There is no clear benchmark for achieving “mastery” in writing. No matter how much I write or study the craft, I will never reach a place where there is nothing else for me to learn.
But is that even what it means to master writing? And would I want that? Having nothing else to learn about writing would be horribly depressing.
A big part of what I love about writing is experimenting, studying my mistakes, and course-correcting. Writing is not paint-by-numbers; it is a dynamic process with uncertainty as a creative catalyst. I build my stories up in layers, never sure until the very end what exactly the final product is going to look like.
I was not exactly trapped. I could leave whenever I wanted, of course. Yet, at one point, missing even a day of checking in with my social media websites triggered extreme anxiety.
Because social media felt compulsive, I would sometimes dream of escape. My thoughts would often drift to the legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Even though he wrote science fiction, in many ways he repudiated technology preferring a simple life; he thought having too many machines crushed passion and destroyed the simple pleasures that made life truly worthwhile: taking a walk, reading a book, or enjoying a peaceful moment of silence.
He drew near-universal scorn when he said, “The Internet is a big distraction. It’s meaningless. It’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.” He also resisted the digitization of books. He refused to have his books printed electronically because he thought a book should be a real object with rustling pages, a physical thing you could grasp, touch, and smell.
I love to blog. For over seven years my blog has followed me through my life, marking meaningful events and shifts in my thinking. It has at times felt like a home where my mind goes to meditate even when I am not actually writing. It feels like so much a part of me, it is hard to imagine a time I was ever without it. I assumed ever since I began blogging that I would be doing it forever.
However, I did originally hope my blog would promote my writing. Although blogging is fun and worth doing for its own sake, I had always hoped that if I wrote for the right reasons, my blog would eventually, somehow, help me sell my fiction.
I dreamed of growing my following so much that I would eventually have an audience for the books I published. Or, if I decided to publish traditionally, I could show an agent how many followers I had in order to improve my chances of success.
I have a happy announcement for the holiday season! My short story collection Remembering the Future is now free for electronic download on the Kindle, so if you don’t have it yet, now would be a great time to get a copy. It will be free for five days starting December 15 and ending on December 19.
Featuring fantasy and science fiction stories with a psychological twist, my book has an average five star rating on Amazon. Here have been some of the comments:
“An interesting read for one who feels he has read everything”
“well-developed characters and crisp prose”
“A mind-bending collection of fascinating and innovative stories”
If you read my stories, feel free to write to me and let me know what you think. Until then, happy holidays!
For most of my life the way I viewed the writing process was destructive to my ambitions. To write freely and learn from my mistakes, I had to jettison beliefs that had blocked me and made me dread writing.
One attitude that fortified my block for many years was a terrible fear of bring trite. To call my work trite was the ultimate weapon of my inner critic; it shut me down completely.
I thought that if a cliché appeared in my work, even in a rough draft, it must mean I was a human cliché myself: a dull, unimaginative, and lazy thinker. So many books I had read about writing denounced cliché users as lazy; in general the authors condemned not just expressions like “dead as a doornail,” “fit as a fiddle,” or “It was a dark and stormy night,” but almost universal real-life situations like a cheating spouse or even themes like good versus evil.
I have never understood the emotion of admiration; but then, I am a cat. Cats feel a lot of things, including pride and affection, but at our very essence lies independence, the source of all dignity. If I ever need a mentor, I will be my own. Admiration is a color of feeling I will never see.
But I have glimpsed its ghastly reflection in humans enough to sense what a trap it is. I have seen it lurking in their star struck eyes, and that alone is enough to make my spine curl and my tail fur bristle.
I especially used to cringe at the looks the young women gave Michael when he brought them into the apartment we shared, the sickly-looking glazed-eyed expressions that a male friend of his later explained by saying, “Look how much they admire you. I wish I was you.”
As a kid, what enticed me to become an author was the way fiction could sweep me into other places. Through reading I could experience through words what I could not experience in real life; I could even become other people. It was sorcery.
However, words were imperfect. Reading could only transfer experiences to me if I had some personal frame of reference for them. As an adolescent I had trouble relating to books with military settings, for example. They were so far removed from my experience, I struggled to create a vivid picture of them in my mind.
I was painfully aware of how my patchy store of personal experiences could limit me in writing. I scrounged for anything that I could use to make up for the gaps, so as a sheltered adolescent, I seized upon one of the most reviled technologies of the age as a way to broaden the scope of my experience for my writing: video games.
I have some great news: My novel Paw will be free for electronic download from November 7 through November 11. If you have not downloaded it yet, now is the time. Here is the description on my Amazon page:
When Mitalla turns three, she learns that her mother has kept a dark secret from her: Mitalla is a slave. Being a member of an intelligent feline species, she has never seen a “pink and furless” human until a cruel overseer takes her and her siblings from their seemingly safe home and into a life of bondage.
Even though Mitalla has struggled to survive as the runt of her litter, she is unprepared for the harsh world of the desert where her enslaved species is forced to mine a precious mineral collected by the human king of her world.
As Mitalla comes of age, she constantly seeks ways to escape with her siblings into “the greater world,” a place her mother once described as having lush green grass and an abundance of food and water. To her advantage, her early struggles have honed her persistence and wit.
Despite her strengths, cruel guards, barbed wire fencing, swords, whips, and constant hunger make escape seem all but impossible.
Frustrated desires finally erupt in a tragedy that forces her to make a decision: to stay and suffer or risk her life and the lives of her family to escape. Either way, she will need all the cunning and courage she possesses to survive.
The novel, which has a five star rating on Amazon, is the first installment of a three-part series. I am currently at work on the second book of the trilogy. Thanks to all of you who have bought my books and kept up with my blog! There will be more stories, blogs, and novels coming soon!
Pain was almost a myth to him, something he could no more fathom than he could see an atom. He had never felt the stinging, stabbing, burning, or aching that could come from courting danger.
He only knew how the dogs of his neighborhood whimpered when injured, but he could not imagine what was going on inside of them. His siblings could not imagine it either, but unlike them Brand loved being alive, loved it enough to keep on living.
He had known moments of heightened awake-ness when the world had leapt into full color. He had enjoyed the tangy sweetness of a ripe strawberry, the contemplative view of a night sky, and the wonder of his shimmering reflection in a pond. He enjoyed chopping firewood, the blunt sound of impact, he loved shivering in the cozy warmth of a fireplace on a cool night, and he liked to write about them in his journal, how they sounded, how they felt, how they smelled.
When I write a rough draft of a story or novel, I am constantly looking for its pulse, the raw energy of a story, the point of transition in which the story takes on a life of its own and seems almost to write itself.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with writing rough drafts that lag. I write them all the time because I have to start somewhere. In fact, sometimes my story does not come to life for me until after I have written my self-conscious, plodding. uninspired rough draft. But after having been through the process many times, I have learned some things about making dead prose stir to life.
In fiction, a problem that I have grappled with, which can be solved early on, is the strength of character motive.