Writer’s Block? Fire Yourself!

Courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal Press Syndicate

I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who hasn’t experienced writers’ block at least once in his or her life. Unfortunately, I experience it far too often. The worst yet truest advice is: Just do it. Sit down and start writing, no matter what.

Good advice, but it has never worked for me. If I do some free writing, I’m annoyed at the waste of time. With three young kids, my time is limited and I want to spend it efficiently. I think free writing is great if you have no idea what to write, as it generates ideas for stories. But if you have something specific in mind then it just feels wrong. And when I force myself to write a specific story, then every sentence I write I go back to and read it three times over, and I’m ashamed at how bad it is.

Writing, which is my hobby, becomes torture instead of joy. And that defeats the purpose of a hobby.

This week I read an article in the New York Times by Carl Richards, which may – hopefully – help me.

I need to fire myself!

No, not as a writer. It didn’t encourage me to quit. However, it advises you to fire yourself as a critic of your own work.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to matter, as your job now officially has nothing to do with deciding if the work is good. Your job is to do the work, put it out there and let the world decide.

So the old-age advice of just do it needs an amendment. Just write and stop critiquing.

I recommend reading the entire article: Free Yourself of Your Harshest Critic, and Plow Ahead.

Vanessa Deij

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Learning to Accept Critique

Anne made up her mind that the next time she wrote a story she wouldn’t ask anybody to criticize it. It was too discouraging. (…) In imagination Anne saw herself reading a story out of a magazine to Marilla, entrapping her into praise of it – for in imagination all things are possible – and then triumphantly announcing herself the author. 

– Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

I love how Anne imagines being a published author and the struggles she encounters to become one, in the series Anne of Green Gables. One of her struggles is dealing with critique—people who ‘don’t get it’; people who have nothing positive to say; people who have a vague comment like ‘I didn’t like that bit’ without explaining why. It can indeed be very discouraging.

That doesn’t mean that as a professional writer you can do without critique. The right people – usually other writers – can help you see the flaws in the language and in the story. But finding the right critics is only half the battle. Most beginning writers have to learn to accept critique. No story – however good you are as a writer – is flawless after the first draft. Read More

Small Press Editors Are the Gatekeepers to Publishing

I loved this little article titled ‘Publishing In Small Journals: The Un-Fairy Tale‘ written by Brianne M. Kohl and published over at our friends The Review Review.  I thought it appropriate to share with writers potentially willing to submit their work to Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine, as we are apparently gatekeepers 🙂

Far, far away, maybe in another kingdom but most likely in some suburban home office, the Powerful Editor read and loved this writer’s story.  The editor plucked her from obscurity, whisked her away from her dirty hearth and published her story.  The entire kingdom rejoiced. She was beloved by all.

I am not that writer.

Read this clever article here, and share your thoughts with us.  Or better yet, send in your writing and we just might share it with the world.

Samir

Things You Can Do to Books Besides Reading Them

Like most fellow book readers, my read books end up on my bookcase waiting there to be reread again.  Yet there’s always this small pile of books that I don;t plan on rereading, and that no one wants.  I’ve had friends browse through them; I’ve posted them on the Dutch version of Amazon – Marktplaats – but without any luck; I’ve even tried the secondhand bookshop and they didn’t want them.  They did offer their bin to dispose of them, but that was just too big a step to take.   Now they’re waiting in a huge blue bag underneath the bed, for their final destination, whatever that may be.

So what to do with books that are no longer wanted?  I shouldn’t have been surprised, yet I was, when I learned that there’s a whole arsenal of possibilities. Read More

The Innumerable Stories Behind an Infinite Number of Numbers

I know many of us writers are afraid of numbers.  We work and play with words, while numbers are for mathematicians, computer geeks and bankers.  But did you know that numbers can hold entire stories?

Apparently, this is clear in people with Aphasia, a language disorder that is often caused by a brain trauma and affects their ability to read numbers.  Sometimes they also lose the ability to recognise numbers unless they remember a personal story behind it, i.e. there is a contextual relevance.  For example, a man was unable to say the number 505, but he was able to say the number 504 because his first rally car was a Peugeot 504.  This got me thinking to how certain numbers in our lives carry with them certain stories that only we know about.

This video explains it all much better.  True, it’s a bit long, but Dr. Sarah Wiseman from UCL explains it really well, and it’s great for writers to see the story significance of numbers.

 

Vanessa

Katherine Heiny’s ‘Single, Carefree, Mellow’ Is Out Today

Katherine Heiny, personal friend of Cecile’s Writers, has her new and much anticipated short story collection Single, Carefree, Mellow released today by publisher Knopf.  We are thrilled for her success and happy to be included in the acknowledgments.  She also has a short and wonderful interview in The New York Times here.

Single Carefree MellowI find Heiny’s writing to be crisp and always hits the nail on the head.  Most memorable of all is the quirky humour and sometimes incredible situations her characters are in.  Reviewers so far are mixed in their opinions, yet all are positive.  The most discernible criticism I encountered so far from others is that the brevity of the stories result in a touch-and-go feeling with the characters, readers then complain that the characters don’t remain with them once they finish reading.  I would, however, interject and say that is the brilliance of situational stories, that the circumstances (and humour) are paramount, resulting in scene after scene of action.  If this means the characters stop at the end of the story, it’s because the stories are readable again and again.

timthumbAlthough not a part of her debut collection, Heiny did publish the short story The Absolute Truth Machine with us in our first edition.  You can read it and have a taste of Heiny’s flawless writing.

Samir Rawas Sarayji

Snippets from Tolkien to Charlie Hebdo to Favourite Opening Lines

A bit of a different blog post today, with links and snippets:

Courtesy biographyonline.net
Courtesy biographyonline.net

1. Tolkien’s scholarly translation of Beowulf is finally published, this very short article is for any fan of Tolkien or Beowulf, now you can be of both!  Read on… 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy theguardian.com
Courtesy theguardian.com

2. I remember when reading Michelle Houellebecq’s Whatever that this was a writer whose oeuvre I wanted to go through.  Since I read about his latest book released in French: Submission, I’ve been  looking forward to the English translation.

Read More