Friday, December 12, 2014

when you can't write

Ways to sharpen your writing when you can't write:

1. Study popular television shows and ask what makes them work well. Dissect the characters and dialogue.

2. Learn someone's life story. Watch their face when they are filled with hope. Observe the tone of their voice when you ask about their plans for the holidays.

3.  Plot during your commute. If you drive, contemplate ways to add more conflict in your work.

4. Listen to an audiobook.

5. Watch a Ted talk on a topic you know nothing about.

6. Soak in details about everything. Writers are observers. 

7. Take a break from anything creative.

8. Sleep.

9. Write a diary entry from each character's perspective.

10. Read Psychology Today and learn more about human nature. Read everything. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If I Knew Then

**This post is in addition to a series about what I would tell my younger self.**

1. After a certain point in life, friendships become more about effort than convenience. Put in the effort. You'll never regret it. 

2. Don't glorify stress or sleep deprivation or making it for hours without food. There is nothing commendable about not treating your body well. There is nothing powerful about being busy. Everyone is busy. Keep fruit in your purse and learn how to take power naps. Cry out of frustration or exhaustion or the intersection between the two, then get up, and move on. 

3.  Everything you want is on the other side of hard work.

4. Beware of trying to fix anyone's issues, whether it's through advice, love, or loyalty. People can only fix themselves and even then, it has to happen when they are ready.

5. Express appreciation to the ones who believed in you even when you struggled to believe in yourself.

6. Allow everything you're working on to take at least triple the amount of time you think it will.

7.  Anyone who tries to compete with you and/or copy you has far bigger issues than the fact that they are competing with you and copying you, especially if this continues years after you last had contact. Wish them the best and know that you will always hope for their contentment.

8. In your twenties, you'll start seeing your parents more as people. You'll appreciate their sacrifices on a new level and start relating to them in ways you didn't think were possible. 

9. Respect the periods of your life when you surrendered to apathy.

10. Play around with the "what ifs" in your mind. What if people posted statuses and tweets about when they failed or were confused or lost? What if we introduced our friends by their best qualities instead of their names? What if saying "I don't know" was acceptable? What if loneliness, the most common ailment you see in the hospital, could be addressed as a public health concern? What if prestige was correlated with fulfillment instead of job titles and salaries? 

11. As you get older, making new friends can feel akin to dating. You wait for the effortless connection and intellectual stimulation. You make plans, first in a group, and eventually alone. You see if everything is upheld. And then, you see that years have gone by, and you have someone you couldn't imagine being without. 

12. Keep finding ways to step out of your comfort zone. If you can't travel, read things outside your genre. Relish a new magazine or newspaper or novelist.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

couch and draft

1. The Times has a section on mental health called Couch!**

"For some people, the psychiatrist’s couch is a metal examining table." 
Anne Skomorowsky

2. There's also another section, Draft, where writers share their thoughts on the craft of writing. There are essays on not writing, how twisted thoughts create strong plot lines, the importance of being honest about hardships, and more. **

3. The health benefits of of journaling and an application that encourages it**

4. Another read about how writing about depression helps decrease the stigma of mental illness and provides solace to others.**

my best friends' weddings

There should be a word that describes the honor, nostalgia, and excitement that comes from watching your dearest friends start their new lives. They all had endearing back stories that were incorporated into their respective weekends: one had known her groom since high school, another was finally ending a long distance relationship, and another had that Corey and Topanga meant-to-be feel from the beginning. 

 I was a bridesmaid five times and sang, danced, and spoke at each wedding.  I'm so lucky to have been a part of these beautiful weekends.  Here are some things I learned:

-Have tissues, bobby pins, and the bride's lipstick ready in a tiny kit.
-If the professional photographer isn't available, get photos of the bride and each bridesmaid while she's waiting for the ceremony to start. There's a good chance there won't be time to do that later. 
-During that time, take a quick video of her and ask her how she's feeling. Send it to her a couple of weeks later as a surprise. 
-It helps to rehearse a speech with a timer to make sure it doesn't run over 5 minutes (studies have shown that any longer is when most audience members become bored).
-The week of the wedding is often the most stressful for the bride. Call her and ask if she wants any help or just needs to vent.
-Get as much sleep as possible before the weekend!
-If she's overwhelmed, be the person who makes her live in the moment. Rely on other bridesmaids or her family members for last minute logistical issues. 
-Have a couple of bridesmaids available to help the bride get un-ready after the ceremony. Everyone else will likely be eating or caught up with people and she'll need help getting out of her dress and unpinning her hair. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

on conflict

Although I hope to someday help people with their battles (internal, external, or both), I struggle with establishing conflict in my writing. I forget that at the core, it's about wanting something and the threat of that desire being taken away.

Over the past few years, I've learned that it's difficult to dislike someone once I understand his or her internal conflicts. Each person has a collection of struggles that may not always be visible.

 I've been reading about the nature of conflict, whether it's in regards to man vs. self or man vs. others, and found this insightful gem: 

"Don’t leave your hero alone very long. Have at least two characters on stage whenever possible and let the conflict spark between them. There can be conflict with nature and your hero can struggle against storm or flood, but use discretion. … You could write a gripping story about a struggle between a lone trapper and a huge, clever wolf. But the wolf is practically humanized in such a story and fills every role of villain. The wolf too wants something and does something about it. A storm doesn’t want anything and that’s why its conflict with man is generally unsatisfactory. It doesn’t produce the rivalry which is the basis of good conflict."

~Samuel Mines

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Amy Poehler love

Amy Poehler's book is just like her: hilarious, warm, and relateable. She has a way of  making you wish you could be her friend. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Good luck to everyone participating in NaNo! This post isn't writing related but deals with a topic artists are familiar with.

I've discussed loneliness here before (and its distinction from solitude----a necessary virtue for creation). Over the past couple of weeks, I've met people studying suicide prevention, depression, and human connection.  There's a lot of ongoing research about the paradox of social media: despite having more access to human lives, people report higher levels of loneliness, and social interaction has declined. Individuals who report feeling lonely have an increased risk of suicide, are more likely to experience poorer outcomes after surgery, and have a higher chance of passing away from medical conditions.  I wonder if it'll someday be appropriate to cite an emotional epidemic as a legitimate public health concern. 

This quote beautifully expresses the sentiment of loneliness: