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Writing is writing

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Things have been crazy because I just started school again and when I meet up with other writers they ask me if I’ve been writing lately.


And I say yes.

But I hesitate. Why do I hesitate? Because I’ve been writing loads, just not fiction. I’ve been blogging a lot about my experiences at school over at my Cosmorphosis blog and it’s been extremely rewarding and fascinating, but there’s some tiny part of me that believes writing = writing fiction.


This is clearly a flawed thought and I have no idea where it comes from. Non-fiction is obviously a valid and important form of writing, from news to memoirs, sharing stories of the real world and our own lives is extremely valuable.

But it’s not fiction.

I think the moment I really committed to writing fiction was the same moment I officially committed to being a writer. Even though I had been writing non-fiction and travel memoirs for years, for some reason I only decided to take the moniker of writer when fiction was my focus.

It’s not a good, healthy thought. Writing is writing and all of it is great.

Whether it’s tweeting, blogging, writing a book, a poem, a single line or even a lab report (which I did for the first time ever this week), writing is important and meaningful because it’s all just various forms of expression. I can find the joy in any one of those forms, as evidenced by the fact that I loved writing the lab report.



I don’t want to limit myself to the form of fiction for my expression and I don’t think anyone should. As a writer, a creator of art, my focus will change throughout my life and as someone who considers herself open-minded and well suited for change I want to embrace that and proudly proclaim my love of self expression, no matter what form it comes in.

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Educated vs. self taught

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I’m an uneducated writer.

That’s right.  I mean I took English in high school and one creative writing course at U of T a long time ago, but other than that I have no schooling to speak of when it comes to writing.  Except the school of life baby.

So overall, would I say that one needs to be educated in the craft of writing in order to be a great writer?  No.

Education has it’s benefits of course, you get to learn in-depth and explore a variety avenues with skilled instructors helping you along.  You get a group environment in which to learn, critique and grow.  You’re able to focus your mind and hone your craft in a place designed to allow you to do just that.  However, I would argue that you can do all of these things without being formally educated as well.

We’re lucky, we live in an age where most of the information in the world is just a google search away.  If I want to learn the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ I can do it in an instant thanks to grammar blogs and diligent Wikipedia nerds (those folks are amazing).  I can go online and post my work in forums to be ripped apart by the educated and the self taught alike.  I can write to my heart’s content and send my stories to various online (and printed) magazines for rejection or acceptance.  I never miss a spelling error thanks to my awesome spell check that sticks a red squiggly under my word if I get it wrong.  Thanks to technology more and more people are literate, able to read and write and express themselves without the benefits of formal education.

So what are the benefits of being self-taught?  Well, for me the benefit would be that I learned to write as I traveled and I traveled widely because once I left high school I didn’t head straight into university or a career path.  I hitchhiked around Europe and bussed around Egypt, through the US to Mexico then around Peru.  As I traveled, I didn’t take pictures, instead I wrote.  I scribbled endless notes and poems in piles of journals and captured my whole journey in prose.  Although I had written before then, it was never so prolific and I think that’s really what got me onto the path into the magical land of writing.

Had I gone to university instead I’m not sure I would have given myself the time and space to travel and work in bars and become an event planner only to eventually learn I’m a writer at heart.  Had I gone to university instead I might have become ensconced in a career and not noticed that my true path was writing.  So for me, being self taught worked out.

I would certainly never suggest that one way is better than another, because everyone has to find their own way.  I can say though that I’m happy it all worked out the way it did and I don’t think I’m any worse for not having gone to university to be formally educated.

I fully intend to keep writing for the rest of my life and I can definitely say I’m self taught and proud.

School of life.  Yeah.

Tell me about your experiences with writing, are you self taught or formally educated?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Self-promotion & networking

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Writing is a business.

Whether you’re penning the next bestseller or writing copy for websites about car parts, writing is a business and you (as a writer) are a business person.

So this means you have to sell, sell, sell yourself.  Self-promotion is the other half of writing.  Once the document is closed or the pen is down (or in the case of freelancing before you even start) you have to find a way to get your words out there.

Since deciding to be a writer (for reals) I’ve done a bunch of research on the subject of how to break into the world of writing.  There are (obviously) different rules for freelancing than there are for being a novelist, but the idea is the same.  Here’s some knowledge on the subject I have accumulated whilst researching.

Platform

Agents like a platform, so do readers.  A platform is basically a soapbox upon which you stand to blast your message out into the virtual world.  It could involve a blog, twitter feed, facebook page and linkedin profile, ideally with thousands of followers who are super interested in the words you have to say.  A lot of writers write about writing (like this blog for example) and themselves, they write about their books and engage with fans.  If you are an unpublished writer like myself (for the moment) it is a good place to get your voice out there and say stuff.  For self-publishers, a platform is a good way to sell people on your writing and get yourself out to the public, it also allows you a place to sell your books and build your brand.  For freelancers, a platform is sweet because it allows you a place to send potential clients to give them a taste of how you write and also link them to your portfolio.  Having a well rounded platform is a launch pad for greatness in the future and gives you a place online to send all your adoring fans as they pile up after you publish your first book.

Why not?  Start a blog about your life and interests.  Make yourself a twitter feed for short, but sweet messages to the world.  Start a facebook page and invite your friends to ‘like’ you.

Talk your face off

Gone are the days of being a reclusive writer, shunning the world and swooning alone in the darkness to your own sweet prose.  It’s a self-promotional world out there and even if you’re not super net-savvy you should still be getting out there and meeting people.  Conferences and writing festivals are awesome ways to get your face out there, shake hands and take numbers.  Lots of agents and publishers go to conferences and festivals to check out the new blood and it’s always good to make yourself known (agents might be more likely to look at the work of someone they meet in person).  There are also local events you can take part in, reading nights, writing groups etc…where you can get loads of information on what’s happening in the writing world.  Get out there and get involved.  Also, if you are a published author a book tour/signing or at the very least a launch party is always a good thing.  People want to see the writer who wrote the words they love.  For freelancers, get to know your market.  If you’re a medical writer, get out there to conferences and meet some doctors, talk shop and keep on top of updating your language and voice.  Shaking hands is always more memorable than e-mail.

Why not?  Look up some conferences and festivals nearby and make a plan to head out to one.  Find a local writing group and join.  Find local readings and see if you can sign up.

Look good doing it

This is a personal preference of course, but I find it’s easier to be memorable if you look good at whatever you are doing.  If you’re rocking a medical conference, dress the part, don’t walk around in your old raggedy jeans and expect people to want to do business with you.  Same goes for being an author.  If you are a romance writer, put a little oomph into your outfit.  Sci-fi writers, would a dash of silver really hurt?  Overall your presentation should match how you want people to see you and the best impressions are always made when you give it some effort.  Just because you spend 99% of your time behind a computer doesn’t mean your style can’t be snappy folks.

Why not?  Put together a couple of stellar outfits to wear to conferences and book signings.  Choose a style that reflects the type of writing you do.  Create your own personal look that is distinct and creative.

Discuss

There are loads of writing forums and blogs out there that you can get involved in.  They offer basic writing discussion as well as feedback opportunities for your work.  Forums can be a great way to meet other writers and get your name out there.  Be careful though because they can also be a time sink for your creativity.  Always remember your own writing should come first before all your pals on the boards!

Why not?  Check out some writing forums and join in the conversation.

Don’t just promote

A lot of people think social media is about promoting yourself non-stop.  You see them all the time on twitter, tweeting the same links over and over and generally driving you crazy with in-your-face promotion.  Social media is called ‘social’ for a reason.  It’s a place to discuss and engage, not shove your product into someone’s face.  You want to learn to be part of the conversation, otherwise people will just tune you out.  Saying something relevant and helpful is good, commenting on other posts or tweets is good and not overdoing the links to your books is also good.  Just think of it like a normal conversation in real life, if you just sit there repeating the same sentence over and over at people they will eventually get bored and walk away.

Why not?  Find some way to engage your community with helpful hints or personal anecdotes.  Stop tweeting the same message over and over.  Join in the conversation.

If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all

I was at a writing talk at Ryerson the other day and there was an agent there.  After all the talk of social networking and self-promotion she made sure to add in that sometimes saying something poorly is worse than not saying anything at all.  Ain’t it the truth?  Maybe you just have a knack for writing fiction and really suck at self-promotion, if that’s the case that’s okay.  There’s still the more traditional route of publishing for those who don’t want to get out there online and yammer away.  So take heart if none of the above sound like you, you can still write your heart out, get it published and be a bestseller.  At some point you may be invited to talk at conferences with or without self-promotion and at that point, the talk your face off and look good doing it points will still apply to you.

Why not? Stick to what you’re good at and just keep writing.

Anything to add?  Did I miss anything?  Let me know!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Breaking the routine

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Routines can be good.

They allow us to have consistency, get in the flow and concentrate at certain times.  For example, I like to write in the mornings, I find (unless I’m exhausted) my brain functions better and there are less distractions in the morning.  I like the sunshine and the sound of the birds.  It feels like the morning is a peaceful and contemplative time, with everyone just having woken from dreams there is a certain stillness to it that makes it ideal.

So I try to keep my routine.  I think it’s important to write every day, whether it’s just a blog post or a few words on a work in progress.  Gotta keep the juices flowing.

On the other hand, routines can be bad.

Writers should be keeping their eyes open for the unexpected parts of life, the parts that jump out, make an impact, feel different than the every day.  If you are stuck in a routine and every day falls into the same pattern, how are you going to experience the unexpected?

Routine can also become an excuse if you let it.  If I told myself I was going to write every morning from 9am-11am and that was my ‘writing time’, what would happen if I was busy one morning?  I don’t want to use a routine as an excuse not to write, or to lock myself into something so completely that I feel guilty if I don’t do it.  For example I missed the past two days of this blogging challenge.  I immediately got cranky with myself and tried to think of ways to make up for it.  Then this topic of routine came up and it got me thinking.  I don’t want to beat myself up for not doing something, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s a good way to live.  I want to do it because I love it and not stifle myself with routine.

I want to break the routine and embrace the spontaneity of my passions.

That’s the joy of freelancing too, the lack of routine.  There is no nine to five, we work when there’s work and play when there’s none and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  If I need to I can work at midnight to finish a project because I just had to finish that episode of The Office (see the symbolism?).  As long as it gets done, it doesn’t matter when I do it.

So routines can be good for some things, but what’s better than sticking to a routine tirelessly is breaking with routine and embracing the unpredictability that follows.

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Write as you love

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Today’s blog post was supposed to be about rules.  Am I for them or against them?  So, to illustrate the only relevant point I have regarding rules, I am going to write about something completely different: writing what you love.

I am an emerging writer, an aspiring to be published writer.  I have faith I’ll get there one day, but in the meantime I’m learning to write what I love.  This is by far the most important thing anyone can possibly learn to do.  Why?  Because writing what you love is like falling in love, it’s dizzying, dazzling and beautiful.  It makes you excited about putting fingers to keyboard, pen to paper.

Now, by writing what you love, I don’t just mean mystery novels or epic poetry, it goes well beyond genre or format.  Writing what you love is about the base elements of the art, the magic of the craft.  It’s about the words and the concepts and the soul (if there is such a thing).

So what do I love?  I’ve been working on the answer to this question and I think I’ve narrowed it down.  I love abstraction, absurdism, lists, feelings, rituals, elemental magic and the suggestion of something deeper.  I love quantum writing, ideas that feel as though they could have a million meanings but only take shape when you read them, in the exact form you choose to perceive them.  I love rhymes and interjections of poetry, I love metaphor and good, quirky similes.

I find the best way to access the writing I love is to allow my mind to wander.  I like to reach out into my memories and the fringes of what I know to gather ideas and bring them back.  In order to do that though I have to be brave and let go of my fears and preconceptions.  Stilted writing comes when I’m thinking too much, worrying too much about this word or that sentence.

So how to write what you love?  Write as you love, with wild abandon, an open heart and a slightly reckless spirit.  Read books and pick out the words you love and remember them.  Study turns of phrase you admire and allow yourself to be free.  Listen to songs and watch TV and movies and pay attention to the words.  Some of my favorite writers are musicians.

Rules be damned, sometimes it’s just time to write what you love and worry about the details later!

What do you love to write?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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People think I’m…

‘People think I’m…’

That’s the title of today’s blog challenge.  This is the moment I realize it’s not called challenge for nothing.

If I always knew exactly what people really thought about me I’d either be really happy or really sad.  I mean, we can only really guess can’t we?  Guess and hope and sometimes find some good honest people who we put our trust into and believe they mean what they say.  That’s life.

I’ve always had a pretty polarizing effect on people.  Love me or hate me, not much in between.  It’s probably because I have a bit of a big mouth and I’m full of ideas and excitement and sometimes bluster.  But I like to think the world can handle me.  Sure, sharing yourself opens you up to all sorts of crap, but getting to know people and trusting them is just part of the adventure.

Maybe my desire to put myself out there is part of the reason I love writing so much.  People say it’s a solitary pursuit and to a certain degree it is, what art isn’t?  But once you’re done the writing part there is so much more to being a writer than just the writing.  It’s sharing a bit of who you are with the world and then one definitely gets the chance to see what people think of you and your art (because they say it on Amazon).  People make it personal don’t they?  If they don’t like your story they feel betrayed, if they love it they think you are the greatest.  It’s a cognitive bias we have as humans that leaves us with a certain difficulty in separating the art from the artist, people from their actions in the moment.  It can be a blessing and a curse.

But now I’m just avoiding the point aren’t I?

People think I’m…

Energetic
Creative
Fun
A bitch
Tough
Nice
Cute
Mean
Colourful
Nasty
A keener
Selfish

It’s a lot of things to be and I’m pretty sure I’m all of those sometimes…who isn’t?  We all have different sides of ourselves and different circumstances that bring those things out.  Sure some people are nastier than others and some people are sweeter, but we’re all just people and everyone will see things differently.

So as much as I’d like to say I don’t care what people think of me, I do. I think we all do (well maybe not the sociopaths/psychopaths), but there is nothing much I can do about how people perceive me other than to be myself and continue to strive for awesomeness!

How do people see you?  Does it matter?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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How I got into writing

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This is the first post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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When I was younger I used to write a lot.  Journals mostly, whining about boys (and later girls too), unrequited love, rituals (during my witchy phase) and other teenage stuff that I was sure was insanely important.  I’ve looked back over old journals before, but I find the process of ploughing through years of bad poetry kind of painful.

Next I got into writing plays.  I still have one sitting around about a girl who discovered she was gay and made out with her best friend.  Ah the ponderings of a seventh grade bi-girl.  Then there were stories.  I even wrote a story about a girl on a journey to enlightenment for philosophy class in high school and scored myself an A+ (I went to an alternative school of course).

Then it was world travels.  Long nights were spent scribbling in notebooks on buses, traveling through the desert in Egypt or up and down crazy mountains in Peru, in dirty old hotel rooms or tucked away in sleeping bags on the beach watching the stunning Italian sunset and hoping I wouldn’t wake up after high tide.

I wrote a lot.  But still, through all of that, I didn’t call myself a writer.

I wrote little articles about my adventures with my friends, replacing us with anthropomorphized animals and calling it: The Starry Web Press.  I wrote stories and poems as gifts.  I sent out poems as solstice greetings to friends and family.  Still, I refused to call myself a writer.

No no, I was a traveler, a server, a bartender, a go-go dancer, a shaman, a tarot card reader, an event planner, a video producer, but never…NEVER a writer.

The real turning point came maybe a year ago, after I finished my first novel.  A honking, slow moving, boring laborious thing (150,000 words).  I finished it, looked at Ben and said:

“I think I’m a writer.”

Since then I’ve been on fire, I’ve written multiple short stories, another novel, made a giant list of agents, magazines and contests to submit my work to, started this blog, gathered almost 250 followers on twitter, joined two writing groups (and quit one), and I’ve even been hired to write professionally from video scripts to event proposals to websites.

So although it took me 29 years to admit it, I’m a writer dammit, and just like everything else I’ve been before, I’ve thrown myself into it, heart and soul.

Now it’s your turn…how did you get into writing?