Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

So Shakespeare said it best. Unfortunately, this blog post will most likely be my last, and while I’m truly uncertain of its future, I’m very pleased with my blog’s overall progress, and I sincerely hope to revisit it someday soon.

If I’m being honest with myself, my how-to advice on combating procrastination was just as much of a learning experience for me as it was (I hope) for you. Truly, I am beyond appreciative of the writing outlet this blog has provided, and with every piece of advice I conveyed to you, I learned infinitely more. It was a pleasure to write endlessly about my love of writing these past ten weeks, and I loved every minute of exploring and sharing this passion to others indefinitely.

Of course, I want to also say thank you to you, the reader, for keeping up with my blog since the very beginning. One of the greatest banes of any writer is feeling that one is writing into the void, and thus, your comments have always been especially wonderful and absolutely appreciated. If nothing else, I hope that you were able to connect with some sort of advice yourself and found the means to apply it to your own experiences, in both writing and life in general, and that I conveyed at least a small measure of the significance, value, and ingenuity of the written word these past ten weeks. And, of course, I hope, beyond anything else, that I accomplished this blog’s overall purpose: to encourage writers to write and, more importantly, to love it indefinitely. Truly, that has been my goal all along.

 As always, happy writing!

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A Summary Summarized

Yesterday, I posted a video that showcased the writing quotes of Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Flannery O’Connor, Anton Chekhov, and Maya Angelou, all notorious and accomplished writers of the past and present literary world. As previously stated, each quote represented a pertinent topic that I covered throughout my blog these past ten weeks. In case you were unable to see the video, here they are in print!

1. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

I believe my very first post regarded the triviality of inspiration in relation to writing. Indeed, many of us assume that first comes inspiration, and then, soon, our actual writing will follow close pursuit. However, most often the opposite is true. You cannot wait for inspiration to find you. Rather, you must seek out your own originality through writing exercises, prompts, or dream journaling, just to name a few of the many, many sources of innovation available at your disposal. As London argues, beat the muse to death. Write, write, and then write some more!

2. “Not writing is a good deal worse than writing.” – Flannery O’Connor

Similar to the previous advice, O’Connor’s words urge writers to simply start writing by any means necessary. Inspiration or no, writing anything and everything, works of genius or amateur dribble, will only improve your writing skill and creativity with every crumpled up draft in the trash bin. As I’ve stated time and time again in this blog, find any way possible to force yourself to write. The only harm a writer can do unto him or herself is to simply stop writing altogether.

3. “As a writer, you should not judge. You should understand.” – Ernest Hemingway

Whether you’re an essayist, a journalist, a fiction writer, or a poet, every writer’s purpose is to convey an understanding of significance. We are first passive observers of the world who then take our observations and make meaning of them through words. We ask children’s questions (particularly why?) and we strive to answer these for the purpose of creating an impact or, at least, making something known. Leave judgment out of your writing; fill that space instead with understanding and meaning.

4. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Never has advice sounded so poetic, and truly, that may be Chekhov’s entire point. As I’ve stated continuously throughout these past ten weeks, be creative! Be original! Be inventive! Utilize style and lyricism, and always, always treat every word of every sentence with absolute care, precision, and confidence. When your readers feel inclined to slow down their reading in order to absorb and carefully understand the meaning of each of your sentences, you have succeeded thoroughly in this regard.

5. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

A few posts ago, I attacked those who often argue that writing itself is not a profession or career that can possibly indicate success. However, as Angelou beautifully explains, success is not always based on monetary value. Writers are seemingly always blessed with the opportunity to practice their skill, improve their craft, and love every moment of it, and nothing can possibly trump that sort of personal success in life.

As I’ve repeated over and over throughout this blog, the words of published authors are truly important to our understanding of writing and literature. They provide personal, professional insight on both what it means to as well as how to become successful in one’s writing. Therefore, I have provided another link below regarding a wonderful article that provides and explains other memorable quotes from an entire array of authors, from Stephen King to Annie Dillard to Seth Godin. For the sake of increasing your writing and literary knowledge, I truly encourage you to give it a peek!

http://daringtolivefully.com/tips-for-writers-from-writers

Happy reading, and of course, happy writing!

A Summary in Five Quotes

From me to you: a video starring five of my favorite quotes regarding writing, all of which I truly believe encompass a significant piece of this blog’s content and purpose. Enjoy!

Background music can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZD66AVzQRY

Also, shout out to my director-for-a-sister for helping me create this video! It would not have looked half as artsy without her help. 

All in Experience

There’s something about writing that writers find tremendously powerful and practical. I’m often asked why (and how) I myself enjoy it, given its lack of favor among the general public, particularly with high school and college students. I prefer the solo written assignment over the group project. Give me a ten-page paper any day. Just, please, for the love of God, don’t make record a video presentation.

The truth of the matter is that my preference for writing is simply preference. Since I could first scrawl my (misspelled) name in illegible blue ink, I fell for the written word and simply kept pursuing it through novels and writing of my own. I loved its lyricism, its unique way of conveying meaning through representation, and perhaps most importantly, I loved the stories it could so wonderfully produce. As an introvert, writing allowed me to think indefinitely about my words before saying them. As a perfectionist, I could make sure these words were said exactly as I wanted them to be said (or, at least, close enough). Writing simply became the outlet of communication I found most powerful and practical in my life. The more I practiced writing, the richer and more potent it became in my life.

This sort of process reflects the concept of channel expansion theory. In short, my ability to communicate well via written word is a result of my overall experience with writing since childhood. After initially falling in love with the skill, I continued to increase my vocabulary and syntax by writing anything (and everything) I could on paper. While these short sketches were hardly the works of genius, they steadily improved as I continued to practice throughout the years. Soon, writing became second nature, a form of communication that almost supersedes my verbal communication, and it is undoubtedly my go-to preference for conveying any and all meaning.

Happy writing!

Press START for Stellar Story Writing

Given the primarily lesson-oriented nature of my blog, one that discusses English, literature, and all things writing in-depth, I feel that, naturally, I should assign some sort of homework to you, the reader. Well, my assignment for you is this:

Play video games!

No, really.

While seemingly endless hours of entertainment, video games are also a notorious medium for interactive, in-depth storytelling. Games such as Bioshock, Portal, The Walking Dead, and Mass Effect, among other prominent titles, all manage to engage their users in detailed storylines, profound character development, and often dark, provocative themes within their genres.

Consider Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, a game whose story can only be described as cinematic, and one you should seriously consider playing in the future.

The game takes place twenty years after the world has fallen to the Cordyceps virus, a disease that attacks and infects the brains of humans, transforming them into raging, murderous vessels through which the virus can spread.  Joel, a ruthless and morally ambiguous survivor, lives as a black market smuggler in one of the last remaining quarantine zones of this post-apocalyptic world when he receives a job to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl named Ellie to a separate quarantine zone protected by the Fireflies, a group of rebel soldiers at war with both the military as well as the countless infected. A story primarily of love and redemption, together the two must learn to trust each other in order to survive the dark realities of this new post-pandemic world.

I don’t believe I emphasize enough when I say that there were times when the game felt more like a movie than a Playstation exclusive, if this synopsis was any indication. Truly, not only does The Last of Us embody the very best of breathtaking graphics and stellar gameplay, it also shows the very best of in-depth story, plot, and dialogue, not just in video games but in all forms of media. Clearly, I could rave about this game for hours, but it’s not the singular, pinnacle game dedicated to superb storytelling and writing in its genre. As the year progress, more and more video games are becoming more involved in involving their users in their stories, combining the best of plot and graphics to create truly memorable works of art.

So, how does this relate to writing? Well, once again I’m going to invoke the repetitive, mind-numbing, golden rule of writers: the best way to improve your writing is, of course, to read.

Honestly, I feel that rule can be expanded to incorporate far more than just the written novel. Now, don’t misquote me. It would, of course, be absolutely blasphemous of me to undermine the traditional novel as those are still incredibly, irreplaceably valuable and important. However, I believe writers should also engage themselves in all sorts of story-telling media. Movies, comic books, graphic novels, TV shows and, yes, video games are all delving deeper into provocative themes and remarkable, thoughtful writing within their genres. Video games in particular are unique in their ability to absorb their users into their universes, to (literally) make their users feel as if they are truly living within the story of the game. While graphics and gameplay have much to do with this process, the creation of dynamic characters and stellar writing are just as, if not more, important to this equation of excellence. In The Last of Us, you fall in love with Ellie because of her character, her heart and, of course, her smart, uncensored vocabulary. You’re invested in the game itself not simply for its action oriented gameplay but also for of its dramatic and unnerving story, one you want to see through to the bitter, unsettling end.

Isn’t this every writer’s goal: to create a story so breathtaking and involved that the reader simply feels immersed within it? Truly, video games excel in this regard, and as reading novels improve one’s composition and writing, the experience of video games, among other forms of story-telling media, improve one’s creation of in-depth plot, character, and story.

And if nothing else, I just gave you an excuse to spend hours playing Xbox. Greatest homework assignment ever, no?

Happy gaming!

Mark Your Calendars

Bet you’re just sitting around right now wishing there was some sort of writing event or events for you to get involved, huh? Well, you’re in luck! Just for you, I have provided another short list of upcoming writing events, activities, and deadlines that will take place this very month! You’re welcome!

1. The North Central College Review, 30 N., Deadline for Submission

Submitting original work to literary magazines and journals is perhaps one of the greatest as well as easiest ways to increase your profile as a writer. After all, acceptance from a magazine grants you the official title of “published writer,” and who here doesn’t dream incessantly of that day? Submission is simple and, more importantly, harmless (to everything except your ego, perhaps). Acceptance is, of course, acceptance, but rejection, while possibly bursting your artistic bubble, allows a chance for you to revise and perfect your work for a later publication to consider. In other words, it’s a win-win situation.

Luckily for you, readers (whom I assume are all or primarily North Central students), North Central College offers its own literary magazine, 30 N., which I have mentioned, of course, in previous blog posts. The March 6th deadline for submission is fast-approaching; however, once again, I implore you to consider emailing a piece of your writing for evaluation. Photography submissions are also always viable!

2. The University of California, Riverside Undergraduate Art and Literary Journal, Mosaic, Deadline for Submission

Did I mention that you can submit your work to more than one publication, thus increasing your chances of acceptance? Like I said: win-win. Of course, bare in mind that a piece that has already been published in one literary journal cannot be published in another.

With that said, the University of California, Riverside also has an upcoming March 7th deadline for its literary magazine, Mosaic. Consider submitting a piece of your writing to this journal, as well. Also consider researching other literary magazines and journals as potential submission opportunities for the near future.

3. Veronica Roth Book Signing at Anderson’s Bookshop

As I have stated countless times before, the chance to meet a published author is an absolutely worthwhile opportunity. Well now, here’s your chance. According to the official website of Anderson’s Bookshop, Veronica Roth, author of the acclaimed Divergent series, will appear at their bookstore in Downers Grove on Saturday, March 14 at about 2:00 pm that evening. Tickets for $25, which can be found at any Anderson’s Bookshop location, include a pre-signed copy of Insurgent, a presentation by the author herself, a Q&A, and a showing of the film, Divergent. If that wasn’t enough, a drawing contest will choose 10 lucky fans to meet Veronica Roth backstage. Need I say more?

As always, happy writing!

The Magic of Storytelling

Stories, in every form, have remarkable ways of speaking to the world. They are timeless and intimate, transcending and heartfelt. To those who experience them, they provide connection, closure, and comfort. Each of us has a story that has touched him or her personally, the one from childhood or adolescence, which has remained permanently in one’s heart as a source of truth and understanding about this incredibly enigmatic world.

For me, that story is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

I had seen the Disney movie countless times throughout my childhood, but it wasn’t until the summer going into my freshman year of college that I actually, finally, thankfully read the book. It was perfect timing, to say the least. And though I was bathing-suit clad at the dining table of my family’s RV in the middle of a campground in Wisconsin, I never put the book down. Brimming with heroic sword fights, magic pixie dust, and innocent romance, the tale of the young English boy who never grew up captivated my imagination from the very first reading, and I connected with him and his story immediately. I began the book with questions and queries about myself and my life and the world, and through Barrie and his cast of delightfully wonderful characters, all of which continue to hold a significant place in my heart, I found answers.

At the core, I am a child. Slice away my outer adult appearance and inside you’ll find a girl still clutching to every inch of her childhood with white knuckles. At about age ten, during a time when everyone else was so looking forward to the freedom of adulthood, I firmly decided that growing up simply just wasn’t my thing. I liked my LEGO Star Wars videogames and Disney movies, my dinosaur figurines and Polly Pockets. I wasn’t a fool. I knew that growing up meant giving all that away. I wasn’t ready to trade wonder for reality, to exchange carelessness for responsibility. I’m still not. To me, adulthood was synonymous for anxiety. So, bearing that wonderful, immovable stubbornness of a determined child, I put my foot down on the matter and decided that I would simply defy expectations and be a kid for the rest of my life.

I never did accomplish my dream of living off pizza bagels and playing PS2 games for the remainder of my existence; however, that same kid-at-heart remained unyielding. Going into college, it kicked and screamed. Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond ecstatic to continue my education at the collegiate level; however, all I could think about that summer of 2013 was how I wouldn’t see my best friends of four years for four months , how I would be swimming in college-level papers and exams and presentations for twelve terms, how I would stress over getting a job or, more likely, not getting one at all. At eighteen years old, growing up was still terrifying, maybe even more so than ever.

Then I read Peter Pan, and I was stunned. For those who haven’t read it, the story of the boy who never grew up, rather than romanticizing the unalterable innocence and ignorance of an immortal child, warns deeply and wholeheartedly against it. No, you heard me right. While I love the Disney adaptation to death, Peter Pan’s sole message is not to “never grow up,” in the physical sense at least. Rather, it explains why it is critical that we must.

Without blatantly stating it, Peter Pan and its world of fantastic heroes managed to convey to me the true intent of growing up, to live a fulfilling life, to grow in relationships, to know intimacy, to gain understanding, to have purpose, none of which can be accomplished in the state of complete childlike ignorance. To gain experience, we must grow old, and while experience leads to loss of ignorance and innocence, we gain new gems in the process, such as love and knowledge and morality. However, the novel also explains, in its wonderful, wonderful way, that while we must inevitably grow up, we can retain our wondering, childlike perspective of the world forever, and thus, never grow up. All this I discovered and more through the whimsical tale of Never-Neverland and its fantastical, magical inhabitants.

The most beautiful aspect of stories, thus, whether written or oral or imaged, lies in their power to convey so much while telling so little. Though Barrie never specifically stated his meaning, I got it, through his characters, his world, his plot and, of course, his writing. In this way, stories have the power to convey timeless, universal meanings to those who experience them. And that is something truly magical.

Happy reading.