Tag Archives: Hemingway

#MondayBlogs: My Writer’s Story: Different to the One I Imagined

9 Nov

Intro:

While many claim there is one publishing formula, there are hundreds, and the more writers you meet, the more variations of publishing journeys you hear. I find them fascinating, and I’m always eager to hear another’s story. Today’s writer is sharing his. Welcome author Shane Joseph.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

My Writer’s Story: Different to the One I Imagined by Shane Joseph

Our times are generating many more writers than demand can bear. This is due to better education, improved health, technology, inflated egos in an age of “me first,” and due to our eternal quest for immortality. The ambition to be a writer usually begins in our formative years and is inspired by our favourite writers. As a teenager, I was greatly influenced by Greene, Steinbeck and Hemingway; I dreamt of sending manuscripts out into the world where they would become best-sellers and make me a reclusive millionaire. I would hide out in some remote island and submit more manuscripts and continue to dazzle the world with my brilliance until I was invited to a cold capital in Europe to accept the Nobel Prize. And I would refuse that honour, making me an enigmatic figure like Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Pasternak or J.D. Salinger. It was nice to dream!

The reality, even back then, was different. I had chosen to gloss over the private demons my literary heroes had to overcome in order to achieve their fame: dual lives, alcoholism, drug addiction, persecution, shell-shock (called PTSD today), hypertension, depression, divorce, estrangement, chronic pain, and suicide staring out of the barrel of a gun. Not forgetting the early struggles with rejection and penury that they each triumphed over. These trials gave impetus to their work and are mentioned only in discreet biographies, not on the glossy covers of their books.

My writer’s story turned out differently to my idealized dream. For instance, I didn’t imagine that after hacking away at this craft in my early twenties in a developing country where English was a second language, and after having a handful of stories published, I would pack up my authorly tools and try something easier to earn a living – Greene, Steinbeck et al, be damned! I never realized that the “other living,” at a corporate job, would come so easily, and earn such a handsome income, that I wouldn’t bother with the writing game again for another twenty years. I didn’t realize that it would be the curse of “guilt” that would bring me back to reopen the dusty toolbox and start to catch up to where the literary world had evolved in the intervening years.

Once “Take Two” started however, the stories and novels came easily, and are likely to continue into the future, health permitting. It was like a dam had burst and all that had been stored for years came gushing out. But the publishing landscape had changed, drastically. Prizes sold books now. And the prize money was cornered among the “1% of the 1%” in the literary hierarchy. There was no middle class in publishing anymore – there was a huge gulf between the self-published and the best-seller, and the only way to bridge the two was with a stroke of luck.

But with every closing door there were others opening. There were now many ways in which to be published, I discovered, thanks to evolving technology that had finally demolished the dominant publishing model of eons, which was: publish a large quantity of paper books on ancient printing presses until unit costs become affordable, ship them across the land in trucks into stores that couldn’t keep track of them, receive most of them back after awhile to be shredded, then start the cycle again, and hope like hell that governments or private donors supported this inefficiency in the interest of promoting the arts. That was the model in which my heroes had thrived, and now it was dying, supplanted by DIY publishing, POD, electronic media, subscriptions services, free story sites, social media, and blogs like the one you are reading. And my heroes were dead too.

Shane Joseph

Shane Joseph

I enthusiastically tried all the models available, traditional and new, and discovered that they all had their pros and cons, but as their readerships’ were distinct, this lack of homogeneity helped plaster me all over the map, assuaging my guilt for having neglected “the gift.” There was also no way I could hide out in a remote island, I realized; I had to be front and centre in the global public domain (a.k.a. the Internet, which also never existed during the time of my literary heroes) selling my wares like a shoe salesman. I even started a publishing house, using the new technology, and have helped bring other writers into print, ones who may have been sitting for years in the slush piles of the Big Five (or is it Four, now – hard to keep track!). The joy of bringing others’ work into the world, to watch them stand on the podium reading from their debut novel at their book’s launch gives me immense satisfaction. I was doing my bit to restore the middle class in publishing. And I finally faced the darker side: the rejection, the shrunken revenue streams, the even further shrunken attention spans, and the need for that other source of income to fuel this one. None of this had been part of my teenage dream.

And so I have accepted that my writer’s story is different from the one I had visualized in my youth. Creative visualizers, take note: it doesn’t always turn out the way you paint it in your mind. But it can be a damned sight more interesting and surprising. Why go on a trip where every stopover is carefully laid out, predictable and boring? Where would the thrill of the unexpected lie? Isn’t that what we try to create in our work – the unexpected?

So Dear Reader, what was your writer’s dream, and how did it pan out?

Bio:

(Shane Joseph is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories, and was the winner of the best fantasy novel award at the Canadian Christian Writing Awards in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. His latest novel, In the Shadow of the Conquistador, will be released in November 2015. For details visit www.shanejoseph.com

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in December, but before then, I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Being (Good) Enough

2 Mar

Intro:

Another Monday brings another fantastic (and relatable) guest blogger who covers a topic revolving around reading and writing. Today’s heartfelt message is brought to you by Sandra Nyamu, blogger from Death On The Road. I think every writer has felt like they weren’t “good enough” to be published, and every writer has to find a way to overcome that feeling. Today, we are overcoming it together – thanks to Sandra Nyamu.

Being (Good) Enough

I am a senior in university. Last year, taking a required human sexuality course, my professor had us keep a journal about our thoughts and things, to be turned in at the end of the semester. The usual sorts of things; sexual anxieties, thoughts about genitalia, gay porn and clitoral structure. At least, that was what mine was about. Handing it in at the end of the semester, the professor told me that she loved my journal and thought I wrote well. So well in fact that in her estimation, I could do it for real. Become a writer, the published kind.

Kind words. She was telling me this and I was feeling, proud, flattered and a little overwhelmed, but mostly like there was a furnace in my stomach and that I was going to throw up. Becoming a writer, for me has always been that fantasy that I harbored dearly and practiced quietly. I roll quietly, but I roll hard. There is a very misplaced romance about the writer. Typewriters and steaming cups of tea, you know what I’m talking about. Frustration, tears and half-filled notebooks feels more accurate. Maybe it’s because of my upbringing that flattery evokes shame, but feeling like I was going to throw up, I understood why I was so anxious.

Faces- AbandonedI didn’t think I was good enough.

She believed I was good. To some degree, hell I believe I am good but then that elusive ENOUGH.

It’s never enough. You can be abundantly capable and talented but when you start thinking about being ‘something’ enough, you start to compare your ability. Can you create a story so compelling that it births a rabid and faithful following, sure but not like J.K Rowling did. Can you make casual yet tasteful oral sex jokes, yeah but not like Chinua Achebe did. Can you construct a complex metaphor hidden in a sob story about a weepy rich dude, yeah but not like Scott Fitzgerald did.

That fucking enough. It means nothing but is so charged with all the skill you think you don’t have that you believe it. ‘Not good’ as an assertion, that makes sense. That you can work with.  ‘Not enough’; that is a solid statement as well. When you invite ‘enough’ to the party, suddenly you introduce lack. Every lack you probably don’t have but then again, maybe do have, just not in the measure that you are convinced that you do. Lack of good words to use. Lack of smartness to show off. Lack of, here’s that other bad word, talent.

Enough comes alive and it becomes the thing that convinces you every last sentence was crap, that you are no Hemingway, you are no Ms. Bronte (any of them) and giving up would be the best course of action. When it has convinced you that you can’t write for shit, it moves on to other more enjoyable thing to devalue, yourself.

It happens in one fluid motion because writing is sort of intimate. Your words come from places that probably are only ever seen through those very words. If your writing isn’t good enough then you the writer are fucking awful. What was that thing that Gandhi said about self-doubt? No, he didn’t say anything about self-doubt. But if he did, he would probably say that doubting yourself is like sawing the arm off that you are using to write. Or maybe something less dramatic and more profound.

Deciding that there is an enough to live up to, to be up to, to write up to is exactly the way that recycle bins get filled, the way that half-filled notebooks become discarded, and great ideas atrophy unexpressed in fantastic brains. Maybe I am the type of person who could become published one day. Because I am good. I am enough. Writing is so subjective and intimate that there is never a good enough. There just is.

Bio: Sandra goes to school a lot and tries to have good ideas in her free time. Overwhelmingly average but aggressively earnest. When not reading or watching the Food Network, she tweets at Sandra Nyamu (@sandwichnyamu) | Twitter and blogs at Death On The Road.

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

19 Jan

Intro:

Today’s guest post on #MondayBlogs is brought to you by author, Jeffrey Allen Mays. I had the honor of getting to know him after AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. signed his debut novel, The Former Hero, and I encourage everyone to check out his website as well! After all, this energizing post was originally shared on there, and his insightful encouragement revolves around a topic all authors shudder at – writer’s block. Hopefully, after this post, writer’s block will become a thing of the past.

Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Goodreads recently asked me to write a response to this question: How do you deal with Writer’s Block? Here’s what I said.WritersBlock21

We need to ask, What is ‘writer’s block?’ And we should be clear, it is not a clinical condition the way it sounds.

Swimmer’s Ear. Tennis Elbow. Tourette Syndrome. Erectile Dysfunction. Writer’s Block.

So-called ‘Writer’s Block’ is a state of mind in which a writer’s brain is not being particularly imaginative. For mere mortals, I think it is fairly common. Quotes you see on Facebook (at least, I have seen) to the effect that for ‘real’ writers there’s no such thing  as Writer’s Block are certainly annoying, but more to the point, they are just an expression of arrogance coming from one who apparently has a lot of natural activity in the creative part of the brain. Good for them. But even Hemingway lost it toward the end of this career after having the ability to write great stuff seemingly effortlessly, and then wax philosophic about it.

So I say, let’s take Writer’s Block down a few notches. Don’t resort to pharmaceuticals, and don’t define yourself by it.

When I can’t seem to get the motor running, I use a combination of going somewhere outside of the house, reading literature that I find the most brilliant and stimulating, and then, and this is the main thing, I muscle my way through (I did this yesterday). I sit in front of the blank page/screen for a long time doing nothing but thinking. Then usually after 2 or 3 hours (interrupted by coffee refills, ordering lunch, checking email, going to the bathroom etc.) I give up and just write something stupid:

“Dave was walking down the sidewalk.”

And from there I ask myself, What did Dave see? What interesting thing happened to Dave? And then I come up with, “Dave found something meaningful on the sidewalk” or “Dave had just emerged from donating blood, so he was woozy” or “Dave saw a homeless man lying still and feared that he might be dead…” And away I go.

No joke, it took me 3+ hours to get started because it’s been three weeks since I fed the monkey. I struggled with rereading everything I’d already written (it was a short story), but I knew that would take 20 minutes, and I would feel the need to start editing.

But I couldn’t think of something new and interesting to happen to my character. So I started with something stupid.

This may just be my new Writer’s Mantra. Start with something stupid.

Afterward, you can delete the stupid stuff. No one has to see it. The trick is letting yourself write something stupid. That may be the hardest part of all. Good luck!

candh.noodle.incident

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