on writing

the end

Hello, friends!

Here’s a picture of me drinking from a coconut. And yes, I did cut all my hair off.

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It’s been a while since I’ve said just that–hello!–to you. During this last year, it was freeing to step back from the spotlight of this blog and simply gather portraits, like a child collecting sea shells. There’s less responsibility in that, I think. (have not created the shells!) But now, I am ready to reappear for a bit.

This is the end of my portrait series…for now.

In many ways, I feel my project was a wordy worldwide parallel to Humans of New York. Even now, though his books are published and “finished,” Brandon Stanton continues to update his Instagram every once in a while. I intend to do the same.

Perhaps the original goal of the project was to prove to myself, I could stick with something long-term besides my previous dabbling. To prove to myself I am a writer.

There is a definite difference between saying “I am an aspiring writer” and “I am a writer.” In the States, surrounded by people with leisure time and apparent dedication to their relative creative mediums, I daily questioned if I myself could even dare approach the altar of artistic expression.

Even after graduate school (the most encouraging creative community I have ever had!), my doubts remained. But then I went overseas. And it took this season of artistic solitude to realize I’ve been defining the idea of artistry all wrong.

What is art?

What makes an artist?

Who defines “the best”?

Does it matter?

One day, I realized: it didn’t.

It felt like my soul was crying out to me–when I would pick up an excellent piece of fiction or prance my way through someone’s beautiful new essay. It seemed to be saying,

Hey you.

Yeah, you. The Lonely Creative Soul with a Dream that feels too big for you.

You are a writer.

It’s what you do.

You may die with your work never having been published. (Not that you should give up all hope!) But if it’s the thing you do anyway because you love it, does it matter THE END of your creative means?

So hop to it, sister.

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream. ~Vincent Van Gogh

There were some cheerleaders in my corner, certainly. Between my grad school mentor Dale, Jeff Goins, Donald Miller, Rachael Stephen, and Elizabeth Gilbert, I had no hope of walking away with defeated hands in my pockets. But in listening to them and moving on with my life and my work, I did learn a few things:

“You can’t find your passion if you don’t push through pain.” ~ Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

“You are not Stephen King.”  ~ Rachael Stephen, “Let’s All Stop Calling Ourselves Pantsers and Plotters”

“When you stop expecting ________ to be perfect, you can like [it for what it is.]” ~ Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

“Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where-if you missed it by age 19-you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world-at any age. At least try…” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Have you been afraid of your dreams?

Let me be the first (of MANY encouragers out there) to tell you:

SO WHAT.

To borrow an idea from Gilbert’s grand creative narrative…Fear is a natural roadtripping buddy. You can’t get in the car and go anywhere without him. But he needs rules. Because he’s a wee bit of a control freak and likes to take charge of, well, anything left unattended. Don’t let him dictate where you go, how often you stop, IF you stop, what music to listen to. And by aLLLLL means, do NOT let him drive (check BIG MAGIC for a much more whimsical beautiful vision of this). 

All that to say, move forward anyways. Stop looking for approval. Stop worrying if people think you or your art is weird (weird is great!). Stop checking the stats on your blog. Stop trying to figure out how on earth your art could possibly support you (my vote is don’t; art has fragile bones and can’t take the pressure of your cushy Western lifestyle. Go wait tables or something).

And that’s why I’m here, full-time job and all.

Get to it.

Write.

 

 

Resources for the Ones in Need of Cheerleaders

Jeff Goins … I’d tell you more about him, but if you checked out that quote up there and liked what you saw, you should let him tell you more about himself. Inspiration and motivation guaranteed. (Subscribe to his mailing list!) Here’s an interview about finding your calling.

Donald Miller … Your story matters. If you’ve never read Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you need to do that today.

Rachael Stephen … If you want to laugh and get a bit of tough love in the Hunger Games arena that is FICTION WRITING, check her out!

Elizabeth Gilbert … duh. She even has a podcast.

 

 

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on writing

up for air

Every once in a while, I sense the need to surface from my ruminations and hundred-book-deep studies to say, “Hello. I’m still here. And I am writing.” Just not sharing very much right now. Continue reading

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Babel by Bruegel
life

they ate knowledge too fast

I am supposed to be putting together a teaching module. I am also supposed to be noveling, ironically about a teacher. But over the past few days, these have both been exasperating activities. Continue reading

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on writing

Welcome, NoShaveNaNoWriMo…erm, November

It’s that time of year again. My little sister’s herd of screaming girlfriends rampages the house, strung out on soda and Halloween candy, in honor of her birthday. We prematurely play Celtic Woman Christmas and Michael Bublé on the car radio (can only listen to him around this time… don’t know why). Men and women alike vow to lay aside razors in favor of the Cavemen and Girl-power Looks–with accompanying smell. There’s the usual Macy’s Day Parade, a triptobed from tryptophan, and thank-you notes on hand-traced crayon turkeys. Most importantly, NaNoWriMo culture invades campuses and workplaces across America. For scholars, the first casualty to our 50,000-word goal is usually homework. Concern for proper MLA formatting on a 20-page teaching module flies away like something that flies, but I don’t know what because I’m already low on similes. The next death in the family of sedentary activities: blogging (this fact stated, why am I blogging? I’m already behind by 500 words). Happy November.

NaNoMadness2013

I’ve never really done this insane thing called National Novel Writing Month before. Not whole-heartedly. This time around, I’ve pretty much sold my soul. As much as I love blogging and writing poems, I have missed lengthy prose with characters I know better than real human beings. The momentum of NaNoWriMo will help, I think, get me over my initial dislike of new narrative worlds. Sometimes, new settings are like new shoes, and since my greatest comfort zones are riddled with familiarity and comfortable “souls,” the newness of the novel can jar me enough that I stop writing. This cannot happen. Those 500 words call my name. Excessive description perhaps? At least, to tide me over until my 1,667 words due tomorrow.

Speaking of which, have any of you ever heard of “purple prose“? My fellow Writing Center tutor and NaNoWriter, Steph, was attempting to explain this phenomenon to me today in between tutoring sessions. According to Steph, what’s-her-face fluffs her Twilight books up with it, namely via descriptions of Edward’s Adonis-like torso. “Literary self-indulgence…” she said. Well, this gal is going to be giving herself over to quite a bit of purple prose. No outline in sight…settings as new to me as to any future reader…oddball characters who have yet to let me name them (these willful brain-children…)… Who cares? I’ll revise in January 2008-01-01 00.00.00-58after the ink’s dried out during December.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Must write the thing first. In case I run into a wall or a wall pops up out of the floor while I’m dashing through the maze of my characters’ minds because they are disobedient creatures… I’ve made my own version of a NaNoWriMo Prompt Jar. Everything will be a rushed fog this month, and no, I won’t be shaving. Hence, I shortened it to “nanojar”– fewer syllables. nanojar of inspirationIt is full to the brim with folded slips of construction paper on which I have written writing “dares.” For instance, #14: “What’s the worst thing that could happen to your character right now? Do it.” (But shouldn’t that always be our motto? If novelists did to real people what they did to their characters, they’d get locked up.) You brave souls, add me as a buddy (search “dorinorman“) and write with me if you dare.

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