Tags: intrinsic motivation
As teenage writers, we have to deal with another obligation other writers don’t have to deal with as much: college. And our futures. How can one possibly find time to write when there are other issues like having a life, getting straight A’s, and completing activities that boost one’s impressiveness to admissions counselors?
Hey, don’t give up on writing just yet. The simple fact of it all is: colleges want to see your passion. If writing is your passion, stick with it! And besides, it can help your academic standing as well. I’ve listed some practical, real-life examples that could also further your acumen as a writer.
- Milk the CR/Writing portions of the SAT. These two sections were my biggest point-getters; math was my downfall. Still, you have that smug sense of superiority when you see the brainy math children struggle with the nuances of the English language. These reading and writing sections count for 2/3 of the test, after all!
- Self-study for the AP Lang/Lit tests. Your school doesn’t offer the class? Take matters into your own hands. Buy a few study guides, look them over during winter break, and talk to your counselor about ordering the tests in January, once you get back. The tests themselves are not hard if you’re naturally a good writer and voracious reader; AP English isn’t a class that needs to be taught as much as, say, AP Chemistry. It does cost money to take the test (some schools offer it for free—I know mine did), but getting a 5 and letting colleges see your intrinsic motivation is priceless.
- Become a leader and a writer. Does your school have a newspaper? A literary magazine? A yearbook? Get involved! If it’s too late in the year, ask about writing freelance. There’s always next year to apply for a staff position, and by then, the adviser will have built a good impression of you. You have a definite advantage over your peers when cranking it up for deadlines, soliciting businesses for ads (hey, you’ve been selling yourself in query letters, haven’t you?), and writing tight, informative articles. You’re already ahead of the learning curve, so it’s time to shine. Oh—and if your leadership helps your publication win competitions, all the more power to you.
- Look for writing-related internships or jobs. Some papers hire teens to do freelance reporting. Others print a mini-newspaper written by teens, for teens. A few even look for contributors to neighborhood-themed blogs. Thanks to the convenience of technology, you can often update a blog from the comfort of your own home. When you take the ten or fifteen hours a week that you once devoted to mindlessly scrolling on Facebook and put it towards something useful, you can see results that’ll help you get into college.
- Don’t give up! Colleges like to see you stick with a hobby—so even if agents didn’t like your first manuscript, don’t give up on writing entirely. Do what you can to build up your resume while staying involved, even if that means writing short stories or poems. Who knows? Winning a prestigious award would be a great way to demonstrate your skill. And if all else fails, self-publishing doesn’t hurt either; I know a girl who self-published a book and put that on her resume. Hey, though it might not count for anything in the literary world, it’s still something.
So my schedule this semester rocks. I’m taking two English classes – Myths of Britain and Intermediate Fiction I – an Arabic class that is turning out to be way cooler than I thought it was going to be, and my very last general curriculum requirements. It makes me ecstatic. Because after this semester (or so the hope goes) the only classes that I will be taking are classes that I want to take and am not required to take. I will be filling up my mind with all these lovely things that I want to fill my mind up with. Like I said – it makes me ecstatic.
But something about my creative writing class hasn’t been sitting well with me for the last couple of classes. I couldn’t figure it out, not for the life of me. My professor is pretty kick ass, my classmates are pretty amazing. There is nothing wrong with this class.
Except, you know, writers are snobs.
Now, before you all jump on me with all kinds of indignant shouts and protests, let me finish! Or correct myself. Writers have a reputation of being absolute snobs. When a person who is not a writer thinks of a writer, they imagine the starving artist, the person who has a superior insight into the human condition, the person who has been gifted by some divine light to put life on a page for all (or some) people to view with a renewed sense of being.
But I’m a writer, and I certainly am not any of those things. I have a talent (maybe) but I practice, a lot. I read, a lot. And I don’t think I have a superior insight into anything. I write what I know, what I feel and what I learn. I write what I imagine, what I fantasize and what I imagine other people fantasize. And I don’t like being put into a category that is elitist and snobby.
And that’s what bothers me most about this class. Because, accidentally (or purposely), the professor and my classmates have put themselves up on a pedestal. They have decreed (yes, it is a strong word) that they and their writing colleagues and better, in some form or another, than the common man. And that doesn’t sit well with me.
Do you guys ever feel that way? Am I weird to feel this way? Please – do tell!
Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)
Who is this lady that is not you? you all may ask. That is Monica Geller. And she has a message for all you college writers that are returning to school. She knows that you have your time cut out for you. You’re probably taking four (or five, if you’re really insane) classes. You might have a job that sucks ten hours out of your week. If you’re really cool, you probably have to go to the gym at least once a week. Then there’s friends (please, tell us who invented them?). And papers. And studying. And of course, your highest priority, the writing.
But how do you plan on balancing such a hectic lifestyle. How will you do all of that, sleep, eat and keep a tight grip (or loose, your choice, really) on your sanity.
Monica Geller is here to solve your problems with a simple suggestion. PLAN. Preferably with a color coded schedule that works in bathroom breaks, snack breaks and eating times (sleep is flexible). Because if you do not plan, at least a little, you will never have time to do anything of value or merit. Your life will be one huge mess after another and you will never get anywhere.
So Monica Geller implores you to plan. Schedule. Have a vague idea of what your day is going to be like. Or all is lost. Really.
Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)
Now, I know some of you have been looking forward to a review of We All Fall Down for this month’s book club post. Perhaps a Twifty will post one in the review section of this site soon. But for this post I thought we should instead take a moment to remember the author.
Robert Cormier, born in Leominster, Mass., once described himself as “a skinny kid living in a ghetto-type neighborhood wanting the world to know that I existed.” For writers like us, getting the world to know we exist is pretty darn important, but I don’t think anyone should take Cormier’s quote and think that is all writers desire. There is power in the story that is stuck in your head, stories like We All Fall Down, an edgy read that leaves nothing out in pursuit of telling the story Cormier imagined. Sometimes, there is nothing we can do but let that out on the page. And very few of us do it as well as Cormier.
As to why he tunneled this energy into young adult fiction? He wanted to show us the “strength of young adults—their resilience, their ability to absorb the blows teenage life delivers.”
Mr. Cormier died on November 2, 2000, but he’ll be forever remembered by young adult writers everywhere.
On the lighter side, some things you might not know:
He wrote a book called “I Am The Cheese” and thus wins Race’s award for most fantabulous book title.
The Chocolate War, one of his most beloved books, has a sequel, called Beyond the Chocolate War.
When you try to Google his name and first start to type “Ro…” Google Chrome immediately assumes you want to search for rotten tomatoes.
Now, this is a book club post and when you end your moment of silence for Robert Cormier take a look at this book down here. I know for a fact is it a popular read and I hope you all have fun with it. Look for the next book club post near the beginning of March!
The Book Thief.
Quotes and info taken from: site.
I usually don’t blog on Tuesdays aside from the teasers, but I’m not writing either, so I figure, why not, right? I’m sitting in my friend’s room, blasting music, and staring at a scene chart that was going so well until recently. I’ve been staring at this scene chart for the past two days. I’ve been trying to restart The Scion for the past two weeks. Up until a couple of minutes ago I had no idea what my deal was.
Then it hit me: I’ve been slumming in the ghetto of self doubt. -faints in shock-
I’m not one to doubt my writing abilities – and I don’t say that to sound braggish or pompous. But I’ve always firmly avoided self doubt because it’s crippling. It’s so crippling, in fact, that some writers become drug addicts and alcoholics to drown it out. So I block it out, and just write until I send my work to betas. Then they send me comments and I improve my work, because I know it’s in me to make the work better.
And while this isn’t the first time I’ve been hit with self doubt, it’s the first time its been so insidious. It took me two weeks to figure out that it was burrowing its way into my skull and blocking the Muse and the Voices. But now that I know? Now I can fight it, now I can do breathing exercises and now I can look into the mirror and do corny self confidence exercises. Because, self doubt is a writer’s worse enemy. Too many commas is fixable. Too many adverbs is fixable. Run on sentences are fixable. Not having faith and trust in your own ability to not only write well, but improve (always improve) is something that will stop you in your tracks. It makes a difficult occupation nearly unbearable.
So do what you have to. Listen to self esteem cassettes, sing your own praises, have lengthy conversations with yourself. But whatever you do – never, ever lose faith in your ability to write well and to improve what you may not have written so well!
contributed by sumayyah daud and cross posted to the raven desk
This weekend I attended DragonCon, a massive science fiction convention held annually in Atlanta, GA. While the intricate costumes and parody commercials on the DragonCon TV channel were highly entertaining, one of the most interesting aspects (at least for me) was the interplay between the authors, actors, and artists and their fans. In most of the writers’ panels I attended, the speakers would answer questions from a trained volunteer while audience members scribbled notes – it was rare for fans to ask questions, let alone engage the speakers in conversation. In many ways, these sessions mirrored the traditional writer-reader relationship: the author inscribes the words on the page, and the reader absorbs them and accepts them as “truth,” at least for fiction.
But the writer-reader relationship is changing. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and online forums have made writers far more accessible to their audience. And when readers “interact” with fictional characters online, they are no longer mere passive observers to an author’s creation. In the future this shifting dynamic will almost undoubtedly lead to more interactive events and panels, but what else will it change? Could the very act and final product of writing morph into something new and collaborative?
I wish I could give you a concrete example of what I mean, but I’m not sure one exists yet. The first possibility that springs to mind is a customizable novel, with content that would adjust – through electronic profiles or other means – to make the main character more like the reader. Another is an online blog or forum by a character with content that would change as a reader moves through a novel (monitored electronically through an e-reader or another device) and gives feedback to questions and comments made by the protagonist.
Would this variety of supersized “Create Your Own Adventure” novel make reading a more interesting or engaging experience? Or would it disrupt the coherence of and emersion in an author’s unique world, at least at first? Either way, there is little doubt that the line between reading and writing will become increasingly blurred as technology continues to advance.
Last week for me was just one of those weeks. You know the ones – where everything just seems to go wrong. And the biggest problem of last week? Writer’s Block. Yes, that’s write, I caught it – and downright miserable it (from now on known as WB) is too.
I sat. I stared at the screen. I wrote three lines, then deleted them again. This pattern continued for three nights, before I decided I might as well just give up and not write anything new until my muse decided to kindly grace me with its presence once more. So, I moved onto editing Family Portrait – only to find that everything I read I’d written sound like complete and utter rubbish. I forced myself not to delete the whole thing, and instead rang up a friend of mine who betas my work for me. “I can’t write,” I moaned. “I’m just going to give up now, it’s all a load of crap. Why did I start writing?” It took her a good fifteen minutes to persuade me not to delete the whole thing, and then I had to go round to hers to get some editing advice – because nothing was working.
So, the point of this post: how on earth do you cure WB, and its companion ‘why-did-I-think-I-could-write?’. Well, here is my advice, having managed to get over the dreaded WB two days ago (and yes, I then stayed up ridiculously late writing, because I’m not going to waste any writing time!). Firstly, save your current draft, and then save a copy. With the copy, do whatever you have to; delete the whole thing, rewrite huge chunks, kill off all your main characters. (Last week I actually wrote a scene that went something like “As she sat in the bay window, she heard a bang; as the boiler exploded, she hoped that someone would survive. And then she took her final breath. The End.” — I was really that annoyed with them all!) But whatever you do, DO NOT (I repeat, do not) make edits and changes to your current WIP, or any other works you have completed. You’ll regret them – when you’re in a mood like that, changing everything with no back ups is never a good idea.
Whilst I plan on following this advice next time round, it is not a way to cure WB – just a way to avoid destroying all your hard work when you have one of those moments, days, weeks. No, my advice on how to cure it is simple: read. Find a good book – a new one, one you read all the time, whatever – and just have an evening off writing. Reading is enough to inspire me again, to get me thinking in the right frame of mind; I hope it works for some other people too! Give it a go – it might be enough to cure that horrible feeling of not being able to write.