Just a few sparks of inspiration that keep me going. Enjoy.
Just a few sparks of inspiration that keep me going. Enjoy.
What if money didn’t matter? What would you love to do?
I came across this today, and I think that it’s one that everyone should watch to help refocus and make sense of the world. I’ve found it a good reminder to keep going.
I always get and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.
– Toni Morrison
It was the start of the interview that really struck me. The idea of routine to get into writing. Even though I have never managed a long-lived writing routine, I do realise that at my writing peak, I did have a sort of ritual – I used to burn sage. It’s called a smudge stick, which fairly resembles an illicit drug. I now know that smudge sticks are strongly associated the earth-mother-kind of spirituality, and I’m not at all a hippy-dippy type (though I have a lot of good friends who are). I discovered the background RE burning sage when a hippy-dippy friend made a comment about warding off evil spirits, the cleansing of auras, and such. It may well do that too, but for me, it was the ritual of the thing. The subconscious connections that the smell makes in my mind.
A writing teacher of mine – Anne Aylor – used to burn sage in her classes, and I will forever associate it with being inspired and writing. It is amazing what the association does. It’s not often, but whenever I’ve chanced by the scent of burnt sage I feel the compulsion to sit quietly at a desk with a pen. It’s amazing that I forgot about it this strange association, but burning sage is something I’ve not done in quite some time. I need to re-enact this bizarre habit, and get back to a ritual and routine of writing.
Thank you Toni Morrison for reminding me.
OK, I have an admission. Although I did enroll in Coursera’s Science Fiction and Fantasy course with the University of Michigan. I’m realising that it’s one commitment too far, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do this, my blog, my novel and all the other extra-cirricular activities that I am involved in. It’s one thing too many, lest all the balls that I am juggling come tumbling down.
The reading list is great (and I think it I will follow it), the course materials are great, but enrolling late and trying to launch myself into it was a little optimistic. I think that I will definitely enroll into another course where I have prepared myself timetable-wise. In fact, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a Coursera course with Vanderbilt University which starts in the summer looks particularly entertaining (one of the classes is held in the LOTR MMORPG), but I digress…
As far as crafting long-form fiction goes, I am a slow writer. I spend hours agonising over every word and phrase. Constantly fact-checking and looking for better suited synonyms to make my writing just so. Although I would say that overall my standard of writing is fairly good, there isn’t very much of it and to put it frankly, a snail would easily outpace me.
I’ve been blogging for just under 2 weeks, and I really feel that it is helping me. Helping to give me focus in my writing. I have been in a writing slump for nearly half a year: I set aside my novel 4&20 and my fairy tale fantasy world, and they’ve been gathering dust in a shadowy corner. Although I have not yet added anything to my word count for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it has been foremost in my thoughts this past fortnight. I have been world building and developing my characters, something that I have not done in an age. I’ve also signed up for a drop-in writing class this Thursday with the very awesome Anne Aylor, which I really think will help get my proverbial ink flowing.
On other fronts, I have finished my 100-word story for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, entitled FreeCycle. I will be going over it with my writing group WLWG on Wednesday, and will post it here after submitting it to the competition.
Happy writing, one and all.
I’ve been blogging about resolutions, of which I have given myself a handful (double meaning of handful intended). ‘THEY’ say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person, so I am applying that rationale here, if I laden myself with tasks, perhaps things will indeed get done.
So continuing with my ‘blog everyday for 100 days‘ resolution, this morning, I was staring at my “Add New Post” page with every good intention, but my mind was a blank. I couldn’t think of anything at all to blog about. It is really amazing that we have so many blog-appropriate thoughts but when the moment comes to connect the dots, everything evaporates. So I turned to another resolution – exercise, and I conquered the many excuses and made it out for a run. Although the at the start it was a struggle, at the end I was really getting into my pace. For me, there is definitely a link between exercise and peace of mind, and leading on from peace of mind, I get clarity on my creativity. Basically, during my run my mind had the opportunity to be distraction-free and I thought of lots of things to blog about and many ways to address my writer’s block for Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
Firstly, I am going to map out some family trees for my main characters: parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends, relations, family feuds, etc. I think it would be a good exercise.
Along side that, I am going to do a little world building: sketching out maps of the world that I am creating. In a spurt of either desperation or enthusiasm, I recently purchased some slightly pricey software by Profantasy called Campaign Cartographer. While it does seem to be able to make brilliant maps for fantastical worlds (which is perfect for my fairy tale world), it also requires some practice and perhaps watching a couple of tutorials on how to make the best of it, which I have not yet bothered with. However, rather than get distracted from my drive to move my story forward, I think I will sketch by hand first, and perhaps leave the specialist cartography for another day.
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
– Douglas Adams
OK, so the first quote, above, is not so much an inspirational quote as much as it is a highly amusing one. The following are some great lines and advice that I have come across on my procrastination occasions. I’m sure that there are several other wise words from esteemed authors of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy vein. If you have any, please add them to the comments, it would be great to hear from you. I have taken the liberty of including E.B. White in the list, because anyone who writes about a talking mouse is writing in the realm of fantasy…
1. Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. – Neil Gaiman
2. The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. – Ursula K. Le Guin
3. There are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail. The gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. – George R.R. Martin
4. Don’t be afraid to discard work you know isn’t up to standard. Don’t save junk, just because it took you a long time to write it. – David Eddings
5. No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing. – E.B. White
6. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very;” otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. – C.S. Lewis
7. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
8. The most important thing for any aspiring writer, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. – George R.R. Martin
9. Get inside their skin. That includes even the ones who are complete bastards, nasty, twisted, deeply flawed human beings with serious psychological problems. Even them. – George R.R. Martin
10. I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose. – Stephen King
11. Listen to the way people talk. If your characters sound real the rest is easy. – David Eddings
12. First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him. – Ray Bradbury
13. If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others: read a lot and write a lot…reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life…you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. – Stephen King
14. Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King
15. Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. – Orson Scott Card
16. Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way. – Ray Bradbury
17. Keep working. Keep trying. Keep believing. You still might not make it, but at least you gave it your best shot. If you don’t have calluses on your soul, this isn’t for you. Take up knitting instead. – David Eddings
18. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. – Terry Pratchett
19. It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish. – J.R.R. Tolkien
20. You fail only if you stop writing. – Ray Bradbury
If you haven’t already, it’s time to sign up to the Good Reads Reading Challenge 2013.
I did the 2012 challenge, and I was a little overly ambitious with 100 books. This year, I’ve put myself down for a rather more conservative, though still ambitious 52. That’s still one book a week. Although sometimes it may well be a novella, but hey, so long as it stands on its own as a work of literature, it’s a book and it counts. Sadly, the same applies to the epic ones – so if I do venture towards that copy of war and peace gathering dust on my shelf, that I keep promising myself I will read, it still only counts as 1 book. Ah well, rules are rules, and you will only be cheating yourself.
In any case, some of the best way to get inspiration is to bury yourself in words, so get reading!
The support of my writing group WLWG is invaluable, and it’s amazing to know that even after fellow members leave they still provide support and opportunities from across the globe.
I’ve been struggling to write for ages, and this blog i.am.sophus is a tool to get me back on track to finishing my novel Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Ysabelle, a former WLWG member, has got in touch since I set up i.am.sophus. and started tweeting about it in earnest. She’s set up Liar’s League in Hong Kong, huge respect to Ysabelle. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Liar’s League, it has been running in London for about 5 years and has branches in New York and Leeds. It can be simply described as a live literary night, occuring monthly, where trained actors read out original short stories. There are two separate focus points: to mentor and train actors to read out dramatic monologues as opposed to scripts, and to mentor and train and pull in talented new authors from around the world. Liar’s League accept submissions from anyone, anywhere, every month. Each monthly event has a theme, and the next theme for Liar’s League HK is Fairytales & Nightmares (very apt for my genre of writing, Ysabelle noted). The deadline is 8th February and the submission must be between 800-1200 words (essentially flash fiction).
It may be most of the way across the world, but it fit’s my writing meme so well that it seems almost fated. I’ve never written flash fiction before, but I have a lot of mini-dramas that need to happen in 4&20 and and the 8th February deadline is doable, so, challenge accepted!
More updates on my progress (undoubtedly) to come.
I am a huge fan of new takes on old tales. I’ve recently come across the artwork of Rowan Stocks-Moore. He uses a limited colour palette and takes advantage of the negative space in an image to create a stark picture, sometimes coupled with an optical illusion (NB the Snow White image above – with the lovers and the apple core in one). His clever, often darkly humorous takes on classic tales gives a new perspective and new life to well trodden tropes. A path I hope to emulate and perchance equal in Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
Rowan Stocks-Moore’s work is available for purchase via Esty.
I had to share this sign Don’t Piss Off the Fairies, as it has thoroughly amused me. Some ingenious and enterprising person at Etsy is selling them. Ahh, to have a garden to put this in – a sad fact of life living in London. It wouldn’t quite have the same feel stuck in a plant pot on my terrace.
In the world of Four and Twenty Blackbirds, I would love this sort of sign to be so common as to be unremarkable (“common-a-garden” – literally. I know, I know, apologies on the groanworthy pun). It could be the equivalent of a sign that says Beware of Dog.
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