The Lost Art of Letters and the Writer

Dangerous words, but I’ve been thinking. In school, I took an AP Literature class, which meant learning not only about their work, but the authors as well. Some of this was done through first hand accounts, usually their journals and letters. I hated the work, finding it tedious and boring, but it did help me understand their stories, novels, or poems.

Some writers still keep journals. I keep an art journal that is half-filled with words. Every once in a while I try to keep a written journal that I seem to inevitably get bored writing. Many others actually succeed at the task, though, and we’ll have that when their works become classics for future generations.

Even those who don’t keep journals often track their lives digitally. They have Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and any number of other accounts. You can even see what they’ve eaten over the last week with their Instagram account. I don’t do many of those, but I have a sporadically used Twitter account, and fandom Tumblr. I also have these blogs.

But what about letters? What in our modern world is replacing the snail-mail letter?

I can’t be sure about that. There’s e-mail, but that’s not as easy of a transition as you may think. With all of the other forms of communication, we no longer have to tell our nearest and dearest about the latest goings-on; they can check Facebook for that. If they want to know what we feel about the latest in popular culture there’s our Tumblr account. Our Twitter will often let them know what we’re following in the news and how we feel about it.

We don’t quite have the same personal connection in writing anymore. The things that they used to write about in letters show up in our various forms of social media, or we can just call up our close family and friends to talk directly. It’s dangerous.

I like writing letters and e-mails. I don’t have a Facebook account, so I actually do have things to tell people when I e-mail them. However, I’ve noticed that not everyone is that great at writing back. Some people (often my creative friends) love the opportunity to write with someone. Others wonder aloud and often why I don’t just get a Facebook.

When they do write back, it can just be bad. The grammar is horrible and there isn’t much capitalization or punctuation. Even worse, some of them have used txt-speak outside of texting (where it doesn’t grate quite as much), and have quickly learned not to do so with me. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I could be stuck in a past that’s just not here anymore, but I think I have a point here. How much are we losing by not writing to each other? Writing privately to someone allows the ideas to form in a way that we often don’t get in the public forum. Is this a loss to us as writers (or creative people in general)? Is this a loss to the future generations or do Twitter and Facebook and everything else make up for it?

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Is Anyone Taking Me Seriously?

…I hope not.

Well, not too seriously.

First of all, I’m young. I’m not super young, but I am in my early/mid twenties. I am sure that most of the things I’m spouting off now are in some way wrong or will be rendered so at some point. I change my mind often enough that I know it to be true. (Maybe.)

Secondly, I’m not published, either traditionally or self…ish…ly? I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just slashing my way through the jungles of writing with my imaginary machete like one of Indiana Jones’s disposable guides. Hopefully, I’ll find my Ark of the Covenant at some point: publishing. But, for now, I’ll just repeat this: I don’t know what I’m doing.

This blog isn’t one of the many writing advice blogs, at least it’s not meant to be. What I hope I’m doing here is chronicling my journey into writing. Sometimes you might find something that’ll be useful to you, but more often I’ll be rambling on about how hard it is to be a writer. Because it is hard, and I don’t care how much you people who don’t write say it’s not. Just because it’s fun, doesn’t mean it’s not difficult.

Are you taking me seriously? (Really, don’t.) Are you afraid your readers are taking you too seriously? Who should  I be taking seriously?

Fear’s a Strong Word, Isn’t It?

Figuring out what today’s topic would be was strangely difficult. I went through several possibilities, each one more forced than the last, my writing getting stiffer with every word and my voice getting lost in the facts. You see, I’m still in the early planning stages of my novel, which is the first of a book series, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself so I limited the topics to pre-writing, or general writing. To make things more difficult, I have a wicked case of writer’s block.

Then a close friend of mine suggested (as I was banging my head against the desk in an oddly soothing rhythm) that I write about just that: writer’s block. Writer’s block is… a difficult topic. Not just because it’s a pain in my behind, but because it’s so difficult to pinpoint and explain. Most posts about writer’s block that don’t have a more specific topic end up being about nothing, which is why I decided to write about fear.

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As Deadlines Go Whooshing By

Deadlines.

It seems an appropriate subject since it’s been… three weeks since my last post, and I’ve bypassed three posts. As Douglas Adams once said, I like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by. I’d tell you what my relationship with them is, but it’s probably obvious by now.

We don’t get along.

Procrastination, however, is a dear, dear friend of mine. I’ve procrastinated as long as I can remember, and it was only augmented by the fact that I was one of those annoying kids in class who could do term papers the night before the first draft was due and still get the best mark in class. That’s why I try to set firm deadlines for myself when they’re not imposed on me. Sometimes it even works.

Honestly, this is one of the parts of a writer’s life that I have a serious love/hate relationship with. I’m not published or contracted in any way, so the only deadlines I have are completely self-imposed: writing contests, writing entry deadlines, or just deadlines I set for myself when I decide that enough’s enough. If I miss a deadline, it’s no big deal. I don’t enter the contest, or I miss an opportunity. There are no tangible consequences, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.

On one hand this is good. I can write when I want to, when inspiration hits or I have enough free time to sit at my desk. I even write fewer pieces that are absolute rubbish. I don’t get tired of plotlines or stories, my characters don’t annoy me quite as often because I can always just walk away.

But it is also very, very bad.

Overall, I produce less stuff, not just less bad stuff, but less good stuff too, and some of my best pieces of writing were written hours before a deadline, sometimes minutes. I just do better when the adrenaline is flowing and I don’t a have any other choice but to write. And I write so much slower. I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, and inspiration comes and goes as it pleases. This means that it can be days or weeks, once months between good pieces of writing.

That’s completely unacceptable. I understand that sometimes there’s writer’s block and some reason (though God only knows why) behind a writer’s inability to write, but this is just laziness and I need to get over it. I think part of me is scared to try to sell my novel once I get it finished. I’m scared of the rejection, or maybe I’m scared of actually getting sold.

But not finishing scares me a hell of a lot more than getting or not getting published. I am a writer. My family and friends introduce me as such (“This is Brigid. She writes.”) and I have always been writing. If I never finish anything, then that makes me a pretty horrible writer, doesn’t it? If I’m a horrible writer– the one changeable thing that’s defined me since I graduated from “reader” to “writer” in the first grade– does that make my entire life worthless? Does that make me worthless?

Logically, I don’t think so. I’ve done a lot of good just in the couple of decades I’ve lived, but I could do so much more. I am determined to do much more, and I am determined to do so with my words.

Do any of my readers need deadlines or are you all lucky enough to have the discipline to write without them? Can you write with them or does it block your creativity? Have you ever had deadlines to meet with your writing?

Status: Worldbuilding, Physical; Wordcount: 110

Noticing the Ideas

Hello everyone! Seems I’m actually going to post on time.

I figure since I’m writing a blog about writing, I should start at the beginning: ideas. Whenever anyone finds out I’m an aspiring writer, I get asked the same question without fail.

Where do I get my ideas?

As annoying as that question is, my answer is probably more annoying. I get them everywhere.  So do you. So does everyone.

Ideas are everywhere. You can get them when reading a book or watching a movie. You can get them when you overhear an argument or see the view (or lack thereof) from your bedroom. The difference between a normal person and a writer is that writers recognize that they’re getting ideas and they make something from it.

So, the problem with me isn’t I don’t get ideas, but trying to form the ideas into something usable or just writing in general. That’s the problem now, too. I have at least three ideas floating around in my head and I don’t know which to use. Maybe I’ll sketch out some ideas and see what you all think I should do. At the least, I’ll have more formed ideas for the story.

How about all of my readers (as few as you may be)? Do you have difficulty coming up with ideas or making them into something that’d work for a book/short story/poem? Are you like me and your ideas come from everything, everywhere, all the time or do you have to sit down and focus to form ideas, maybe even use prompts?

Status: Worldbuilding; Word Count: 0