This is the second question of the “Short Answer” section of the Pen Center Emerging Voices Fellowship application for 2015. The first — why are you applying for the fellowship — is a little easier to answer. There are considerable benefits: a professional mentorship with a published author, classes at the UCLA Writer’s Extension Program and a series of genre specific master classes, to name a few. But specific goals as a writer? That’s a little harder to say.
Do you have a writing schedule? Mine is: wake up, fret about writing, make some tea and fret some more. If yours is looking about the same, then what about taking a tip from Henry Miller, who began his day with a blessing?
“I open the door in the morning, look towards the sun rising over the mountains, and bless the whole world, birds, flowers and beasts included. After I have moved my bowels I take the hound for a walk. Then a stint of writing, then lunch, then a siesta, then water colors, then correspondence, then a book, then a fuck, then a nap, then dinner, and so to bed early and up early and all’s well except when I visit the dentist now and then.”
If we take him at face value (which might be the only way to take him) then writing is a part of a larger creative life, all of which gets to be nurtured and enjoyed.
(from The Devil at Large: Erica Jong On Henry Miller, By Erica Jong)
Alan first taught a summer creative writing workshop at UCLA in 1998, and has been teaching and lecturing on the creative process in L.A. and at colleges around the country ever since.
LW: You must have now met hundreds of people with the desire to tell their stories. What key differences are there between writers who dream and writers who do? Continue reading Five Questions for Alan Watt on Making Your Writing Dreams Come True
My main character and I share a few things in common, like she lives in the suburbs where I grew up, and she isn’t so sure she fits in, which is an experience I am familiar with. Other than that though, she’s married, with kids – I’m not a wife or a mother, and she is stuck in the middle of a family drama unlike anything I’ve personally experienced. But then I took a workshop to Unlock the Story Within, with Alan Watt, and I learned we are a lot more alike then I thought. Continue reading How To Set Your MC Free
This past weekend I took a sex writing class with Edan Lepucki, the founder of the Los Angeles Writing Workshop and author of the forthcoming novel CALIFORNIA (Little, Brown 2014).
I learned that cliches glare but trite kills. Romantic urges overwhelm but too much distance alienates. Language can hit too hard or too soft (pun intended). Without the body, the mind is unmoored (and same goes with the inverse statement). Also, asking too much or too little from the scene will leave you unsatisfied.
So when you sit down to write sex, make sure that your craft kit is organized and your tools are sharpened and ready to go.
First prize for the stamina of a sex scene goes to: the sixty pages devoted to Wolf and Phoebe from Jennifer Egan’s first book, Invisible Circus.
I just finished Twyla Tharp’s book on the Creative Habit and found a few tips that have been helping me get down to business.
The first is to define for yourself a Start-Up-Ritual. For Tharp, a choreographer by trade, she simply gets into the cab at 5:30am every day. What happens when she gets to her studio is another matter. For me I’ve been brewing up a mug of hot water with lemon. Some of you will pick coffee but that’s a different kind of trigger for me.
The second is to Know Your Perspective. This one blew my mind because of the specific example she gave: are you someone who goes up close to a piece of art at a museum? Or someone who loves the beautiful tell? Yes, yes I am! According to Tharp, this means that for me the world is explored through its details (which, btw, is not the same as detail oriented). There are other people who are more intrigued by the abstractions. Knowing which one you are will help guide your work.
Then there’s one I usually do by matter of compulsion: Read Archaeologically. This month I’ve been applying the technique to Jennifer Egan, since I loved A Visit From The Goon Squad. Her other books, The Keep and Look at Me share with each other a kind of tricky structure. I’ve also found that her early story collection, Emerald City, exposes the core areas of interest that become both more subtle and developed in her work over time. Last up with be Invisible Cities, Egan’s first novel, now over twenty years old.
Tharp’s idea of making each part of a dance about one thing is so useful when thinking about writing chapter and also when managing life in general. When I start to feel frazzled, I think to myself now: What is Today Good For? The same came be said of working on my novel, each time I sit down. If I focus on one moment I want to get across I’m more successful than if I’m trying to solve bits and pieces of the books problem all in one sitting.
Finally, and most forgivingly: Ruts Happen. Now when I miss a day of writing, or maybe two, I just accept that for whatever reason I couldn’t get myself to get down to business. It’s not a matter of time or inspiration, it’s a matter of stagnation. And the best way to get out of a rut is to know you’re in one.
Ok, that’s my list! Got any tips for creativity that you’ve discovered works for you? Write ’em up and post ’em here.
Last weekend, I took a break from caring for my sweet baby girl and luxuriated in two days of the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference here in Brooklyn. The panels were interesting windows into the publishing world, and the esteemed writers present were so inspiring to hear on topics of craft and the writing life. BUT by far the most valuable thing for me about the conference was the pitch meetings with agents. Continue reading What Agents Want