I'm smack in the middle of this stinking swamp right now. It's oozing at me green tentacles of slime and fuming my nose a mix of noxious gases and...well, it happens in every book I write, but only now do I see it clearly and know what it is, this dreadful viscous middle of a draft when the excitement of the beginning has worn off and the catharsis of the ending is too far away to be felt yet. I'm in the middle of the first draft of TUBE, at exactly 49K words, and it's fucking dragging.Read More
Niko Staten asked: “I read other writers' work and mine is just...such shit. Publishing a book seems more like a dream than ever before. How do you keep...going even when it seems pointless? Advice please, O' Wisest of Ones.”
To start off with something shocking in response...are you ready?
YOU KEEP GOING.
That is the secret to everything, writing included. You keep going even when you don't feel like it. You keep going when the wrinkles of your heart go stale and all the snowflakes of the world can't cheer you up. You keep going when it seems to you like all you're doing is treading water in a rusty bucket and upon looking closer see that it is liquid shit and it stinks and your feet are something of an alien nature and your conscience is nibbling on the edges of your brain and you think you forgot to send a Christmas card to your grandmother who for some reason decided to die on you before you did that and this blog post is being written by a half-delirious writer who hasn't been sleeping much so forgive me the imagery and let's return to the very important topic of our discussion, namely, how do you keep going when you think your writing is total and utter shit?Read More
I have whined on Twitter yesterday that I don't want Friday to be Friday, I want it to be Monday because I hate breaking from writing because I hate getting myself back into writing mode on Monday and I'd rather write without breaks. Somebody wisely pointed out that I HAVE to break to recharge, somebody else wisely pointed out that surely I am a strange weirdo who doesn't enjoy weekends? I mean, what normal person doesn't? Well, I don't. I mean, I do, and I don't at the same time. Somebody also asked why I can't write on the weekends (hence, why all the whining). But, here is the thing. If I wrote on the weekends, my family wouldn't see me at all and I would have no family, so yeah. That's why. I want to see my family, kids, dinners together, fun times, you know. But, I thought this warrants a whole blog post, because I'm one of those avid proponents of writing every day, and yet one day a week I don't write, usually on Sundays, because on Saturdays I usually write blog posts, like this one. But I do wish that I could write my novel every day, non-stop, and only take breaks between drafts. Why?
The longer the break is, the staler the story gets. It's hard to keep a story fresh in your head if you break away from it for more than a week. At least that was my experience. I know there are a lot of people out there who have full time jobs and only write on the weekends. How you guys do it, I have no idea. My hat off to you. I can't. I find that I want to be in my story, and the longer the break is, the more my brain begins to refocus on something new, something shiny, and the harder it is for me to get back into my story.Read More
I must share this with you. Writing IRKADURA, my 3rd novel, has been quite a trip. I thought I know what I'm doing. Oh my God! I'm writing my 3rd book! Holy shit, I'm so fucking experienced! Turns out, I know nothing. I've gone through periods of loving it, hating it, wanting to share it with the whole world, wanting to burn my laptop in the oven, wanting to quit writing altogether, then deciding not to, adding a whole magical realism layer to the 2nd draft, rearranging chapters out of order, spending up to 9 hours writing 2K words when my normal writing speed is about 3K words in 4 hours, and on, and on, and on. I do know that whatever it takes, I will finish it, but man, I tell you, one thing I learned is that I don't want to go back to my past, I'm over it. One of the biggest problems I'm having is forcing myself to go back to that time when I was a runaway, when I was 17 and pregnant and not knowing where I would live and what would happen, when the country around me crumbled, people were shot in the streets, buildings were on fire, governments kept changing, pensioners were protesting and waving Soviet flags in hopes that communism can come back and Stalin can straighten everything out, gays were persecuted, Jews were hated, as was anyone not white and not of Russian blood, people lost homes and their life savings overnight. I must catch my breath here, there is so much, it won't fit into one blog post, and a lot of it is still prevalent today.Read More
Merry Christmas! Or merry whatever it is you're celebrating. The following is probably for those of you who want to start writing but for some reason haven't yet. Before I dive into the meat of this very interesting topic, let me preface it a little. First of all, it's not me who thought about writing it, okay? So don't look at me like this. And it's not me who even started the whole conversation. It began at Christmas dinner a few nights ago at the house of my dear friend and my ex. Yes, we're divorced, we have two kids, but we totally have dinners at my place or his place, and we alternate Christmas dinners every year, celebrating it together, one year at my house, one year at his. This time we were making pelmeni, sorta Russian dumpling things, from scratch, and somehow the topic of the conversation turned to peeing. I think it began from one of the girls mentioning to boys how it was unfair that they could pee anywhere anytime, and what a pain in the ass it is for girls to pee in public. Then switched to peeing in the snow, pertinent to the holiday season, then to peeing your name in the snow, and then to the wonderment of how one would do it if one were a woman. You can make a sour face right now, but, you know, it was the best Christmas dinner I've had so far and I prefer conversations about peeing techniques and laughter to boring weather talk and people yawning, wishing they were somewhere else. Anyway. It was so funny that of course, I tweeted it. And got a bunch of responses that made everyone laugh even harder. One of them was, PLEASE MAKE IT A HOW TO BLOG POST. See, I told you, it wasn't me.
What's up with this whole business of leaving our names on walls and snow and shit? It got me thinking, why do we like to carve Kate was here (albeit more often it's John was here) on the trunks of trees or on school desks or on a mountain where it clearly says on the sign to please not touch the wilderness and not inflict any kind of damage to it? Fast-forward to 4square and apps similar to it, what's up with this idea of checking into places? What's up with the whole thing of "Hey, fuckers, check it out, I've been here, see my name?" It goes back to the stories, doesn't it? We have this intense desire to understand the world and life and everything, and a simple answer of 42 just doesn't cut it. So we wander around and we marvel and we ask questions and we do stuff and we tell each other stories, about being to that mountain or to that city or to that other special place. We like to have proof, too, either in the shape of the picture of us in front of it (remember the garden gnome in Amelie?) or us carving a picture (or name) into the said poor place, or both. Preferably both. We like to leave our mark. Curious, eh? Kind of like dogs. Hey, look, I've been here, haha! Immature? Yes. Then why do we still do it? Because we love love love to tell stories. Stories help us believe that things can be done. Good can conquer evil. Dragons can be slain. And love can win over everything. We're suckers for stories. Like, why are you still reading this nonsense, tell me? I know. You're waiting for something good to come up. Something that will make it worth the wait for you. All right, here you go.
Some people suggested to use the "funnel". Now, I can't imagine how that would work, peeing into the funnel and spraying it not just like a stream, but also wiggling it this way and that to spell out your name in the snow. Not mentioning cursive. What if you wanted to write it in cursive? I can speculate here on special techniques of doing it by sticking out your bum a clean ninety degrees and jiggling it in a special manner to get the desired outcome. I could even suggest hopping around to get it done, or, like one of you suggested, doing it in several sittings, so to speak. Look, you've read this far. Amazing. Why? What's so fascinating about peeing in the snow? Nothing, right? It's gross! Go away! Go read something else! But here you are, still peering at the screen. I'll tell you why (that is, if you haven't left already). This is like novel writing rule number one. The hook. The opener. The thing that sucks you into the story and holds you by the neck. See, you're mine, I can do whatever I want now, because I got you hooked in the idea that by the end of this blog post you will learn how to pee your name in the snow, if you're a woman, or you will be enlightened as to how women do it, if you're a man. Stephen King does this a lot, the genius whom I love so much that I hate him because he is so good. I want to punch him in the face and then I want to kiss his feet, and I'm all confused because how can one both love and hate someone and claim that they're BOTH out of the goodness of one's heart? Anyway, I blogged before about summarizing your entire novel in the opening sentence, and this seems to be the case.
Is she mental? Completely insane? Or both? Yes, both, and worse. I probably belong to one of those institutions where they feed you pills to keep you calm and speak to you in nice voices so as not to aggravate you. But this is what creativity is about, this insanity that becomes your sanity. I mean, who in their right mind would blog about something like this? I waited for a good hour before starting to write, scared out of my mind. I thought, I will alienate people. I thought, this is gross! I thought, I better find something else to write about. But then I thought, no, that's what separates a writer from a wannabe. A writer can write about anything. Give me a topic, and I will write about it. It's my job. If I fail, well, then I shouldn't be a writer, I should go look for an office job and spend the rest of my life shuffling papers. I just posted recently a bunch of my thoughts on art vs sanity (by popular demand) and on how it's wrong we think that we have to be insane to create. Because art IS sanity, not the other way around. Think back to when you were a kid, precisely to that point of immaturity. Man, peeing and farting and pooping were like major topics of fascination for you, weren't they? Farting in public? Farting to the point of pooping your pants a little? Peeing your pants from laughing? Or peeing in public, or trying to find a place to pee, or peeing your pants because the teacher wouldn't let you leave the class and you really REALLY needed to go? That actually happened to me, it was a horrifying experience. I was called to the front of the class to recite some stuff I was supposed to memorize and I twisted my legs this way and that to hide the fact that I let out a trickle and then another, and another, until I couldn't hold it anymore. I was in the 2nd grade, I think. Gross, right? But we've all been there. We all do these things, that's why we get connected over telling stories about them, at least we did when we were little, before we learned the social restrictions, the rules, the ways of the adults, as in, do not speak in public about peeing and such! That's why it's so interesting to us when someone else does. Like me. Like this blog. Like you still reading it.
See? You can write about anything. It all comes down to just... well, sitting down and writing about it, abandoning all fear. I dare you. Write about something that grosses you out or that would for sure make anyone who would read it sick. Just write it and see where it takes you. If you're stuck, it might be just the thing to get you unstuck. And to make you laugh (i laughed while writing this). Who cares if nobody will ever read it. What matters is, while you were writing it, you felt like a kid again, having fun, without fear of being scolded or told that you shouldn't do it, or that you suck, or any of those things that contributed to you feeling insecure in your own abilities to create art. I say, fuck it. Do it anyway. If all of us do it, the world will be a better place, a happier place, don't you think? And no, sorry, no pictures or diagrams will follow. This is the end of this blog post. Goodbye.
P.S.: So my boyfriend read this before I published it, and he said he felt cheated. He said, so how do you do it? Here is my promise to you. Next time in snows in Seattle (it recently did but melted within a couple hours), I will personally try it. I will find a place where there would be no witnesses, hopefully, I will take my pants off, I will attempt to wiggle my butt in a way so as to spell my name, I will probably get very disappointed and embarrassed, will put my pants back on, and will never do it again. The end.