U.S. Election Day Feel Good Roundup

Updated 11/11/2016: I guess I’m going to keep this up for four more years.

It’s election day in my native United States, and anyone who has been paying attention for .2 seconds knows it has been sort of nasty and unpleasant to follow. If you can vote and haven’t, please hurry and get on that before the polls close; if you have, good job, I hope you got a sticker!

And now, please enjoy a few select feel good items while we wait for the results to come in.

A Japanese YouTuber visits a rabbit cafe:

The Calm meditation app, with lots of soothing nature noises:
"Calm" Meditation App

Puppy Bowl highlight reel:

Can I Pet Your Dog, the assertively and unapologetically happy podcast about dogs:
Can I Pet Your Dog? Podcast

An absurdly delicious recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies made with coconut oil.

And in conclusion, the poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott.

The stuff of your life is enough.

Analyzing Literature: A Guide

Photo (c) Sharon Drummond, Creative Commons 3.0.

Tumblr’s The Writing Cafe posted a great starter guide for analyzing literature. Despite being a creative writing major who took a toooon of English classes, at supposedly one of the best creative writing programs in the country, I was literally never explicitly taught any of these methods. I wonder sometimes if its status as “one of the best” is due to the misperception that writing (and any art) is just some sort of hand wavey talent and inspiration thing, rather than the product of serious thought, practice, and revision.

Part of being a good writer is being a good reader, and with the gift that is not actually having to write a graded analysis of anything ever again, I look forward to deploying some of these tools to understand “why is this thing this thing.”

Followed by: “that was cool how can I do something like that.”

Reading on Writing: Subplots and the Wasteland

25 Turns, Pivots, and Twists to Complicate Your Story by Chuck Wendig

Filler Scenes, Subplots, Fluff Scenes, and Tension from Writeworld

The Secret to Subplots (in screenplays) from Cracking Yarns

45 Things I Want to See Less of in Stories by elumish

And something completely different,

Raw Mint Chocolate Fudgesicles with Pistachio Dust by Candace from Raw Mountain Kitchen


Inspiration Comes of Working

The writer with a mug that reads "Get Back to Work."

A friend of mine and I were talking. He said he’d like to write plays, “But I don’t have anything to say.”

“That’s bullshit,” I said, because I have a sweet face and a pottymouth. “That’s got nothing to do with writing.”

I was not, in fact, referring to the wealth of fluff in the world (which has its own place and merits). I just think that having some brilliant idea, some inspiration from on high, some vital important thing that you want to say and everyone needs to hear, has nothing to do with creating.

Lots of days I sit at my computer and I am not inspired. But then I write something anyway. And whatever it is, even if it’s utter garbage, is valuable. Because either it led me to an idea, or it helped me practice my writing, or it was day 101 of being disciplined enough to just sit down and write.

I don’t know if it’s really a trend or just something my brain has made into one, but since the New Year I’ve noticed a flurry of posts about the creative process that boil down to about the same thing: Inspiration is bullshit. Work.

Retrospective Headdesk, by Laini Taylor, covers her own work-breeds-success story in writing Days of Blood and Starlight. With bonus gifs!

Brain Pickings has an interview with painter Chuck Close that includes my new favorite quote, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Without Doing, Dreaming is Useless is a presentation by Rilla Alexander that’s about the trap of not working even when you do have inspiration. tldw? (but come on, watch it): “Anything, even something that fails to meet my expectations, is better than nothing.”

And finally, today’s Advice to Writers has an apt quote from Tracy Kidder:

That you can learn to write better is one of our fundamental assumptions. No sensible person would deny the mystery of talent, or for that matter the mystery of inspiration. But if it is vain to deny these mysteries, it is useless to depend on them. No other art form is so infinitely mutable. Writing is revision. All prose responds to work.

So listen to the mug.


Not With a Bang but a Whimper

As if the Big Brother dystopic future had to come through revolution.

There are innovations in injustice that could accompany these products. Traditional illicit corporate profit-taking has been about denying certain products to segmented groups of people – segregation in housing, lower quality of medical care for ethnic and gender groups, predatory lending etc. But technology has now opened up a new model of profit-taking – if a company knows where you go, who you talk to, what you buy and eat, and your medical history, then it can charge you premium pricing by denying you exactly what *you* want.

From Profit-Driven Surveillance and the Spectrum of Freedom: “We will offer electronic monitoring services in every state.”

My best, most fantastic ideas always come from reality.

Link Roundup

Books with a Bang: Troy Denning on Writing the Ultimate Climax is good advice about structure and goals. A pitfall of my early, especially long-form writing was that I said “okay, now I need this structural thing because that’s what you do” instead of “okay, now I need to answer this question or follow this thread of the story.”

Resolve to Write: 52 Writing Exercise to Hone Your Craft is a useful list more of books than of writing exercises. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of prompts or exercises, as these things inevitably aren’t what I’m interested in or what inspires me. But reading the books or the shows it suggests, I find I do find something that inspires me and that I want to explore myself.

Finding What Works for Your Writing is one of those anecdotal “this is how a published author writes stuff” stories that I find interesting, if not something necessarily to emulate.

Link Roundup

More links! The summer lull seems to be over as there’s been a lot of good material around lately.

How to Make Ideas Real by Hank Green of the Vlog Brothers: Hank condenses a lot of wisdom about how to make ideas happen in a lovely 4-minute video. Both he and his brother are terribly accomplished, articulate creative people and I really admire all the work they do. DFTBA.

Fatally Flawed: How to Write Tragic Heroes on Omnivoracious: The post really only talked about one kind of tragic hero, but I like their examination of how certain types go in and out of fashion. Though I think it’s a little different from a trend, it works much the same: would your hero resonate with people right now? Who are our heroes now versus who they were ten years ago versus who they will be ten years in the future? And what does all that say about the world you/I/he/she lives in?

To Plot or Not To Plot, Parts 1 and 2 on Ingrid’s Notes: Ingrid offers a helpful technical breakdown of some aspects of writing.

How I Wrote it: Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding: I usually don’t link to author interviews until I’ve read the book (because getting published doesn’t mean you don’t suck) but I do like anecdotes about other people’s’ writing processes. Because writing is such a private pursuit and developed so much in isolation, it’s nice to see what other people are up to to get an idea for how I might fine-tune my own process.


Link Roundup

Writing and Eating and Drinking from Autostraddle: I’ve always been fascinated 1) where actual successful writers work (ie what their rooms look like) and 2) what they eat and drink while writing. I feel like this, combined with various pictures I’ve seen of writers rooms, confirms the uniformity of quirkiness if not uniformity of habit.

Writing Excuses, a blog/podcast thingamadoodle a friend shared with me. I have yet to check it out in full but it looks promising.

Any writing/reading/productivity/otherwise peripherally related links to share? Leave them in the comments!

Link Roundup

Various writing-related links for your enjoyment:

Finding Your Voice (ZenHabits)

The VFCA Sticky Toffy Pudding Takeaway (Ingrid’s Notes) – I stand firmly by “Never let your character’s cry more than once in a manuscript!”

Trailer: The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra – The original series is one of the greatest television shows (animated OR live action) I’ve ever seen. The trailer makes me incredibly excited and more than a little inspired.

Want to share any fiction, writing advice, inspiration, or other links? Leave them in the comments!