Monday, February 28, 2011

There are no new stories

"There are no new stories. It all depends on how you handle them. In romances the characters are going to fall in love with each other; you know that when you see the syrupy cover. It's how they get there that's the fun."
Jude Deveraux

(This quote has some truth to it. Certain themes will always prevail and it's up to writers to sculpt them in innovative ways.)

For example, the New York Times review on "The Paris Wife", a novel from the perspective of Hemingway's wife, exhibited that women have been competing for men throughout time!

(Quite sad...)
"Pauline, who is as chic as Hadley is frumpy, makes herself an instant fixture in the Hemingway household. She wildly flatters Hemingway about his writing. She gives Hadley the alarming pet name “Dulla,” and then insists on becoming Hadley’s closest chum. She borrows Hadley’s slippers, merrily saying, “You won’t be able to pry them off me.” In a feat of world-class back stabbing she crusades secretly to become Hemingway’s next wife (the second of four) "

(If you are interested, here is an article about publishers looking beyond bookstores and another about why we enjoy writing about grief.)

Things I Learned About Story Telling the Hard Way (a.k.a. after an agent rejection, harsh critique, or hours of research):

1. Don't start a story with a character waking up from a dream or with a hang over

2. Try not to start queries with a question

3. Dialogue is there to move the plot forward...remove all those conversation starters and fillers

4. An unlikeable protagonist better have some redeeming qualities or an exciting enough life

5. Short story collections have a better chance if one of the stories has been published in a literary magazine or journal.

6. Be careful about listening to all of the suggestions from your critique partners. It's valuable to take some time to listen to your own voice as well!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

somedays.dreams.what ifs.

" Live life a little more on the edge, instead of chasing the next accomplishment and trying to please others."
-Emily Giffin

Today I got to thinking about plans and how unreliable they can be.

Are you doing what you thought you would be doing or did you allow life to take its twists and turns to get you where you are?

I always wanted to be a doctor and writer but my reasons for why I wanted to do these were different then from what they are now. There was a lot of healthy idealism thrown into the mix of the old version of that plan...idealism that I miss sometimes.

(But I can finally say that I am elated with how things turned out. Had I gone according to my old plan, I would have missed out on some incredible experiences.)

I always hear that the twenties are a time when people are disillusioned about their career
or maybe even dismayed about where they ended up vs. where they thought they would be.

Am I where I should be?

Is this best for who I am?

Will this be nourishing forever?

But I imagine that these types of questions never really leave us. Maybe they follow us into marriage, parenthood, career switches, even daily decisions.

And maybe that's a good--no, a great--thing.

Because these questions show us that we are never truly done, that the essence of life is searching for answers, in big and small ways.

"The Bhagavad Gita---that ancient Indian text---says it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly."

Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love

Friday, February 18, 2011

Celebrating the Small Stuff

The phrase "tortured artist" (unfortunately) stems from a lot of truth. Writers---and all types of artists---suffer higher than average rates of depression, suicide, and bipolar disorder.

I've been able to work with some wonderful artists struggling with these (our medical school is a partner with an artist help center) . Talking to these individuals has shed valuable light on the process and why dejection is so common.

It's understandable, isn't it? A line of work that is so solitary, paved with rejections, and often times, misunderstood by those who aren't in it is bound to bring a unique set of hardships.

That's why I think it's so important for this sense of community we've got here. Because those other writers are the only ones who truly get why that request for a partial or new story idea are so exciting.

There are so many times when I'll read a post by a fellow blogger and think, "ah ha. He/she gets it!"

So two nights ago, when I hit 67,000 words, you all were the ones I wanted to share it with.
When I substituted fruit for chocolate as my writing snack, I wanted to ask you if you'd ever tried the same!

(New go to writing snack...of course, nothing replaces chocolate.)

It's essential that we celebrate each others' milestones, large and small.

**Finding the beauty in each day makes life a string of miracles**

Tell me, what milestones have you made with your writing lately?

Have you expanded your reading genres? Thought of a new character? Drafted a query? Made notes in margins of your textbooks or napkins?
Taken an essential break from it all?


I wish I lived in the Victorian era...a time when quill pens, wonderful penmanship, attending whimsical balls, and elegant vocabulary were common place

the best advice resides in the most unexpected places, if we are open to it

I plan my someday wedding by going to other people's

Roaming the earth like a nomad, drifting from place to place like Jack in Titanic, doesn't seem like such a bad idea

I can't believe that friends who are just a little older, or even my own age, are already engaged!!

it's important to remember that each and every one of us is entitled to our free time

the things my mother pushed me to do in elementary school are the exact same ones I'm trying to get back in touch with

it's a bit depressing that Borders bookstores are closing in some locations

it's cathartic to give someone a firm and honest "no" instead of wavering in the "maybe" and "we'll see"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Long Distance

The end of an especially relaxing weekend can either be dreadful or relieving. Tonight falls on the depressing side since I had to leave Samir.....sigh to long distance relationships....they enable us to pack so much joy into such tiny amounts of time, but they also instill a painful I-don't-know-if-I-can-wait-until-I-see-you-next feeling.

(P.S. Shout out to anyone who is, or ever has been, in a long distance relationship!)

Picture Samir took at dinner....I decided to be a walking Valentine stereotype and wear red, haha.

Gluten free pizza...paired with an espresso martini

But then again, in a way, there is a charm to seeing the person you love only once in a while. It's as though you have the ability to bottle up and preserve an anxious that is similar to the novelty from beginning of relationships.

You never take your time together for granted.

Being with them turns into a special vacation, where you can treat yourself and each other.
And isn't there something wholesome and simply fun about saving your best outfits for those jam packed days?

Of course there are many downsides but in them, we have unearthed an abundance of gratitude.


About to give him a puppy face

For my dear friend....

...who is handling her break up with an inspiring strength:

Photo from: my last trip to NYC

Maybe it's okay to take each moment in isolation instead of as a culmination of the ones that led up to it.
Maybe we need to savor the "while we were happy"s and calm before the storms. Because even if the people in those moments leave our lives, the moments never really do.

They are revealed in our gestures, reactions. They are lodged in a space in our hearts where nothing else can ever belong. They chisel at our future; many times, to a pathological degree.

They remind us that no matter what happens, those moments will always be there. More than anything, they have shown that you are capable of experiencing and creating them.

So instead of becoming bitter, dear friend, or hostile, I admire you for acknowledging the gravity of those moments and allowing them to propel you forward.

And I'm excited that you're seizing this opportunity to travel without an aim, just to see where you end up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This Week I Learned...

Some Pearls of Knowledge From This Week:

1. Even if you love what you are doing, it's okay to hate it every now and then and wonder where it is all leading

2. A warm cup of Starbucks makes the evening a little better
(white chocolate mocha or chai tea latte, anyone?)

3. There is nothing comparable to an insightful conversation with a brazen, free spirited friend

4. It's okay to get depressed and negative and hopeless, whether it's regarding looks, career, friendships, relationships, etc. fact, climbing out of those emotions can sometimes teach us more about ourselves than steadfast contentment

5. Turning off technology a half hour before bed time does wonders for your peace of mind

6. People react to insecurity in various ways: some become shy, some hurtful; others, retract into their own shells

7. You know you're in love when just the thought of your long distance significant other eating a nice meal is enough to make your day

8. A fresh, sincere pair of eyes can do wonders when it comes to editing your work.

Kindles are wonderful but there is nothing like the weight of a new book in your hands

Most people in this world are kind. If they are not, we can usually find a lot of fear and hurt buried beneath their surfaces.

11. When someone leaves our lives and we miss them, it can be therapeutic to release our thoughts to them in a Word document. As time goes by, we can read those old words and witness our own evolutions. (Inspired by a convo with my strong girl, Gopika!)

12. Dating "the nice guy" provides every day proof that he does not finish last at all!

What have you learned this week?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Loving the Process

We can do many wrong things for the right reasons just as easily as we can do the right things for the wrong reasons.

I thought of this when some of us had a conversation about picking medicine as a career. There are many who choose it thinking that it will bring prestige and pride while others come to it after a process of elimination. Maybe all of those factors are sustainable for some people but.... I don't know. I worry that basing such a large choice off of those will only lead to dissatisfaction later down the line.

Same goes for writing novels and blogging. I can see how they seem fun and glamorous. Heck, I can even understand when some of my friends accuse me of not working while I am writing.

But when people do either (or both) of these for some type of external benefit, I think they are missing out on the true value. Awhile back, Laura had a wonderful quote about what it truly means to be a writer: going through this process, day in and day out, because the process itself provides the fulfillment. Not the compliments from outsiders. Not the goal of fame and publication.
But the deed and all of its hardships.

The thing is, loving the actual process of anything will make the low points worthwhile. Whether it's rejections, dead ends, doubt from self or others, each one can be overcome because it will not be the source of motivation.

For so long, I thought I had to explain this to people who asked me "what my writing will amount to." (There was a point in time where I was dejected at "not doing anything.")
Eventually, I thought I could, and should, make them understand that nothing else matters when I'm in front of the keyboard, that certain parts of me crawl out of their hiding places when I read a beautiful paragraph.

But you know what? It's not for everyone to understand. That's why there is an amazing blogging community of writers who already know. My time is better spent improving my craft and most all, relishing the process.

The thing is, people don't have to always get "it."

(That "it" can be a relationship, work of art, weekend plan...anything.)

(Also thought of this when one of my friends told me her family doesn't understand why she enjoys hiding in her room for hours to sew.)

All we can do is find solace in those who are in our boat and continue on our path, grateful to have found such an empowering sense of nourishment.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sending Some Brightness Your Way

I've been quite mean lately.... to myself.

I think it's wonderful to push yourself, stretch your limits. But there is a balance between expecting more from yourself and being content with how far you have come.

This thought didn't come to me suddenly. In fact, it took a collection of people---my boyfriend, classmate, and last night, my dean---to say the exact same words: "You beat yourself up a lot."

Of course they're right. There's this frightened girl residing in me and it's almost as though I keep validating her worst fears, insisting that she isn't enough.

What a bully I am!

This is how I have always been, to an extent. I place self worth on grades or relationships or hours spent studying or writing.
I think a lot of us place validation on the external and tangible, without realizing it.

I shouldn't have needed others to be a proverbial mirror but that's just the way it is sometimes, right? We can get so tangled up in our own actions---heck, in our own thoughts---that we miss patterns. Good patterns. Lethal patterns. And all of the ones in between.

I may not be able to see all these tendencies but I can bottle them up when others do. I can tighten the cap, tuck it into a safe place in my soul, and retrieve it when I am berating myself.

Last night, my dean asked, "Aren't we all just trying to make meaning out of everything?"

The question was so simple and liberating. But it struck the core of why we are all driven to do. Words give meaning. Art gives meaning. Conversations give meaning.

And if I'm blessed enough to derive this meaning from so many facets of life, then there is no need to keep pointing so much criticism inwards. Because I am receiving the worth of what is thrown my way.

So, here's to an apology to myself, a promise to cherish the meaning that weaves itself through each day, and a hope that you do the same :)