Archive for October, 2012

The life of an artist and the works they produce can teach us so much about writing. And it doesn’t have to be boring! Check out the latest post in this series: “Artists through the ages: Michelangelo.”

The only logical follow up to Michelangelo would be da Vinci, don’t you think? He was also born in the mid 1400s and died in the early 1500s. He was a true Renaissance man – a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, inventor, and engineer among other things.

Interesting facts:

  1. He is considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time.
  2. He may be the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
  3. He was born out of wedlock.
  4. He was a procrastinator (something we all can relate to!).
  5. He had drawn up things like a helicopter, a tank, and a calculator well before the time when these things were invented.
  6. Michelangelo and Leonardo were active artists at the same time and generally in the same place (Florence being one of the hotspots). They were notorious enemies.

Some of his most famous works include the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Vitruvian Man. Again, this is an extremely short list, as da Vinci’s accomplishments are wide spread and much too lengthy to note in a single blog post.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from anybody, and for good reason. All of the people we look up to as exceptional human beings – the artists, the movie stars, the athletes, and the great figures of history – those things didn’t just happen to them. They didn’t wake up one day and become president or the greatest cyclist the world has ever seen. They worked hard and chased their dreams.

As writers, we can’t expect stories or inspiration to just come to us. We have to chase down our muse and work toward that final goal of getting published. No matter how good of a writer you are, that’s not just going to happen. You have to make it happen.

“Obstacles cannot crush me; every obstacle yields to stern resolve.”

Every time I hear something about how writing is not a good career path, or how it’s such a hard business to get into, it makes me want to work that much harder. Obstacles stand in our way so that when we overcome them, we know that we truly deserve to be where we are. You can take a car to the finish line of the race, but it won’t be nearly as rewarding as if you ran the whole way yourself.

“Time stays long enough for those who use it.”

Just think about how much da Vinci accomplished in his lifetime. All of those paintings, those notes, those inventions. He worked with a 24 hour day, just like we do. And he had time for everything. Of course, the world back then is quite a bit different than it is today…

But that’s still no excuse. You have 24 hours to work with. There are obviously things that must get done – eating and sleeping and spending time with family, but the point is that there is still room to write. It’s up to YOU how you use those remaining hours. If you put it to good use, then there will be more than enough time in a single day to accomplish all that you want to get done.

 “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

I love this quote because it is so true. Do you think that when da Vinci put the final stroke on the Mona Lisa, he said, “Well, that’s perfect! There’s absolutely not one thing I would change about this.”

Yeah, not a chance.

I’m sure he hated some of his paintings and drawings. He was probably just as insecure as we are about our writing. But he didn’t let that stop him, and we shouldn’t either. A book will never be done. A sentence can always be tweaked, a paragraph can always be fixed, and a character can always be fleshed out just a little bit more.

But that kind of attitude comes from a person who will never get a book published. At some point you just have to say, “enough is enough.” This is as good as it’s going to get. It’s not perfect, but perfect just doesn’t exist (especially in our line of business). You have to lay down your pen and move on to the next thing in life, otherwise you’ll never move forward at all.

“A poet knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

This goes very well with the previous quote. It’s obvious that da Vinci doesn’t mean “perfect” in the literal sense of the word, for the very reason stated above. However, when you’ve chiseled at the novel for months, tweaking and tucking and nipping at every detail you can, you have to finally put it down and call it “perfect.”

Details can always be added. They may or may not be necessary. But when you finally have the right amount of everything – setting, description, characterization, etc. – and there is nothing left to take away that will not absolutely destroy the story, you know that your work is done. Most books, I believe, suffer from too much rather than not enough.

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”

This idea floats around heavily amongst writers. “Take a day or two off and then go back to your story, things will just fall into place!” And it’s so true, isn’t it? Sometimes your brain just needs a break, and the only way it can truly get it is if it can completely forget about the project for a while. Even da Vinci, master of everything, knew how important it was to stop for a little R&R.

“I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.”

This quote makes me so sad. Da Vinci was one of the greatest men to have ever lived. We’re lucky to have known of him, even if it is only through the scribblings in his notebook and the accounts of those who were blessed to have lived when he did. Yet here he is, thinking that he did not do his best, and that he could always have done better.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. You will never believe your work is important enough. Or good enough. You’ll never think that you tried your hardest or did your best. You’ll probably never feel as though you’ve reached that nirvana of perfection where absolutely every minute detail is flawlessly placed.

But that doesn’t mean that you haven’t done all of those things.

And even if you haven’t, that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t important, period. Or good, period. You did try your hardest and did do you best, even if you didn’t feel like it. Nobody reaches perfection, not even the gods and goddesses of the writing universe like JKR and Stephen King. Not even every minute detail in their works is perfect.

So give yourself a break. Lay off. Do what you do best: write. Da Vinci didn’t think he was all that great either, and look at the mark he left on history.

You can do that too, in time, if you let yourself.

Here’s the next post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.

Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to be inhuman, with Cas and the Doctor.”

Schmidt from New Girl is one of the best characters to ever grace my television screen. He is completely obnoxious and ridiculous, yet entirely loveable. You care about him at least as much (if not more) than the main characters Jess and Nick.

But why?

How can you create a character who is a total basket case, yet still make your audience love him and cheer for him?

First of all, let’s see how you make someone completely crazy. We have to start off by praising the actor who plays him, Max Greenfield, because the way that he talks and his mannerisms are something that brings so much life to the character. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Schmidt so perfectly.

Schmidt is a germaphobe. He’s vain and insecure. He’s an attempted ladies man/womanizer, but most of the time just comes off as creepy. He talks a lot of game but can’t always deliver. He’s offensive and disgusting, but doesn’t realize he’s offensive and disgusting. He tries so, so hard at life, but usually ends up either failing miserably or alienating the entire household. He has a recurring habit of saying douchey things and has contributed more money to the Douchebag Jar than anyone else on the show (or anyone else in the history of the world, to be honest).

It’s so hard to capture how brilliantly the role is written and played, so if you haven’t seen this show yet, just tune into a single episode. Schmidt is something else entirely and I’ll bet you won’t be able to decide if you think he’s annoying or amazing for at least the first few episodes. (I vote for the latter, obviously.)

So, how do we make this person likeable? How do you make the most exasperating character on the show someone that everybody loves? It’s not an easy feat.

It helps that Schmidt is hilarious and that Max Greenfield’s comedic timing is right on point. Everyone likes a good laugh and I’ll bet that he’s the reason many people keep coming back for more of this show.

Watch Schmidt in action:


 
But it mainly comes when Schmidt is being vulnerable. When he finally stops trying to put on a certain face and when he admits what kind of person he is. When he finally admits his loves for CeCe (awww!). When he finally takes a breather and says something that is totally honest and not offensive in anyway.

We cheer for Schmidt because he has at least one (if not several) of the traits we hate about ourselves. Despite his numerous shortcomings, we want to see him succeed because we feel that he should. He should have someone love him no matter how crazy he is. He should have friends he can rely on, no matter how awkward he makes their lives. He should be respected and liked because Schmidt, despite everything, is a good person.

And a good friend. He understands people, even if his advice isn’t always delivered with the right amount of tact. He sees things in people that they don’t see in themselves (ie. CeCe). And despite the fact that he is a little overzealous sometimes, he tries so hard because he cares so much.

As for our own writing, it’s important to note the wide spectrum here. Having a character who fluctuates from one end to the other at such a rapid rate can be difficult, but if you can balance the laugh-out-loud-at-how-completely-insane-he-is moments with the heartfelt, totally stripped down and honest moments, you’ll have a funny, interesting, and relatable character on your hands.

Have you seen New Girl? Do you like Schmidt? What’s your favorite Schmidt moment?

This week was a good week, you guys. Very excited to share what I’ve done.

Also: IT’S ALMOST HALLOWEEN!!!

Caaaaanddyyyyyyyy…

Main Goals:

The list is short and sweet, but it’s also mandatory. I’m keeping it easy, manageable, and attainable this round. I have to get back to what’s important for me as a writer.

  1. Write or edit every day. 4/7 I edited on three of these days and actually finished ALL the edits on my short story collection. That was way quicker than I thought I was going to get it done, and I’m so excited! It’s off to a couple of beta readers now – fingers crossed! I also wrote on two of the days. I started a new story (oops) that I’m pretty excited about. It’s got a lot of potential for a whole series of books that can be sequels or standalones. This is just going to be a side project now, as I’m looking forward to editing my main novel at this point and really need to focus on that.
  2. Read every day. 1/7 Just one day, but it’s better than none. Will finish this book soon. I’m sooo close.

Bonus Points:

These are goals I hope to accomplish this week. They aren’t mandatory, but if I have time I should attempt them. They can be anything from exercising to finishing a certain story to organizing my desk. This week I’ve decided on these:

  1. Plan out three blog posts for next week so I’m prepared. I’m getting better at this, but I’m having trouble getting three blog posts out a week. Planning ahead is going to help and I’m hoping that this week is the week that I’m finally able to do it.
  2. Exercise at least once. I DID IT YOU GUYS. I played some DDR and Just Dance and I’ve been sore all week, LOL. But it felt nice to get back into it, and I’m hoping I can work in at least a few exercising days, even if this isn’t a main goal of mine anymore. New goal: Begin editing my novel.
  3. Visit three ROW80 blogs and comment. *Ducks head* My inbox is so backed up right now, but I WILL get to this and soon!

List of Awesome:

This is the list of things I’ve accomplished that don’t really have anything to do with ROW80 or the goals above. It’ll probably be mostly about Hypable and the things I’ve done over there, but I like sharing pictures and random things that are happening in my life. Everyone is always welcome to drop their own list of awesome in the comments below. I love reading them!

  1. A new Onceable is out – we discuss the Once Upon a Time episode titled “The Crocodile.”
  2. A new NATW Podcast is also out, where we rehash 1×01 and 1×02 of Teen Wolf, plus discuss the really sad news that Colton has left the show. :( Also, the title of this week’s podcast episode is called “Three Open-Legged Visits,” so how can you NOT want to go listen to that??
  3. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday! We ODed on ice cream cake and pie and bought lots of books. A perfect day. :D
  4. I got the Writer’s Digest magazine in the mail and finally have a copy (okay, several copies) of it because my name is in it! This is probably the only time I can say, “This one time I was in the same magazine as George R.R. Martin. BAM!”

Points

I get 5 points for every main goal I complete, and 1 point for every bonus goal.

Week 1: 25
Week 2: 15
Week 3: 15
Week 4: 26

Whooo! One extra point and I’ve already beaten my best. Can you guys believe it’s already been a month since the round started??

What’s the best thing you’ve accomplished this past week?

I’ve been meaning to get back into posting about art with all the devotion and attention to detail I can muster. It looks like that day has finally come. I want to start up a new series – a progression of posts that take a look at various “great” artists throughout time.

I’ve always found that people enjoy art – they like looking at it, they appreciate it, they think it’s cool. But they hate learning about it – because  that’s boring. I can’t argue there. I was lucky enough to have an incredible teacher, but learning about guys long dead who threw some paint on a canvas and had some profound thesis written about why it was a tragic masterpiece about a girl and her bunny – which was an allegory for life and its unfortunate occurrences – isn’t exactly entertainment.

But it can be.

I think we’ve got a lot to learn about the great master’ and the influence they’ve had over art, culture, society and just humans in general. I like teaching people about the things that make me passionate, and art is definitely one of those things. I also like changing people’s minds – maybe I can make these posts entertaining for those of you out there that don’t enjoy history lessons on your morning stroll through your daily blogs.

I also enjoy relating everything back to writing. I mean, that’s why we’re here isn’t it? Most of us, anyway. That’s definitely why I’m here. So, that’ll be the goal here: 1. Entertain you. 2. Teach you. 3. Tell you why writers should be aware of these people.

Easy. (I hope.)

We’ll start off with a well known artist: Michelangelo. (Which, by the way, is pronounced Mick-ell-angelo, not “Michael-angelo.” Yeah, I’ve been pronouncing that one wrong for a while too.)

Michelangelo was born in the late 1400s and lived until the mid 1500s. He was a sculptor above everything else, but he was also into painting, architecture, poetry, engineering, and wine. Okay, I made that last one up. But, I mean…he was Italian. Weren’t they all into wine?

Interesting facts:

  1. He is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.
  2. His versatility earns him the title of “Renaissance Man,” of which Da Vinci is also considered to be.
  3. He is the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.
  4. He’s called Il Divino (“the divine one”).
  5. His personal style literally launched an entire movement in art – Mannerism – as artists that came after him tried to imitate him.
  6. He thought painting was a low form of art. (Ouch.)

His most famous works of art are La Pietà, David, and his work in the Sistine Chapel, which includes The Last Judgment and The Creation of Adam.

This is a very, very short list for a very, very prominent and prolific artist. But if you were to know anything of Michelangelo, it would be these.

Read about some of my time in Italy, which includes when I saw La Pietà in person!

So, what can this man teach us about writing?

Surprisingly… A lot.

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.”

Michelangelo was a human being. He wasn’t a god, an angel, a werewolf, or an ood. He was human. An incredible, brilliant, one-of-a-kind human, but a human nonetheless. He worked hard to achieve everything that he did. He achieved greatness because he let his passion guide him and didn’t let fear or uncertainty hold him back.

Let’s face it: about 99.999% of us aren’t going to be the next Michelangelo of writing. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Which brings me to my next quote…

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Some people don’t mind living life just getting by. They’re content to put in the minimum amount of work possible. And that’s fine – for them.

But for the rest of us? You get out of life what you put into it. There’s no reason not to work your tail off trying to reach your goals and see your dreams come true. Why settle for writing one novel? Why settle for just adding “published author” to the end of your name? Those are stepping stones towards something greater. Dreams are only unrealistic until they become reality.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

This is my all-time favorite quote from Michelangelo. There’s a story – I don’t know whether or not it’s true – that says that Michelangelo came every day to stare at a piece of marble. That’s all he did – stare. For months and months. One day, a man went up to him and asked him what he was doing. “Working,” replied Michelangelo. He’d spend all day staring at that marble, until one day he find took hammer and chisel to it. Soon, David was completed.

Everything starts with an idea. Some people have the patience, the ability, and the know-how to carve that angel from a solid piece of rock. Some don’t. It does take a lot of talent to write a novel, but talent has no use if it is not first preceded by an idea.

More than likely all of you have already seen your angel. You’ve probably been carving for months, or maybe even years. It can be so frustrating (marble is solid rock after all), but never give up hope. These things aren’t meant to be easy. If they were, the reward for finally finishing wouldn’t be so great.

And, finally…

“Genius is eternal patience.”

I think there are a lot of people out there who are naturally gifted – whether it’s with writing, art, math, or unicycle riding (of which I’m terrible). And I think genius is one part natural ability.

But the other part is patience.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you have no patience, you’ll never be able to put that talent to good use. Look at JKR – Harry Potter has had an incredible impact on the world. She taught children to love reading. She taught us lessons about life, death, and love. She created a phenomenon from a silly little idea that she thought up while on a train.

Do I consider that genius? Yes. And it took a great deal of talent to take that from a silly little idea in her head to everything we know and love about the Potter universe.

But imagine the patience it took too. She worked on that story for nearly TWENTY YEARS. Seven books, all intertwined. All details incredibly important, no matter how trivial they seem at first. Lines from the first book impacted the last. Characters who seemed unimportant became driving forces behind much of the action in the last few installments. Events in Sorcerer’s Stone parallel and mirror those in Deathly Hallows.

This was not a mistake. And it wasn’t just talent. It was patience.

With a little bit of talent, a lot of determination, and a bucket load of patience, we can all achieve everything we’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Michelangelo was the son of a politician. He held no interest in school. His mother died when he was just six. And he was born in the freaking Dark Ages.

And here I sit in 2012, at my laptop and in a world he never could have imagined, still talking about him.

I’ve been a good little writer recently (and a good procrastinator). I’ve been watching tons of movies and TV shows on Netflix. I never realized how much they can teach you about novel writing until I really started widening my horizons. For a taste of what I mean, check out my writing category and look at my “How to…” posts. I take a character and a trait from a TV show or movie and break it down to see why it works and how it can help us out as writers.

So, naturally, I’ve become invested in more television shows than I have time for. I’ve recently gotten caught up with Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and Sherlock. This is a post about my thoughts on each show because I don’t really have anywhere else where I can ramble on and on about them. And, yes, that’s your warning. This is a ramble.

(Also, I tried not to give anything major away, but this post does contain some light spoilers.)

The Road So Far on Supernatural

I saw the first few episodes of Supernatural when they aired about eight years ago (whoa). I’m not sure why I didn’t keep watching, but I can only guess that it was because I was too scared to continue.

Yeah, I know. I have a low tolerance for scary stuff. A very, very low tolerance.

But I took it up again recently and watched all seven seasons within a few weeks, trying to catch up on the series before the eighth season began. I really enjoyed it. Without knowing much about the series to begin with, I got a full experience of the twists and turns and I was really taken in by everything that happened.

One of my favorite things about this show is that the story weaves its way through all of the seasons. What happened in the very first episode has ramifications that carry on to the most recent episodes. Some shows tend to have a single “big bad” each season and when you look at the first season compared to the last, the show feels completely different.

Not Supernatural. It honestly feels like you’ve been in the Impala for eight years, driving around with the Winchester brothers. Sure, they’ve grown up and things have changed. People have come and gone. Big bads have been defeated and new ones have popped up. But it essentially feels like the same show to me, and I love that. It makes it feel a lot more realistic.

The humor in this show is just out of the park. Dean’s sarcastic “sasshole” (<– new favorite word, thanks to my friend Caitlin) attitude just makes you shake your head and laugh. His one liners are so wrong sometimes, but I’d like to meet a person who can honestly not laugh at them. (“A Hand of Glory? I think I got one of those at the end of my Thai massage last week.”) And not only that, but there are some episodes (like any of the ones with the Ghostfacers crew in them) that you literally just can’t stop laughing at. One of my favorites was when Sam and Dean were trying to tell Bobby a story about a case and they were telling their version of the story (2×15 “Tall Tales”), which put each brother in quite an interesting light.

There are some things that I don’t like about the show. I find the constant fighting between Dean and Sam a little tiring sometimes. Not that it’s not realistic, but I’m so invested in them as a team that whenever one decides to leave, it really hurts. The human heart can only take so much.

My one other big quibble? We need more Cas. Like, seriously. Please? I find myself just waiting for him to pop up because I love him so much. His dead-pan face, his unintentional humor, and his deep caring for Dean just make me want to hug him. (Or “glomp” him, which is another new word I learned recently.) Can he just be in every episode already? My heart hurts when he is away too long.

Previously on The Vampire Diaries

I was pleasantly surprised by The Vampire Diaries when I first started watching it. I thought it was going to be a little too Twilight-esque (not that I have a huge problem with Twilight, but it’s been done so there’s no need to repeat it). What I found was a show that incorporated love, but also made sure there were tons of interesting characters, scary bad guys, and some awesome vampire fight scenes. Can’t argue with that.

My favorite thing about this show is Damon. Which, I mean…come on. (Debra, if you’re out there, you know what I’m talking about. We have pretty much the same opinion on this subject matter.) Not only is he incredibly easy on the eyes, but his character is also really fun and interesting. The other characters also all bring something to the table, whether they’re good, bad, or just enjoy making some trouble. Caroline is another favorite. (Expect a post on her soon.)

This show also genuinely surprises me. Very few shows actually do this anymore. Very few shows actually make me gasp out loud. I love twists and turns, and I love last-minute reveals right before the end credits come up. (Although, I say that having watched the first three seasons on Netflix. Now that I have to watch this show on a weekly basis, I’m sure this is going to be a major complaint for me.)

The first few episodes were a little hard to get through because “love” occurs so quickly between the main characters. But, you know, whatever. That’s a problem with a lot of television and movies, so I’ve learned to just accept it as unrealistic and ignore it. I’m also kind of over the love triangle thing – especially since I don’t agree with Elena’s choice (go figure). Also, is it just me, or does anyone else find Stefan incredibly boring? He got a little more interesting as of late, but I still don’t really care too much for his character.

What the heck just happened on Sherlock?

I’m going to preface this with the bad, and then get into the good because that’s how I have sort of made my way through this show.

I had heard of Sherlock through Hypable and through the people that already watched Doctor Who. Steven Moffat writes for both shows and since I already enjoyed his work with Doctor Who, I decided to take up Sherlock as well. And, as it was already on Netflix, what was there to lose?

The first episode was incredible. I was totally impressed by Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Sherlock) and the way the character was portrayed. If you’re unfamiliar, he’s a “high functioning sociopath” as the character himself claims, and goes about solving mysteries and making people very, very angry. It’s a good old time.

But I also really enjoy how the show is set up. Text appears on the screen in order to show us what Sherlock is seeing when he views a dead body, or what kind of text messages the characters get. You’d think this would take you immediately out of the show, but it truly doesn’t. It helps to prove how incredible Sherlock is without an overabundance of explanatory dialogue.

The second episode fell through for me, as did the third. They didn’t seem to have the same punch and I wasn’t as interested in the mysteries. Maybe it was just me, as I’ve heard tons of people rave about the show for months and months. Perhaps I’ll do a rewatch to figure out if I still feel that way. All I know is that I watched the first episode and fell in love, then watched the second one and fell out of love.

Not that I’d drop the series all together. I knew it would get better and, well, I have a problem putting things down once I pick them up.

The second series just recently hit Netflix, so I sat down to watch the first episode, hoping that it would give me the same feelings that it gave me when I watched that series premiere.

It didn’t. It gave me MORE.

I was blown away by the first episode. I sat down to watch it and ended up doing a marathon until I finished the second series. (It’s only three episodes long, but they’re 1 ½ hours each.) The new characters were incredible and dynamic and interesting. Moriarty was everything that I ever wanted in a bad guy and so much more. He was completely insane and I loved every second of it. A truly, nearly undefeatable bad guy is so hard to find nowadays. No pre-killing monologues. No stupid revenge schemes. He really just wanted to ruin Sherlock in every way possible. He knew exactly where to hit him, and he hit him so hard that it knocked the wind out of the greatest detective of all time.

And Sherlock. Oh, Sherlock.

We got to see such a different side of him this series. He’s not completely emotionless. He does understand love. He does feel. His relationship with Watson is lovely, and the connection between him and Irene Adler was confusing, tragic, and yet somehow beautiful. I love this show because it’s so complex, but it’s non-apologetic about it. It gives you what it wants to give you and forces you to draw your own conclusions.

I’m pretty sure this show makes me smarter, too. After I finish watching it, I find I’m a lot more sarcastic and witty (to the chagrin of my friends, I’m sure). I also feel like a pseudo-detective, drawing conclusions from crinkled gum wrappers and empty glasses. I may not be as good as Sherlock, but that won’t stop me from trying.

And that episode 3 ending? Oh, that ending. Just wait for it because it’s beautiful and haunting and absolutely perfect.

[/End Rambling]

So what conclusions can we draw from this?

  1. I have too much time on my hands.
  2. I need more of a social life.
  3. I spend a lot of time watching TV, and I will forever claim that it’s to become a better writer.
  4. These shows are amazing.
  5. I want you to give them all a chance. Get a Netflix subscription and start watching!!

What do you guys like or dislike about these three shows? Seeing as I’ve written an essay, long and rambling comments are totally allowed!

Another week down and I keep looking at my calendar saying, “Is it really nearly the end of October?” Not that I’m complaining. I’m looking forward to Halloween like nobody’s business. I plan on eating tons of junk food and candy, watching movies like Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown, and staying up late for the Ghosthunters Halloween special.

Yeah, I haven’t had this planned out since last year or anything.

Anyway, on to the goals:

Main Goals:

The list is short and sweet, but it’s also mandatory. I’m keeping it easy, manageable, and attainable this round. I have to get back to what’s important for me as a writer.

  1. Write or edit every day. 2/7 Two times is far more than I’ve done lately, and more than I thought I’d get done. It allowed me to finish editing two whole short stories too, so I’m extremely happy with that. The next short story is a big one, but I’m hoping to get it done this week. Fingers crossed!
  2. Read every day. 1/7 I caught some time while waiting at the dentist’s office, so I read a few pages but nothing more. It’s a good book, but not much in it drags me back like some of my favorites. I want to know what happens, but I don’t really care too much about the story in general. But I’m nearly done with it, so I can’t just put it aside. Maybe this week I’ll get through it so I can start The Casual Vacancy.

Bonus Points:

These are goals I hope to accomplish this week. They aren’t mandatory, but if I have time I should attempt them. They can be anything from exercising to finishing a certain story to organizing my desk. This week I’ve decided on these:

  1. Plan out three blog posts for next week so I’m prepared. I sort of did this, but not really, so I guess it doesn’t count. I do have some ideas for this week though, so I’m hoping to be prepared and able to deliver.
  2. Exercise at least once. I didn’t do this but — good news — I weighed myself this morning. After three months off the scales and not really caring what I ate…I lost a pound! Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve been itching to get back into my DDR recently, so maybe I’ll give that a go a couple times this week.
  3. Visit three ROW80 blogs and comment. I know I hit up some blogs, but I can’t remember how many. Sorry I keep dropping the ball on you guys! I still see a lot of what you write, though, so I’m around even if I don’t make myself known. :)

List of Awesome:

This is the list of things I’ve accomplished that don’t really have anything to do with ROW80 or the goals above. It’ll probably be mostly about Hypable and the things I’ve done over there, but I like sharing pictures and random things that are happening in my life. Everyone is always welcome to drop their own list of awesome in the comments below. I love reading them!

  1. I finished series 2 of Sherlock and loved it. Expect a blog post on that and some of the other things I’ve been watching recently.
  2. I got my new headset so hopefully I sound better on my podcasts now!
  3. My mouse died, so I had to get a new one. It’s purple! (And, yes, I mean my computer mouse.)
  4. I found this awesome Dalek pumpkin on the internet and I’m seriously considering trying my hand at it.

Points

I get 5 points for every main goal I complete, and 1 point for every bonus goal.

Week 1: 25
Week 2: 15
Week 3: 15

Well, at least I’m staying consistent. I’ve got tons of blog ideas bouncing around my head right now and I’m about sit down and do some serious writing. And editing! I’m enjoying getting back into my own work after being away from it for so long. I’ve got my hair tied up like Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events. I mean business!

Have you guys done anything fun and exciting this week?

Usually Wednesdays are strictly reserved for art or travelling. Well, I’m not exactly cheating. I’m kind of obsessed with this video right now – it’s so beautiful and artistic, I just had to make sure you guys saw it. What do you think of it?

Here’s the next post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.

Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to be human AND evil, with Rumpel and Regina.”

I’m not exactly quiet when it comes to which fandoms I particularly enjoy being a part of. Supernatural and Doctor Who are certainly two of them. Within each of those shows, there are some favorite characters. Dean is obviously one of them – how could you not love his sarcastic dialogue and amazing one-liners? I miss and love Donna Noble, not to mention Amy and Rory, too.

But Castiel and the Doctor own my heart.

You can probably count the number of times Cas smiles throughout the whole series on one hand.

Cas popped up in Supernatural about half way through its run. It’s a new-ish character (at least, not as old as Dean, Sam, or Bobby), but he made quite an impact. At first you’re not sure if he’s a good guy or a bad guy – or, rather, a good guy with interests that don’t involve keeping Dean and Sam alive. But he slowly grows on you as he becomes more and more aware of how amazing the human race is.

The Doctor is an alien that travels all across space and time. He visits different galaxies and planets like we visit our local grocery story. But he seems to have a particular affinity for Earth. He loves the human race – we have so much potential, so much greatness flowing through our veins. And although he’s run into plenty of people that don’t live up to that standard, he never gives up hope for us as a whole.

Neither one of these characters is human, yet they have to interact with humans on a daily basis. This often leads to plenty of hilarious situations, particularly because neither one truly knows how to act human. They’re like foreigners on steroids – it’s a little obvious they’re not from around here.

Castiel’s voicemail message: I… I don’t understand… Why do you want me to say my name? (sound of random phone buttons being pushed)

Take Cas, for instance. He just about never shows emotion. He doesn’t understand sarcasm. And he doesn’t know about that little thing called personal space. The writers make his inhumanity obvious by putting him in situations where he wouldn’t understand what’s going on. It’s not giving him wings and a white robe to wear to make him seem inhuman – it’s more about making it subtle.

This is where the latest version of the Doctor discovers his favorite food – fish fingers and custard.

This goes with the Doctor as well. He’s an alien, but he looks just like one of us. So how do you make him seem alien? It’s in the way he acts – his insistence on kissing a person’s cheeks when he meets them, whether or not the occasion calls for it. It’s also about what he doesn’t know – like modern currency. Giving someone a million dollars to rent a flat for a few weeks? Sure, why not? He’s also never surprised, not matter what kind of alien race he’s bumped into this time. Where humans would probably run screaming for the hills, the Doctor just sits there and marvels at the creature he’s discovered.

Craig: Where did you learn to cook?
The Doctor: Paris in the 18th century. No, hang on, that’s not recent is it? 17th? No no, 20th. Sorry, I’m not used to doing it in the right order.
Craig: Has anyone ever told you that you’re a bit weird?
The Doctor: They never really stop.

If you’re writing a book about aliens, it’s not always about the big grand spectacle. Sometimes it’s about the subtle things, the little hints that this person might not be who we thought they were at first. It’ll keep things fresh and allow you plenty of moments for hilarity – a winning combination in my book.

Do you like your favorite inhuman characters armed to the teeth with tentacles, or do you prefer someone like Cas or the Doctor? (Also, share your favorite Cas & Doctor moments in the comments!)

Well, that didn’t go according to plan.

Didn’t check in last week because I didn’t really do anything with my goals. Not that I did anything this past week either, but I figured I should pop in and tell you what little I did accomplish so you can yell at me and tell me to do better next time.

Main Goals:

The list is short and sweet, but it’s also mandatory. I’m keeping it easy, manageable, and attainable this round. I have to get back to what’s important for me as a writer.

  1. Write or edit every day. 0/14 Ouch. That one stings a little. Need to start focusing on my own writing a little bit more, but it can be difficult when I have tons and tons of editing to do. (Paid editing, so I can’t exactly ignore it…) But I’m going to try to work on some stuff today and maybe draw up a calendar for myself.
  2. Read every day. 8/14 I did a lot better on this one than I thought I would, and I’m actually surprised that I got 8 whole days in here. I ended up finishing The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan – mainly because I had to write a review for Hypable.

Bonus Points:

These are goals I hope to accomplish this week. They aren’t mandatory, but if I have time I should attempt them. They can be anything from exercising to finishing a certain story to organizing my desk. This week I’ve decided on these:

  1. Plan out three blog posts for next week so I’m prepared. I’ve been doing terrible with this, and actually only blogged three times over the last two weeks. Not good. I’ve got some ideas for this coming week, though, so hopefully I can get started on those and actually schedule my blogs ahead of time. Wouldn’t that be nice!?
  2. Exercise at least once. Nope. Didn’t even think about doing it, actually.
  3. Visit three ROW80 blogs and comment. This goal is very important to me, but I didn’t even attempt it over the last two weeks. I WILL do better this time around.

List of Awesome:

This is the list of things I’ve accomplished that don’t really have anything to do with ROW80 or the goals above. It’ll probably be mostly about Hypable and the things I’ve done over there, but I like sharing pictures and random things that are happening in my life. Everyone is always welcome to drop their own list of awesome in the comments below. I love reading them!

  1. I recorded two more Onceable podcasts. If you’re at all a fan of the show Once Upon a Time, I highly recommend listening to us – we really enjoy geeking out over this series because it’s just so good! We record a new episode after each one airs. There’s a new episode on tonight!
  2. I started a new project (yeah, yeah, I know – but this one is really important to me). I’m absolutely in love with the show Teen Wolf and I think it doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it should. A fellow Hypable writer (Natalie) and I have come together to vamp up the coverage on the show, and we’ve also started recording a new podcast! Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast is our baby – and we are so excited to be a part of it. Please check out the first episode if you watch this show – we’re going to try really hard to give you the best podcast we can.
  3. My friend Lee (I edit his books) uploaded a new novel – Noble Beginnings – that’s just a little bit different than Noble Intentions, but still has all the amazing qualities of the first one. I highly recommend this series, and not just because I edit them. I really think they’re great books to read!
  4. I’m just finishing up season 3 of The Vampire Diaries after finally getting through all of Supernatural. I’m so excited for season 4! I wish I could just stay home every day and watch TV. Netflix is so addicting!

So, how did I score for the first week? Just 25 points for the reading I did. I scored 15 points for the second week for the same reason. So, not great, but the good news is, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get much worse this week. Haha!

Wish me luck, and be sure to share your own list of awesome in the comments!

Are writers born or made?

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

The always-inspiring Belle DiMonté wrote a blog post a week or two ago that got me thinking (again – she tends to have this affect on me). She wrote about what it’s like to be a writer. She also wrote about the fact that having a perfect life has nothing to do with being successful. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Because of the hardships, the pain, and the struggles, she’s been able to face her problems, push through them, and gain knowledge and experience that is invaluable to a writer.

About half way through she says that she firmly believes that writers are born, not made. “One does NOT make a writer! Writers, especially successful ones, are not made; the talent and desire is not created; it is simply THERE from the beginning and refuses to let us rest until we give in and begin to write the stories that populate our veins.”

She goes on to quote George Orwell by saying, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with a painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand.”

More beautiful words have never been said.

And on that note, let me just say – I disagree. Kind of. Well, no. I DO agree, but it’s complicated. Yeah, that works. It’s complicated.

Explanation:

Writers can be made. We’ve seen it done time and time again. Celebrities who I believe to have no desire to write (Snooki, anyone?) have gone on to publish books. Some have had more success than others. “Success” can be defined a number of ways, but for the sake of our argument, let’s just define it as someone who has sold a lot of books – regardless of the actual critical response.

Are these people necessarily good writers? No. Granted, they probably did it for the money and probably had eight editors read over their manuscript before it went to the press. But are they writers? Yes. Could they be described as successful in terms of how many books they sold? Yes. Therefore, are they a “made” writer? Yes.

(Disclaimer: Maybe Snooki had that intrinsic pull of the writer running through her veins much like the rest of us. I doubt it, but I honestly don’t know.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa, you might say. But there’s a HUGE difference between me and SNOOKI.

Yeah, I agree. And this is why I agree with Belle and why my answer is also complicated. There’s a difference – a huge difference – between a made writer and a naturally born writer. They could have the exact same careers – hugely successful, many books, dedicated fan base. They could even have vastly different careers. The “made” writer could sell a lot of books because of his or her fame, while the “born” writer could spend his or her time in squalor hoping an agent takes notice.

But there’s always going to be a difference in their blood. It’s not that one is real and the other is fake, but it’s that one has the calling and the other doesn’t.

I realized it a little late, but I knew I always had an affinity for writing. Back in fourth grade I remember writing entire stories in the span of a paragraph. Yeah, they weren’t exactly prize-winning manuscripts, but that’s when I first realized that writing was fun and it was an escape into another world. It wasn’t something that I decided to do one day… It was something I’ve just always done. I’ve always felt the need to put the made-up places in my head down on paper.

The other day my dad was telling me a funny story about when I used to go over to his house and how I’d spend all day on his computer, typing out my stories. His computer was in his bedroom, and I’d be content to stay in there the entire weekend if I could. But once in a while I’d come out into the living room and flop onto the floor. I’d stay there for a little while, watching TV with him.

“What’s wrong?” he’d ask.

I’d sigh. “Writer’s block.”

I’d be quiet for a while, probably perfectly at peace watching NASCAR (Go Mark Martin!). Then I’d pop up, say, “Ooh!” and run back into the bedroom to type out the rest of the scene.

I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had a story in my head that I wanted to get out. My writing skills were above average, but in no way were they good. (Given that I was probably about 10 at the time, I’ll let it slide.) I had no desire to get published, or even to have anyone read my stuff. I just wanted to write for the sake of writing, because I enjoyed it. Because it was fun.

Many moons later, I figured it out. I’m a writer. I was born to be a writer. My brain works in a different way than Average Joe’s. I see stories everywhere and my head is always filled with voices – but the good kind, not the crazy kind. As cheesy and silly as this sounds, I know that I was meant to be a writer. Baby, I was born this way.

Yeah, I just quoted Lady Gaga. Deal with it.

The point is, there is such a thing as a writer who was made. There’s such a thing as a writer who was born. Could they have the same exact careers? Yeah, probably. Could they have completely different careers? Also a possibility. While they’re both writers, they’re both completely different.

I think one is better than the other, but that’s just me. I’m a tad biased. There’s nothing wrong with a made-writer, but I think a story from someone who doesn’t have the blood of a writer coursing through their veins will never have the same spark as someone who simply goes through the motions because they’ve decided they can make money doing it.

Do you think there are such things as made-writers and born-writers, or are they all the same to you? Is one better than the other? Do you feel that deep seated call to write?