I ran across this word reading a blog. I forget where. The dictionary defines ephemeral as something that lasts a very short time. It certainly applies to our lives. No one lives forever. Anything can happen at any given moment. We could die of a heart attack, get hit by a car, fall off a cliff, drown in a raging river. Sorry for being so morbid. The point is that we are not promised tomorrow or the next day, week, month, or year. Yet we make so many long-term plans. That’s not to say we shouldn’t plan for our future, but we need not to worry about what tomorrow will bring. We’ll only bring more stress upon ourselves. The future is not set in stone. The best thing we can do is live for today, let tomorrow worry about itself.
So, how does this apply to writing? As writers, we need to understand that our career is not guaranteed longevity. People assume that once we have a book published, we’ve made it. Sure, we may be lucky to have a book or two published. Some authors may enjoy the fruits of having one bestseller after another and may be able to live off the money from sales, like J. K. Rowling and Stephen King. But just because we have a book to two published doesn’t mean we have a full-fledged career. We rest on our laurels way too often. I know I’m guilty of this. I had a poem and short story published in a local college magazine. For a few years, I took pride in it, not realizing that there were still things I could improve upon.
I know this may sound obvious. Like our lives, our writing career is fleeting. But there is one thing that is eternal: the books we publish. There is a reason why books like Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and Romeo and Juliet are still read to this date. The themes are universal, the characters are memorable, and the stories somehow transcend time. We all want to craft stories that will still be remember long after we’re gone. But no one knows what the future will hold. If even J. K. Rowling and Veronica Roth will know whether their series of books will stand the test of time, what makes us think ours will, too? Just something to ponder.
Today’s subject is one I don’t like to discuss. Something I know I’m sorely lacking. Discipline. To be a writer, like anything worth pursuing, takes discipline and dedication to work toward your goals.
Yesterday, I made the notion that had I made more of an effort to write in high school, I think I would be more confident in my writing. I also noted that things like writing daily, having a schedule, and reading are essential in establishing good writing habits. I didn’t fully envelop into my routine while taking Creative Writing classes. I would write in journals when the assignment called for notebooks to be filled. Most of the time, I would make up things to fill up space, which was a disservice. One reason I “filled up space” was that I didn’t make the time to write. I wasn’t very observant of what was around me. I didn’t read when I wasn’t writing. All these things are important to the writing process. I admit I did not take things as seriously as I should have back then. I think that is why I drifted back and forth in pursuing writing full-time.
The good thing about discipline is that it’s not too late. A week ago, I participated in a Facebook chat about tips for developing good writing routine. We spoke about clearing clutter physically and mentally, creating “writing shifts”, setting time and word count goals. While these habits are good to establish, it takes discipline to push through when you don’t feel like writing. Discipline is the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career.
This past year, I made the decision to take this writing journey more seriously. Being disciplined is important. Otherwise, this will be nothing more than another sprint, then a period where I don’t write for a while, and then decide on writing again. It’s a vicious cycle that I want to break.
In my middle school English class, I remember writing stories following the adventures of Detective Falcon with his sidekick Rush, protecting the city of St. Canard from dastardly villains. (I watched a lot of Darkwing Duck in middle school and played Mega Man III on numerous occasions.) Everyone in my class loved my stories. So much so that someone crafted his own Detective Falcon story. (At the time, I felt less than flattered.) I didn’t write any more stories once I entered high school. It was a one-time thing; just something I did to garner the attention of my class. I didn’t take up writing again until I took some Creative Writing classes in college. From there, I learned some important writing habits like keeping journals, utilizing better observation skills, and practicing writing daily.
Though I appreciate the classes I took in college, I feel like I should have developed these habits at a younger age, when I was going into high school. There was no Creative Writing class in high school. The only plausible reason I can surmise is that for students, it was an easy “A,” a class where they can get away with the bare minimum, if that. That’s an injustice to the art.
When I first started college, I wanted to be a teacher. And when I took Creative Writing, I wanted to teach it at a high school level. I wanted to give students a chance to showcase their talents and show their love of the written word, something I regretted not following up. I hope, someday, that having Creative Writing courses will be taken seriously.
I’m into Day 2, and already I have a post that may seem out of left field. I guess I should have warned you about that. Some of the posts for the next several days may seem like they come from out of nowhere. But I think that is the beauty of this challenge. You never know what can come out of these blogs.
That being said, let me talk about buses. I find them fascinating because of what can come from them. Buses and the like have set schedules (most of the time), stops they have to make, and an end destination. They go back and forth, back to forth, never straying from the path. And you have passengers and operators that are oblivious to what’s around them. But a good writer looks beyond the mundane and finds jewels amidst the everyday.
I took transit when in college. And I was one of those people who couldn’t find the diamonds in the rough. I’m a little wiser and more observant. To me, what makes these bus rides so fascinating is the plethora of story ideas. While on the buses, stopping at the stations in between, there are people who you can use as archetypes for characters. For example, I met a homeless man who passed out flyers about the second coming of Jesus. Typical homeless behavior, yes, but I’m surprised he had the money to make flyers. I created a story around meeting him. I’ll share the story sometime. The scenery that passes by as you ride these buses and trains is interesting: the urban landscape, the green that gives pop to the gray, the view of the city skyline at sunset. When I took a bus from Atlanta to Baltimore, opportunities for stories flourished throughout.
If there is ever an opportunity to take the bus or any form of mass transit, I highly recommend you do. You never know where your next story idea lies.
Welcome, all, to my first attempt at the A to Z Blogging Challenge. This may be the most “challenging” endeavor I’ve ever taken so far in my writing career. As most of you know, bloggers all over the world create posts on a topic based on a letter of the alphabet. This is Day 1, so all topics start with the letter “A.” For my first post, I’m talking about advice that has been passed down to me. And while there are many tidbits, many of which I don’t remember, one profusely sticks out:
“Write what you know.”
Mark Twain’s quote is the go-to quote about what to write by writers and non-writers alike. Last week, The Write Practice and a Facebook group, 10-Minute Novelists, broke it down. They discussed why this advice is so quoted to writers and does it really hold any merit.
Personally, I hate when people use this quote to solicit advice. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, but it’s used too often. I think they’re under the assumption that writer’s block can easily be conquered. That’s not always the case. There is also the assumption that writing what you know makes for good reading material. That can be true, sometimes. Writing is about tapping into the creative side, using what you know to create stories readers will enjoy.
So, writing what you know isn’t bad advice, it’s not the best advice.
Since I missed the Theme Reveal last week, I feel compelled to share with my fellow bloggers and participants my theme, which I don’t have one. My theme is simply ramblings about who I am, who I want to become, what I’ve learned, and my progress in my works.
For some time, I debated whether or not I wanted to take on this challenge. I know there’s no guarantee that I will gain new followers, but I’m interested in seeing what others discuss on their blogs. And for those who already follow me, this will be an opportunity to learn more about me.
This definitely will be a learning experience. As I continue to write, I hope to learn more about the process and build the confidence to share more of my work.
Let the challenge commence!
By the way, if you look on the A to Z Blogging Challenge sign-up page, I’m number 1260.
You may be wondering why I am posting my month in review a little early (or not). Well, March was a slow month for me. I didn’t get a lot of writing done. I edited a story I forgot about. I don’t keep my notebooks around like I should. There was a time I “lost” my notebook at work. I thought it was thrown away, but it got moved to another room. A relief, but I made a vow that I wouldn’t leave my stuff lying around. I keep my stories close until I feel it’s time to release them into the wild. But, one never knows when an idea will pop up. A character sketch, a note, a paragraph, whatever. So, I am trying to break that habit and take my notebook with me. It’s important that I not leave it lying around for days at work. But I need to write whenever free time is available.
The second reason why March has been a slow month is because I am preparing for the A to Z Blogging Challenge starting in a couple of days. This is an exciting venture for me in a variety of ways. It will force me to write every day, of course. (Except on Sundays, but I’ll bring my notebooks to journal or compose short stories, thereby meeting the goal of writing every day.) Second, it will force me to keep deadlines, which will mean setting aside blocks of time to write, which for me, is early in the morning. So, I am preparing for that. I have to admit that this is the one part of the challenge I am not looking forward to.
This is a short post, I admit, but I still have a ways to go in preparing for the blogging challenge. I hope you readers will follow me on this journey. Wish me luck.