The Unofficial Guide to Love Writing When it Hurts

Hullo, World! Today I’ll be writing to conclude the mini series, Love, Author. With everything shut down (even the library!), I didn’t have to go anywhere in a rush or have to balance school work with my millions of activities (research, karate, music school, etc.).

Which was good. Actually, more than good…(Secretly hoping every week would be this relaxed.) So although the world’s gone a little crazy with the COVID19 outbreak, there are things to be hopeful about. 

So, here we are with the last topic of Love, Author–The Unofficial Guide to Love Writing When It Hurts. (Gah, what a mouthful! Couldn’t past me think of something a little shorter?)

When I first started this series, I was contemplating the kind of “love problems” an author faces. And quite frankly, this was one of the first things that came to my mind. Often, authors get caught up with many aspects of writing (and trying to get published) that they start to get a little overwhelmed with everything that is going on. 

Did I update my blog in time? How many responses did I get? Gah, I forgot to tend to my bookstagram this week! (My case scenario: I had forgotten about it for months.) My WIP is being exceedingly hard on me today….so far behind my word count…

Then you sort of start losing it.

At this rate, I will never be able to be published.

(This is where you put a mental stop, because you really need to reorient yourself.)

In the course of trying to get serious about my writing (meaning thinking of it as a second career), I’ve learnt so much from fellow authors, published or unpublished. One of the main things I’ve learnt is that–

1: Writing is hard.

Yep, I said it. There’s no way around this fact. Everyone who writes professionally no matter the length or experience knows this. Sometimes, you sit for hours in front of a blank screen, blank not because you’re not writing, but because every sentence, paragraph, or page you write, you end up deleting. Or maybe you are able to write coherent sentences, but it feels like you’re in the North Pole slugging through sheets of ice. And there are days when you absolutely can’t write.

Which is normal.

Writing is hard business. To be quite frank, it’s not for the weak of heart. You might as well remain by keeping writing something casual, like my drawing which I do for recreation. Sometimes, it’s better if you take a step back from serious writing to light and fun writing, like pursuing absurd story prompts and idea dust bunnies. And there are times when you should not write at all. (Like how I took a break during my college application, which was, in the hindsight, the smartest choice I could have made.)

But you always have to remember:

2: Writing is fun.

You don’t believe me? Well, imagine you’re given the power to create anything–planets, solar systems, people, the latest fashion trend, bestseller books, anything! Which, essentially, is what writing can offer you. 

And if you’re a believer like me, you have another reason writing should be fun. You were created in God’s image, and God created us. He’s the essential author. Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus is the “author of salvation”. If we are made in his image, it’s only natural that we would want to create, and that it would be an exciting thing to do. Writing is hard. Really hard. But even more than the hardness of writing, it is something that gives us joy. 

When you start forgetting about the fun aspect of writing, try thinking back on when you first wrote something. Or that moment when you told your first story that enthralled your audience (like my siblings). Go back to the past, and think about the simple, pure aspect of writing that got you into it in the first place. 

Remember, the trick is not to learn to write better. It’s to shift your perspective about writing. 

And lastly,

3: Writing takes time.

A lot of people (including me) forget this fact. Someone (I can’t remember who) once said that writers should be a little crazy since they spend their lifetime arranging 26 letters of the alphabet (or 50 +kanji if you’re Japanese). 

Some people write extremely fast. Some people write extremely slow. 

But whatever speed they write at (or how fast they can type), writing still takes time. Time is the length of your life. Spending time on writing is spending your life. So, the next time you’re discouraged because it’s been three years (or more) and you’re still writing your first draft, don’t be discouraged. Take writing one day at a time. As long as you keep writing, you’ll get there. The important thing is to keep writing. 

So that’s it from me today. Thank you for reading this series, Love, Author. I hope that you got a new perspective on writing, and how vital love is for authors. I have a fun theme for Afternoon Tea with SJ next week. 

Stay tuned! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

It’s Okay Even If Your Writing Is Terrible

Hello, World! I am back again for the Love, Author series. Since all the craziness of the COVID19 in the world. I’ve been shut up in my house, running bunch of marathons. Yesterday, we watched Aladdin and Eternal Zero. For those of you who do not know, Eternal Zero is about a special attack unit division in the Japanese Navy during WW2. In other words, it’s about the kamikaze–suicide bombers. But the main character is determined to live. So, I recommend it full-heartedly to everyone reading this. 

A. On Writing Voice

Anyhow, today, I want to talk about your prose, or how you write. Until I got serious about writing two years ago, I just wrote. I knew that I liked certain author’s writing voices better than others, but I didn’t know anything about prose or writing voice. 

Then it dawned on me.

Authors like Donna Tartt would write decidedly differently from authors like Rick Riordan. That’s because they have a different writing voice. It’s what gives each book a unique colour, and why Agatha Christie mysteries would sound different from Dorothy Sayers.  

And that, my readers, are writing voice. 

Grand Revelation

B. On Grammar 

Of course, there are rules. You can’t just. Do this, because you think it creates great prose. You have to follow the basic grammar rules. 

I say basic since there are tons of grammatical rules out there (the Oxford comma, controversial, like as a conjunction, etc.) and I only know so much. Especially when you’re writing and you’re in the stream, you really don’t want to be stopping every single sentence to make sure you haven’t made grammatical mistakes. 

Which is why Grammarly exists.

Just kidding. I mean, even if your story is great, there is a bottom line with grammar. You must sound like a coherent person, or it’s hard to get anywhere. 

C. On Writing Well 

So taking the two points I’ve outlined above, we’ll have some kind of idea about writing well. Obviously, something well written would have a great author’s voice, and also acceptable grammar. (Actually, not acceptable. Good grammar, more like.) If you read something written by C. S. Lewis, you’d probably know it, even if it didn’t say the author was Lewis. 

When writing, you would want to try incorporating your voice. I’ve been trying to develop my writing voice, these past years…Hopefully, you can tell when I’m writing? 

D. On Being Okay with not Writing Well

But we often fall into the trap of being too focused on writing well. We might read something other people have written, be it blogs or short stories or poetry. 

Then you realize, “Oh, I’m not that good.”

Or you go back after an intense writing sprint and read back what you’ve written. 

And it sounds absolutely terrible. 

Let me tell you one thing: It’s okay. It’s okay even if your writing sounds terrible, and if there are a million grammatical mistakes in there. It’s okay. One day, you might be that author who writes polished prose in the first draft. Or you might still write terribly, but you’ll go back and ruthlessly rewrite. 

It’s okay because the number one thing an author has to do is write. Without writing, there is no prose to revise. Without writing, there’s no chance of your writing gets better. 

So the next time you read something you’ve written, and feel like burning it, take a little break, and remind yourself, “It’s okay.” And trust me, we would all write better–you just have to keep writing.

Are you writing (even if it might not be your best)? What do you like to tell yourself to stay motivated on writing? Let me know in the comments below!

The Writing Habitat

Yes, the time has come for me to go on another rant about my writing. I’d just finished watching Schindler’s List, and am seriously considering my secret ambition of one day writing a historical fiction. (What can I say? WWII is the era in history that has been my love since grade one.) I also regrettfully recall my relunctance at playing Jerusalem of Gold over and over again for a concert for a very important person. But how does one maintain sanity of mind when you are ordered to rehearse it for the milionth of time?

Anyhow, since I have currently set myself on blogging about my writing for one week and anything else concerning writing (mainly books) for the other, you are invited to consider just what a writing habitat is.

According to the National Geographic, a habitat is: A place where an organism makes its home. A habitat meets all the environmental conditions an organism needs to survive.

Notice the word survive. It’s vital. It’s centric to life itself. So a writing habitat would translate into: A place where a writer makes its home. A habitat meets all the environmental conditions a writer needs to survive.

Wow. I actually never considered this in my life.

Obviously, the next question we are begged to ask is, “Where on earth does a writing habitat exist?” And to answer that question, I am forced to face the reality that two kinds of answer should be given, where one is definitively the answer we all seek, and the other a practial advise.

I. Akogare (a-ko-ga-re)

This means “wish”, “what you wished were true”, or “someone/thing you look up to”. In the stricest sense, I am merely using this as a whole feel, and what I mean is this: It is the exact type of environment that would empower you to smash out 10+K a day. (Don’t say it’s impossible. That was me on the last day of NaNoWriMo last year.) It’s the kind of place where you can’t help it but dwell in that best writer mode where words practically drip from your fingers to paper/screen. Note that for every writer, this would differ.

For me specifically, this writing habitat would contain a small yet airy room with a sunny window, a small couch and desk (to use as storage), walls lined with books so that the room feels overflowing with them, and a complete sound system that blasts “Heist Music”–or the playlist of classical music and Vocaloid that I listen to when I write. Time is not an issue here due to the automatic time turner installed. And absolutely NO FAMILY MEMBERS ALLOWED. I don’t know about you, and it’s not like I don’t not hate them (double, nay, triple negative!), but they are the number one source of distraction. Truly I advise you, if you wish to accomplish naught but to increase your morning heaedache and misery, bring out the worst side of yourself that had been stashed underneath your bed, or simply curse the day your writing life began, invite your family into the space you are writing in. *The omnious silence enuses*

For the Akogare to work out, you must first eliminate all distractions and fill up the habitat with all the things that gives you pure joy. Yes, that is right. In such an environment, it is very much possible to run on the sole power of Favourite Things alone.

II. Genjitsu (ge-nn-ji-tsu)

And here is the reality. In reality, the habitat is riddled with dangerous predators and natural disasters like intruders, distractions, and dried up wells of inspiration. Or simply no room at all. It is the impossible blank paper/screen staring up at you in a room full of screaming people in the background. (Okay, my siblings are not that bad, but sometimes it seems so.) In Genjitsu, you are dissuaded from writing as soon as you set your mind to do it. Perhaps you don’t even have the bare minimum to write with.

But let me assure you, my dear comrade. All hope is not lost even if you don’t have that perfect writing schedule, room, or even habitat. The writing habitat, thankfully, is everywhere. You simply have to retain your writing drive no matter what.

The most practial way to accomplish setting up your writing habitat is this: To marry the two sets of writing habitats. Try to have that one space you can call an Akogare, and also retain the Genjitsu by forcing yourself to write everyday, anywhere. Because what can I say? Writing is hard. It’s not always roses and sunshine and inspiration guiding you to the next best seller, but rather sweat, blood, and simply grunt work. Alwith, it’s always good to have some roses and sunshine and inspiration to get you back up when you feel like you are broken and dry. So snag a blanket or steal a couch. Find a sunny patch on the floor that you can cuddle in. And for a few moments, ignore some people (with the intent on apologizing later), since sometimes it’s important to maintain homeostatis between writing and life. Writing is life for me.

In the end, a writing habitat is no more or less than the state of mind or a way of thought. It’s that mindset that you simply write, whenever, wherever you are…and sometimes refueling with Favourite Things. I hope, dear comrades, that you would find your style of “writing habitat”. Till next time!