Archive for the ‘Philosophy of the Pen’ Category

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”


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Grim Reaper Comes for DeadlinesI have a hard time reinforcing deadlines for myself, but when given them externally, I have great success.

It’s the difference between trying to gather the courage to hang yourself versus being put into a guillotine. The latter obviously has more immediate and drastic implications.

Of course, some people are very strong willed and self-disciplined. Self-proclaimed deadlines can mean just as much as a deadline given to oneself by work or class.

Yet, many others (myself included) have a hard time pulling in the reins on ourselves. I can be easily distracted or simply lethargic at times without a deadline. And so while I hate them, I also see them as great (and freaking scary) tools.

I am most productive, at least quantity wise, in a class setting primarily because of the deadlines imposed on the students. Having concrete consequences whips my ass into shape. The one downfall, of course, is the lack of time allotted to the pieces.

Many drafts are generated during the semester, but most (if not all) rarely get proper polish. Even now as I’m rushing to finish a final essay and put together two polished portfolios, I know the work is primarily in-progress and not reaching its potential.

What to do, then, if external deadlines are the ones that work the best and most frequently?

Make them. Tell friends, tell family, obnoxiously troll facebook pages, type in deadlines on a cell phone, lock technology away, and MAKE A DEADLINE. This is typically the method I use for NaNoWriMo. Sure, I have only really finished once, but I would get no where had I not created a deadline with real emotional and social consequences. With cyberspace, you can instantaneously receive support from others. Sometimes even negative reinforcement for when procrastination is at its worse.

Deadlines are, after all, a negative-positive thing. It can limit, but so too can it make many things possible. It may have the word ‘dead’ in it, but there isn’t anything to mourn over.

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EDIT 4/26: There have now been a few instances of readers having difficulty with the poll. I’m going to attempt to resolve the problem, but if it persists, just mention how you feel in the comments as some other kind readers have done! Thanks!

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I’ve been lacking motivation. It’s likely thousands others out there are, too.

When what goes on in the brain doesn’t translate to the page, frustration is born. I’ve been frustrated. There seems to be a barrier between my idea and my execution; the muse is only whispering while the inner editor is loud and clear.

It’s not just in writing — it’s been with life in general as well. I feel no consequences though logically I am aware of their existence. I feel as though I’m floating in a purgatory of nothingness, where everything is as insignificant as the lint in one’s pocket.

Of course, all these emotions and notions aren’t just spiraling from my lack of writerly motivation; I don’t have any qualms talking about the fact that I live with depression. It’s flared up recently, likely causing these oh-so-lovely chain of reactions.

What is it with artists and mental illness, might I add? Some of the best writers and musicians suffered from some mental illness or other, whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or the like. The correlation between creative genius and mental illness is uncanny, really. On the bright side, maybe this means I’m destined for greatness too since I have the mental illness variable down.

I hope to feel motivation and the world soon. I’ve got to get my ass to class, even if I don’t feel like it. I’ve got to write even when my fingers don’t feel like moving. If I force myself to move along, perhaps I can recapture that motivation again.

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The modern man or contemporary woman has the attention span equivalent of a goldfish suffering from dementia. This isn’t an evolution of nature, but an evolution of technology.

The creation and popularization of film makes people expect to be shown plots in a concise, powerful, and timely matter where the end resolves the conflict adequately. Writing rarely has room for the previous Thoreau interludes and tangents, or the literary tapestries of vivid description and imagery.

Readers don’t want “his eyes are azure skies that stretch elastically over the globe” — they want “his eyes are blue.” This is not to mean creativity and artistry has completely evaporated from the attention span frying pan. It simply means writers and poets today have perhaps a more difficult job than in previous years — to condense imagery and description into short, simple, but powerfully sensual phrases or sentences.

An excess of adjectives or adverbs isn’t a commodity anymore in the economy of the written word.

I learned this the hard way after years of writing flowery descriptions and cascading paragraphs of imagery. To this day, I still search for the right balance of pace, length, diction, and image. Every writer embarks on that search, and as far as I can tell, no writer reaches a definitive destination.

I’m no poet, though poetry does give me some good exercises in word economy. It is said that, ironically, all writers wish to be poets, but all poets dream of being writers. The two are close cousins which share secrets, but are always distinct individuals from one another (except, maybe, in the case of the epic poem or the lyric essay).

With cinema, photography, Internet, and radio (or podcasts) grabbing for the attention of would-be readers, writers need to get to the point and punch it — hard. Otherwise, perfectly wonderful stories and essays will elude the seizure-inducing speed of people’s wandering eyes.

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Enemy in question: Writer’s Block

Crimes: Halting the creativity and productivity of writers everywhere

Record: Has made thousands of writers its victim; been arrested and beaten thousands of other times

Recidivism Rate: 100%; constantly in and out of jail, without rehabilitation

    Writer’s block is commonly accepted, commonly lamented, and commonly a nuisance. From the published to the struggling, from the professional to the hobbyist, writer’s block is often acknowledged and hated with fascist passion. I would lie if I said it hasn’t affected me, or that I’ve ranted and angrily lolled about in a slump. I’m a fresh young thing, and even I have suffered and been victimized by writer’s block.

 What writer’s block is varies according to definition and experience. If one Googles it (as one does these days), several different definitions will pop up: “The inability to start writing for some period of time. It can take many forms: an inability to come up with any good ideas to start a story, an inability to start writing a new work, or extreme dissatisfaction with all efforts to write.” (–scribeni.com); “Writer’s Block is an album by Peter Bjorn and John” (–Wikipedia); “an inability to write; ‘he had writer’s block; the words wouldn’t come'” (–wordnetweb.princeton.edu).Writer's Block Gaaa

I think the most basic definition of writer’s block should be: “a total pain in the ass for anyone who wants to be creative.” 

Writers collectively make themselves out to be peculiar sufferers of this imagination-sucking disease. We almost relish in the attention it gives. Many a forum, book, and article are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of writer’s block. Really, though, it’s just our writers’ egos that do this. Any artistic endeavor has its own “block” of sorts — painters can paint nothing good, a baker makes only dry or bland desserts, or a musician creates lackluster chords. Writers aren’t any better or different. It’s simply that we’ve sort of embraced this writer’s block culture, making ourselves out to be the victims.

We have groups and support and books written on the phenomenon with such a passion that we have the organization and zeal of breast cancer support groups. And I firmly believe that, given a colored ribbon and some merch, we would start having walks and pep talks. Like the breast cancer culture, we seem to wade in the disease in question. We acknowledge it, and celebrate the survival and triumph of it. Neither of us like it — but once diagnosed, we network and fight until the disease is smacked into suFighting the Blockbmission.

The survival and triumph of writer’s block is dependent upon stubbornness, work, and hope. The stubbornness to resist the slump of dull, recycled words spewed from your pen or keyboard; work to keep going in spite of the grey and mushy prose; and hope that the beautiful horizon of inspiration, where your muse naps, will someday be reached. And in that blissful moment, your muse will awaken and smite the parasite of writer’s block that has grotesquely hitched itself to your temple.

There are many paths to the healing of writer’s block, and like any disease, the path you take is personal and may only work for you. Personally, I draw and listen to music. I’ll reread old favorite novels, or maybe try my hand at fanfiction. Recharging the batteries and resisting defeat are my two greatest weapons against writer’s block. Which means I’ll take a break from writing, and then write so much my fingers grow numb.

Writer’s block is too engrained in the culture of writers everywhere to go away. It’s the counterpart to inspiration and success, I guess. It’s just too bad that instead of glorifying this pest, we treat a lack of decent literary produce as simply a bad day or a small bump. We enlarge and appease this monstrous writer’s block, with its parasitic nature and Stalin-moustache. Though writer’s block will never be arrested and effectively locked away, we have our ways of amputating it from our creative brain. And as long as we have our ways, we’ll always have stories of triumph and golden prose.


–This post was inspired by a Writer’s Digest online article, found here. It offers ten exercises to try to beat up writer’s block and send it packing!

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Tools of the trade allow the tradesman (or woman) to do his (or her) work. His craft. His creationism.

Every life, career, hobby, or dabble has many tools of which are necessary to divine the end result. The artist has the brush or chisel; the businessman his Crackberry Blackberry; the Best Buy Geek Squad dude his epic custom-built computer that could easily hack the Pentagon is he so desired. The writer, too, has tools. Quintessentially, the writer just needs two: something to write with, and something to write on.

But as times develop more quickly and furiously as they never have before, we writers have choices. Instead of being slapped with parchment, quill, and ink, we get to go into the agonizing and exhilarating process of tool shopping. We get to customize and treasure our own unique tool set.Many Pens

The pen is mightier than the sword, wrote Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Since, I’ve heard that phrase so much its torn and frayed and yellowed in my head. The pen, indeed, is mighty. Documents and words written by human hands have been credited and thought to change the course of history. The Zimmerman letter? The Declaration of Independence? Harry Potter? All very history-altering texts. But now we can’t just be fickle about pens; we need to be decisive. Fine point or round tip? Ball point, with an ergonomic grip? How but ecologically conscious? Or maybe some quill tipped pens and ink for an authentic feel (and smell)? Pens may be mightier, but they now have just as many varieties as swords.

And a swordsman knows that the type of sword one uses makes all the difference. Claymore? Too heavy. Saber? Too wild. Rapier? Too thin. But a swordsman must try the swords and figure out which one works to his advantage — same with pens. I’ve had my fair share of pens from decorative-felt-covered-gift-box-pens to the less proper I-just-found-this-next-to-the-abandoned-boys’-bathroom pen. I prefer the ball point, fine pens, preferably with a silicone grip. Great for outlining and note taking… but then again, my drafting is usuKeyboardsally done by keyboard, not pen.

KEYBOARD! If the pen is mightier than the sword — if many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) — what then is the keyboard? Would it be mightier still? If a pen is mightier than a sword, is a keyboard like a gun? What about napalm?  There is something awe-inspiring about the keyboard and watching your words pop up almost instantaneously after you thought of them (if you type well, that is). First, they popped up as you hammered them onto paper on a typewriter. Then came the PC with the monitor and its instantaneous magicalness. It’s less concrete than the pen, but more immediate. And with the World Wide Web, your words can be instantly fed into the Internetz for readers around the globe.

The tool box of the writer is getting so big. Pens, many pens. I did forget pencils, mostly because I’m biased towards pens. Though medium 0.7mm mechanical graphite pencils pleasure my writing and doodling fancies so. Then of course quills and changeable quill tip pens. And then the keyboard with the laptop or PC or what have you. Even keyboards are various and distinct — ergonomic, or large letters. Some click audibly, others need barely a sigh to be pressed. It fascinates me how the tool set of writers, even of people in general, have changed enormously over the years.

 In any case, I don’t think the notebook or the pen will fade away in the wake of the keyboard and PC. After all, notebooks are permanent and tangible in a world where much of our words are actually just sorted algorithms of data and boring sequences of 00110010100111.

What about you, readers? Are you a paper and pen kinda gal (or guy), or are you a Macbook junkie sittin’ in a Starbucks? Perhaps you like the beauty of ink from a quill, or you like the safety of having an erasable pencil at your fingertips? What is your toolbox filled with?

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