28 July 2011

Why I am (not) inspired by Harry Potter

I know by posting this I run the risk of losing some of my followers and readers….so, for you Harry Potter fans out there, I would highly suggest you skip my blog post this time, as I would still love for you to continue reading my blog.

*looks around* Are they gone?

For the rest of you, and for you Harry Potter fans who have continued reading out of morbid curiosity, you may be surprised to know that I am not a fan of Harry Potter. Yes, I said it. I don’t like the Harry Potter series.

Now, before you begin organizing a protest against me, let me explain. I did used to be a Harry Potter fan. I got all the way up to Prisoner of Azkaban and then….I stopped. And I’m not sure why. With the final Harry Potter movie out on the big screen and all my friends, fellow bloggers, and movie critics praising wonderful things about the last movie (just take a look at a this review here), it has made me stop and think about the reasons behind why I am (un)inspired by Harry Potter.

Before I got into that, I will say this…it is a great book. I loved it when it first came out. It just made me want to go to a nearby train station and run into the nearest brick wall. But things changed for me, though. Maybe it was the media hype. Maybe it was the commercialization. Or maybe it happened when the movies started coming out and everyone loved it so much that kids as young as six or seven were in Barnes and Noble dressed up as the characters from the book.

And then, just a few months ago, when I was mentoring freshman during my senior year of college, I told a student that I used to be a fan of Harry Potter until it got really popular, and she said, “Oh, you’re one of those?”

Well, maybe I am.

But at some point between the series appearing on bookshelves and the movies showing up in the theaters,my opinion of J.K. Rowling and the world she created changed. She is a wonderful writer, but somehow I hated the idea of her selling out for this type of commercial mess.

Here’s where I get confused, though, because that isn’t how I feel about plenty of other books-into-movies type of writers. To this day, I still enjoy reading books by Stephen King and just look at the amount of movies his books were made into: Christine, Carrie, Shawshank Redemption, The Shining…all of these are classics, and I’ve seen all of those movies and enjoy them. I remember when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out (which inspired my major crush on Aragorn…hang on I need an Aragorn moment…


Ah, okay, where was I?) Oh right…well, I loved that series. It inspired me to not only read the entire series, it even inspired me to write a fantasy novel  (…well, a good majority of one).

But not once did these change my opinion of Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien like the Harry Potter films did for me about J.K. Rowling. The thing is you rarely saw a bunch of people in a prom dress covered in blood walking around a bookstore, or a guy so obsessed with his car that it becomes more of a romantic relationship than a human-machine relationship (okay, maybe that one is a bit more common…)

But you get my point, right? What is it about J.K. Rowling’s success that just bothers me? The thing is you almost never see pictures of Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien strutting the red carpet (okay, I know, it’s a bit more obvious for J.R.R. Tolkien). And come to think of it, how often do you think of the author attached to the movie on the screen? For example, how many of you saw In Her Shoes? Did you immediately know the writer attached to that movie? Maybe some of you did, maybe a lot of you did…but for me, I saw a great film, and then realized there was a book attached to it, and then found a great writer that I enjoyed reading (and I love when that happens).

But I guess it is a bit different for J.K. Rowling. She did create a world that inspired kids everywhere to feel comfortable reading 600 page novels like it was nothing. I mean, how can anyone resent her for that?
I guess I just don’t like the hype. I do like the idea of the author of the novels staying behind the scenes and I don’t like being a witness to millions of dollars being made off of something should have stayed rich in the literary world.

Or maybe I don’t like there being this rags-to-riches story attached to the writing world. The writing world is hard enough as it is, so when I hear that story about how she stared writing this book in a coffee shop on the napkins, I just die a little inside. I mean, why don’t we just say that she wrote out the first novel in her own blood?

So, I’m not sure I can quite work out why I feel the way I do, but today…I’m inspired to write because of the writer that I hope to become. While I hope for the literary world that I create to be so real that people dress up as my characters on Halloween, I don’t wish that my books become so popular that it becomes all people hope that I write. I am inspired to write today because of the slow climb to success that I think most writer’s face…a climb that I have a strange admiration for.  And you know what? I’m inspired to write because I’m not wishing a tearful farewell to the world of Harry Potter (that I still feel got sold out to Disney). Okay, my last cynical comment I swear….




(Seriously, last one…for real, this time...)

 But, really, am I so alone?

25 July 2011

Why You Inspire Me

Yes, you. You fabulous inspiration, you.


So, why do you inspire me?


Well, let me tell you.


First, I’ve written long enough to know how important it is to surround myself with some type of writing community. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who have found it locally (no, me either), you should find one online.


And second, talking with writer’s, sharing our ideas, sharing our experiences, sharing our woes, sharing our successes, sharing our failures…all make it into a fabulous ball of inspiration. One I try to carry with me every day and bounce inside of my brain every now and then to get those creative juices going.


So today, I will share with you all the places that you fabulous writers have inspired me.


1) Writer’s Digest Community
 
This writing community constantly reminds me of why we should all keep trying and keep putting ourselves out there. It’s a mix of successful authors and author-hopefuls like me who can’t wait for that day that we will hear, “Yes.” Everyone is highly supportive and careful (as much as possible anyway) to not offend someone or crush someone’s dreams with their writing critiques. And this is inspiring. It’s free to join and easy to get involved…


2) Twitter
 
Twitter???? Yes, Twitter. Pick up that jaw. Whenever I read a tweet where someone says they are writing or that they have made progress in their novel…I just get inspired (or competitive…I tend to confuse the two). Are you on twitter and unsure of where the writers are? Just look for the hash tag #amwriting and you will find us. Not on Twitter yet? Well, get on it and follow me @BeingTheWriter. And feel free to ask me any questions about it.


3) Blogger
 
Having my own blog has been inspiring in its own way. Something about having followers and readers and knowing that these people are reading my blog and want me to write something for them. Something good, of course. But write something.  And when the comments come in…ah, I just get even more inspired. And then those other blogs! The one’s that I follow where writers are talking about their life, or their writing progress, or latest creations. That inspires me. Not started a blog yet? Start one. Not much of a “commenter”? Comment! It’s inspiring, it really is. Don’t follow many writing blogs? Follow one (just check out my profile and the blogs that I follow if you need ideas).


4) Google Plus
 
It’s so new, how can it be inspiring already? Well, it is. I promise. I have discovered so many writers on there already and it’s already inspiring me. Just think of it like Twitter with more characters. I can promise you that if you treat this like FaceBook, you will not enjoy Google Plus as much.  On Google Plus already and haven’t found those fabulous writer’s yet? Find me and you’ll also find a ton of writer’s that I follow. Or just start here Poets and Writers on Google Plus. Not on Google Plus? Send me an email or post your email address and I’ll send you an invite. I’m just inspiring like that.


….ah, don’t you just feel inspirational? Yes, you should, you inspiration, you.


I know this is just the tip of the Iceberg, but it’s quite an inspirational list. My inspiration to write today came from the writing world I interact with everyday online.  Just talking about writing inspires me, and these communities I have found are inspirational just for that reason. Today, find your writing community. Or share yours with us. We all love inspiration. We all need those people you can talk about writing with that don’t look at you like you are out your mind.  Because…well…we are weird bunch, aren’t we?



 
Okay, maybe not that weird.  Although when you think about it…

18 July 2011

Finding “The One” (or My Niche or Nook & Cranny)

It took me a long time to realize that I was spelling “niche” the wrong way. I wanted the word to be spelled the way I said it: nitch. But it isn’t spelled that way, because it’s spelled like this: niche. Now, I’m wondering whether I am even saying it the right way. One step at a time of course.

Starting this blog has made me think of this word, especially after I read the blog post called, “Just Focus” at Julie's Writing Grove: Just Focus. At the end of the post she talks about the importance of finding a focus for her blog and for her writing. And she’s right, too. With most blogs, you will find a common theme. With mine, if you read through enough of my postings, you will notice that I talk about what inspires me to write. Other bloggers keep you up to date with their writing activities. Some bloggers regularly update their readers with poetry and writing excerpts.

But, really I didn’t start out thinking I’d even find my “niche” in blogging. I started this blog thinking I’d run out of things to say if I  focused on a particular topic….But it turns out though I’ve learned something about blogging….

…and here it is…

…..you ready? ‘Cause it’s a good one…

…..I’ve learned that by focusing on a particular theme or subject that I am actually more inspired to write for my blog. How weird is that?

With every blog post, I think to myself, “What inspired me to write?”  And I am actually thinking of more posts with this “niche” than if I kept myself open to posting about anything.


The funny thing is though I have not yet found my “niche” with writing. When it comes to the fiction I write, I’m all over the place….horror, humor, mystery, literary fiction…short stories, long novels, poetry. I really haven’t discovered my niche yet. You know…that area you feel your best in. Your nook and cranny in the world…



And the writing world is just filled with tons of nooks and crannies for a writer to find a home in. The most successful writers I know have found their “nook and cranny.” Or their “niche.” Stephen King? Horror. J.K. Rowling? Fantasy. John Grisham? Thriller. Kathleen E. Woodiwiss? Romance.  Michelle Richmond? Literary Fiction.


Those are all fiction authors that I really look up to that have found their niche…their nook and cranny in the world of writing. I found my niche for my blog. I need to find mine for my fiction writing. I feel like I’m close, though, and I feel like one day I will find something that just clicks with me and writing in that niche, in that nook, will feel easy and good.


Sort of like finding the right guy to marry. It will just feel right one day and I wouldn’t even be able to explain it. “How did you know?” Someone will ask me. “I just knew.” I will say in response.



My inspiration to write today came from the hope that one day I will find the “one”….my “niche”….my “nook and cranny”…in the writing world. Today, find yours.


Or maybe I should just stop watching television.

11 July 2011

I Am A Writer – Why I Finally Said It

Yesterday, I got my September 2011 issue of Writer's Digest in the mail and something I read immediately inspired today’s post. For you subscribers out there who have gotten your issue already, turn to page 34 with me (for those of you who aren’t subscribers, just follow along…) Now, read the title, "10 Things For Every Writer’s Bucket List”


When I first read the title, I thought, “Oh! How fun! I wonder what it could be?” Then I read the next line. “Check these off your list someday, and you’ll be able to look anybody in the eye and say with assurance, ‘I am a writer’”(Writer’s Digest, September 2011).


Wait a minute…what did I just read?

“Check these off your list someday”?  (Wow, someday, huh? It’s good to know that this writer has a little faith in her fellow writer kind. What does someday mean exactly? Remember when you asked your parents for candy at the store? What if they responded with, “Someday.” You know how you would have interpreted that? Someday…meant never).

“…You’ll be able to look anybody in the eye and say with assurance, “I am a writer.”


The list of ten included everything from publishing a short story, to taking a writing retreat, to writing a novel, to freelancing for money…

And except for writing a novel (which I have done…or at least taken my stab at…) I haven’t done a thing on this list. Not even published a short story.


But you know what? I’m saying it anyway (I even practiced in the mirror this morning)…
I am a writer.

Let me say this again….

I am a writer.

There, I said it.

And you know what? It felt pretty good. Say it with me. I dare you. I am a writer. Feels good, doesn’t it?
You know why it feels good to say that finally? Because if you write, you are a writer. I write. I am a writer. I am not an aspiring writer. If I wasn’t writing, I might be an aspiring writer. But even then, I’ve learned a lot of the work done for a novel or short story or poem is done inside my mind first. I will say this: I am an aspiring author. An author is an entirely different definition. But a writer…well, a just look up the word in your dictionary. Here, I did it for you. Just click that link: Writer

According to Webster, a writer is someone who writes.


Hey, is it just me or does that definition forget the words “published” or “freelance” or “conference.” Hmmm, maybe Webster has it wrong…

Or, maybe it’s by our own definition do we call ourselves a “writer.”


Today, I’m inspired to write because I am finally calling myself a writer. And I didn’t even blink an eye. I didn’t wince. I didn’t feel the need to explain, justify, or defend myself. I am a writer, because I say so. 
And you know what? A dinosaur didn’t try to attack me…



No one turned to me to point and scream after I said it…


Or thought I was a fake or a fraud….


Or called me a Goonie.


So say it. I dare you.


07 July 2011

A Guide To The Anti-Muse (And Never Letting Guilt Be A Motivator)

"Never let guilt be a motivator," my mom would tell me and my two older brothers growing up. "Never be swayed by guilt." My Mom's "mom-ism" came to mind one day while sitting on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon feeling guilty about not having written the past few days.

I have a terrible habit of letting way too many days go by where I don't write at all. Usually it's preceded by a terrible wave of self-doubt, or when I have questioned my story ideas. So, rather than overcome that feeling and just discipline myself into writing, I do what I usually do best -- dwell and obsess. This is when my Anti-Muse looms the largest.

You haven't heard of the Anti-Muse? Well, in case you haven't found out already, let me tell you this -- every single writer on this planet (and others) have two creatures that follow their creative self everywhere. I'd like to call the first one, "The Muse." "The Muse" is a beautiful winged creature that is as flighty as a butterfly, sheer as a rainbow and as commonly seen or heard from as a white dove.

Now, the second creature I'd like to think of as "The Anti-Muse." It's covered in dank, dark, horrible muck from the bottom of the deepest swam with fangs of a vampire and eyes of a black hole. And both of these creatures serve different purposes.

The Muse follows writers around in tentative curiosity. It looms behind corners, and flies away the second we try to take a long look at it. When it's ready, it sits on our shoulder and whispers into our ear. Then, in a second, it giggles and rushes away, leaving us with the very thing we have been waiting for all along.

Then, there's the Anti-Muse.

The Anti-Muse usually looms a lot closer. It stands over us, just waiting. It waits for the moment when The Muse goes away and all we are left with is our own discipline. It waits until we start typing or until we press our pen into the pages and that's when it begins to whisper...You're no good...You're no good at all... When it watches us put the pen down or play solitaire on our computer, it realizes it has won and waits behind us for the next moment, laughing. The Anti-Muse is perfectly fine if we want to look at it square in the eye...it feeds off of our creativity anyway...

And let me tell you...The Anti-Muse looms largest at different times for all of us...And for me, it looms largest when I've let too much time go by between words and guilt sets in.

I've realized though...discipline serves as the greatest muscle against this feared creature.

So, on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, as I just sat there with the Anti-Muse chuckling over my shoulder and watching as my creativity energy became weaker and weaker...my guilt becoming stronger and stronger like a weight on my chest...something clicked.

I announced, "I'm going to write."

"Good," my mom said.

I got my laptop, opened it up, and started typing. I wrote while the Anti-Muse slowly melted away...



And I felt free and I wasn't sure why. My guilt left me and I just wrote.

I can't say that I allowed guilt to be a motivator. My mom was definitely right about that. Letting guilt be a motivator serves no purpose. I can't "guilt" myself into writing (and neither could anyone else). And I've realized very quickly that The Anti-Muse becomes a lot stronger when guilt is in the picture.

My inspiration that day was becoming stronger than the guilt of not writing and...just writing. It's a discipline to write regularly. But once you do, that muscle becomes stronger...and The Anti-Muse goes away. And you know...really the power of The Muse is in your hands. I'm beginning to finally realize that...

03 July 2011

Rediscovering My Inner Ten Year Old



It’s amazing how inspiring cleaning the house can be. So, while listening to “Jump Around” by House of Pain and sorting through old papers, boxes, and magazines, I came across my treasure of old stories and novels that I have attempted to write into completion. And while the music played on, and the vacuum and furniture polish were tossed to the side, I read through the pages, and I thought of one story in particular. My very first book that I ever wrote was called, “A Light Burns At Midnight,” and I wrote it when I was ten years old. It was 50 pages long, handwritten. I don’t even have it anymore and to be honest, I’m not really sure what happened to it. The last time I saw it, it was in the lower dresser drawer inside of a Lion King folder that I used for school. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, really, but every time I look through old stories, I think of it.

At ten years old, I thought my idea for “A Light Burns At Midnight” was pretty good. It was about a young girl moving to a new neighborhood and discovering that a candle goes on every night at midnight in the empty house across the street. Of course, within the high school and town, there are all sorts of stories going around about it being a ghost, or something. So, being the Nancy Drew-inspired writer I was at the time, I had the young girl bring together a team of (new) friends to investigate the light coming from the house across the street.

So, coming back to the present, now that I successfully distracted myself from house cleaning, I thought about the significance of this story and why it stays with me, still today. In recent years, I have learned very quickly that one of my biggest struggles with writing is the whole finishing thing. I become my own worst enemy when I try to go back and rewrite my story when I am not even done with it. For me what happens, I end up losing my steam and motivation and after a while, I scrap the novel or short story entirely.

So, what was so different about myself as a ten year old and now?

1) I just wanted to see how the story would play out.

At the time, I just liked my idea and wanted to see where the story would go. I didn’t focus on whether or not it was publishable. I didn’t focus on whether or not people would like it and if it would be worth finishing. I just enjoyed myself and enjoyed the process of telling a story (remember what that’s like?).

2) What self doubt?

No, I didn’t have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Nope, I wasn’t published yet. I just liked to write. I didn’t even think about those other things that seem to get in the way now. I just wrote.

3) I just wanted to finish the story.

Towards the end of my little novel, I began to lose my energy. It would have been easy for me to push it aside and say, “I’ll go back to it later.” But I didn’t. I kept at it, even when my handwriting got sloppy and my hand got tired, and I started writing sideways. I kept at it until i finished it. And I did. I even wrote, “The End.”

4) I wrote with a pen and paper and that was fine.

I didn’t have a computer growing up. Actually, up until I went to college, I would have to go to the library to finish typed assignments. So, for me att ten years old, I didn’t think twice about not having a computer and having to handwrite my ideas. I especially didn’t say, “Well, I can’t write till I have the right equipment.” I wanted to write, so I wrote. No excuses.

5) (I have to repeat this point)…) I didn’t let “excuses” to get in the way.

I know, I know, at ten years old, what type of excuses would I have to not write and be creative? I was still at the age where “playing pretend” was okay, so of course, writing and creativity would be okay. Well, now that I’m a bit older , and I have responsibilities, things to worry about, expectations to meet, and everything else you can think of, I have all kinds of reasons to not write. But most importantly, if you want to write, you can’t let excuses get in your way. I didn’t then, and I shouldn’t now.

So, what did I learn about my ten year old self? She had a lot of wisdom, back then, that’s for sure. 14 years later, I have a lot to still learn about writing, but too often, I think I let my obstacles get in the way too many times. Whether that’s self doubt, responsibilities, the degrees I don’t have, the publications I haven’t yet obtained, or the right equipment…they all serve to be barriers standing before me, daring me to jump the hurdle and go for the finish line.

My inspiration came from the ten year old I was once was and still hope to be. My advice? Be creative today. Get in touch with your inner ten year old. Write for the fun of it. Remember what that’s like?
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