the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: inspiration

Ten things 20-something writers don’t get

by MDY

1. Everyone has a Most Productive Hour. This is the time during which your prose sings without effort. Taking advantage of this time-zone is not always easy. Mine, for example, is between 4 and 5-am.

2. Oxygen is “dangerous”. Some inventor personalities believe that reducing the flow of oxygen to the brain enhances the creative processes. I swim to come up with new ideas because it forces me to focus on my breathing, but do not condone asphyxiation for art’s sake.

3. Hotel pens are the best. It’s not like you can afford a stationery budget on your pay grade, anyway.

4. Conference pens are second best. They tend to splinter if you grip them too hard.

5. Long-form narrative. Is an attitude, not a word-count. Minimalism is all the rage with fiction these days, but you need a special calibre of persistence and perversion to write an epic.  Tolstoy, Homer, and the 12 Disciples didn’t tweet their way to fame.

6. You cannot beat Hemingway at his own game.

7. Bad dreams are healthy. They expunge the dark by-products of the imagination and sometimes inspire new threads of story.

8. Haikus do not count as part of your “creative portfolio”. See #5. Unless they’re calligraphed onto stone, or the side of a famous building.

9. Pulp fiction isn’t trash. I love the science fiction canon of the mid-20th century, and I respect Paullina Simons for making me want to slap Alexander out of his self-sacrifical hubris. Did you know that Arthur C. Clarke’s name encircles the entire planet? A lot of people diss J.K. Rowling for ripping off Tolkien, Lewis, et al, but the same people chortle at what Tom Stearns said about poetic larceny. Read a lot, and get good.

10. You’re nothing special, and yet you are. Everything you write takes you a little closer to your own voice. Your only competition should be your last work. Write not for fame and glory, but because you must and can.



Writing from experience

by MDY

They say write what you know. When I first started with short stories, I used to structure them around swathes of luxurious dialogue in which my characters would ponder the quandaries of war, God, and double dates. These weren’t very good, because I didn’t actually know how to talk a lot. So I moved on to writing stories where the characters wouldn’t speak at all, and those were better. Then I began writing in the first person because I do a lot of thinking, but without any increase in dialogue because I still don’t like talking. The only person I feel truly comfortable talking to is myself. Blogs are surprisingly well-suited for interior monologue.

They say write what you don’t know. When I was in high school, all my protagonists were intellectual-leaning teenage boys who were sweet on unattainably beautiful women and would often partake in swathes of luxurious dialogue about war, God, and double dates. But that was boring, so I moved on to cybernetic assassins, telepathic trees, and little girls who wanted to be chefs. For a long time all my protagonists were male, until I realised my understanding of men was about as poor as that of (invariably unattainably beautiful) women. So I started writing about animals. Sometimes knowing is half the battle, but it may not be the winning side.

I say write what you want to know. My illustrator wants to know more about learning to teach, and teaching to learn. One of my friends writes about God, and fashion, because she wants to understand both better (though her allegiances, like mine, fall squarely on one side). I write about writing. Words are thoughts, made close-to-real. They give us something to hold onto, and something to build from. You don’t have to know what you write, but it helps knowing what you’re writing for.

The Importance of Mentors

by MDY

Writing well didn’t come naturally to me. Any writer who tells you that it did – they’re lying. Writing needs other people, otherwise it’s just scribbles on a flat surface. So do writers.

My first mentors were my parents. They, for whom a simple missive would take hours to pen, wanted better for me. Every night when I was little, my mother would read to me while I lay in bed, filling my young and pliant skull with tales of heroes, monsters, and delicious irony. Whenever I wanted to go to the library – at least once a week, often more – they would bring me there and wait while I took my pick from the shelves: an alternate universe here, the end of the world there, and so on. I won a story-writing competition when I was 10 and my mother drove me to the winners’ workshop, waited hours for me to finish, and had her car rear-ended in the parking-lot while she did so. My parents gave all they could for a rather modest goal: that I grow up with the confidence in writing which they didn’t have. They taught me to love words.

I was lucky enough to have not one, but two esteemed authors who took me under their wings. The first was a prize-winning academic and writer of short stories, but he seemed much happier looking after the school library than attending awards ceremonies. When I wrote pieces – turgid short stories, pretentious poems, a heaving melodrama of a novel – he would always have time to read them and tell me what he thought. Even now when I proof my own work, I hear his voice commingled with my own. That sounds good. I like the metaphor, but does it fit? You’ve let it run on a bit, but trimming it here might get you started.

The second was a novelist and tyrant of the literati, whose criticism I came to fear. I would offer up manuscripts and he would snort them back at me weeks later, pockmarked with red ink and sarcasm. He was the destroyer of worlds, and to approach him was to face death by annotation. But he did so to make us stronger, and while many came away bitter and broken I vowed to keep on building. Together, both these men turned my desire to write into an ability, a weapon which I could wield with total and utter confidence. They taught me to command words.

My words serve many purposes, but I write them all with one person in mind. I don’t believe in inspiration, but I believe in support, and this friend never fails to remind me that she will always be my reader – even if nobody else will. She quotes to me the turns of phrase which affect her most; my rhyming couplets amuse her to no end. I think of her when I write because it’s a lot easier to write for one person than it is for a thousand, especially when that one person believes unswervingly in your ability. You can love words with your entire being, but they won’t love you back. She taught me that writing needs other people.

Writing well didn’t come naturally to me, but that’s okay. Good mentors teach you not only that everything you write matters, but that you do too.