The Writerly Habit

This blog is about my struggles to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Moved

This blog has moved to http://www.brandiballard.com.

Hooray for Spring Break!


Spring Break is finally here. That means only six weeks left of this insane course load. It's my fault, I signed up for four English classes. I'm taking a couple of classes this summer but they are short and involve either trips around the Southwest or creative writing. Huzzah.

I'm also being published in riverrun, the UCCS arts journal, and Poetry While You Wait (PWYW). PWYW is a project of the Pikes Peak Poet Laureate. The collection of poems are printed in a journal, and on plaques, and are placed anywhere in town where people wait. This, of course, is also in Colorado Springs.

In conjunction with PWYW, our local National Public Radio station KRCC is going to be broadcasting a poem a day from the book. I've already been down to record. There will also be a public reading of the book in early April. I'll keep you posted on the dates, just in case you're in Colorado Springs

So exciting news, I thought this would definitely light a fire under my ass to write more. Nope. Not a word. I haven't worked on anything but homework. I guess that goes back to what I talked about before: going for internal validation and not external. External validation is great, for a minute. Then reality sets back in and all your worries are back. So how do you build internal validation? I'm not sure that I can answer that clearly. I am confident in my work and know it is publishable, yet that doesn't translate into producing work.

I was talking about this with my therapist the other day and she asked me what writing would look like for me if it were a job. I said that I wanted to write for four hours or so a day, to have a dedicated time and a set routine. I then said that I didn't know why I couldn't do that now (for a lesser amount of time of course). She said "because it's not your job yet." Hmmm...that's interesting. It is true, if I were getting paid and writing was my main focus, then I would be more motivated to write. It seems to me though, you have to slog your way through writing while it isn't your job, in order to get to a place where it is. Random House isn't going to show up at my door with a book deal if I haven't published squat. Although I did have a weird dream involving William Shatner last night. Not the Captain Kirk Shatner, more like the Boston Legal Shatner. Anyway...you have to be willing to do the work before it's your job. So what is stopping me/us?

I don't know, the mind is a tricky thing. One problem I have is not giving myself enough credit for the work I am doing. I am carrying a fifteen credit hour semester and still finding time to send out a couple of submissions. That should be great on its own. If you are like me, you have this drive to keep pushing yourself and no matter what, it isn't good enough. You aren't good enough. That's probably a good time to seek professional counseling as I've been doing. It's only been a few weeks, but I am already seeing some progress. It's hard to recognize irrational thought processes. If any of this fits you, maybe read Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Livesand go from there. I know I've recommended it before but there is a phenomenal chapter on writing the wounded psyche.



Margaret Randall


I was fortunate enough to attend a poetry reading at UCCS last night in honor of International Women's Day. The presenting poet was Margaret Randall. Prior to the event, I had never heard of her. Her poetry is very powerful, full of myth and strong images of the desert. She tackles issues like immigration, male right, cultural dominance and rape. I'm not going to go on, you can pick up one of her books if you'd like to read her for yourself. She also has tour information on her website.

Ideas come at the most inopportune time...

So I'm sitting in British Literature today and I'm bored. Not that I dislike the literature, I just have issues with the teaching method. I just don't get a lot out of the class. Anyway, I've been trying to come up with ideas for a fantasy story. I love the genre but it seems any time I try to write I can't come up with anything that seems original. I've been so stuck.

In class, as my teacher is going on about some minutia, I have an idea. A flash, an image. Yes! It took me right to my opening scene and my main character. The mind is a funny thing. I've been stumped for an idea for two weeks and then, when I am busy, it comes.

That being said, I still have no idea where the story is going. I might just write the opening and see if the character "speaks to me." I've heard other writers say that. I have never experienced it though. Ah well. Back to work.

The Importance of Letting (Manuscripts) Go

This came up in a discussion with a friend of mine. She is unwilling to send her work out for publication. She is protective of it as she feels it is her best work. I understand this view as I used to be the same way. Then I realized something, as your writing improves your older work looks like shit. It's true. You think it's brilliant when you write it so you don't send it out. You either a) want to keep it for yourself thinking it is too special to let go or b) don't want to send it someplace for publication when you could have had it published somewhere bigger/better/whatever. So you keep it. Six months roll by and you read it again. Shock sets in as you realize it isn't as good as you thought. A year later, it is relegated to the island of misfit manuscripts.

I suggest, upon finishing a work you feel is brilliant that you let it go. Yep, send it out for publication. You'll save yourself some regret and might even get published in the process. At very least, you'll get some experience submitting work.

Book Review: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Today's book review was brought you by writer E.M. Samuelson and the letter Q:

There’s always one person in a crowd who would willing admit that they once groped a man in a club and later realized it wasn’t their date; that person is David Sedaris. In When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he mentions things like artificial bottoms, parasites, skeletons, spiders, cigarettes and art, managing to make such topics humorous and engrossing. Sedaris shows insight into the neuroses we’re all prone to using a wry sense of humor and a frankness that is almost uncomfortable at times.

I bought this book because it was recommended by a friend and I had an abundance of Border’s Bucks. I would buy another because David Sedaris writes an interesting, funny book.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Market Analysis

So I've recently come across Paperback Writer, a blog by prolific author Sheila Kelly (check the site for a list of books and pseudonyms). In my quest to read the blog from beginning to end, I've run across a post in which Kelly talks about how she reads for market analysis. It struck me as something very obvious...that I never thought about doing before.

I think this would be a good monthly activity. Get the top four or five books from the bestseller list in your genre and analyze them. I'm not saying pick them apart. I've read writing books that tell you to take a novel and deconstruct it. The advice is to summarize the events of each chapter so you can see the plot arc. I did that with The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey and it totally ruined the book for me. The magic of the story was gone.

As writers, we pick up a lot of this information just by reading. And where do you get the best instruction? By reading what sells. I think this will be my experiment next month, given I can squeeze it in between my Brit Lit II and IV reading.

The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book 1)