Posts Tagged 'writing'

5. What is your writing process like?

When I’m writing a story, the characters live in my head. It’s really like they’ve moved in for a while with all their baggage, and they’re with me 24/7. I may be stuck in traffic or working out at the gym when one of the characters tells me something, and I immediately jot it down. The characters reveal themselves gradually. Sometimes it takes weeks to come up with the perfect name or perfect occupation for a character. (A name can change many, many times until it feels exactly right.) My favorite part: I’m sitting at my computer, and a character says something that’s really hilarious, so I burst out laughing, sometimes uncontrollably. My dog looks at me like I’m out of my mind. —Garrett Socol at PANK Magazine Blog


A Helpful Reminder

…creative writers are confusing themselves with journalists and getting involved in arguments about making money that have nothing to do with them when in reality the key to making a living as a creative writer is doing something else.
—Stephen Elliott, The Part About Writing For Free

Short Stories, Writers, Translation, Question Marks, Etc.

This is a very long post that could probably be much more precise and concise, but this is my blog so I just let it roll.

Short stories. They’re difficult to describe. In his column on the form in The Rumpus, Peter Orner explains the problem:

Because the thing about stories, and this might be the exact reason they so often fly under the radar is that few things are harder to talk about than why a particular story is great. It’s like trying to explain love and not love. It goes back to that pang.

The ones I’ve been putting in the most time with are from Zoetrope: All-Story’s Spring 2009 Latin American Issue, edited by Daniel Alarcón and Diego Trelles-Paz, and The Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction, a bilingual anthology put out by Dalkey Archive and edited by Álvaro Uribe. A few stories from each have stood out for me (Have you read any Alejandro Zambra? If not, go here.), but especially the late Aura Estrada’s “An Open Secret” from All-Story and Álvaro Enrigue’s “Sobre la muerte del autor” from The Best of…*

Both stories are about writers and the writing process. Both are by Mexicans. Their last names also both begin with ‘E,’ but we don’t need to get carried away. I’m compelled to connect them, but I’m not sure they have much more than these basic facts in common.
Continue reading ‘Short Stories, Writers, Translation, Question Marks, Etc.’

Want to be blown away and inspired?

Then watch this excerpt from an interview with Sandra Cisneros from the Leonard Lopate show:

You can listen to the rest here. She is appearing in NYC three times this week, but due to my stupid job and my wonderful Spanish class, I have had and will have to miss each.

I have a lot to write about but I am legitimately busy at work. This weekend is going to be hot as hell and I’m hoping it gets my juices flowing.

Why Blog?

This question was asked rhetorically yesterday, and after sleeping on it I realized why I do feel inclined to publicly post the minutiae of my life, and it is the same reason that I write in general: to give structure to my experiences. Incredibly basic, yes. Maybe it’s just my bad memory, which both forgets and distorts, but without taking notes and subsequently chronicling my experiences, I feel lost. I’ve kept a journal since I was a kid and started doing so online when I was 15, and it has just never gotten old for me. I still write in a paper notebook (in fact, 4), and it’s why my other blog (which I’m trying to keep completely separate from everything else) is called “A Pathological Writer.” Though my output of fiction and other “publishable” writing isn’t what I’d like it to be, I’m constantly in the act, and that is satisfying to me. Having an experience and not writing about it isn’t satisfying to me, basically, whether I do it publicly or privately. So, that’s why this place exists.

How I Really Feel about Neptune Beach Club

When you’re a misanthrope who does not drink and has anxiety about new social situations, you should not volunteer to review nightlife because you’re not a person who ever has a good time, period. Your objectivity never existed in the first place. That is number one. It is the second thing I have come to know for sure in this life. The first is don’t go to the prom with your ex-boyfriend. Even a non-boyfriend ex-boyfriend. He’ll suck some bitch’s nipple in the limo.

So Scott and I go to Neptune Beach Club on Sunday afternoon, and once I realize there are actual people there I do not want to get out of the car. I promised some guy this column, though, so I soldier on. Thankfully there was no cover, and a couple of hulking bouncers let us in without issue.  They don’t even try to make jokes about the fact that my hair is long and straight in my license picture, but it isn’t anymore!  The bouncers take their job seriously, and that’s about the only nice thing I can say about the place.

But the crowd is old. And by “old” I mean they all seem to be in their 30s. Their clothes are unattractive. They dance in unrhythmic ways. The song playing is some 80’s pop-rock piece of garbage that might as well be Journey, without the hipster irony. A large woman writhes in a skin-tight polyester floral tube dress.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Tiki bars. Blow-up palm trees. Oh look, the ocean!

The DJ plays a hip-hop song! Saved?

…He’s mixing it into “Paradise City.”

We go up to the bar and I try to talk to the bartenders to get the basic lowdown on the club. They’ve never heard of the magazine I’m writing for, and they’re cold and unresponsive. Should I talk to the clubgoers? No, no. 400 words isn’t that many. Get me the hell out of here.

400 words is that many.

I’m fucked.


Streaming My Mind

The Believer is a magazine that I knew was made for me once I found out that Nick Hornby wrote a column for it. He is always funny, frank, and spot fucking on in his interpretations of the world. In the May 2008 issue he writes:

The Happiest Man in the World made me think, though. Mostly I ended up thinking about the nature and value of experiences and memories, although I didn’t get very far. Crossing the Atlantic on a raft or staying in to watch TV… It’s all the same, in the end, isn’t it? There comes a time when it’s over, and all you can do is talk about it. And if that’s the case, then… I’m sorry. If you bother with this column at all, it’s probably because you’re looking for book tips. You probably don’t want to hear that all human endeavor is pointless.

Yes! This is a thought that plagues me, Mr. Hornby. At first it always seems such a good idea to plan a trip to Europe, and then I remember it’s a lot of money, and what will it really matter in the end? I’d rather have nice shoes than a bunch of pictures with which to bore everyone I know. Weeks in advance, planning an outing to a club, a party, an event of any kind seems like so much fun until the day comes and I am wracked with anxiety and would rather read a book and eat Chinese food with Scott. That’s probably just me, though — incurably boring, lazy, and anxious.

For this issue he read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (among other things), which I finished at three this morning, and called it brilliant. When I opened up WordPress this morning to write about it all I could think was, “Greatest narration in the history of the novel?” At this time, it stands as the only thing I can say about it. But it also might be my new favorite book, because 1) Spanglish, 2) Diaspora, and 3) THAT FUCKING PERFECT NARRATIVE VOICE. Loose, loose, loose and oh so tight. Lessons in Dominican history were also very much appreciated. Thank you, Mr. Diaz.

There’s also a great interview with Richard Price in this issue. He mentions Then We Came to the End, which I just read, and also Tree of Smoke, which I intend to read. With these great writers reading books I am also reading/have read, I feel like I’m doing something right, but also that such a thing is unavoidable and my feeling a connection to them because we’re reading the same books just makes me a simple-minded peasant. It’s like Andy Warhol wrote in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol about Coke:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.

Except that books don’t kill people.

Also in the Richard Price interview:

Believer: You mentioned that you don’t like writing.

RP: I find it incredibly anxiety-producing, and I get incredibly antsy. I get ADD, like, instantly

In working on the story I’ve been working on, because it’s the story I’ve been building my whole life, unbeknownst to me, has created horrible paranoia. I write by hand in my preparation phases, and then go to the computer, but preparation is probably just another way of saying “procrastination.” I will start out normally, outlining, and then it’s like some other part of my mind will start yelling to the conscious part through the pencil and paper, “ESTABLISH THE FUCKING CHARACTER!” and “THIS STORY NEEDS TO TAKE A STANCE ON FREE WILL IN ORDER TO EXIST.”

I’ve really gotten nowhere. I really need to get somewhere.

And that’s what’s with today, today.


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