speaking of (and in her own footnotes) — whenever she’s telling us how to do something, she adds that if you want to do it the other way, then do it that way!

Neither Brenda nor myself are trying to tell you that our way is the best and only way. So if you disagree with this post, if you feel the rules should be followed, if you enjoy being a critic because you like to analyze, etc., then be that way! That way is you, and you are free to be it. 🙂

I just thought I would say that. I’m not trying to be critical and say that if you’re trying to follow rules, you’re doing it wrong—no, I’m only trying to say that this book allowed me to see a new and freeing way for ME to live, and if this post is not for you, I will not hold it against you, and I hope you will do the same. 🙂

(End of footnote.)

“If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland

ifyouwanttowriteIt was originally published in 1938, and I found a reprinted copy from the 1980s at a library book sale, because I had once seen the book highly spoken of, which made me curious. As I said, I’m wary of books on writing, and writing advice in general, since it tends to leave me jaded, depressed, and rather defiantly angry (none of which are feelings I enjoy).

But I tried this one out . . .

And I’m so incredibly glad that I did.

THIS BOOK, THOUGH.

Brenda Ueland talks of writing creatively with joy and truth and freedom, the way that is YOU, instead of “intellectualizing,” i.e., in her wonderful words: “primly frowning through your pince-nez and trying to do things according to prescribed rule as laid down by others — and bearing in mind a thousand things not to do.”

Bless this woman and her counter-cultural thoughts from 1938.

It was so freeing to read a book that was focused on love and creativity and discovering your true writing self (instead of focusing on what to do, what NOT to do, and various “rules”). It was the positive, not the negative. It was freedom, not limiting options. And it filled my soul with a joy and a freedom in thought and writing that I’ve not felt in a very long time.

I just felt so inspired reading this, and gladdened that somewhere, sometime (in this case nearly 80 years ago… ahem) agreed with me and thought similar things to ones I’ve felt deeply but almost unconsciously for a long time, particularly about being critical and about so-called writing rules—and thought them deeply enough herself to write a book about it, which was simply a pleasure to read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I devoured this one.

But I will let this book speak for itself, in its own words, before wrapping up my thoughts on all of this.

QUOTES BY BRENDA UELAND FROM “IF YOU WANT TO WRITE”

writingspirit

“Since our wish to create something is the life of the Spirit, I think that when people condemn what we do, they are symbolically destroying us. Hence the excruciatingly painful feeling, though to our common sense it seems foolish and self-centered to feel so badly.”

inspirationrules

“But inspiration only dies down because the theoreticians, the horses of instruction, begin to dissect, analyze and then codify into rules what yesterday’s great artists did freely from their true selves.”

criticsdiscourage

“This is why I don’t like critics, whether they are English professors, or friends, or members of one’s own family, or men of letters on literary reviews. It is so easy for them to annihilate us, first by discouragement [footnote: Remember that discouragement is the only illness, George Bernard Shaw says.] and then by shackling our imagination in rules so that we cannot work freely and well on the next thing.”

hesitancymars

“It is because of the critics, the doubters (in the outer world and within ourselves) that we have such hesitancy when we write. And I know the hesitancy just mars it. It does not make it better at all.”

creativelove

“For I know that the energy of the creative impulse comes from love and all its manifestations–admiration, compassion, glowing respect, gratitude, praise, compassion, tenderness, adoration, enthusiasm. Compare the tenderness of great artists with the attitude of critics toward other men.”

imaginationdivine

“I wish I could show you why I object to critics and why I think they do harm and stifle and obstruct all creative power. It was William Blake who revealed this to me. ‘What we so often call Reason,’ Blake said, ‘is not the Understanding at all but is merely derived from the experience of our five senses, derived from Earth and from our bodies.’ “You cannot do this,’ Reason says (and all those erudite critics) ‘because it did not work the last time. Besides, it was logically and scientifically established by so-and-so after plenty of experiments,’ says the rationalist, the materialistic scientist, the critic, basing all this on merely physical experiences and so shutting out the glories of their Vision, their Imagination, which is Divine and comes from God and cannot be weighed and measured by scientists, established and explained.”

artistlover

“Of course I am sorry for them too. Because by encouraging the critic in themselves (the hater) they have killed the artist (the lover).”

Conclusion

I want to love. I don’t want to hate. I want to enjoy a book, not tear it down and put its flaws in a spotlight. “Look! Look! This is a bad thing!” No; if there is a bad thing, I may quietly point it out and move on to the good. I may heartily dislike—even hate—something in a book, because it is not the true good thing which I want it to be, but I take no pleasure in hating. Hating, criticizing, being critical… they do not bring me joy. They pull me down and darken my spirit and make me sad. Loving things and books and people and stories and characters—that does bring me joy.

Why do people so enjoy the creative surge of writing a new story, and instinctively do not like to turn their critic back on to edit it? We have so enjoyed being free to love and create and make art, that to be once more yoked with hate and critical thinking and rules, and the perceived need to bend our work of art to the will of others, is all the worse after such freedom. Loving and creating outweigh hating and criticism any day, at least in my book.

Light is greater than Darkness. Love is greater than Hate.

The bright original creative soul that is YOU is greater than any rulebook on “writing well.”

I want to love. And I want to be an artist, a writer, who loves—and creates out of that love, stories that come from my true self and from the desire to tell the truth and a story. I want to be a better writer, one who writes a story as well as I can, who does not fall prey to criticism from within or the kinds of rules that critics have made to shackle the creative writer into writing within a box according to a set of rules and what not to do.

More than anything (in the terms and imagery of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories”) I want to write and be a subcreator who takes leaves from the Tree of Tales and writes them into a story as best I can.

And so I say, if you want to write: Write.

Replace your inner critic, who hates, with your inner artist, who loves.

Go out and, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art.”

Do not be afraid.

Write what is you

and do so with all the truth and love you have in you.

Beautiful People: 2016 Writerly Resolutions/Goals

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE IS HERE! With Writerly Resolutions and Goals for 2016. Sound scrumptious? Of course it does. Let’s get this proverbial show on the proverbial road!

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Beautiful People is a monthly meme for writers held by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In — join in the linky if you like! It’s a lot of fun! 🙂

1. What were your writing achievements last year?

R&RWriting and editing an entire novella (The Rose and the Raven) and entering a contest. Writing two short stories. And working on several novels and getting a total wordcount of over 100k words for the year. Also taking new approaches at my two series. And I learned how to do a draft zero, how to write a lot of words, how to write small things, and also how to CUT a lot of words. I also learned how to write utterly adorable romances (in my humble opinion) so I’m proud of that. XD Basically I made some achievements and learned a TON in 2015 about writing and vaguely feel as though I’ve taken great strides.

*blinks* …Wow, until I answered this question, I had no idea I felt that way about the year! o.o Hurray for Beautiful People bringing out our deepest thoughts! (If it works for our characters, it can work for us writers too!)

S&Scover42. Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

Ummmm. Work on The Other Half of Everything, The Siren and the Skyship, The Silver Forest, continue The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2), and replot my entire epic fantasy series, the Starrellian Saga? Maybe? I know, that’s not one, but I’m sort of on writing hiatus right now and… yeah. Those are what I’m thinking about anyway and want to work on the most. 🙂 (Now watch something entirely different happen… >.>)

3. List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

  1. Plotting. I get so caught up in “I have to write WORDS and increase my number of actually WRITTEN writing!” that I often write when I’m not ready for it. I need to remember that plotting is a HUGE part of writing, even though it’s not easily visible.
  2. Actually writing. I’m very much a binge-writer, and I can’t write consistently to save my life (or… okay, during NaNo. But it’s exhausting and I usually would rather write 3k one day so I can take a day off than write 1667 words consistently every day). Consequently, it can be really hard for me to actually sit down and START writing! I need to work on this.
  3. Stop waffling. In line with the first one, I need to try to make my plots tighter and more interwoven. I tend to go off down rabbit trails and have a lot of stuff going on without actual plot happening, which makes for freakishly long and daunting books.
  4. STOP CHASING PLOT BUNNIES! …Okay, so this one is probably out of my control. *cough* But I keep getting SO distracted by attractive new plot bunnies that hop by me and drag me off down rabbit holes. I have oodles of perfectly good books to work on already and I don’t need any more until I’ve actually WRITTEN a few of these!
  5. Write what I love. This is actually a contradiction to the point before this, since many of those plot bunnies ARE what I love. But vaguely, I get caught up in stories the way they appear, and sometimes I don’t remember to throw in things that really catch my interest. I’d like to focus on that more this year.

4. Are you participating in any writing challenges?

NO. …Ahem. Yes, I’ll probably participate in NaNoWriMo in November, because I love NaNo, but I’m kind of burnt out as far as challenges go so I think I’m going to leave it at that… (Of course, that was my plan last year and then I randomly entered the Rooglewood Press contest soooo there’s that. *cough*) Challenges tend to stress me out and make me feel guilty for not writing, and I really need to relax and rediscover my joy in writing without all the pressure. 🙂 Currently, writing is for ME so I shouldn’t get caught up in deadlines when I don’t have to!

5. What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

Hum. I have a few lovely people who like to read my things at times — I still don’t quite know WHY. O_O — and… I haven’t worked on this much. I still haven’t figured out what I want most from a critique, which also accounts for my struggles trying to be a good beta-reader for others (I’m sorry, everyone!) so… I don’t know. I basically fail at all things beta/critique. :-/ I guess if I had plans it would be to actually read and give feedback for the lovely stories people send me, and figure out what I actually am looking for in a critique? Basically: LEARN THINGS AND NOT BE A HORRIBLE PERSON. There. That can be “plans to expand,” right? 😉

writingmagic6. Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

I’d like to read Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine and possibly On Writing by Stephen King and maybe a few writing books I have around. I do have like twenty random ebooks on writing etc. that were given to me. Not sure. *shrug*

Research… not really. I’m not much of a researcher. Reading fabulous books that I love is my research in general and always has been. 😀

7. Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

meridian2

Meridian

Oh my goodness, I don’t even know. O_O I do have a few characters who kind of lack something or I don’t really know what they’re LIKE yet… like Meridian in The Other Half of Everything, or Arielle in my Kedran’s Wood series (and also a certain spoilerish character from KW who I can’t even mention). So maybe someone like that. Or maybe just rediscovering my favorite characters from my Starrellian Saga, or any one of my favorites in the other books I want to work on.

As to how to achieve it? I have no idea. My characters do what they want and I can’t make them behave so I’ll just sit here and wait probably, because I’m lame like that. 😛 (Tips, anyone?)

8. Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I don’t knooow! *flails around* I usually edit somewhat as I go, and whenever I actually FINISH a thing I edit it… I don’t have a plan of attack and I have no idea about queries vs. self-pub and all of that utterly confusing industry type of questions. Basically I want to write and not worry about such things right now.

9. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

OHEcoverWhimsical, funny, epic, rollicking, insane fantasy adventures of the sort that Diana Wynne Jones wrote. The world does not have enough of these. I have no illusions that I will in any way approach DWJ’s genius, but The Other Half of Everything is SUPPOSED to be more along those lines… (Though it is still very vague and also keeps throwing dark subplots/characters at me… HONESTLY. It’s supposed to be lighthearted! Like I said, my books do what they want. >.>)

Also retellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. There are definitely not enough of them. Which is why I’m going to totally return to The Silver Forest and write MY version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (and hopefully make it fabulous *cough*).

(Also, there need to be more YA heisty/con-artist books. But I’m afraid I can’t help there. Yet…)

10. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

I’m really bad at making goals and actually sticking to them. My inspiration is a flighty and unpredictable thing, and whatever I think is the most important will probably get tossed to the wayside as my writing self tackles a totally random project I never heard of before (*cough* basically everything I wrote last year *cough*). So instead of having anything particular I’d like to have achieved by the end of 2016, I will only say that I would like to HAVE ACHIEVED. I’m not particular. As long as I can look back at my writerly year and say “I achieved”, then whatever that is that I did achieve, I’ll be content. ^_^