Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bugs Bunny vs Yosemite Sam

I just left Barnes and Noble in a frenzy.  They were closing up and I hadn't finished reading the magazine article from Poets & Writers.  Luckily, my smartphone (T-Mobile G2) has a Microsoft Office app, allowing me to write down all the new magazines I was perusing and online literary journals I wanted to check out.  Driving home in the car, a wave of euphoria passed through me and I couldn't wait to write.
The holidays proved to be more than my simple mind could handle.  Like every woman, I inherently posses the ability to multitask, but unfortuantely I reach maximum overload when I've gone over 20 tasks.  Then, my creative flow goes on strike.  I sit down to write and nothing comes out.  I avoid my computer, indulge in T.V. shows and movies, but the issue at hand always finds me. (Cue ominous music)  WRITER'S BLOCK.    

The past month or so I've worried my creativity might disappear for good.  As though the entire thing was a fluke.  Preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas required a tremendous amount of concentration.  I made lists of my daily tasks, including writing.  The internal battle to be creative or responsible ensued.  Responsibility came out the winner.  I kept pushing my creativity to the wayside.    

It reminded me of a Looney Tunes episode with Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam duking it out over a small western town in "Bugs Bunny Rides Again."  Neither of them wants to leave, but the town wasn't big enough for the two of them.  They try everything to expel the other. 

My favorite scene, besides the horse chase, was when Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam pulled guns out on each other and resorted to juvenile retorts.  "Oooooo no I ain't!"  "Oooooo yes you are!"  This continues for a minute.  I am usually left in tearful hysterics.    

Yes, a scene that plays out in my mind often when I feel overwhelmed.  Frustration and again, fear of failure take over.  Writing and creativity escaple me, while I'm stay on top of errands and chores.  There isn't enough brain power for the both of them. 

Right now, it comes down to a scarifice: my anal retentiveness for my creativity or vice versa.  It's one thing or the other.  Never both.   I need to figure out a way to have both of them peacefully coexist before one is pushed off a cliff.  My creativity needs to find its way to the top of my priority list, as opposed to the lack of respect it receives now.   
While I work through my mini-personal crisis, tell me what you do to maintain your creative flow.  How do you deal with the day-to-day minutiea and set aside time to write?     

Monday, December 20, 2010

First Experience with a Magazine Editor

I braved the cold and traveled into Philadelphia to the offices of MetroKids Magazine last Thursday. I’ve been interning for them for the past two and half months. Since most of my time is spent at home updating attractions listings, I wanted a chance to see how a magazine was put together for publication. Little did I know, everything is done on computers, and unless I was in charge of a specific section, I wasn’t going to learn much.

When I emailed my interest to observe the production process, the editors told me to bring in the attraction listings and article I was working on because they were fully engaged in preparing the January issue. I was a bit nervous about bringing in my article on the 10 Family Movies of All Time, since I hadn’t made much progress with it. I couldn’t get a list of 10 movies for ages toddlers to teens to save my life. Another problem I ran into was determining what movies would not only entertain children, but their parents as well and offer discussion topics. 

It was a good thing I went into the office to get the entire thing worked out with him. I mentioned I was going to choose a movie or two that would be released in Feb. “Why?” he asked. “If it’s going to be the best movies of all time, then you wouldn’t be choosing a new movie.” A bit of a slap in the face, but I took it in stride and kept on moving. I apparently didn't understand the assignment. Great start!

We discussed my struggle with finding movies for toddlers. They are incapable of truly understanding what is going on in the movie and are only really able to comprehend the colors and movement on the screen. I gave them a few choices, including Leap Frog movies that they shot down. They were looking for more full-length features. I told them that a child that age would not be able to sit still long enough. Eventually, we decided that the toddler age should be eliminated. The movie ages would start at 5.

Ok. Then came the discussion of finding critically acclaimed family movies of all time. Well, not many were available. He didn’t believe me. I gave him several of my choices, but he didn’t seem to like them too much. Mean Girls in particular. I felt that it dealt with very poignant topics of bullying and popularity teenagers face everyday. “Is that critically acclaimed?”

Moving on. I then spoke about finding male and female movies for the tweens and teens. “Why would you do that?” I explained I found many movies for girls, but few for boys and I knew not too many families with boys were going to run out and rent Mean Girls or Twilight (critically acclaimed? Not sure.). I wanted to make sure the article reached a broader range of people. I brought up The Dark Knight. I voiced my concerns for the movie due to the violence and he shot it down immediately, saying it didn’t have any real merit or value. “That wouldn’t be on Common Sense Media website,” (he continuously threw this website out at me when ever I ran into a roadblock). Actually, that’s where I got the idea. He was shocked. Went online to check my story. Common Sense Media called it "an excellent sequel."

I then ran down the list of top 10 teen movies, which included Best of Show. I love this movie, but I know many people didn’t enjoy, laugh or understand the quirky movie. I knew a teenager wouldn’t get it or relate to the dog breeding/showing topic, but he felt it was the greatest idea. So, what I gleaned from this was he was biased about the movies. If he didn’t like them, then they shouldn’t be in the article. I felt his reasoning had little to do with whether the children and parents would enjoy the movie.

After about 30 minutes of me trying to plead my case and the editor trying to prove me wrong, he told me to just go ahead with the direction I was in. I seemed to know what I was doing and he was just mucking up the works. We also revised the topic to 10 Terrific Family Movies. Holy cow! It felt good to know that I was on the right path and I hadn’t run off the road recklessly. I know that he will be impressed with the article and I will write something I will be proud to put my name on.

Is this how all editors work? Being my first experience, I think I learned a great deal in a short amount of time. I need to have the confidence to say I think something isn’t working, with evidence to back up my claim. I need to stand my ground. I did so, not as confidently as I hoped, but my point was made and I have a bit more leeway with the article.
So, what has your experience with editors been like? Do you have any advice on the editor/writer relationship?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Warning Labels on Critique Submissions

Everything requires bubble wrap and warnings to avoid complaints and lawsuits when someone invariably gets hurt or offended by something they encounter in the world. The Internet immediately brings information to us when asked, and with the lack of restrictions comes the responsibility to ensure visitors are aware of the dangers and possible PG or higher-rated material. The following material (violence, sexual content, foul language, etc.) may not be suitable for you.

I knew I might discuss controversial topics or use adult language on my blog, so I included a warning. Is this necessary? I believe it is and isn't. I wouldn’t want someone to stumble upon something only to have the disturbing images permanently burned into their memory, although, a little shock could do them some good (I am still battling with my public image). Living in a bubble causes damage as well, folks. And I certainly wouldn’t want children to see something that might possibly steal away their innocence.

Now, what about a piece of writing submitted to a writer’s group for critique? A writer brings their unfinished piece of work in need of different perspectives and opinions in hopes of improving. Well, a member of my writer’s group submitted a chapter from his novel that addressed two adolescents’ sexual awakening in detail. The controversy of his writing set the group ablaze.

Since the submissions are sent to the members ahead of time, an email was sent to the organizer expressing disapproval and discomfort of the "pornography" and possible "kiddie porn" in the piece. The organizer then started a thread on the message board entitled: Putting Warnings on Monthly Submissions Feedback. A passionate discussion followed leading to members stepping up on their soap boxes, carelessly throwing their words around and inflicting damage to one another. It got pretty ugly. The members unnerved one another more than the writing did.

As I read through all the posts, I weighed my own opinion on the piece of writing and the idea of imposing warning labels on submissions. Yes, the detailed scene did jar me a bit, but it was not the homosexual nature of it, but rather the question of the scene itself as part of the entire piece. It felt disconnected. I wasn’t sure if the scene gave insight to the characters, moved the plot forward, or if it was like a rock in your shoe, no real purpose.

I believe my thoughts and questions about the scene would help the author gain perspective on how readers respond and improve accordingly. It would give him a chance to decide what he wanted the scene to do, what the scene still needed, and ultimately, make the final decision of whether it should be kept or cut out.

Unfortunately, many members were appalled by the idea of allowing sexually explicit material into the group for critique, and asked that an author slap a label on anything with graphic violence and/or sex, giving the reader a choice to proceed or pass. If unfinished writing has a warning label, would it receive quality feedback or would preconceived notions taint it? Wouldn’t the author want the readers to respond to something in the moment? I think the immediate reaction to shocking material, positive or negative, would be helpful to the author. If for nothing but determining the audience for the piece.

I understand the group is made of many different people with diverse religious, political and emotional backgrounds, but do you think warning labels on writer’s group submissions are necessary?

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Final Stretch of NaNoWriMo

Word count: 37, 198

The Winner’s Circle. The adoring fans delight in the triumphant victory as they surround the winner. Cheers and confetti rain down, while the champion embraces their loved ones, accept gifts and gracefully bows to the acclaim. The glory to win NaNoWriMo, unfortunately, was not mine this year.

Obstacles of work, holidays, a stomach virus, and exhaustion proved far more difficult than I anticipated. My typing and imagination stalled at 37,000 words and I bowed my head in defeat as the clock ticked closer and closer to 11:59 pm.

An admirable attempt I think. I pushed myself to write a novel and I’m almost finished. First chapter tie down many writers for weeks, while I am riding the wave of the rising action about to clumsily type the climax and conclusion. In one month, I have come so far as a writer and now hold an almost complete first draft in my hands, soon to be revised.

The pride I feel is comparable to the winners. What I learned about my strength and writing capabilities and what this insane challenge holds in store for its participants only makes victory possible next year.

I would like to take this moment (I prepared an acceptance speech) to thank everyone who supported me through this confounding experience, urged me to continue writing when I wanted to give up, sat with me in Borders furiously typing, and dispensed sage advice. Knowing how many people stood behind me brings tears of happiness. As my token of appreciation, my first novel will be dedicated to you. Thank you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...