Friday, June 29, 2012

Obervation and Breathing

Each day we breathe in and out, something so many people take for granted, requires our body's attention to the details of survival. If you have ever been so involved in a project that food was the last thing on your mind, it's your stomach and waning strength that made you break that concentration and eat.

For many of us, writing hinges on the same incentives. We truly live through words, thought and creative use of metaphor or rhythmic intent. Take a few minutes to look around you and discover how you have paved the way to write. Do you surround yourself with paper, pencils, notebooks, computers with at least five programs that allow you to draw along with write, or write and add sound to the creation?

Take a few minutes each week to really see how you feed your need to create with words. Honor that creative force that depends on our breathing to keep it going, along with our belief that writing is as natural as air to us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Product in Productivity

In a work world increasingly squeezed by the idea of more work in less time, with the understanding that technology is an aid, the productivity of a writer is measured like any other metric.

Take for instance an article on "Measuring Technical Writer Productivity," published at This article makes the case for using a spreadsheet to balance the workload and the capacity of each writer to complete that load.  The variables measured by the authors, Pam Swanwick and Juliet Wells Leckenby, include: an estimate of the number of topics or pages required for an end product; the complexity of a project based on a value from one to three; the percentage of new or substantially revised content, such that starting from scratch provides a value of 100 percent; and any special projects that a writer has taken on in addition to the regular workload. It's actually a great the workplace.

Although I understand and appreciate this need for a product that can be measured in the corporate world, the push in writing advice to quantify the productivity in personal and fiction writing makes me cringe. Writing outside a job you get paid to perform is more organic, or should be.

Some days life gets in the way of completing, or lends itself to, a short story, poem or song. No one is looking over your shoulder, or at least I hope not, in these moments. You can move between a blog, cooking a meal and finishing an article on your own. A writer can spend a whole afternoon working on one paragraph to perfect a chapter in a novel or spin a narrative off the cuff in a spate of Tweets.

The real world inevitably knocks us back to the lists, goals and the pressure to produce. But if we can play before the next summons, we can take back and own our private creativity.  (This flower represents to me the seamless beauty of letting our own nature decide when we work best and how. It is not Photoshopped, only cropped by the GIMP program.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Who Defines Success?

It is not a trick question, just a tricky answer for many writers. When you picture yourself outside the role of  a writer, do you feel successful? Do you judge success by money, fame or recognition?

The reason I ask is that an e-mail touting how to be a successful writer made me think about my schooling, the newsletters and news magazines that I've produced and the newspapers in the past that carried my photos and articles. Then I moved on to my current attempts to master graphic and photography programs, and everything in my past, including the books, essays and poetry faded for a minute.

So bear with me as this post works to give some perspective to accepting each step we take on our creative journey as successes. This is the anti-monetary view of accomplishments, a top five reality check:

1. Acknowledge every word you have written, from that Mother's Day poem in kindergarten to the business letter that went out today without errors.
2. Specialize in recognizing what motivates you to write. Is it rhymes, poetry, scenery, caustic wit or visual gymnastics? If you are like most creatives, you can look around right now and find a whole list of specialties that you don't recognize for what they are: the stepping stones to writing "success."
3. If you have a blog, do it because it brings you joy or connects you to others who share your interests. The same goes for Tweets, Google+ and other social media outlets. Make it about what is possible, not building a platform. (That is unless you have a contract for a book and need to market it. Then build away!)
4.  Touch base with past and present accomplishments. These can be as simple as the notebook you bought this week that holds two pages of free-form writing, the bookcase you have filled with stories and articles or the ideas written on notes that you keep finding around the house in the strangest places.
5. Focus on the possibilities that you have made into reality.

Above all, recognize that every day you write is another day of success.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Returning to the Basic Motivation

Whether you believe, or not, in Maslow's hierarchy of fear and subsistence, let's consider writing in this context for a second.

For anyone who writes because they must, that need falls under the physiological imperatives of food, water, shelter and sleep. Taken to the next step, this discipline is also tied to our assurance of physical and emotional safety. We control the outcomes.

The next one, that social need for love, affection and belonging can be fed through online groups of like-minded individuals, in classrooms and just sitting next to a stranger writing in a cafe. The esteem part is where we have to feed ourselves long enough to trust our work with others.

Finally, continued writing provides the self-actualizing need for self-fulfillment and personal development.

Once again, writing proves nothing to anyone else and everything to the person who writes day after day and year after year.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Understanding the Digital Divide

In times like these, I wonder how famous and infamous writers would have dealt with our increasingly fickle reading public. After all, a whole social media site is dedicated to visual communication, Tumblr, and Amazon and other digital book publishers are attempting to kill the appetite for printed books and dominate the online market. (I may be showing my age, but holding a book beats squinting to read a digital novel, even with back-lighting, any day.)

Think about how many e-mails you get from signing up for just one online writing course. And many ever-hopeful writers believe they must follow these bread crumbs no matter where they lead because they could miss the one nugget of wisdom necessary to succeed in this business. We are inundated with visual distractions and verbal floods of nonsense day after day.

Yet this online haven of possibilities also has led to my non-writing son collaborating with four Norwegian individuals to create a fan-story. (I don't care about the subject, just that he is finally discovering the writer within and  reaching out internationally to do so.) It's his second collaboration, and all it took was a passion for the subject and a new-found ability to recognize where the plot is going astray and a desire to fix it.

And I'm working with both Photoshop and Illustrator to enhance my communications with visual "aids" that can further express the way I see the worlds I create with words. It may be that each of us must filter out the distractions to do what we love and succeed.

Finally, I just want to acknowledge the influence that Ray Bradbury has had on the way I view writing. His book on writing will remain in my collection, along with a book of short stories and several novels. The author died last night at age 91.    

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Different View of Words Through Design

In taking a class on Illustrator, my view of words and their essential beauty is being enhanced. The teacher of this online course at a local community college is asking us to consider kerning and its effect on how we view the printed word as part of a design statement. In turn, we are learning to appreciate something more than what to me has always been about getting enough words into a given space.

For those visual artists who are also writers out there, you may be laughing at me right now. But each of us finds our way into and out of writing in a unique fashion, and for this visual, spatial learner, the artistry in words helps me use them to greater effect.

As writers, taking a step back to enjoy the fonts or the figures that make up our written language provides a perspective on a subject that people who have studied and created font styles are as passionate about as I am about writing. We are seldom taught that each font design is more than a tool to use in getting to our final goal. True, it may be distracting for awhile, but two fonts, Verdana and Georgia, which I compared for class, made me think about fiction writing again.

Some writers, including me, can get caught up in the rhythm of words. It's just nice to have a visual path to add to that sensual journey.