Commitment is more than ambition

One of things a publisher will want, I think, is commitment, and not serving the writer’s ambition first and foremost. This commitment, I think, must extend to a writer’s readers, so that even if a writer is posting blog pieces all the time and is not publishing the book, but shows a sincere commitment to their readers, is doing a better thing than someone who is not even making an effort with their readers, but has published the book. The book is always where the writer’s ambition lies, but the reader is the generous soul who makes an effort to connect with the writer and should at least be acknowledged if not put on a pedestal.

The mentor worth remembering

Then I am reminded, in the throes of writing a piece frantically. Remember the lesson? The one in the classroom? All those years ago? It felt like the lesson Luke Skywalker had to learn in the cave and correct his “inner demon”. What a crock. Gotta correct my inner demon? Nah. Yes, I remember that scene now. Just a movie scene. It was like Indiana Jones understanding something for the first time. But, for me, it was understanding something more than one time. I have been recalling it more often than usual. The wise words. The word that offers guidance the right way. So, when I am writing something, I remember the mentor’s words and apply it where appropriate. My affection goes out to the mentor: your guidance in writing helps, I think. Indeed, it does…

Working on yourself, not some other writer

Someone I did not know told me I was doing a great job writing for such and such a publisher. I felt chuffed by the remark and a swell of pride came. I went away from the person with a lighter step and a bigger heart.

That evening as I watched the news on television, I believed I was a better writer than the reporter I saw on the evening programme. The questions he posed were weak, I thought, and I thought of a better one. Perhaps he should use it. He could have enhanced the whole interview. Then, I recalled the comment the man made about my great reporting.

If this seems to be pride, technically it is not. I was not a better writer than the journalist on TV. It just means I thought of a better question that sounded good to me. It can add to something I am working on, not add to someone else’s work.

Persevering with the poem that’s a labor of love

Putting the much loved poem on the back burner was the logical next step. This after desperately searching for a suitable publisher for it, but realizing there isn’t one, yet. Beforehand, he was going to place it on his blog. He had, at least, decided he would work on finding a publisher for it, and would continue that search at a later date.

Persevering in the face of successful others

“I have two websites I use for information on publishing,” said the fledging writer to her inquisitive hearer. She was ashamed of being a fledging in front of this successful person, but thought that with possibility, possibility should never die and keep her going, until it reached fruition, with the possible becoming more than probable, and turning her notion into something real.

Older writers keep on going

The musing said to the aspiring novelist, the novelist was getting no younger:

Hope the younger ones do well for the traditional publishers that are still going. Depending on what they would write for them. Nothing short than…As for you, you may just find something else. Something better. So, for you, I will keep the possibility of ‘afresh’ avenues open. But keep knocking on the door, from time to time.

Compelling choices for characters

In storytelling class, the lecturer may discuss the concept of compelling choice. For these lecturers, compelling choice is the pivot on which the plot turns in the classical story structure. The main character faces dilemmas at various points and has a choice between two or, even better, more choices of action, but the character chooses one way because the choice compels more than the other possibilities.

Real life is faced with such challenges as well at all sorts of levels. I wish that in real life we would always make the best choices, but in stories a character is a character with its own personality, beliefs and ways of doing things. It’s just that some choices compel the protagonist more than others. This is good material for the writer. The character can make authentic choices because one choice was more compelling that the other possibilities. In real life this can be as difficult as choosing the most unselfish course of action.

Writers communicate internationally

Wisecracker: So you read those Indian romance poems in English. They’re English romances, then.

Writer: It was a translation into English. Translation. Get it?

Humbled wisecracker: Pretty accurate, then. I mean, extremely accurate.

Writer: You got it. You better take a class, though.

Humbled wisecracker: Yes, I should.

Writer: On translation.

Romance stories from India

Reading some of the romantic poems and literature that comes out of India, I saw a lot of heart brokenness in the stories, when one’s sweetheart leaves. It then occurred to me that these stories reveal much tender feeling towards love and romance. They way that the love wasn’t tossed into the dirt to be trampled over or thrown into the ocean with a million fishes eager to eat it up. I found the sensibility, the sense that love is treated tenderly, better than many romances that get produced in the English language.

The artist’s mind’s eye

In the throes of life, an artist happens to be picturing something in their mind, and wishes to translate that to paper. It may have arrived ‘through the ceiling’ as it was; or in the other words it just popped into their mind. It could come from observation of the real world; a landscape, a person; a thing. But like a camera the artist has a snap shot in their mind of something they want to put onto canvas or in a novel.

Continue reading

Lessons of rejection: belief

Rejection can be a task master making you try harder, be different, fit in, conform, and do what will make you feel accepted. In writing, this may make the writer try to perform. But, acceptance is another story. If your story is accepted as is, for what it is, and published just as it is, then you are blessed. You don’t have to do anything different or more to be accepted by a publisher. But what happens if some kind of work of yours gets continually rejected? Maybe you don’t know why you are writing something and even if you did and got rejected it wouldn’t matter–because you know why you are doing it.

Personally, I have found the key is to find security in why I am writing something, then any amount of rejection won’t matter. It’s the harder path to come to realize why I want to write something, but the one which says, I don’t have to write in this another way, because I know why I am writing this. Who cares about rejection!

Editing to personal satisfaction

Whatever you do do it well-

Walt Disney

I’d like to avoid the difficult editing stages of polishing a piece of writing, so I may delay doing it, even so ending up having to do it, because I just gotta. It is thinking about what I want out of the piece that motivates me to “rise up” mentally and take the bull to the horns as they say. Without a good polish, I am left with regret and sorrow over a piece that could have been so much better with a polish. Then, there’s someone saying, “it’s all good” which makes me feel better, but not reassured. To be reassured is knowing that the piece is good in my own mind–but thanks for the encouragement, very much. Keep on polishing until satisfied.

Understanding the nuances of the language

A way to be understood if someone cannot distinguish your speech. Say one is asking another person what spread she wants on her toast. One may say, “Do you want cheese?” The other person cannot distinguish the word cheese. They say, “Weeze?” To be understood, the first person says, “The mouse likes cheese.” The other person understands when you bring a context. Everyone knows mice like cheese! “Oh, you said cheese. No, I’ll have peanut butter.”

Introspective writer’s moments

They tell you to never look back. It just stifles the present. In writing, it makes one think of the negative points of one’s writing. I wish I had done it better one moans. However, I do not mind looking back at what I have written in the past if just for the curiosity of rediscovering how my older work sounded.

Continue reading

Not letting writing get to your head

Track record of successes, and bragging rights, is, for me, not important; I do not bond with it or like. For me, it is about doing the job and let the others watch and make their own judgments. I would not care. If it succeeds in a big way, I am pleased, but let the work speak for itself. Writing is not about the glory and neither is life.

The ever learning writer

I always intend on doing a good if not great job, something that I can be proud of, or at least somewhat proud of by my standards. Something that comes out in the wash is not good enough for me, but something that is given a thorough treatment comes out better for ware. I don’t like to be so conscientious, as if conscientious is uncool, but I follow my instinct to add layers of polish. Isn’t this what writers are told to do? 

Obituaries

I don’t make a habit of reading obituaries or what is called the death notices, but as part of my reading The Film Year Book Volume 5 (edited by Al Clark), I am finding myself delving into the lives of who died in the film industry during the 1985-86 film year. It’s in these obituaries that we get a good look at how one’s life panned out in the long run.

The book’s obituaries are to the point and informative giving me a solid summary of the cast or crew member who died and many interesting moments of a life.

I was amazed at how the obituary columns came together, as back then the information was not as easy to come over as it is today, with the advent of the internet and what not. Without meaning to sound macabre, the work gone into them makes those death notices all the more special and awe-inspiring. I think I will never look at a death notice the same way again.

Choosing the better ones

Over a week, I wrote five devotions, which gave me a choice of which ones to submit to the editor. The first two I wrote were the right ones this time. I learnt once again , if that makes sense, that If I only have two devotions to choose from (two was the number I was assigned) I would question if those two were good enough to submit and could I have written another one better. So, having a few up my sleeve takes the pressure off. I can choose from four or five to get the sense of the best and work on the others later.

In the habit of writing well

There are the usual habits of the writer, but for me one of the most important one is “waste not, want not”. Life can be a garbage can at times, in that things gets thrown around and thrown out. The ideal is not to waste anything. As a writer, this means to not waste a word, a paragraph, and idea, that may be of use somehow, somewhere. Of course, I fall short in executing this 100 per-cent, but the principle is something I want to abide by, from what’s in my room, to the cupboard, generally speaking. Waste not, want not also means that anything I buy is used economically, from food, to CD’s.

A discipline of writing

Writing foundations—the core values—and the silent voice they come through. At other times, the abstract nature of writing takes over everything else. It is a piece of artistic license drowning out any other concerns. Should I go back and edit, or let it be? That would be the question I ask, if my writing hand got away with me.

Becoming the author – is one ready?

There’s always in the back of the mind of a writer of shorter material the time when he’ll be an author and gets the book contract. But does one really want to do that? The book signings, the author meet and greets, the interviews…the general busyness over your book? And does the writer really like reading books anyhow, the longer stuff that is? Can a writer be satisfied with the niche he already has and make the most of it, as much as possible? And not put all his eggs in the one writing basket?

What will the author do next?

The humble writer or artist and filmmaker for that matter, may shy away from publicity or at least attempt to. But, underneath, there may be a liking to the question, what will he do next? Will it be as good or better than the last thing they made? That’s when a writer and artist gets a little inkling they have made it. But what will be next? A widely received disappointment? After the artist has gained acceptance?

The art in it all

The writer and the artist are names that can be used interchangeably, in terms of function– the purpose is to create, using kinds of media and materials–and in style–to ‘stylize’ and place, for an effect, which can include journalism, in terms of how elements of art are embedded in journalism, such as flow.

Between truth and experience is the writer

in 1999, I wrote a short piece that was implicitly about truth but even I, the writer of that article, found myself caught between truth and experience. On one hand, truth is solid. On the other hand, experience is fluid, it flows. They can be in contradiction, but sometimes the two can intersect perfectly. This was not one of those times. My article stated a truth; but something in my nature was also going in the opposite direction as well. I went along with the truth, but had I ignored writing about experience at my peril? The editor encouraged me that the article was about a good truth. Yet I got the feeling that wasn’t enough in his eyes. Myself, I thought the article was great and even now I think it’s the best article I did for that magazine up until that time.

On the agenda, on a busy day

Writing while doing other things in life as you would normally do can be hectic. Keeping up to date with the stuff a writer does–that is, the writing–sometimes near impossible. If one is going well and the good days outnumber the bad ones, then keeping up to date is a reality. Getting through the writing agenda is not impossible. It is simply writing the ideas up that get turned into short meditations or devotions or what’s also knows as reflections. Short and sweet.

A writer with strong motivation is a storm force

Motivation can be an issue for a writer if not on assignment. It’s possible for a writer not on assignment to be extremely motivated, but it’s also possible that a writer not on assignment is unmotivated to produce their own material. But the writer with a strong level of entitlement is a storm force.

Another submission

It is not an easy road getting published, but I had some good news about a month ago that a meditation I submitted to a journal is being seriously considered. It has passed the “first round” or phase one and is on the short list as it was. The outcome, I’ve been told, will take quite a while, which goes to show how rigorous getting selected for publication can be. Not easy.

Delivering the story full stop

Little things I pick up along the way…as I was reading a book, I stumbled onto a nugget of wisdom. The book appraised films for this or that reason and a reason a critic gave was personally illuminating. The critic said a certain director wasn’t prepared to go the places a subject or premise would naturally go. It clicked. If I am to write stories, write stories I am prepared to deliver on. Go to the places the subject demands. If I can’t go there, don’t write it.

The journey of writing: exploring something new

While on the road of writing, if it’s full-time, part-time, casual, or as one can write in-between the necessities of life, sometimes there’s the urge to reach beyond the boundaries of one’s normal genres of writing. I’ve desired it and tried it, but tended to fall back on the predictable or the road well-traveled.

Research, for the fun of it?

I love researching for the sake of it, to dwell on and absorb knowledge, but whenever a writer wants to apply research, one should know what it’s useful for before starting. Is it for a book? Is it to learn something to pass onto your readers? Pretty obvious stuff really. The trick is knowing why? Maybe research for fun, full stop, no more than that. Become not a know-it-all, but useful in some regard that you never thought about before. Research for fun may come in handy somehow.

A calm spirit in submitting is better

This week writing has been writing a devotion based on old notes of my bible reading, a humor piece that I completed and submitted, and a significant revise of a poetry. Patience and time is a key to working on pieces, though I may be tempted to get the work done fast, so I can move on to the next thing. No, don’t do that. A calm spirit is better. Patience and time gets things done better.

Approaching publishers with the picture book idea

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing a children’s short story, originally intended for a picture book. The inspiration was in my garden. I may approach publishers, but on speculation that they may or may not publish it. Of course there are the usual doubts that it won’t work for children, it’s too Watership-downish, although Watership Down was a goldmine in the end.

Journeying, again

A few years ago I had the urge to pursue Christian publications overseas, after realizing that the other genres I was pursuing wasn’t working. I prayed that if this is what God wanted me to do, it would come about, and it did, in terms of Christian-based articles and pieces like that. The last five years has been encouraging in that there has been work for me in the Christian genre. Now, a few doors are always open to me to submit work.

A mission on the journey

Or a mission, to pursue the possibility (not probability at this stage) of submitting a unique work of fiction or poetry by the end of next month, to a publisher that is open to receiving it. In the words of a former supervisor of mine, I look forward to it.

Start thinking about it today. Work on it tomorrow.