What are you afraid of?

downloadI started reading Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, yesterday. Many friends and bloggers and writers have raved about the book, but I’ve held off so far because Eat, Pray, Love left a bad taste in my mouth (even though I know it’s been an important book to many people!). Whoa. This book punched me in the stomach right from the get go with a lot of truths I’ve known for a long time, but have been unable to articulate. I know I’ve been brave and chosen the creative life before, but with graduation little more than two months away I feel like I’m coming to another crossroads. It feels like I have to make the decision all over again, and figuring out what that looks like post school, well, it’s definitely been interrupting my sleep.

So this book found me right when I needed it. I’m only a few chapters in, but the part that’s resonated with me most is very early in the book in a section titled Scary, Scary, Scary. The author lists many reasons to be afraid of living a more creative life. I started the list reading item after item thinking no, no, no. And then – stomach punch – yes. Continue reading “What are you afraid of?”

Best. Writing Motivation. Ever.

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I’ve used a lot of things to try to motivate myself to write in the past. But, this semester, I have a new method that has proven very, very effective. It’s an idea I stole from my thesis advisor. If I don’t make my target number of pages each month I have to donate $50 to a political campaign I don’t believe in. When she gave this advice back in October … I honestly didn’t think Trump would still be a considered serious candidate. But if every cloud has a silver lining, my silver lining is that the idea of giving money to his campaign is pretty much the best writing motivation I’ve ever had. Continue reading “Best. Writing Motivation. Ever.”

Workshop vs Thesis

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Happy Friday, friends! Anyone have fun Valentine’s Day plans this weekend? I think I’m going to see a showing of Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina *maybe the best movie ever* with my roommate. Also I have a lot of writing to do before my second thesis turn in to my advisor next week. Like a lot, a lot. Luckily, the scenes I have left to write are at least a little romantic, so that seems in theme for the holiday. Continue reading “Workshop vs Thesis”

Starting Over on a Manuscript

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Hi friends! I’ve been back in New York for about ten days, but so much has happened. A history-making blizzard. A visit from my college roommate. Dinners with friends. Dance parties (plural). Two post-graduation job interviews. And (most importantly!) my first notes and meeting with my thesis advisor, the fantastic Jill Santopolo who is a pretty prolific author and editor. The notes were copious and the meeting went really, really well but …

together we made the decision to start completely over on my manuscript with a lot of changes to the plot/characters/timeline/conceit of the story. I know these changes will be for the best, but, man, it’s hard to look at 275 pages you’ve been working and reworking for a year and think about throwing most of them away.

Today, marks the beginning of me trying to write a new chapter one. It’s so strange, because in some ways I know my main character, Riley, so well from the last year+ we’ve spent together and in other ways the changes I decided to make to her personality/history make writing from her perspective a completely new beast.

It’s hard. But writing is supposed to be hard.

It’s exciting. And writing is supposed to be exciting.

Wish me luck!

 

Another Perfectly-Timed Letter from FutureMe

Really needed this today friends. Still in California and totally freaking out about the semester ahead (in a really nonproductive way). Seriously, if you aren’t using FutureMe you definitely should be. Here’s what arrived in my inbox this morning to save the day (or at least my sanity):

Dear FutureMe,

Tomorrow you are going to turn in the first draft of your thesis. Chill out girl. Everything is going to be fine. You worked harder than you might of, but not as hard as you could have … that is literally almost always true. You also had a lot of other things to deal with (which is also always always true) and you are doing a great job.

Try to celebrate your accomplishments going into this next step of school. Who knows what will happen … but that is exciting because it means lots and lots and lots of really awesome, cool things could happen.

You are still in school. School and writing should be your focus.

You’ve created such a fuller life for yourself in New York than you’ve had since college. Seriously, think of the friends and activities and events you’ve built into your life. Great job!

It’s okay to be scared and nervous … you are undertaking big things and big dreams. It would be silly not to be nervous about them.

It’s also okay to set the fear and anxiety at the door for the semester (as much as you can) and just really try to enjoy the end of this process as much as possible.

I know you will lean into every opportunity you have.

With much self love,

Alison from a month ago

Word by Word and Bird by Bird

12543Whether you want to be a writer (in whatever capacity that means to you) or not, I highly suggest reading Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It is a good book about writing, but a great book about life. One of my best friends gave it to me in 2011, and it’s funny how different pieces of advice have been applicable at different times since then.

Right now, even though I’m enjoying lovely family time in California, I’m freaking out a little (or maybe a lot) about my creative thesis. The thesis is a novel. I’ve worked my way through more than one draft, but for some reason I feel behind. I know the novel isn’t where I want it to be by the end. And I know it isn’t where I want it to be for my first turn in to my advisor (who just happens to be an editor at Penguin Books … no big deal, right?).  Continue reading “Word by Word and Bird by Bird”

Reading (and writing!) Resolutions for 2016

I feel like my resolutions are getting boring because they are almost always pretty similar. Here are a few (not quite ten) reading and writing goals I have for the year. Let me know yours in the comments so we can cheer each other on!

  • Read 100 books (if I don’t list it I won’t do it).
  • Read diversely. This means race, religion, mental health, nationality, ability, body type, sexuality and sexual orientation, and the many other ways it is beneficial to read and support books with diverse authors and diverse characters.
  • Read debut fiction and new releases.
  • Read House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton. It’s been a goal since 2008 – hopefully 2016 is the year.
  • Complete a draft of a novel that is ready to be queried (and query it). Thesis semester, I’m looking at you.
  • Complete a first draft of another project. If the only thing I can control about this process is the writing, I want a back up project going to keep the pressure lower on whatever I’m querying.
  • Graduate my MFA program. (Hopefully this one won’t be too hard).
  • Take advantage of all the readings and networking opportunities and panels that I have because I live in New York.
  • Keep poetry a part of my life.

Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this weekly book meme and happy, happy New Year!

NaNoWriMo Loser ): (:

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As the emoticons in my title might tell you, I have some mixed feelings about my performance in NaNoWriMo this year. The challenged ended with on Monday, and I had 27,000 words in the month of November. Part of me feels really great and excited about that. My any other month’s standards that is A LOT of words for me to write. Those first two weeks, I also really regained a sense of fun and play in my writing – which is incredibly valuable. I’m much further along in understanding what this new story may some-day, one-day be about – and I’m really excited about it. These are all good things. Everyone is a winner, right?  Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Loser ): (:”

Top Ten Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So

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I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called now.

Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

How can the word love, the word life, even fit in the mouth.

Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

Hope. It’s like a drop of honey, a field of tulips blooming in springtime. It’s a fresh rain, a whispered promise, a cloudless sky, the perfect punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. And it’s the only thing keeping me afloat.

Tahereh Mafi, Unravel Me

Everything was a broken line for me in those days. I was slipped into the empty spaces between words.

Betsy Cornwell, Mechanica 

She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah 

Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.

Nicola Yoon, Everything Everything

From an evolutionary point of view, most emotions – fear, desire, anger – serve some practical purpose, but nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost.

David Nichols, Us 

The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.

Amy Poehler, Yes Please

You didn’t win the game of life by losing the least. That would be one of those—what were they called again?—Pyrrhic victories. Real winning was having the most to lose, even if it meant you might lose it all. Even though it meant you would lose it all, sooner or later.

Tommy Wallach, We All Looked Up 

People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.

Jenny Han, P.S. I Still Love You

Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this weekly book meme! I’d love to learn some of your favorite quotes in the comments!

NaNoWriMo Update

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How are we almost halfway through November? I really don’t know where the time goes. I’m pretty behind in NaNoWriMo right now, like more than five thousand words behind. This is something I’m hopefully going to start to remedy at a coffee/pie shop this afternoon, but it’s also something I’m okay with. I’ve written over 60 pages so far this month. More importantly, it’s been the most lovely experience to turn off my inner editor and just write. Being in an MFA program is the most lovely way to get to spend my time and intellectual energy. At the same time, my writing faces constant critique and the voices (and differing opinions) of all my classmates and professors can be hard to silence. Writing a “shitty first draft” that I know no one is going to read, at least not in this form, feels really liberating. So even if I don’t “win” by hitting 50,000 words by the end of the month, I’m still glad I’m doing this because I’m enjoying writing in a way I haven’t been for a few months. And that’s pretty close to winning for me.  Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Update”