Archives for posts with tag: writing

What turned me onto this book were recommendations from others. When people found out I was interested in writing On Writing came up. More than once, with glowing enthusiasm, and I’m so glad it did.

It’s not a story. It doesn’t have a plot. It’s not fantasy. All of these things made me hesitant and unsure about how much I would enjoy the read; it sat in a pile in my bedroom for too many weeks before the spine was cracked—and even then, only hesitantly. I always figured it would be worthwhile—it was Stephen King for christ’s sake—and although I’d never read him before, I’d always meant to. But a book about writing, something akin to essay writing, doesn’t have the same sort of pull others do.

I was absurdly wrong.

His writing is hilarious. His intelligence burns behind his words. On Writing’s got a comical autobiographical beginning that is punctured with sass, crass, and childhood accidents. Now that I’ve started reading one of his stories I can see how his life pre-writing-career affects his characters and his stories. His grit is bound up in reality and his own personality.

The latter half of the book is dedicated to language. It’s insightful, it’s vague where it should be (good writing doesn’t play by any One’s rules), it’s clear where it can be, and it’s packed with morsels of gold.

An important note: Stephen King is a prolific writer. He has a multitude of books, each of it’s own importance in literature. He does not write spoiler alert before talking about the process, start to finish, of writing of his stories; including the ends of them. Having never read one of his stories, I can now accurately tell you some endings and pivotal plot points in a certain few of his books. The Stand (currently on my bedside table with a bookmark stuck into the 167th page), and Misery, are two that come immediately to mind. He did so with well intended purpose, and the examples gave life to his points. Nevertheless, if you are a fan, and a fan who has not read all 53 of his other novels, I warn you. He only mentioned a small fraction of them, but he did mention some.

I’m not sure I recommend this to non-writers, or at least people who aren’t interested in the craft on some fundamental level.

If you are, however, this is not a book to disregard or overlook. It’s not a bore. Once I started it, I finished it quickly. It’s well written. It’s to the point. It’s intelligent.

And for the aspirant writer—it’s a must read.

This past January I made a new years resolution: a commitment to myself and to my writing.

I’ve been writing the same two-book series for the last five or so years. Sad as that may seem, I’ve grown exponentially as a writer doing it. My story has been cultivated, evolved, and has never been better than what it is right now. I’ve written, rewritten, and restarted. This past January I promised myself that I wouldn’t everdo that again. I would never again open a fresh Word document and start my story from scratch.

I would write my story at a bare minimum for fifteen minutes a day. Extra minutes in one day wouldn’t carry over as credit to the next. But 0 minutes today would mean the added minutes tomorrow.

This year so far I have written a minimum (and I know there’s been countless more hours added to my daily fifteen minutes that has to go uncounted) of 72 hours and 15 minutes. I owe myself another two hours and fifteen minutes as of today.

Taken that other writing, i.e., blog posts, short stories, Worth1000 contests, other stories, essays, and any other type of writing I do on a daily basis do not count towards that fifteen minutes. These minutes are a dedication to my story, not just to my writing.

I’m getting there on top of school, running, family, friends, hobbies, being a University student, homework… the list of my life goes on.

And I have more going on than this two book series that’s been brewing in my head since middle school. But I’ve made a special commitment to it, and it’s stuck.

I have a passion for writing, and I dedicated myself to it. I’ve grown more this year as a writer than any other. Part of that are the diverse outlets I’ve written in. Part of that is practice. Another part is hard work.

Mostly, it’s the 72 hours and fifteen minutes.

I find it easiest to write at night. There’s this seemingly infinite bubble of silence and darkness, with nothing else waiting for you. There’s no sun, no café, no friend, or commitment. There is darkness, and the occasional siren.

In my bed sometimes I hear cars go by my window, whether it’s the early morning or the late night. I find I often wonder what reason has these drivers up and going somewhere when the rest of the city is sleeping. Maybe it’s work, or maybe they can’t fall asleep. Maybe they’re looking for something. Or maybe they’re just going somewhere and it’s that simple. Sometimes I make up stories for where they’re off to and why. It helps when I want to go somewhere else, too.

On nights like these I wish I could walk around. I wish I could see the city lights in the darkness. I wish that being a girl wasn’t such a danger in dark streets after midnight. I wish I could be free to wander when I couldn’t sleep, too. Preferably sans car though. However, I digress.

Instead I find my freedom in writing. At midnight, with nothing wanting my attention my brain can be focused. It feels like there is so much more space inside my head. I can sit on my bed in my pajamas, and make myself a cup of tea. I open Word. And that’s all I need.

But in the morning it’s different. I’m distracted by plans, the weather, opportunities, texts, school, class, friends… It’s all noise in my head. And it’s so much harder to focus on what I’m trying to say.

Afternoons are better, because I feel like I’ve accomplished something in the day already. And I can sit in a café with a coffee and just write. But there are still distractions. People moving around, leaving and coming, conversations stirring the room around me, and a continual stream of coffee orders.

It’s at home in my bed where I write the best. With the curtains drawn and in the solitude I find in those nighttime moments I create my space. Call it my creative space or my personal space; it’s just where I like to write.

Why do people feel that they need to be represented by a specific type of advocate that is exactly the same minority as themselves? Isn’t the point to blur those lines so that they stop becoming important?

Correct me if I’m being ignorant or offensive. But seriously. This is getting ridiculous.

I love being able to connect to my idols. But why does that need to be aesthetically or racially? Why can’t that connection just be based on shared ideals, values, or because of whatever other reason they happen to be my idol for? Sure it’s important for women to be in parliament as they want to be, and as they earn it, regardless of gender. And it’s important for minorities to be represented and spoken for. It’s 2014 in Canada and our government and our people (at least hopefully) believe in equality for all. But a prerequisite for representing a minority, or a majority, is not actually being in it. In fact, people should be encouraged to speak for factions outside of their own. Right?

By disagreeing with that is equivalent to saying, if you are not in my minority, you cannot understand me or other people in it. You can’t represent me, or grasp why I deserve the same rights as you. Therefore I will only let this person, who is perhaps less qualified than you, speak for me and for everyone else like me.

The point of encouraging equality is to eliminate barriers created by differences. That means it has to go both ways. Just because someone happens to be a blonde haired blue-eyed white girl doesn’t mean she can’t understand discrimination. It doesn’t mean she can’t stand up for other people’s rights.

Representation of all people and all definite groups is merited only in that they are a part of the population. No other prerequisite is required. We don’t run on a system where the majority is the rule. Read John Mill’s On Liberty. He celebrates the individual’s opinion above all others. He believes that the divergent view is the most important aspect in any group or society.

So yes. I’m all for diversity and the representation of minority because everyone deserves equality. However. When people start talking about how they especially love this feminist or that rights activist purely because they happen to have the same background as themselves, I get itchy. That should be a bonus, not a prerequisite.

 

Am I missing the point?

Running is a great form of exercise: as much for your mental health as it is for your physical fitness. Running does not only improve your cardio, tone your muscles, and make you feel great afterwards when your brain is swimming in endorphins. It also heightens your own awareness of your boundaries and your ability to deal with challenges: both bodily and psychologically. And ask any philosopher: self-awareness is key.

So. If it does all those things for you, why don’t people do it more often?

Well, running is very difficult is an easy answer.  A more complex answer would be that running is marketed in a way that is great for people who are interested in it for about five seconds, and for the wrong reasons. We are told that running is simple and a great form of exercise. (Knee issues and any other long-term health risks associated with running are not mentioned.) We buy all the merchandise and then think “I’ve just spent a small fortune on state of the art running shoes, shorts that are short enough to be motivation, breathable shirts, fancy socks that supposedly prevent blistering, and a pretty new water bottle with flowers on it. After this investment, there is no way I can quit.” And then a week later we have used all our new gear perhaps once and are totally turned off of the sport.

The reason why? I think it’s partly because running just sucks sometimes. It’s not always really that fun. It takes time, energy (and being anemic and a full time student I understand that those are hard to come by), and mental strength coupled with internal motivation.  I also think that people get into the sport for the wrong reasons. In fact a huge percentage of runners, including myself half the time, are running for someone else, or something else. Not for themselves. Very few people are self-aware enough to be able to go out and run just for the pure benefits of the sport. Those motivators that don’t include vanity and fitting into that new pair of jeans.

Running shouldn’t be about how you look. Ever.

It shouldn’t be about anything other than feeling better: and I don’t mean feeling better about how you look. Because it should be about how you look. EVER. Rather I mean feeling good day to day. Fueling your brain with natural endorphins, eating the right foods because they make you feel good after a satisfying run. Pushing yourself that extra mile because it gives you a sense of accomplishment different from other achievements. It makes your heart beat hard in your ears, forces your blood to rush through your veins, allows your lungs to squeeze air through your throat pumping your blood with oxygen. It makes your head swim afterwards, allows you to feel good about relaxing later on the couch. Lets your muscles strengthen themselves, tighten when you sit too long. Running makes stretching worth it.

Running makes you stronger, mentally and physically. It makes you want to go that extra gruesome mile for the reward of accomplishment: to force your limbs to keep moving, to push farther, faster, even though it hurts. Running gives you a regular routine of practice because when you’re in the habit, it feels wrong if it has been too long. Your muscles bunch, you feel antsy. There’s nothing like getting out to move them again: it’s a release.

When people get into running to feel better about themselves, the sport can get caught up in a messy bundle of predetermined insecurities. That’s a difficult thing to overcome regardless. When people are convinced running is for them, and it’s not, or they don’t quite realize the mental challenge to it, they fail. The sport is blamed, or put aside.

Instead, I would like to point out these few flaws in the mentality of wannabe runners. Running is beautiful in its challenge: it makes you push yourself. There’s a muscle in your brain that you don’t use for things that are easy. It gets old and lazy and stiff with disuse. It’s called determination. Or motivation. Or maybe insanity. Whatever it is, it’s pivotal to the sport of running. It requires a hard-line attitude. It requires perseverance, and no amount of sympathy for yourself in a weak moment.

It’s this muscle that allows for the rush of endorphins to overwhelm your sense at the end of big runs. It’s the cause of the contagious smiles you see on racers at the finish line. It’s the satisfactory ache you feel in the pit of your limbs at the end of the day. It’s the reason for the reward.

And so yes, running can suck. It can hurt; it can feel like your dying. It’s a practice that takes a hell of a lot of conviction some days, and less other days. But it’s the muscle in your brain that needs to be toned, used, nurtured until it’s as hard and unrelenting as your thighs. Running needs to be the result of some other internal motivation that is entirely separate from external motivations. Running is for you. For your own benefit and that’s it. Forget about vanity, and about the media, and about societal pressures when you put on your running shoes. That feeling of exhalation at the end of your run is entirely for you, earned by you.

So good luck you future runners. With your new clothes and your fancy watches and wristbands. Remember the benefit, and the real reasons behind your choice to become a runner. Take your time and ease yourself into the practice. Or don’t. Go run a half marathon, that’s what I did and now I’m set to run a 30km in August. I’d like to think that my method worked.

 

Good luck!