Belated New Year

I haven’t had the time to blog this month. Except for today–the last day of January. And even now, I’m rushing through this post as I’m getting ready for bed, just trying to make sure I at least get something up in the month of January. It’s funny–being a writer and having a blog, I feel guilty if I don’t write (especially fiction) and I feel guilty if I don’t get at least one blog post up per month–and so the past few months, I’ve felt particularly guilty because I’ve hardly done either kind of writing.

This brings me to my New Year list. You could call it a list of resolutions, but I think most people are always resolving to better themselves in some way throughout the year. These are personal wishes for myself that I always have in mind, but the new year gives me a reason to revisit and recognize them:

1. I’ll try NOT to feel guilty and anxious for not writing. And I’ll prevent that feeling of guilt by either sitting down and writing for one hour per week at least (start small), submitting work to literary magazines, or by recognizing when I actually just don’t have the time–and be okay with that.

2. I won’t buy any more books until I’ve read all the books I already own, waiting in the bookcase or on my Kindle  (unless it’s an emergency–avid readers, you know what I’m talking about).

3. I’ll continue to get at least one blog post up per month.

4. I’ll share my thoughts on each book I read, even if it’s just for the sake of catharsis.

5. I’ll remember that we are all perfect in our imperfection. And that we are always moving toward our goals, however slowly. Life is never static.

I wanted this post to be a little more uplifting because I have seen some terrific New Years posts about following your dreams and all that, but I also just have to be real about my thoughts right now.

Readers, I’m actually more interested in hearing about your goals, especially if any pertain to reading, writing, or creativity, as I know we all need motivation in those areas. Anything you’d like to share?

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Short Story Publication

“Poison” on Fiction365

Great news! Lately, even though I haven’t been posting on here as often as I’d like, I have been doing other productive things–including working on my writing and submitting my writing to venues.

Today, my short story “Poison” has been published in the online literary journal, Fiction365.

This is my first fiction publication out in the “real world.” If you would like to take a look at my writing, please do so by clicking the link above.

And feel free to leave any comments you may have in the comments section of this post! Would love to hear from you!

Writing With a Day Job

It’s what I want. But it’s difficult–writing with a day job.

I just came back from a vacation to Portland, Oregon, where I spent a week eating a lot and whistling “Colors of the Wind” while hiking to hidden waterfalls. It was awesome–but no writing for me.

Now, it’s back to commuting and working. I wake up at 6:00 a.m. to get to work at 9:00 a.m., work quite diligently until 5:45 p.m., and return to my abode by 7:30 p.m. I try to use the commute to New York City as writing/reading time, but I’m often just too tired and fall asleep to the gentle swaying of the train. I try to use time after work or weekends to maybe submit a story to a magazine or do something productive, like maybe write a blog post, but alas, I’m tired. Sometimes I get these things done, but not with consistent ease or finesse–because I’m so darn tired.

Granted, I live much further away from my job than most people. It takes about an hour and forty-five minutes each way. So now, I am saving money and hoping to move out of my parents’ house this fall and into a place twenty to thirty minutes away from work at a maximum. I think that will definitely help with my time management and my energy reserve.

‘The grass is always greener’ though. I couldn’t wait to graduate from college just so I could have some free time. College days consisted of only having time to sleep, work out, eat, go to club meetings, and socialize a bit on weekend nights. The rest of the time was used to get homework and papers done. There was certainly no time to work on my writing, unless the writing was for a class. I did get winter breaks and long summer breaks, but I needed those for internships and to just sit around and shut off my academic brain, willfully turning it to mush.

I now miss that constant intellectual stimulation from college. I’ve heard so many recent graduates say they feel dumb without positive reinforcement from teachers and the interesting heights our brains were forced to reach in school. It’s true–I feel stupid! And I miss those long breaks. Going away last week was not enough–and I realized that as long as I am working a day job, I will only be using my “vacation days” for real vacations. Unless I plan it all perfectly, I won’t be getting a week at home to do stuff for me, for my writing self.

It bothers me because I wanted this writer-with-a-day-job life–and I still do. Although a day job sabotages my energy and time for writing creatively, I’d go a little crazy–and be extremely impoverished–sitting at home writing. In fact, from what I know, only a small percentage of writers make their living by solely getting stories or novels published. Most have some kind of full-time/part-time job. I don’t think I can afford to be a starving writer and rely on winning a contest now and then or getting into a magazine that might pay upon publication, all the while banking on the possibility that I might, might, get a huge advance from a major publisher for accomplishing the next great American novel. Risky.

For my sanity, I need a steady income and a stable schedule. It does help that I work in publishing, but I’m basically starving on that salary too.

I don’t know. I just keep wanting more and more. What I would love is to one day be working a day job that stimulates my creativity, pays well, and allows me live comfortably close to the office (or maybe even work from home sometimes). I want that to balance with time to write and submit my work consistently. Maybe land a spot in a great MFA program at some point. I want to be persistent and send my stuff out there so I at least have a chance.

Or maybe I’m going about this wrong. Maybe I need to be writing because my livelihood depends on it. Maybe I need to go crazy to get this story or this novel done and out into the world, or otherwise lose my grungy apartment and be living on the streets like an addict. Maybe I need that fear and anxiety to force my brain to quickly spew good art that’s beautiful and lasting and powerful.

Ack. I hope not. I don’t know. The anxiety of authorship.

What works for you?

English Professors on Writing

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

In December of 2010, I attended a Fiction Writing Panel at Marist, now my alma matter, where a few of the English Department’s writing professors–made up of published fiction writers, poets, and playwrights–discussed publication and the creative writing process. There was a huge turnout. At the time, I had no idea the writing community at Marist was so large–and it made me realize how “competitive” writing can be. The professors, though, asserted that competition makes better writers. Actually, they gave a lot advice that I took notes on, knowing I’d want to re-share it with myself one day, as well as with others.

In no particular order, and without much fluid transition, here’s a list of the advice I received that night in December:

  • Contests. The panel said that literary contests are so useful to writers. They are a good way to get material out somewhere and a good way to acquire money if this material places. The Writer’s Chronicle houses a majority of information about contests and journals, especially undergraduate journals. The annually published Writer’s Market book is useful to find contests and venues too (I had originally heard about this revered and large book when I read Stephen King’s On Writing). Other helpful sources include Writer’s Digest, CLLP Journal, Poets and Writers, and the Dramatists Sourcebook.
  • Readiness. How do we know when a piece is ready? They said that once we finish something, we should get feedback from others, ideally from part-taking in a writer’s group. By being around other writers, a writing group provides instant inspiration and more importantly, deadlines. We want trustworthy readers too, for working pieces/manuscripts.
  • Agents. It used to be that writers sent their work straight to the publishing houses and had relationships with their editors. Now, most people need literary agents in order to be published. If we send something out to get published in the mainstream, agents are helpful because they are looking for text that is marketable. It sounds like selling-out, and maybe it is, but I don’t see it that way. A piece of literature does not have to lose its literary merit just to be marketable and the right agent would aid in finding ways to get it published.
  • Persistence. The professors seemed to agree that good stuff should eventually get published. But persistence is really what gets you published. Talent alone doesn’t always make it. So, we must figure out a way to love the process of writing. Everyone likes “having written,” but in order to “have written,” we have to keep at it. They said to make hard deadlines for writing.
  • Finish. In the same vein, it is important to finish a piece, even if it’s not loveable anymore. Force through the uncertainty and discouragement, write without faith at times, and trust yourself as a reviser.
  • Know Yourself. Writers should question why they are writing, and learn about their natural tendencies. For example, one professor said he has a friend who writes young adult fiction, and he said he knows enough about himself as a writer that he is not capable of writing in that genre. However, it is easy to waste time looking for an audience in the wrong place—a writer should broaden his or her sense of where an audience can be found while also being true to their own interests and abilities.
  • Research. Dabbling outside of yourself and your own experience of life is important—this is where research comes in. It is important to be interested in research as a writer, especially to write truthfully about unfamiliar things. But first, get to know your home language and style—at first write what you know and then use research to know more. It creates an authenticity of writing.
  • Read. I think this was my favorite piece of advice: Good writers are good readers. Writers must be reading constantly. This addresses some frustration I’ve had with dividing myself between reading and writing. But knowing that a writer should always be reading, we can at least not feel guilty about setting time aside for reading.
  • Always remember that there are smaller, independent publishers out there.
  • Be in the world; make writing a part of your life.