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Creative Writing Tips and Tricks

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December 2016

Why New Year’s Resolutions Never Work

The year 2017 calls for New Year Resolutions. With less than a week before the big countdown, it’s all anyone’s talking about. But the truth of the matter is that a fraction of the people who make resolutions actually follow through with them.

Why has this become such a common trend?

Because people consistently make resolutions that are impossibly broad. “I want to lose weight.” “I want to write a book.” “I want to work harder.” These resolutions are perfectly fine on their own, but when it comes to applying them, they hold no weight. They are made up of air; they are weightless particles that float above you throughout the year, hovering just high enough so you cannot even graze them with your fingertips.

So, then, what’s wrong?

Well, something is missing; it’s not the who, the when, or the why.  It’s the how that is frequently absent in broad resolutions. The “how,” most often than not, is simply… nonexistent. For example, you claim you want to write a book, but how are you going to do it? Will you write a page every day? A page every month? The “how” is related to development and attainability, and will help to steer you in the right direction. When it comes to setting goals, considering the “how” is the most important.

So, how do you do that?

Say your resolution is to write a novel by the end of this year. The first aspect of examining your goal is to analyze how you would like to approach it. Be specific. Be meticulous. Stay away from broad ideas. In this case, you would revise your original statement from “I want to write a book this year” to “I want to write 1000 words each day until the end of this year.” From experience, I can tell you that specificity leads to progress. Specificity lets you break down your overarching goal into small, attainable pieces– ones that are, thankfully, possible for you to grasp.

At the same time, however, you need to know your limits. If you know you will not physically be able to write 1000 words a day, then lower your goal’s standard. Keep in mind that it’s okay to set the bar lower when it comes to creating resolutions. After all, you have all year to attain them. (Remember, although speed is an added bonus, it is not what you are looking for. Instead, you should be focused on eventually and undoubtedly meeting your goals, no matter how many months you work toward it.)

Don’t let your 2017 Resolution go to waste with a broad, unattainable goal. Instead, be specific, know your limits, and allow this year to be the best it can possibly be. If you have any thoughts on why resolutions seem to be harder and harder to achieve, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy holidays and a very happy New Year!

© 2BorNot2B

7 Steps to a Successful Creative Process

The following is a list that I hope may help many of you organize your creative ideas and approach them successfully. Enjoy!

1.  Setting Your Environment:

Environment is a key factor in sparking an idea. Personally, I write the best listening to exotic instrumental music, the kind that vibrates the consciousness. I love to feel the music surround me, wrap me in a cocoon of sound. I write best when I am in a vacuum. I highly recommend this environment to any type of artist. Music sways the soul and perfectly coincides with the creative process.

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2. Catching the Spark:

Like many people, my creative process begins with a spark. A flash of inspiration, a strike of ideas. Once I have an idea, I write it. I don’t worry about spell check or word choice; I simply write in a style that resembles my stream-of-conscious. Once you discover it, grasp the idea you have in the moment and don’t let go. 

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3. Editing:

Once I have a complete, rough first draft prepared, I immediately begin editing for the clarity of ideas. I am an avid editor, so this is the ideal process for me. At this point, the goal is to make my idea clearer to the reader; incorrect grammar and word choice is not a priority. However, if you are not savvy with edits, I don’t suggest this method; instead, you should begin with conventions in mind. Either way, it is beneficial to set your piece aside for a day so that, the following day, you are able to view your piece with a fresh new perspective.

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4. Using an Online Aid: 

After a day or two, I begin editing cumulatively: for clarity, grammar, line breaks, structure, word choice, etc. This stage in my writing process is heavily dependent on an online Thesaurus; I substitute weak verbs for stronger ones, and replace words that stunt flow with words that facilitate it. I highly recommend online thesauruses to guide you through this portion of the process. Using it will help you insert new lines and phrases as well, building upon your idea.

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5. Taking Your Time:

Time is integral when it comes to my writing process. In order to finish a piece, I need time, and an ample amount of it. In this way, fully revising a piece of mine may take weeks. In fact, my poem “The Ten Commandments” took me two months to complete and be fully satisfied with. Don’t be afraid to grant your pieces so much time; they deserve it. 

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6. Being Open-minded:

When I find myself stumped on a certain line, a character’s motivation, or other instance in a piece (otherwise known as the God-awful disease called Writer’s Block), I ask several people in tandem. I get varying ideas from various people, accumulating them and filtering them in order to change the piece for the better. My writing process depends on critiques and critical analysis; in fact, my father is my biggest critic (he used to be a writer), and he reads my pieces with sharp honesty. I listen to people’s opinions and am open to criticism. Open-mindedness is an extremely important trait to have as a writer and as a person in general; it will only facilitate your creative process, and it can only help you in the long-run.

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7. Embracing Your Style:

When my father read the first paragraph of my short story, the first thing he said was, “Stop writing your fiction like it’s poetry.”

I laughed, because I knew it was true. My prose is too flowery and filled with unnecessary, elegant phrases. I know that my prose needs to be more straight-forward and meaningful, more concise and poignant. But, over the course of this semester, I realized that I am the writer; I can decide whether my writing is flowery or concrete. If I want to write prose like it’s poetry, I can, so long as it is written well.

And so, I replied to my father’s comment with a smile: “Stop reading my poetry like it’s fiction.”

Embrace your style and recognize what you love about what you’re doing. 

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My writing process is definitely abnormal, but it has developed over years of trying new methods. It does need several improvements, and I will begin to work on those improvements over the course of next semester.

All in all, I hope these tips were informative and able to help you get creating again. What is your creative process like? Let me know in the comments below!

When People-Watching

There’s a certain type of beauty to the morning, a certain sense of gratefulness as the world peels open its crusted eyes. While the continents un-tuck themselves from oceanic blankets, the continents mumble, Thank God we’re alive. Thank God we’re breathing. Africa bangs on the head of a drum– Antarctica shivers and Australia stretches its arms across the Pacific. The world is conscious. The world is awake. The world is alive.

It is 78 degrees. The air is lukewarm. As an observer, I am an onlooker with the intent to absorb. There is a reason for all of this—for the metal chair resting beneath my thighs, for the squirrel staring at me through the leaves, for the fly hovering over my keyboard intently. I am soaking in the sounds of half-hearted jazz from the intercom and the swelling and retreating sounds of the water fountain—I am listening to trucks hobble down the street and to birds speak to one another across palm trees. I am in the middle of it all; there are eyes etched in the back of my head and I am gazing out into the world in 360 degrees.

There is a Hispanic woman standing behind a glass window. She is out of place inside the luxury furniture store; she stares out at the fountain beyond me, shifting her feet. Slowly, methodically, she wipes away invisible fingerprints, circling a white rag on the glass in bubbly motions. She gazes beyond the window into the bustling morning, spinning the rag in circular movements. But there is a flash in her eyes– I can tell she envisions that, instead of the rag, the world spins ‘round her hands, delicately gliding along her fingernails.

It is early; it is beautiful. It is overcast; it is elegant. I am in love with the way the air smells of chlorine and ice cream. I am in love with the way I can view the world behind me; I am invisible. I am unknown. I am a mystery.

I don’t know why I keep waiting for something spectacular to happen. Do we all do this? Sit and watch and wonder? The train is here. The train is loud. The train is not elegant. It is blasting and reverberating; it is distressful; it is anxious. The tracks are terrified. The streets tremble and the glass window shudders.

I watch as the woman in the furniture store blinks and turns away.

©2BorNot2B

‘Tis the Season (For Submissions)

Even if the Winter Solstice doesn’t arrive until December 21st, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s officially Winter. The Christmas trees are up, holiday music plays through every radio station imaginable, final exams approach our calendars quietly, and the time to write is far and spaced between. It is difficult to write at such a hectic time of year, and although I encourage you to do so despite it, I understand that, under the circumstances, it can be near impossible. But hey, don’t lose hope. Fall and winter are the prime seasons to submit your already-completed pieces to publishers– calls for submissions are reverberating from every direction, and literary magazines are starving for new, original work. So, ’tis the season! Why ignore it?

Local poetry and short story competitions have opened up in chain reactions, and organizations such as Scholastic are accepting submissions from students across the nation. With so many opportunities at hand, it’s imperative that both experienced and inexperienced writers take advantage of them. However, submitting work can prove to be difficult for those who view their artistry as inferior (I explain the “Am-I-Good-Enough?” phenomenon in a previous post, which you can find here). If you’re one of those people, I encourage you to realize that the magic of submitting to different publications is not about stressing over the responses; after all, the worst they can do is say no. The feeling of trying is much more potent and uplifting than the feeling of not trying at all. Your primary goal should be to get your work noticed, whether it is rejected or accepted into a publication. Want to know the best advice I can give you? Always keep trying.

The key to submitting is organization. Keep the guidelines of each publication separate and in order; if you have to use folders to help you with this, by all means, do what works for you. Before you send out your pieces (whether via email or snail mail) make sure that the requirements for submitting to each publication are met. For example, some publications prohibit your name to be printed on the front page of the piece as you send it out. Other publications require a cover letter. If you do not meet the requirements for the publication you are submitting to, your submission will most likely be dropped and disqualified.

I am always available to answer your questions and provide advice. As always, my very own submissions page on this website accepts your submissions year round. Simply complete the form, and I will give you meaningful feedback, as well as the opportunity for your work to be displayed on its own, designated page. 

Keep writing and let’s get published!

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