Tag Archives: Writing Advice

I’m back!

7 Jan

No, the break wasn’t long. However, yes, it was needed. Though I’m still in the stage of adjusting some things about my current life that had previously been on the back burner, I realized that I didn’t want this blog to be kicked to the back of my mind like so many other things. This blog has helped me too much to be at any place other than the forefront of my thoughts (right alongside academics, friends, and family).

One of my goals (not resolutions, but goals, or something I expect to stick around and even grow) for this year is to complete a rough draft of my memoir by the end of 2013. That being said, I am planning to spend as much time as I can to writing my memoir, which means my blog posts will no longer appear daily. I’m thinking of going bi-weekly or even weekly so that I actually might have something to say rather than feeling like I’m constantly rambling on about nothing. Though in the past I have shared certain memories related to my Cerebral Palsy on this blog (and have worked them into my memoir), I primarily began doing that because I was in need of support and feedback. Thanks to all of my lovely followers who have provided just that. However, now that I am beginning to not exactly need the encouraging feedback quite as often, I think it would be best to restrict my written memories to the Word document of my memoir. It seems safer that way. Plus, then my number of pages of my memoir might actually increase (hey, imagine that!). However, that doesn’t mean I won’t still be talking about my writing or what I’m facing on a daily basis in regards to my CP. I’ll still be sharing those snippets, and on those hard days when life just seems to knock me to the ground, every ounce of encouragement from all of you will be just what I need.

As the New Year came and went, I realized how often I was telling so many people: “I’m writing my memoir!” without actually doing much about it. Though I am not necessarily planning to give myself a deadline (good writing comes in time), I do want to move forward with my memoir. I’ve been in a pretty huge rut for quite a while, and even though I have never been a fan of outlines (normally, I’d prefer to just write, write, write and not care where it was doing), I think using an outline could provide me with a greater sense of direction in regards to my memoir, which is exactly what I need at this point. I don’t know how much it will help, but I’ll just have to see I guess.

Along with writing comes reading, and I have written numerous book reviews on this blog in the past. Today I signed up for GoodReads (and have decided to enter a Book Reading Challenge). My goal is to read 100 books in one year. Though that seems like a bit much right now, I know how much I read. And if I don’t complete the challenge, oh well. I just know that I will need a way to balance out all the writing I’m planning to do (plus college classes and friendships). Also, I think all the reading will be a nice break from focusing so heavily on my own life through writing my memoir. I think it was Stephen King who said: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It will be one heck of a year filled with tons of writing, tons of reading, academics, and as much fun as I can squeeze in! Thank you to all of you who have continued with me on this journey, despite the fact that this blog has changed its focus so many times. I appreciate each and every one of you so much!

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

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The magic of first lines in literature.

14 Nov

Throughout my time spent as a writer and a genuine lover of words and literature, I have been told over and over of the crystal importance of the first line. From a fiction summer workshop professor to a news writing professor, I have been told the same thing: The first line of any poem, article, short story, or novel is what stands between your reader picking up a different piece of writing or sitting down to spend the evening engrossed in your words on the page, so you’ve got to make it not just good…but damn good.

I remember the very first time a first line of literature completely pulled me in. It was Christmastime in South Carolina, and instead of playing outside with all the other kids on my block talking about what we hoped to get for Christmas, I was sitting in my room reading the very first line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenburgs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

I don’t know what it was about this first line that grabbed me, but after I read it, I couldn’t help wondering who the Rosenburgs were and why they had been executed. Maybe it grabbed me because of how the summer was described as “queer” and “sultry,” or maybe even though I didn’t know why the main character, Esther Greenwood, was in New York, I wanted to find out just as much as she did. Or maybe I just liked the way each word in the sentence combined to form the perfect combination of sounds and emotions.

I don’t remember putting down the book that first night, after being completely hooked by the first line. I most likely fell asleep with the book in my hands, only to wake up the next morning and keep on reading. That’s when you know you’ve found an incredible work of literature: when life stops until the last page is turned. To this day, the beginning of The Bell Jar comes to mind when I think of first lines. However, is another first line that has held just as much impact for me as Plath’s words did. Here’s the first line of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, which is also an incredibly amazing, though quite depressing read.

“When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.”

Yes, I warned you it was morbid. However, first lines aren’t exactly supposed to make you squeal with joy. They are supposed to make you think. They are supposed to make you want to stay up late into the night just because you want to know what happens to a character that has entered your heart, though you have told yourself over and over that the character isn’t real. First lines are supposed to cause you to stretch your mind and question your beliefs. If first lines often stated things that we strongly believed in, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the first lines that keep us up at night that are the most powerful. Though we may not openly admit it, we like to be challenged. Being challenged allows us to open our minds to other possibilities, which helps us to grow as people and as a society. It’s the first lines that have you begging for more even after you have turned the last page that hold the most promise. And it’s those gripping first lines that push readers of all ages to come back to literature, again and again. It’s not just enough to read one book and be done with it. We must read them all. We must make each book a part of us, another world waiting to be discovered, another life filled with all new characters and places that we are ready to welcome home.

Writing: A Thriving Mechanism.

16 Sep

I’ve been in a relatively happy mood over the last week, which explains my lack of writing lately. As strange as it may seem, my desire to write often decreases if I’m in a good mood. I partly think this is the case because for as long as I can remember, writing has been a coping mechanism. I began writing at the age of 8 because there were stories in my head and poems that I felt just needed to be expressed. I continued to write not because I had all these wonderful ideas for stories, but because at the age of 11, my intense surgeries began, which were followed by lots of intense physical therapy. I wrote to let out the pain.

Lately, my desire to write has changed somewhat. I no longer use writing as a coping mechanism. These days, writing is more of a thriving mechanism. Of course, I do have down days, and my writing definitely comes in handy during those times. However, more recently, my writing has been a tool to celebrate what I have overcome. Living with Cerebral Palsy isn’t easy. Even though most people can probably figure that out, the majority of people don’t know what people with CP face on a regular basis. That’s why I strive on a daily basis to share my story with the world. Even though I haven’t written that much regarding my memoir, I still talk about my life with CP on a regular basis when it comes to this blog.

Even though I’ve only begun having a CP focus on my blog since beginning my memoir in January, I can already see the incredible impact that it’s had on me as well as others. In terms of my life, sharing my struggles of having CP has made me happier and has put me on the path of ever so slowly accepting myself. It has also allowed me to realize that I was born to do this. I normally don’t use that phrase because in my head it holds a little bit of a religious connotation. However, all religious connections aside, I do feel like being a CP advocate and sharing my story of living with CP is what I was born to do. That doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing I was born to do though. I love psychology just as much as I love advocating for others with disabilities, and the thought of one day being a counselor for kids with special needs seems like the perfect fit. Then again, I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve got my entire life ahead of me. In terms of my blog, I’ve also seen how focusing on talking about what it’s been like for me to live with CP impacts others as well. Since beginning to discuss living with CP this past January, I’ve received wonderful feedback. I’ve received comments and emails from parents of children with CP who have thanked me for giving them a window into what their child faces. I’ve received a comment from a girl who is facing a lot of the same surgeries in the same hospital that I went through. I’ve had a woman come up to me at a restaurant after overhearing me talk about writing my memoir to tell me that her son has CP and that she fully supports what I’m doing. Even though I have a good amount of benefits that writing my memoir has provided for me, I do it for everyone else. I do it for the kids with CP. I do it for the parents of kids with CP so that they can better understand what their children face. I do it for Grace, a girl I know who has CP, because it’s the only way that I know how to help her. As well as writing my memoir for the families that have been affected by CP, I write about my life for the general public as well. Not many people know about CP, and I know for a fact that not many people know what someone with CP faces on any given day. That’s what I’m here for: to be the voice of every other kid with CP who just wants someone who understands what they’ve faced.

So maybe I don’t have to use writing as a coping mechanism anymore. However, I believe that’s one of the biggest steps that I could’ve made. Rather than being set on writing through pain, I have chosen to focus on the people who I am impacting every day through my words. It is because of all of you that I have decided to continue my writing journey. Someone’s got to be the voice of so many who are currently faced with having to live with Cerebral Palsy. Why can’t that voice be mine?

My phase of writing fiction.

2 Sep

Last night while reading The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating The Writing Life, I came across this great quote that seemed to say it all:

Words, like eyes, are windows into a person’s soul, and thus each writer, in some small way, helps to enrich the world. But it takes courage to share one’s life with another, for we live in a world where every sentence penned can be criticized or praised. But it is a risk worth taking, for a greater vision remains: that through our words, be they fiction or fact, we might touch another soul as we share our stories and song. In that moment, however brief, we suspend the walls of separateness that so often cause suffering and pain.

Seven years ago when I was still in my phase of writing fiction, I started writing Silver Drops, the story of a girl who finds an entire new world behind a waterfall. I wrote for days and weeks on end, eventually reaching about 75 handwritten pages before I had to stop. I stopped this particular writing project because I just wasn’t sure where to go with the story anymore. I needed to include something that could push the story forward. However, at the time I didn’t know what that something was.

Since I was stuck regarding the story but I knew that I didn’t want to lose it, I kept the handwritten pages, but I also typed it up and saved it on a cd. I still have all 3 versions somewhere. I remember coming across them when I had to clean out my room before my parents moved up to North Carolina. I smiled when I came across the story, and as I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom reading what I had written seven years ago, I was amazed at what my 13-year-old mind could come up with. I can only imagine how the story could progress if I added some 20-year-old wisdom to it.

I’ve gotten into the groove of memoir writing lately. Therefore, I don’t know if switching gears would benefit me or not. I loved writing fiction when I was younger. I loved the process of making up stories and creating characters. I loved being able to “spend my time” with people who I only wished could be real. I loved being able to pretend, if only for a minute, that I was a different person who had a completely different life. I wrote fictional stories the way some girls play dress up. I tried to fit all kids of characters into my stories, and I wasn’t satisfied until I had written a character so vividly that he or she was practically sitting in my room across from me saying, “You want to go play?”

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll pick back up Silver Drops with the same amount of gusto that started it all. Or maybe I won’t. However, if I know one thing for certain, it’s that I will never ever stop writing. It’s brought me so far already, and therefore, I feel like I need to give something back. So, yes, I need to share my story. I need to allow other people to realize that despite obstacles, setbacks and a world of pain, you can learn to enjoy your life.

Why do we write?

1 Sep

 

For millions of Americans, writing has become an impassioned pursuit. We fill diaries, compose memoirs, trade stories with our friends. We attend classes and workshops, dreaming of literary fame. Why are we so enamored with our words? Is it for pleasure, or recognition, or something more? The answer, psychologists conclude, is simple: we write because we have to write- because it keeps us grounded and sane. Writing is powerful because it expands our ability to communicate with others. “But more important,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of social psychology and author of Creativity, “the written word allows us to understand better what is happening within ourselves.”-from The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating The Writing Life.

Walking down the empty streets.

13 Aug

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.” – from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t know what it is about this quote that resonates with me, but I love it. I think it has something to do with the certain level of contentment that can be achieved through merely being alone. So many people have said that writing is a lonely business to go into. However, what about for those people who enjoy time to themselves to mull over their thoughts? Is it as lonely? Or does it provide a sense of delight that allows you not only to mull over your own thoughts, but to hear how they sound when they’re spoken aloud?

My favorite author, Jodi Picoult, has said that writing is an acceptable form of schizophrenia, and I believe that’s true in certain ways. However, as writers, we don’t view it as a negative thing. All we’re doing is trying to get on the same level as the words we’re writing in order to make sure that we are being as true and honest and authentic as possible. And what’s so crazy about that?

Invisible words.

12 Aug

Taken at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” – Vladimir Nabokov