The Writing Life

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Vissi
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello writer/readers and reader/writers,

I'd like to mention an amazing resource for anyone interested in the writing life,the PEN Center online.

Also on the site is a truly magnificent collection of writings on faith and reason, PEN World Voices 2006.

Dixie


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We walk through ourselves,meeting robbers,ghosts,giants, old men,young men,wives,widows,brothers-in-love.But always meeting ourselves. J. Joyce

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Vissi on 2006-06-27 22:20 ]</font>
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Unlike many other human traits such as humor, art, dancing or music the survival value of language is obvious — it helps us communicate our thoughts and intentions. But the question of how such an extraordinary ability might have actually evolved has puzzled biologists, psychologists and philosophers at least since the time of Charles Darwin.

Mirror Neurons by V.S. Ramachandran
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Post by K_•da » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Vissi
I have tried expressing myself through drawing and painting for years, but have always been caught up in pleasing others with representational art. For the last several years, I have been trying to write, and have practised several techniques to facilitate the process. Journaling, "morning pages", proprioceptive writing, etc., but have run out of excuses for not writing. I recently turned to photography and have even thought about becoming a photo-journalist, but it is imperative that I write about my journey and I can put it off no longer. Any thoughts about getting started and staying on track would be greatly appreciated.
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Käda, I'm honored to be asked to participate in a writing discussion. We are fortunate here to be in the company of many accomplished and successful authors and perhaps they will join the discussion to offer their advice. I am happy to lend my thoughts, pass along the suggestions I've been given, or what has worked for me through experience. Most of what I can offer are the mechanics of the process which may or may not suit you. Please feel free to take up only the suggestions that strike a chord for you; I can offer nothing that is authoritative because self-expression manufactures its own forms and there are as many approaches to writing as there are writers.

It sounds as if you've tried a number of methods to free your ability to express the story that is seeking to be told. If you feel you must write this story, you already have inspiration. It seems to me any technique is sound for beginning a work or for warm-up exercises to start the creative flow so long as the method used induces one to write regularly. If these methods haven't worked for you, perhaps you might consider developing a framework and a strategy for approaching the work first. However, there is something to be said for too much structure and planning. I think finding a balance is very important as well as maintaining flexibility and allowing the writing, as in unfolds, to suggest a form.

If you are comfortable answering questions about the work and your process, I could offer suggestions that might be of more use. Who will read the work you create? Is the work intended solely for your eyes, do you intend to share it with friends and family, or would you ultimately like to publish the work for a general audience? What length do you envision for the work? Is this to be a journal, a book, an article, or some other form? Are you telling the story as a non-fiction account, a fictionalized treatment of actual events and people, a complete fiction based on imagination (I'm not sure any fiction is wholly fictional, but that's just my take), or do you envision something that mixes more than one approach? For example, an autobiography I worked on as a creative and research assistant interspersed myths with the personal narrative. Each chapter began with a myth or legend that set the tone for the experiences the author related.

As I've shared elsewhere here, one of my writing teachers often says the only difference between people who've always wanted to write and writers is the writing. He is a believer in writing daily whether or not one produces anything usable from day to day. For many years, he wrote each evening between the hours of 7:00pm and 9:00pm at his dining room table, using a fountain pen and paper (and produced a number of critically acclaimed novels). He informed friends, family, and students that he would be unavailable during those hours for conversations, phone calls, visits, or correspondence except in the case of dire emergencies. He also made a rule for himself that no matter how many household chores or other responsibilities cried out to be accomplished, he would sit for two hours and do nothing but write even if all he produced was a single sentence.

It's my experience that if one sets a time and place for writing and asks others to respect this, a subtle but sure transformation takes place within that tends to short circuit a great deal of critical, inner dialogue. When writing has risen to the importance of deserving a commitment from the writer (as well as others), the writer tends to accord the work importance. Knowing one can do nothing except write during the time allotted produces surprising results.

Though writing is first and foremost a means of personal, creative expression it is also communication and nearly everyone who writes hopes to have his or her work read by others. In the beginning, there is a great temptation to show one's work to someone in order to gauge the writing's effectiveness, receive praise or compliments, or generally escape the solitary confinement of the blank page. Especially at the start of a writing project, I think there is a real danger in sharing the work too soon, before the writer can hit his or her stride or develop the story's unique vocabulary of voice, language, and metaphor. New work is fragile and I think deserves the most tender scrutiny until it, and the writer, are strong and fully formed enough to declare with certainty when any opinion given is relevant or misses the mark completely.

Thank you for asking me to enter this conversation, Käda! Discussing writing with others is a true joy for me. I hope I can be of some assistance. If not, perhaps our fellow readers and writers will join in and offer their experiences and suggestions that may prove more useful to your needs.

Dixie
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Post by K_•da » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Vissi, Thank you for responding with such enthusiasm. I am immediately encouraged by your thoughts and suggestions. For many years, I've been painting, off and on, and when my uncle, an accomplished artist, would ask me if I was painting everyday, I would have an excuse for not being able to. Even now, I try to do all the chores and work around the house before trying to write, and of course, nothing gets written. I'm obviously prioritizing my writing to the bottom and then off the list. My very supportive wife will exhort me to write first and do the chores later, but I will insist that I won't be able to relax if the grass goes uncut.
I started going to a therapist a year and a half ago so that I could process all that I was learning about my family through genealogical research. It has been an extremely interesting and extraordinary experience. I have arrived at the point where I must write. Your suggestion regarding framework and structure resonates with me because my thoughts are all over the place.
I would want it to be read by a general audience, in book form, and I vacillate between an autobiographical approach and a fictionalized treatment based on actual events and people. While I perhaps naturally question if anyone would be interested in my story, my therapist assures me that many men would relate and identify with what I'm experiencing and learning.
I have to say I've already made progress because before reading your post, I was thinking about going out to cut the lawn.

Tom
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Post by K_•da » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This morning. as I discussed with my wife my plans for my day off, she pointed out to me that the message I'm sending out to the universe is that my writing does not come first, and that it is not as important as stacking wood or cleaning the garage. She is absolutely right. So I am going to concentrate this morning on what I am going to write, and how I am going to write it.
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Käda, Everyone,

Kåda wrote:
This morning. as I discussed with my wife my plans for my day off, she pointed out to me that the message I'm sending out to the universe is that my writing does not come first, and that it is not as important as stacking wood or cleaning the garage.
It seems you are harder to convince than the universe! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif"> One of the things you might consider is that writing is as much work as the chores you consider so important.

If your dream is to write a commercially published non-fiction book or novel, you will likely be required to complete the entire manuscript before an agent or publisher will agree to review the work. There are exceptions of course but most unpublished, first time authors with no track record will need to prove themselves in advance by completeing the manuscript.

With your research completed and an idea of what the story will be, it sounds as if you're ready to make decisions about where the story will begin and end. You might consider outlining the entire book. Outlines aren't for everyone but working through the arc and development of the whole story will certainly highlight any potential weaknesses or areas where more thought is required.

Another thing you might spend time considering is point of view. Who will tell the story? Will there be one narrator or several? What person and tense will the narrator speak in? Is the narrator omniscient or only able to relate what occurs within his or her sight and hearing? These decisions you may only be able to make once you've begun writing. It's not my intention to discourage you by mentioning all these things that will require your attention. Instead, I'm hoping to illustrate some of the work writing requires.

Lastly, you might consider investing in some writing tools to prove to yourself that you're serious about your endeavors. A good dictionary and/or thesaurus is always useful. Most works commercially published in the U.S. follow The Chicago Manual of Style, a nice thick, expensive volume published by The University Of Chicago Press that lists in minute detail the preferred way to write numerals in text, whether titles should be italicized or surrounded by quotation marks, etc. You needn't spend time absorbing everything in the Chicago Manual before you begin writing, and if your manuscript is accepted for publication, likely a copy editor will do the work of correcting the manuscript for the proper style, but the purchase of such a tool does suggest a seriousness of purpose that is difficult to ignore.

I hope your writing goes well and that you come to anticipate the times when you can
write!

Dixie
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Post by K_•da » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks, Vissi. You are absolutely right, and your suggestions again very helpful. I will purchase The Chicago Manual of Style. Your helpful advice is not discouraging at all. On the contrary, it validates my intention and encourages me to proceed. But you are right about how hard it is to convince me, and I will not ask you to join the effort. Yesterday was very illustrative for me. I didn't do any chores, but I did have to take my elderly mother to an appointment and then food shopping. We were stopped by the Bush motorcade and late for the appointment and the store was full of tourists eager for my mother to get out of the way. When I got home, I took a nap and upon waking, was able to think clearly and calmly again.
So your first two suggestions are the ones I will work on first. I will dedicate a space and time for writing and make it clear to others and myself that this is work as important as anything else, or more important. I will outline my story and consider my viewpoint, work with structure and form, and let my story evolve.
In order to do this, honestly and effectively, I am going to have to leave the outside world behind while I think and write. I am going to have to access my inner world and not take my critic with me. I am going to get some help doing this from my therapist. I am going to make it the focus for my therapy, which was my original intention.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had learned to meditate in therapy, as well as how to breathe and take myself to that safe place where I can allow things to happen. I've undergone ancestral healing and have looked at my archetypes in detail. I've asked that we do some regressive therapy so that I might access some parts of my past that have been closed to me, and as I work through these, I intend to take the writing seriously.
I will keep you posted as I proceed, but as I'm sure you can see, I have a long way to go. Your input is very important to me, and very helpful, and I think I now have to do the work. Thanks again.
Tom
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Post by Vissi » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Käda,

In emphasizing the work writing represents, I hope not to minimize the joyfulness involved in putting words together. It is wonderful to have purpose but it is equally wonderful to experience the freedom of play with language and image.

Please consider any and all of my suggestions simply jumping off points that might suggest what your own mind and imagination will produce. In suggesting you invest in a symbol of your writerly intention, I mentioned the Chicago Manual. You might just as easily satisfy the purpose by purchasing a used copy, one that has been thumbed and pondered over by other writers, of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Perhaps you used this book in school. If not, this little gem is often given or suggested for those beginning to write and is very inexpensive. Or you might gain a sense of community from visiting sites like Poets and Writers or reading what other writers have to say about writing. You've developed a means for following your own bliss and perhaps this sense will be your best guide in helping you write the story that is seeking a voice.

You are most welcome to use this thread to keep everyone posted, to ask questions of fellow writers here, or to discuss your experiences. I'll look forward to hearing about your work!

Dixie
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Post by K_•da » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks again, Vissi. i am encouraged and look forward to keeping you and others apprised of my progress. I look forward to traveling to the Brooklyn Public Library in two weeks to seek information regarding my grandfather and his relatives. He lived there from 1906 to 1918 when he drowned, before my father was born. He was a captain on a Standard Oil Steamer. I'm also eagerly anticipating my next therapy session when I will attempt to remember more of my experiences in the home of my grandmother, his widow. In particular, memories surrounding the practice of my grandmother of having a jar of sand waiting for me in the back shed for me to play with. I remember playing with the sand outside in her back yard, and every time I visited, the jar was full again of clean, fine white sand.
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Post by Poncho » Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:36 pm

Hi Vissi, hope you are well dear lady.

I thought that you might enjoy this piece in one of today's newspapers about what it's like when you suddenly become HUGE as a writer in Hollywood.


Click HERE


8) :lol:
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Greetings from over the Silver Sea
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Paul GIaimo is Back

Post by drmojiah » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:36 am

Hello Vissi and Ivor Orr and everyone !

I just wanted to share my experiences since I left posting the jcf long ago. I felt they were appropriate to a writer's forum. I feel like I am living my writer's dream !!

Earlier (like 2005 !) I referred to meeting my Muse and having been filled with a passion to write. I teach literature and philosophy. Well, a few conferences later, this person is still in my life. Now I have a book contract and a sabbatical to write about a favorite subject ! So is it just a "coincidence" that I started with a posting on the very jcf which now has a delightful facelift ?

Lest this merely consist of pungent narcissism, I will close with something like a thought: the word "re-presentational art" (somewhere on the chain above) works beautifully to describe what writing is, because we re-present something already here in mind, a past experience which the person of the writer has within, an objective sensory moment lived. Like recycling --Don Delillo and others talk about the sacred buried in the waste, in memory.

Happy Writing,

PG
Peace Out,<br><br>Paul Giaimo
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Post by noman » Wed Apr 16, 2008 2:07 am


Now I have a book contract and a sabbatical to write about a favorite subject!

-drmojiah

Congrats Drmojiah. People at this website do love to write – and read. Is it too much to ask what that favorite subject might be?

- NoMan
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Post by drmojiah » Thu Apr 17, 2008 3:45 am

Grazie, Noman

I have been contracted to write a reader's guide to Don Delillo. Sort of a light literary analysis for a mixed audience, no need to break out heavy relativist and skeptical post modern thinkers (thank the Goddess and God ) Three very beloved subjects this favorite subject allows me to tap into as a theme in the novels are as follows:

1) Italian Americans in literature: There is this full circle with the idea of literature, beginning with Italy, where the word comes from. Petrarch, Boccacio and the like. Then we get England and America transforming the concept of "great literature" as something primarily British with some Americans included. Not of course, Italian Americans who begin to arrive en masse here in 1880's and continue largely as laborers, and not literary scholars like Harold Bloom or Northrop Frye. I would suggest a few other books here but one is "Christ in Concrete" by Pietro Di Donato. Delillo evokes this theme especially in the magnum opus "Underworld"

2) Catholicism and the Radical American Left: A few favorite subjects here. For one, and again mostly in Underworld but present elsewhere, you can read pacificist and very liberal theological politics in much of his work, even with some characters seemingly resembling the heroes of the Catholic left (like Dorothy Day, the Berrigans etc, a group of mythic power )
Also , just with Catholicism in general, an ideology and institution embued with myths, I am currently looking at Catholic iconography as strongly represented in the way Delillo assembles his characters; significantly, there is much about Language as a manifestation (note NOT a mask) of the infinite power, the Word as the Spirit if you will
There are other icons I will discuss in the book as well, but Stephen King says do not talk about your book unti after you write it

So that's a few passions. What do you like to write about ? I just need to be getting started, it is fits and starts this season. You would think, being at the wheel of a super powered car, you would just want to turn the ignition key and go....

Dr Mojiah (Giaimo spelled sideways, sort of)
Peace Out,<br><br>Paul Giaimo
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Post by Vissi » Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:23 am

Dr Mojiah, NoMan, all,

Dr Mojiah, I add my congratulations to those of NoMan! It's always a bright day when a writer receives a contract! Thank you for sharing your wonderful news and inspiring others. Your subject matter sounds truly intriguing. Please keep us posted as your work progresses and lean on us here in The Writing Life thread whenever (if ever) you feel the need for writerly company and someone to commiserate with as the words tumble into form for you and you navigate the currents of publishing.

Help set 350 Worldwide, Peace Now,
Dixie
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