It’s now April 2nd, so I figured I should clarify, for any poor future reader to stumble across this post: April Fool’s!
I never thought this day would come.
This might come as a shock to you and I apologize, but here’s the thing: I realized recently that I really don’t like writing. Or books. Or, like, stories themselves. At all. Maybe I liked these things once upon a time, but for years now I’ve been writing more out of obligation than actual desire. And since I’m a junior in college and I’m supposed to go out and get a big kid job after I graduate next year, I realized this is really my last chance to switch career fields. And I refuse to be stuck in an industry I hate.
So I’m quitting writing. And going after my one true passion: business.
That’s right. I’m joining the Ross School of Business.
In a way, you can blame writing for this. If it weren’t for writing, I never would have started my own company and realized how much fun contracts and taxes and licenses can be. And I mean, who would ever want to sit around all day reading a book when you could look up facts about sales tax licenses (two of my favorite things combined!) instead?
I’m so excited to explore this new life path and get started with my business classes this summer. Thank you for supporting me in my writing endeavors all this time and, again, I’m sorry. (I think it goes without saying–but I’ll mention it anyway, just in case–that because this blog is called Julia the WRITER Girl, it wouldn’t make sense for me to continue posting here. You can follow me at my new blog at www.juliathebusinessgirl.wordpress.com, although no promises that I’ll keep it up much.)
So I had my creative writing tutorial today and in the midst of my instructor giving his critique on the short story I turned in last week (by the way: he liked it), he brought up how I need to start thinking about my senior creative writing honors thesis, and also here are some examples of awesome theses from students of yesteryear, and also it hit me: I’m going to graduate really, really soon. Then I’m going to be just another spiral-bound senior honors thesis on his shelf.
This time next year, I’m going to be in my last semester of college. And that is terrifying.
I’m not ready to go out into the real world yet. I can barely handle figuring out how to pay taxes and bills, let alone how to provide money for paying taxes and bills. And like–I’m supposed to get a job? How does one get a job? How do you find jobs, and apply, and interview, and actually get one? Or if I don’t go on the job hunt, I should be going to grad school of some sort (said creative writing instructor has started dropping hints about MAs and MFAs), and there are all these tests and applications and interviews, and LIFE IS A SCARY THING.
It’s January 21st, 2015 and I am already freaking out about 2016 and everything that comes after.
I cannot believe that I am twenty and I’m graduating next year and I’m supposed to start being a Real Adult next year.
Anyway. Existential crisis aside: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post on how to get back into writing after taking a break. (Thanks for the idea, Ariel!)
So, you’ve been away from writing for a while. Maybe you were on vacation, or burned out, or didn’t have time. Maybe Netflix ate you. (It happens.) The point is: It can be difficult getting back into writing.
Here are some of the ways I get back into the swing of things.
Set aside time to write.
Just setting aside a concrete chunk of time to definitely write and do nothing else can do wonders for making it easier to start again.
Listen to writing music.
I really like listening to movie scores while writing. Even if I’m not already in the mood to write, if I put on music I’ve previously written a lot to, my brain starts whirling. (Protip: I’ve been listening A TON to the score from The Theory of Everything lately. The opening track is quite possibly the most beautiful thing ever composed.)
Go to Panera/Starbucks/wherever.
I’ve been having a ton of issues getting in the right head space to revise the past couple weeks, so yesterday I treated myself to a large Panera mac and cheese and a smoothie, and there is something about being in a public place that makes working so much easier.
As much as I love the privacy and quiet of my bedroom, it’s way easier to accidentally end up on Twitter or Youtube when no one else is around, even when no one else is watching.
Work on an existing project.
Starting something new straight off a break can be hard. I find it’s generally easier to return to something you’ve already put a lot of the legwork in on, get back into the writing mode using that, then move on to your shiny new project.
Do you have any suggestions for getting back into writing after being away for awhile? Leave ’em in the comments!
I turned in my first term paper yesterday and a term paper proposal today. Tomorrow I have a presentation and a choir concert. One week from today I turn in that second term paper and take a final exam. Then after that I have a portfolio due in one class and two more finals to take.
Today I registered for my winter semester classes. I’m going to need to begin applying for summer internships soon.
So, basically, right now things are insane.
Anyway though, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. (Thanks go out to Ariel for the idea!)
Have you ever been reading a book and the plot’s super interesting, and you like the characters, but you just can’t quite get into it? I have a theory that sometimes this is because the author is inadvertently distancing you from the story.
I was reading a book over Thanksgiving that should have had me enthralled. Like, everything about it was great. But every once in a while the author would phrase something in such a way that would remind me I was reading a book and the characters were just characters. And I realized*: It’s not about what you write, but how you write it.
You need to keep your line-by-line writing active and realistic in order to keep the reader invested. Active, because active writing is inherently more interesting. Realistic, because writing that draws attention to the fact it’s writing also draws the reader out of the story.
So: things I’ve learned to avoid thanks to the books I wanted to love (but couldn’t).
1. Don’t write about feelings.
Really, writing “about” things at all makes for weak writing, but feelings are probably the most dominant example of this issue. When a character feels something (i.e., “She felt sad.”), you take the reader out of the scene because you’re telling instead showing (writing “about,” vs. writing). And do you ever truly “feel sad,” or does the pressure grow behind your eyes, and it gets difficult to breathe, and maybe you hug your arms around yourself?
2. Minimize figurative language.
On the topic of writing emotions: Be careful with figurative language like similes and metaphors. It’s really easy to go over the top with these and come across melodramatic, and they’re another way of distancing the reader from what’s happening. While figurative language isn’t outright telling, it definitely slides more that way than showing. So instead of something like “He was a spool of thread unwinding” (unfortunate, actual example from a draft of a novel I’ve been revising), try actually describing what that feels like. Maybe the room spins. He stumbles. He screams between clenched teeth.
3. Avoid thoughts and realizations.
Yet another way to put a wall up between your reader and story. Thoughts (“He’s right, I think.”) and realizations (“I realize the house–it’s going to explode.”) are another form of inadvertent telling, because, like, when you’re thinking in your own head, do you think, “He’s right, I think,” or do you just think, “He’s right”? Likewise with realizations. So instead of including the unnecessary telling tags on these things, go straight to what’s actually going on.
Still, when you want a character to realize something, you want it to be attention-catching, right? I generally do something like include a description of what the character physically does up on realizing it, followed by the realization (“My eyes widen. The house–it’s going to explode.”) or include some kind of exclamation before the realization (“Oh my gosh. The house–it’s going to explode.”)
4. Write in the present.
I don’t mean that you should write using present tense but like, I don’t know, stay in the moment. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read that have fully given away what’s about to happen by saying something like “Three things happened before the bomb went off.” This distances the reader by turning the accepted way events progress (A, B, C, D) on its head (so instead: D, A, B, C, then D again). Also, unless your character’s looking back on things from the future, he wouldn’t know in advance that D was going to happen after A, B, C anyway. So that in itself is unrealistic to your character’s experience.
Instead of: Three things happened before the bomb went off.
Try something like: Larry the Man-Eating Hamster cackles. His henchman reaches for me and I dodge to the right. We run for the door. A beep echoes throughout the laboratory. Everything explodes.
So, those are my tips for keeping your reader invested in your line-by-line writing. However, note that I’m not saying to absolutely never use any of these things; just know what you’re doing when you do. (Por ejemplo: In the novel I’ve been revising, my protagonist “thinks” things sometimes, but I try to limit these to when she’s telling herself things, like to convince herself of something she knows isn’t true, rather than general thoughts.)
Thanks for reading!
*Notice the irony in my phrasing here. But in my defense, this is a blog post. What I’m doing is telling you things.
Exciting news: A poem of mine will be appearing in the White Ash Literary Magazine‘s spring anthology!!! HOW EXCITING IS THIS? SO EXCITING.
On a more relevant topic, though, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem called “Discovery.” I wrote it in a rush originally, so it was all just in one big block of text on Word, but I broke it up based on where I had commas and such afterward, and here we’ve got a poem.