AH: Bird By Bird

Hullo, world! 

It’s been a rainy grey week here in Vancouver, but yesterday we saw some sunshine which was a relief. I got a chance to go out with my wotaku friend, which always cheers me up…

But to be honest, this week has been rough. I don’t know why. I cried a lot, stared at a lot of blank screens, skipped more meals than I should, and have overall been in a tough place. (Not to mention I didn’t post last week. I do so apologise about it!!)

Insert Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

A book that’s been on my TBR and also one that’s been recommended to me by my friend, Bird by Bird was the writing book I thought I knew about…yet didn’t. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist, she turns to the art of life.

I: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” 

This, I think, is so central to this book. So often we get hung up on finishing the book, we don’t think it has a beginning. But what’s more important is to start somewhere, every day. (୨୧ ❛ᴗ❛)✧

II: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” 

I love this quote so much! I more often than not struggle with perfectionism (in writing, in studying, in every part of my life) and think there’s something I should be doing, something I could be doing to not die (according to Lamott). Which, very obviously, isn’t true. 

III: Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” 

This is the kind of why we write and read. Lately, I’ve been reading (and working on a 2K essay) on Plato’s Republic, and I had to go back to the why of the Art and Artists…does it matter? And if so, why? 

IV: “E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” 

I heard the exact same thing about faith walk somewhere and I think it illustrates both cases perfectly. So often we have no idea where we’re going in our stories (even when we have a detailed outline) and it makes us nervous. And yet, when we’re driving a car at night, you just have to keep stepping on the gas…and eventually, you’ll get there. ꒰ ∩´∇ `∩꒱

V: “If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the centre of your work. Write straight into the emotional centre of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

This sort of links to the third quote about books. Plato talks a lot about the form of truth and how it may manifest itself in many iterations (or imitations) but the form is what matters & there’s only one of it. There’s always a universal truth that matters to us. So, continue writing it, just the way you see it. 

“My job is to paint what I see, not what I know.”

J. M. W. Turner

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading. What did you think? Have you read Bird By Bird? Or do you have any other favourite books on writing? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: How to Regain Your Love (& Motivation) to Write Again

Hullo, world!

It’s so hard to believe, but my first week at my university has ended. In this week, I got to go on campus tours, attend workshops & practise lectures/seminars as well as meeting so many new people. And although I’m kind of tired after the fact, it has been such a blessing being a part of this. I can’t thank everyone who was a part of this experience enough. 

Now, it’s my favourite day of the week–Saturday! I honestly don’t know why, but Saturdays fill me with joy whether or not I get to write (or blog) simply because it’s that kind of day that makes me smile when I wake up. And obviously, Irish cream in my coffee. That’s the only day I get the real deal 🙂

[Also, pls take some time to fill out a short survey concerning my email list: https://forms.gle/e6sxLonmVKnMWdJk7

Today, I’ll be talking about How to Regain Your Love (& Motivation) to Write Again. This summer has actually been a dry spell for my writing life where I struggled to put words down to paper. Even when I did so, it didn’t feel natural or from my heart and I ended up needing lots of breaks in between. 

Well, it’s officially September, and I’ll be going back into writing…so here’s a little fragment from that attempt. 

 A: Where are you? 

First of all, temet nosce. You need to know where you are writing-wise and life-wise. 

For example, university is starting for me in a hybrid manner–meaning, I’ll have half online classes & lectures while the other half is in-person. I don’t have a full-load yet, but I know I won’t have as much time to write. So, I’ll be setting a lower goal than I think I can do…like, half the amount I think I can manage. 

B: What is in your heart? 

For the longest time, I lost touch with the feeling of excitement with the WIPs I was working on. Obviously, not every writing day will look like hands flying, mind flashing past to awesome scenes and amazing prose leaking out. But I felt the fire inside me dying, flickering into embers that I started doubting my story. 

And so, reflect on your heart. What is the story in your heart? What’s the theme song burning just to be written? Chances are, without a solid thesis, the words you want to shout to the whole world, you won’t get through those tough writing days, the dry spells of writing. Find that ember. Find the fire to your story, the soul of everything that makes your story matter. 

C: Who are you writing to? 

This is also an essential block to writing & motivation. I talk often about my Ideal Reader, and how I’ve come to realise they’re usually me to begin with. I’m writing the book I can’t find on the bookshelf. I’m writing a blog post that will encourage me, make me smile in the future. I used to think I had to have a “proper” IR–family, friends, etc., etc.–and that put a lot of pressure on me. 

What will they think of my writing? What if they didn’t find it as enjoyable as I thought it was? What if they thought I was wasting my time? 

Well, I say Tash to all that. 

It’s absolutely inane. Even if everyone out there absolutely hates my writing, I love it. And that’s enough for now. 

D: When will you write? 

On a more practical note, ask yourself WHEN you’re going to write. 

I wrote in the mornings these past years because that was the only time in the day I had time all to myself. I used to think if I missed that slot, I wouldn’t have any time to write that day. 

*insert “Tash to all that!”*

Anyhow. From this September, I’ll be going for a more flexible writing schedule. If I write one word, one sentence a day, it’ll still be a good writing day. If I write a page or five, huzzah to me. I might be able to write in the morning, or after lectures, or even before going to bed. It’ll be a new attempt and I’ll probably still have to adjust many things (and fail a lot), but I’ll write as long as that day still exists. 

E: Why are you writing? 

And lastly, probably the most important thing to know–Why are you writing?  It’s that kind of question that makes you want to slowly edge away, saying, “Oh, this is just, um, a hobby, a side-business-y thing I do, so don’t mind me…”

Well, no. 

Writing isn’t a just, it’s definitely not some mindless thing you do. (I mean, it could be that, but for me it’s never some small thing.) You’re pouring your life and soul into this “small thing” you do on your side because you actually believe this is something that matters, something worth your time. Don’t downplay your writing. Don’t think it’s something without a mission. 

I write because even when someone stops me, there’s a story in my heart that’s screaming to be written. There’s a message that’s waiting to be heard. It might take time, it might look ugly, but as long as there’s still today and tomorrow and so on, I’ll take up my pen. And that’s the end and the beginning of the story. 

Thank you for reading! What do you think? Do you have something burning in your heart? A story that’s waiting to be written? Why do you write? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

(Also, don’t forget to fill out a short survey! https://forms.gle/Q2RdgsXKtffYzC4D8)

AH: It’s Okay to Write Slow

Hullo, world!

I’m back from my short hit-outs. I survived camp and am fired up about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! I was especially fired up about judo and karate and am so happy Japan got 12 medals (9 gold!!) in judo and 3 in karate. Also, the wrestling team got 7 medals in total (5 gold) which was awesome. Canada’s women’s soccer got gold, so I’m still happy even though Japan’s women’s soccer didn’t do so well this year. 🙂 I also love Irie Sena-senshu of women’s boxing. She’s the same age as me and got a gold medal, but loves frogs, which is too adorable!!

Anyhow. 

Today, I’ll be talking a bit about the slow writing days. Recently, I haven’t been able to write as much (or as fast) as I’d like to, even though I have a lot of great ideas. I would have a day when I would wake up, thinking, “I’m going to write today!” But the day wouldn’t go as planned and I’d miss my writing slot. 

And I’d think, This is bad. If I’m not writing, I can’t call myself a writer. 

Which, btw, is totally not true. Here’s my take on this month’s Author Health–It’s Okay to Write Slow. 

A: Each WIP is different.

This is kind of common sense, but I’m still going to say it. Every WIP that you work on will take a different amount of time. 

For me, draft 0.5-1.5 of Juliet took me a total of four years. I’m still not done with the rewrites–in fact, I’d just begun it. Woodstone is a faster paced project in terms of wordcount and the time it took to get that word count, but it’s been a year already since I started. Osthauptstadt took six months to put together; I’m still uncertain about the ending although that’s technically where I am. And that’s not to mention Elektriem (or die electricae as I’m now calling it) and a bunch of other projects underway. 

So, don’t get discouraged even if one WIP takes you longer to start or finish. The amount of time it takes you is always going to be the right amount. 

B: Slow doesn’t equate to low quality.

This is also something that’s super common sense, but the thing that tends to be forgotten. Just because a WIP takes time (like, years in the making) doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it might be quite the contrary. I’ve found that the more time I take to get the words out on paper, the higher quality it tends to be. 

The first book of Juliet took me around three years to write and it’s probably one of the most solid drafts out of the three parts. 

Osthauptstadt, the project that’s been pulling my hair out, took less time to write, but still was a slower process than what I’m used to–I could write only a few hundred words at a time. Yet it’s been a WIP that helped sharpen my prose and focus. 

Woodstone, by far the longest WIP so far with 155.7K in the 65% mark, has taught me endurance. 

Slowness isn’t a measure of incompetence. It’s the measure of one’s diligence. 

C: What are you hurrying for? 

And lastly, this is the thing that’s been stuck on my mind the most–What are you hurrying for? 

When I was writing in high school, I was writing like someone who was going to die any second. (Which, by the way, is absolutely true, but hear me out.) I thought I had to make it or break it by the time I graduated high school to have any hope of a second career as an author. I know, irrational and completely insane, but that was my belief. 

I set crazy writing deadlines for myself. I told myself I had no other time in my life to write. I was constantly on the edge whenever someone else got acquitted or got published. I felt like my slowness was a failure. 

Well, it’s not. 

I had a wake-up call where I realised this: I love writing. I’ll probably be writing even when I’m a wrinkly old lady. Who cared if I got to the “publishing line” before I was twenty? Who cared if I took the longer route in traditional publishing? Why, Tolkien took over ten years! Even C. S. Lewis got rejected before he was recognised. J. K. Rowling got turned down by 12 publishing houses. None of them were in a hurry to get published. (Or maybe they were, IDK, but it’s true they stuck out on their end and kept writing.) 

So, I’ve decided not to hurry. Each person has their own writing journey walked at their own pace. I’ll keep walking mine…and in the end, that’s what counts. 

Friends, let us keep walking. 

Thank you for reading! What do you think? Do you have slow writing days? (Or slow writing months?) What are some things that helps you stay grounded when you feel the need to hurry? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!