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: 5 Truths Your Old Writing Tells You

Hullo, world!

I feel a little at loss today as I sit writing this because…*whispers* my mental health has been going down. My energy’s been kind of low even though a lot of great things have been happening. 

I took a hit-outs on IG, planned a writing retreat for myself, and in general, am hoping to slow things down a little. But I won’t be taking a hit-outs on blogging since this is one of the “slowing down” things I do. 😉

Also, this is completely random, but I am officially in love with Jujutsu Kaisen. (I mean, who wouldn’t like Gojo-sensei???) And the vibes of old Japanese things are just amazing. Not to mention it’s MAPPA. Plus, the first op. is Eve, who I’ve been following from the start…

Honestly, I just want Yuji & co to be happy…

*End rant*

Okay, let’s get into today’s topic. I often re-read my old works, and I realised there’s a lot of negativity concerning one’s old writings–I mean, I get it. My first major WIP’s protagonist was named Abigail Chemingstunn. But then again, there’s so much more to your old writings than cringey prose and annoyingly cliché characters. 

Me re-reading my old writing…”I have no recollection of this place!”

So, without further ado, let me present to you…AH: 5 Truths Your Old Writing Tells You.

1. It’s not that bad.

I know, it’s kind of obvious, but it’s true! Your old writing isn’t that bad. When I first started writing, I had a lot of ideas. I didn’t really know novels were a thing, so I wrote a lot of short stories and novellas instead. As I re-read some of them this morning, I was reminded how much I actually loved those stories. Some of them got accepted for magazine publication, others didn’t. While still others, I gave as birthday presents to my friends and families, who didn’t complain about this. (Thank you to everyone who read my stories!!) Any story I write, I care about in my heart. And that’s what counts by far. 

2. You’ve come this far.

Another thing I always think of when I go to dig up my old writing is that I’ve written a lot. Last week I talked a bit about my total fictional work’s word count which is almost 600K. If you haven’t done this already, I would totally recommend going back and calculating how many words you’ve written so far. Even if it doesn’t look like much, you’ll probably be surprised at how far you’ve come

3. You’re always getting better at this

And obviously, not just the amount of words or WIPs you’ve written, but the quality of them matters. This kind of reminds me of the “oh, look how terrible my prose and overall writing used to be” syndrome so I don’t want it to sound like it…But what I mean is this. 

Each WIP you write teaches you something vital about storytelling you couldn’t have known if you didn’t write that story. Even if you do make mistakes along the way, or feel like your writing is trashy, it just tells you how much better you’ve gotten since then.

4. Every word counts

I really like the Japanese saying, Senri no michi mo ippo kara, which means Even a road of a thousand miles begins with a single step

When I first began writing, I didn’t know what I was doing. If you know at all about my earlier blog posts, it’s that I have no idea. What helped me through all of the floundering was the words that I’ve compiled. Words build up and become a part of you. 

5. You’re a writer.

In the end, the fact that you have old writings to read back (and critique) means you’re a writer. When writing gets tough and you start to think that maybe writing isn’t your thing, reflect on your old writings. 

And, you realise that your old writing is what makes your current writing

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Thank you for reading! How has your week been? Do you read your old writings? What are some things you like about your old writing? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

5 Steps to Recharge After A Major WIP

Hullo, world!

I’m back again with another Author Health blog post. *inserts fanfare* Today is a kind of special post for me, since it’s officially December…the month after NaNoWriMo! (Or Meno-WriMo in my case.) Although I didn’t reach my goal of 50K this year (I wrote 28K), I’m glad with what I did get down on paper…literally. 

And if you did win NaNo, or even if you didn’t, I know that December can be that weird month where you’re wondering if you want to keep writing or take a break or do something else. If you know what you’re doing this month, great! But if not, and you’re super conflicted (like me), let’s take a look at the 5 Steps to Recharge After A Major WIP and decide from there. 

Are you ready? 

Here we go…

1: Rest (Don’t write anything!!) 

Yes, you heard that right. No matter how many words you’ve written last month, now is actually a really good time to take a break. Be that one or two days or a week, take a break. Writing is an exacting business. No matter how you wrote (easy as a breeze or shoveling horse feces, & c.) taking some time to rest is vital when recharging. I recommend checking out my previous Author Health post, 5 Self Care I Like to Do, for ideas to rest. 

People should follow Zenitsu’s style.

2: Read books (Ones that you love)

And of course, as writing is exhaling, we read to inhale. Reading books is a vital activity to supplement the creativity and energy you used up. What often happens for me is that  I tend to avoid reading in the genre I’m writing, so I end up having to stick to books that are outside my commitment. This is good for when I’m writing, since I don’t get distracted with stories that are more polished than mine. 

However.

I can only go for so long without reading dark academia or fantasy or YA. So now that I’ve gotten the complete Harry Potter box set for my birthday, I’ll indulge in that and dense academia books I’ve been placing on hold. (Plus there is that thing where I have a stack of books overdue…)

3: Review Ideas (Re-reads and excavations)

And here comes the part I dearly love: reviewing ideas! This is where I drag out incomplete drafts and old ideas collecting dust bunnies on the shelf and excavate them. I might re-read the drafts or expand ideas I already have to see if they “spark joy”. I might even come up with completely new ideas that keep me awake at night. 

Here, you shouldn’t let your logical side into the equation, meaning you stop thinking about deadlines or the order you were planning to move forward in your writing. 

I personally struggle with this a lot, since I have this idea that I should have some kind of schedule in a year to finish certain WIPs by a certain month. But instead of mustering up strength to plow through a story that’s not clicking with you emotionally, you should write one that weighs on your heart. Because, you never know which work might be your last. (I know, I always lean into the morbid side of  things.) 

I know, I love this guy too much.

4. Examine.

This is the stage you can let your logic decide things. After you find a project that speaks to your soul, stop a moment and figure out where you are in your life. 

For example, last year’s NaNoWriMo, I made the mistake of listening to my heart more than my head. *shudders* I was applying to Ivy Leagues and similar schools, trying to balance my school load, getting a perfect ACT score, and applying for scholarships and financial aids. (Spoiler Alert: I didn’t get any of those things done!) In the midst of this, I felt like I really needed to write my story…you know, it was like I had to write it at that  time or else I won’t be able to say the same things with the same intensity of feelings. Insane, right?

Well, my mental health took a nosedive, and I was a wreck. All because I didn’t properly examine my priorities. 

Me last year.

Once I decided to place it on hold, though, it helped me realise that there was something more important I should be focusing my energy on.

Okay, that was kind of a long analogy, but it’s really important you stop for a moment and examine your priorities. You’ve already done a great job showing up to write last month. Do you have something you can only do right now other than writing? If  yes, you shouldn’t be writing now. As much as it might pain you to do so (and believe me, I understand), take a break for writing. Finish whatever you need to do first, then come back to writing next year. That way, you can have a fresher start. 

If no, then you are ready to take up your pen again! (Or keyboard.)

5. Restart!

And that’s basically it. You can go back to the all-time adrenaline high of plotting and worldbuilding and sabotage. I’m still undecided on which project to tackle at the moment, but I know I’ll be drinking Earl Grey and hot chocolate like water while listening to heist music!  

Because, in the end, that’s what authors do. 

By now, you might have figured out I’m using these GiFs as an excuse to promote Kimetsu-no-Yaiba…

What did you think? Do you think you’ll be writing this month? Or not? What are  some of the projects you’re interested in tackling? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!