Thursday, October 22, 2009

I totally know my shit when I talk about writing, but off the page I'm a friggin' mess

I’m a bit surprised and incredibly flattered that I have so many readers in their 30s, 20s, and even younger. (Like you, Classic Rock Girl.) In real life, meaning outside the blogosphere, I also have a lot of young friends—some even younger than my son and daughter—and I can’t tell you how much I cherish their friendship. I know that many of them consider me a role model of sorts, which scares the crap out of me. For the love of God, kids, aim higher! (And I beg of you, learn from my mistakes.)

Anyway, earlier this week Mandy, of Mandy’s Life After 30, asked for my insight on some questions about writing and since a lot of blog readers are also writers, or have writing aspirations, I thought I’d answer sweet Mandy’s questions here in a post.

How do your ideas come and flow? Topics to write about just come to me; I observe things that happen around me and think, hey, that’s interesting. Observation is like a muscle to a writer; over time you develop the skill of observing to the point where it becomes a sort of sixth sense. And ideas can come at any time; that’s why I never, never go anywhere without a pen and something to scribble on if I have to. Don’t think, yeah, I’ll remember this the next time I sit down to write. Nope, it won’t happen. “The faintest ink is better than the sharpest memory.”

How do you write? The only time I write in longhand is when I’m capturing observations and elaborating on them as they’re happening. Otherwise, I compose at my laptop. I wrote most of Bastard Husband in coffee shops, just to get out of my apartment.

Do your characters come to you first, or your story? I write only nonfiction, so the they both happen together.

How do you stay focused on your writing? Do you set yourself time limits or set aside writing time each day? Many of my writer friends don’t have a day job, and I think this question is more for them. To those of us with one foot in the corporate world, I’d say we grab the time when we can—usually evenings and weekends—and because we have so little time to grab, it’s easy to stay focused. We know that if we succumb to distractions like television or the Internet, our writing simply won’t get done.

Did you recognize your peak writing times, if you have them? I write whenever I can, but I’m at peak when I’m most inspired. This is usually when I’ve observed something I think is really funny or something that could be helpful to a reader.

Do you ever worry if you’re writing a story similar to those you like to read and love? How do you keep your ideas fresh and original? Okay, this is a great question. Everything I write is in the first person--observations from my own perspective, which in theory, should be unique and original, right? I mean, they come from my head. By nature humor works because you’re making observations that your readers can identify with. However, with the Internet and so many media outlets, it’s very likely that someone else not only had that same observation, but has already gotten it out there in some form so the chances are greater than ever before that someone has already heard your “original” observation. I’ve written stand-up material that I’ve seen on the Internet because people have common observations. As a result, I think now that the style in which you write—your unique voice—becomes more important than ever. Same goes for stand-up; I think your delivery and your unique persona is what’s going to set you apart.

And for those of you who happen to have children, how the hell do you find time to write when you have a kid demanding your attention most of the time? Another good question. I knew I was a decent writer in my early 30s when I won first place in a writing contest in grad school for a creative piece I’d written about my grandmother in the hospice program. But I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my 40s, after my kids were grown and after (my second husband) BH and I got divorced. I finally had time to myself. There’s a reason why most of the people in my writing group are over 40 and more than half many are retired. Hats off to those of you trying to raise a family and get some writing done!

The beauty of writing is that unlike gymnastics, you’re not past peak at 16. No, you get better at it as you get older; your observation muscle gets stronger. Thoughts have been bubbling within for years, and finally the time is right to release them. One of the many benefits that come with age.

Jeez, I feel so smart and together when I talk about writing. So let’s talk about the condo… I haven’t heard whether they’ve accepted my offer, and thank you so much for all your comments and advice. I’m going to breathe a sigh of relief if they reject my offer, and even if they accept, I can’t say for sure I’m going to take it.

I shouldn’t be left to make decisions by myself.

Let’s talk about writing again.

13 comments:

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

This was so great! Thank you so much Linda for doing a whole post about this. I hope it will help other aspiring writers as well. You are an inspiration! And thanks for calling me sweet. Although that just proves you don't know me all that well, ;-)

The Peach Tart said...

This was a great post for writers and aspiring writers.

Julie said...

If you're having buyer's remorse already, then don't do it. There are a thousand condos in Vegas for sale, wait a couple of months and try again. Something is telling you not to do this, listen to that little voice!

classicrockforthesoul said...

YAY! I got a shout out :)
Haha thanks!

I've always been interested in writing, but after all those papers in high school I've kind of gotten over it.
Maybe in a couple years I'll fall back in love and do some creative writing.
I enjoyed reading what you had to say!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ Mandy: Sweet--OMG, you look like an Ivory Girl! You're adorable.

@ Peach Tart: Writing advice, I can give. Advice on relationships and daily living skills... not so much.

@ Julie: You know, my gut feeling is telling me I'm full of irrational fear. There's nothing wrong with the condo--it's really a very nice unit. But the COMMITMENT! Oy.

Suzyhayze said...

Linda! I love hearing you talk about writing. Next book? ON WRITING VEGAS STYLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

@ Classic Rock Girl: I hate to say it, but most high school English classes teach kids to hate to write. That's so sad, since writing can be positively joyful, if presented in the right way.

Same is probably true for other subjects, though I'd have a hard time wrapping my heard around the joy of trigonometry.

Josie said...

Hi Linda,

Just wanted to let you know that I'm loving the book. In an attempt to make it last, and make my commute enjoyable, I'm only reading while commuting. There are some gems in that book that make me smile and laugh (and look like a crazy lady) on public transportation in boston. :) I've promised myself that i'm going to finish it up this weekend. LOVED that you snuck out of a service while everyone's eyes were closed. LOL

Josie said...

Hi Linda,

Just wanted to let you know that I'm loving the book. In an attempt to make it last, and make my commute enjoyable, I'm only reading while commuting. There are some gems in that book that make me smile and laugh (and look like a crazy lady) on public transportation in boston. :) I've promised myself that i'm going to finish it up this weekend. LOVED that you snuck out of a service while everyone's eyes were closed. LOL

Danica said...

I wish I could write like you. ::SIGH:: I'm not that funny nor that whitty.

In high school my teachers always told me I needed to be a writer. My stories were elaborate, my thoughts well spoken...and now. I can't write for shit.

I can't wait to dive into the book. I'm waiting until this class is over so I can commit myself fully!! WOOT WOOT

dle1004 said...

I am envious of all you writers out there...keep writing... I am a reader and commenter...except sometimes my outside voice gets me in trouble :-)

Fragrant Liar said...

Always good to see what works for other writers.

Did you have trouble getting that center gadget up?

slacker-chick said...

I totally agree about writing down ideas as soon as you have them! I'd give examples of all the good ideas I've lost but I can't remember them.