Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let's Say Fear...

Let's just say we're not making excuses, that we are all highly, fully-committed, dedicated writers (not saying that you and I are not dedicated and committed), that never for once deliberately decide to skip our daily writing routine, not because we have to, or because we have some life-threatening-emergency, or because we were stranded on a dessert island, lost without computers, pen, paper, electricity, food and whatsoever, but because we can. Let's say the terms "lazy" and "procrastination" do not exist. Let's say fear is the thing that's holding us back.

Fear. Quite a strong word, don't you think? In the world where we keep talking about breaking boundaries, going against all the rules and being as fearless and adventurous as we can, how could we be possibly talk about fear? Well, that's the thing. When fear gets a hold of us, we don't write, we talk. It's one of those moments when you feel like you had it in you, all these great ideas, these things you want to write about, share to the whole world, and just when your fingers start to tingle from the excitement of it all your head goes: nah, that's too good for today, save it for tomorrow. What happens next is that we note down the idea on a piece of paper, shove it back in the drawer, think hard of another idea to use and after a few minutes of blank thoughts, we start to lose the excitement we have over the idea you had inside your drawer, we gave up, and we end up with zero words written on the screen. If that's not fear talking right there, I don't know what that is. If that's not the fear of not being able to come up with another great idea, again, I don't know what that is.

On other times we let ourselves go along with the "great idea" and decide to write about it for our 1500-word essay assignment but end up spending hours, possibly days, just to complete the introduction part. (Okay, so for this case, most of the time it's not fear, it's probably just us making excuses because we're too lazy to get our head down to write, but let's say fear is the only thing there is holding us back.) This is not because we needed to do research, this has nothing to do with data, but it I bet it has a lot to do with crafting that perfect first sentence. I bet this has everything to do with finding the right combinations of words, the right analogy, the right hook, basically that one perfect paragraph that will make it the best essay ever written in the history of mankind. I don't know about you but I do this a lot, it probably happens to me every single time I sit down to start working on an essay.

The worse part is that even thought I've tried so hard to get it right the first time I never seem to succeed. The harder I try, the worse my sentences turned out to be. The WORST part is that we never seem to remember that we could always, ALWAYS edit the draft, with all the shitty and humiliating parts in it, into perfection. Let me say this again: we could always, ALWAYS, edit our shitty first drafts into perfection.

And all this trouble... holding back, spending hours in front of your computer screen staring at a blank page, throwing one paper after another into the trash can until all the paper's gone because of that one word that just doesn't seem right, forcing us to go through tight diet for the next few days because you gained 3 pounds from all the chocolate eaten to calm the nerves as we endure through this long, winding, writing journey... just for the sake of our own fear of making mistakes, of writing something that could (possibly) embarrass us as writers, when this "something" can be easily erased or rewritten into something else once we have finished.

Wow. Need I say more?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

As a nerd and a book lover...

"As a nerd and a book lover,
y’all can’t just 
turn the corners
of somebody’s book page
It’s very disrespectful."

Natalie Tyler Tran. 
Video Blogger on Youtube.
Quoted from "Just Keep It"
(click here to watch her video)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts on Easy Reading.

I know I keep referring back to my previous post “The Problem with Contemporary Fiction”, but I just can’t help it. I cannot get the issue out of my head, the thing between contemporary fiction and chick-lit. The fact that I’m currently reading a chick-lit novel, Jennifer Weiner’s Fly Away Home, makes me think about it even more. I’m sure that this book is a chick-lit novel because the story revolves around three main characters, Sylvie, Diana and Lizzie, who are all women (I’m also quite sure that it can be considered as a contemporary fiction novel too, but anyways.)

So, I came across a quote I read some time ago from Nathaniel Hawthorne:

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."

And then it hit me.

We always find chick-lit novels as light books, easy reads (well, at least most of them, with several exceptions in mind like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre). The style, the characters, they are so real (if that’s the right word, “real”) that we can connect to them as if we ourselves were the story, like it’s a part of our daily lives. True, in some cases they are so light up to a point that the characterization and plot presentation are just too weak, that we now can’t even make out what to connect with. But great and legendary chick-lit novels, like The Bridget Jones’ Diary, are easy enough and deep enough, now this combination makes a fabulous reading experience.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. So, good easy reading, good chick-lit reading, is damn hard writing, don’t you think? I think from time to time many of us have undervalued chick-lit writers, find them as less than historical fiction writers, or nothing more than fun and amateurish writing, merely because chick-lit novels are usually easy to read. I played this quote over and over in my head and I’m starting to think that we got it all reversed. Maybe all this time, chick-lit novels are harder to write than historical fiction novels (with no disrespect to all historical fiction writers out there).

Okay, maybe not. I’m sure (I know for sure) that all writers, from all sorts of genres, from all sorts of fields, have their own ups and downs, dilemmas, glories and difficulties, and none is easier or better than the other. And when I think over about easy reading, it’s not exactly about adopting conversational style all the time, but rather making the point of the writing across to the reader, no matter what genre the piece is under. Writing pieces that can be understood, that connects with the readers, are somehow “easy” reads, simply because you get it. Well, yes, even though I get Pride and Prejudice but I still consider it as “hard” reading, but I guess this is due to the novel being written in a different age of time than the present, not because it’s not a good read.

Anyhow, that’s what I thought. I’m pretty sure I still have some thoughts on contemporary fiction and chick-lit (and probably women’s fiction too), but for now these are all I got in mind.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writers, Freaks and Pure Joy.

Writers are freaks. No, seriously. I'm a writer and I admit that I am a freak. Okay, so maybe I would not call myself a freak, but rather different, authentic. Think about it. "Normal" people, if that's the way we call people who are not writers, would watch TV, slack around on the internet surfing through new gadgets that's about to be released, play games, or even take a nap during their spare time. When they are stressed out, they would take a walk at the beach and play in the water, build sandcastles (I guess) and then went back home and eat a bunch of ice cream. They do things that is somehow "relaxing" in the eyes or many. And what do writers do? We write. 

Yes. Writer jot down hundreds of words for PURE JOY. If we're not freaks then I don't know what we are because most people would shriek at the thought of producing about 1000 words daily when to us that's everyday meal. We write for sheer satisfaction and that's the beauty of it. I write when I'm bored, angry, stressed out or even at moments when I feel like I'm at the edge of a nervous breakdown. True, sometimes writing itself can be stressful, like at times when I'm supposed to produce a 3000-5000 word essay on national development for a competition that's due in a few days and yet I've only drafted down 2000 words, and every time I opened up my draft and it popped on my screen I just stared at it for an hour or two because I have no idea what argument to write about next. At times like this I don't feel like writing on my project anymore, I feel like reading or writing a blog-post about anything that comes to mind, but these two activities are still not normal in the eyes of most people. 

But we still write, don't we? At times when the writing project I'm working on frustrates the hell out of me, I still feel like dealing with the world of words in so many different ways. Even when it's just about scribbling down lyrics that I find comforting, lyrics are still somewhat a form of poem, and there it goes again, words. We find comfort in words and that to me, is beautiful. I don't know why it is that I started thinking about all these, but yesterday after typing down the post on "The Problem with Contemporary Fiction" I felt so alive after what seems to be such a gloomy day, and I realized that I'm such a freak (in a good way, of course, because calling yourself a freak in public is not exactly the best idea there is). It's even freakier when I realized I actually liked that idea, that like other writers in the world, I too find so much comfort, fun, thrill and admiration to the craft of writing. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Problem with Contemporary Fiction.

The problem with contemporary fiction is that I'm not even sure what that is. It is one of the genres we found among books out there today, but up until today I still don't quite know what it is because I lost track of the genres. We used to know what every genre is really about and we can differentiate each of them by heart. We used to, but not anymore. There used to be this short list of genres in the literary world but lately I gather that the list have grown so long and the old genres that seemed familiar to our ears are derived to at least one or two new sub-genres. It used to be so simple, like just between fiction and non-fiction, then there's this few bullets under fiction and the same for non-fiction. But now we have like historical fiction, contemporary fiction (the big topic of this post), women's fiction, literary fiction, commercial fiction, science fiction, general fiction (general? seriously? can you categorized a book into general fiction after deriving it into so many sub-genres? I don't think so.) and many, many more.

One thing for sure is that contemporary fiction is not a more sophisticated version of chick-lit. I don't know if this is just me, but the way I see it, many people sees contemporary fiction as something more-or-less like the heavier version of chick-lit. (Or maybe that's the way I see it and I'm the only one who sees it that way.) Well, I'm sure that is not, even though it seems like it. Contemporary fiction, I learnt, is a fictional book that takes place in the present. (Let's hope I learnt this right because the word "contemporary" sure supports the argument there of what contemporary fiction is all about.) Because chick-lit books talk mostly about women's career and love life in the present time, like for example the legendary Bridget Jones's Diary and The Nanny Diaries, most chick-lit books are considered as contemporary fiction. However, this doesn't mean that contemporary fiction is the same with chick-lit. 

There's this article from the Economist (click here to read the full article) that shows people actually finds contemporary fiction as the grown up version of chick-lit. I don't see the need of chick-lit to ever grow up or be more mature, in the sense that it's no longer just about dating and kissing hot looking guys, but it goes deeper into private family matters, exposing relationships between women in the family and so on, because chick-lit is just about embracing women in stories. It's about women. It just so happens that the trend used to be that it is written in a easy and such intimate, conversational style that it all seems to be light reading for us. And this light-reading-style is considered "cheesy" or "cheap" nowadays that people seemed to want to move on from light chick-lits, to heavier reads, which many people considered as contemporary fiction. 

Well, have you forgotten about Jane Eyre? I haven't. And Pride and Prejudice? Those are legendary chick-lits of the olden days and I'm damn sure those two novels are no where near light. They are in fact rich in language and considered one of the classics for today's readers. Are those contemporary fiction? No. Are they chick-lit? Yes. Okay, maybe those two are too heavy. A lighter one, yet still as legendary as the two, Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson. I sure don't consider this as chick-lit even though the book talked about the love-affair between a girl and her imaginary friend, because the story doesn't revolves around just girls, which is what chick-lit is all about, stories that's all about women, ladies, girls. And yet, I consider reading the book as light reading. But do I find the book as contemporary fiction? Yes, I do, as the story takes place in the present. Other great novels, such as Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is definitely one of the best contemporary fiction novels ever written. Is novel a chick-lit? Big NO. Freedom doesn't talk about women, it talks about family, relationships, love-affairs, money, property and all these with women as a part of it, but not the big picture of it. 

So the problem with contemporary fiction is that you can't say this as a heavier, more mature version of chick-lit. It never was. As a writer of contemporary fiction myself (hopefully it's good enough to be published), I feel sort of disturbed if people say I'm writing a chick-lit when my story revolves around family relationships and not merely woman. In respect to all chick-lit books and writers out there, I have to say my favorite genre is contemporary fiction and yes, because partly it is heavier than chick-lit in the sense that contemporary fiction embraces more than just women. Okay, probably not "just" women, but mostly women. Being a woman myself I'm proud to see many genres that focuses on women, it's just to me that's not the kind of writing I want to be doing. But anyhow, I'm not sure this post even makes sense at all, but I have poured out all the thoughts I've had for the past few days about contemporary fiction. Cheers, to writing it all out! 

Friday, September 7, 2012


That's probably the only word that can describe my blog's current condition. DESERTED. Yes, after weeks of not writing anything on journals and quotes, and basically posting nothing, I have finally decided to start typing and posting stuff, again. I'm not exactly sure what happened along the way that made me stopped blogging for a while, because I found it a lot of fun, but I guess I kind of ran out of words to say in between, but it's not possible because I'm a writer. I write, that's what I do everyday, so I will always have something to say, no matter how important or unimportant that is. But anyway, now I can't stop typing whatever it is that comes to mind and I don't know how to put a full stop at the end of my sentences to give myself a break. 

Thinking about how I have deserted my blog, I came across this quote: 

"You may be able to take a break from writing,
but you won't be able to take a break from being a writer."
-Stephen Leigh.

I think this is so true. I know for sure that I won't be able to take a break from being a writer because how can you ever take a break from who you are? That doesn't make sense to me. You can't take a break from being a mother, or a daughter, or a woman, or a teenager, because that's who you are. I know most people would say that writing is their job, writer is an occupation. Well, I disagree. I think writers are writers because that's who they are. They were born to love the art of words and so grew up to love them and learn the craft of writing. But then again, I guess I'm talking about "true" writers, if there's ever a person as such. 

I'm not even sure I can take a break from writing. Yes, I'm sure we can always take a break of two from certain kinds of writing, like after finishing the first draft of a novel we can stop meddling with that, get a day off at the spa and move on to the next project the next day, leaving the first draft in peace before editing it later on after a few weeks or so. But that's the point. We don't really stop writing, do we? We just stop doing one writing project, relax for a few hours or a few days, few weeks maximum (probably) and then we go to the next writing project. I don't think we can stand to not write for a few weeks. I know I won't survive. 

It's kind of like what happened to me with this blog. I didn't know what to write in my journal for a day, but then I still didn't know what to say the next day, and the next day, and the next, and I just didn't feel like saying anything anymore here, until now. But that doesn't mean I didn't write anything while I stopped here. I write everyday, just in different places, under different formats. And I guess sometimes it's more fun that way? Maybe? I'm starting to fall in love with ghostwriting to be honest, which I'm still not sure is something to be proud or ashamed of. The point is, I'm still writing. And I'm still writing a lot, probably a lot more than I used to. Which is good, because the only way for a writer to write better is to write some more (and read a lot too, but that's not really the whole point here, is it?). 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rewrite 30 or 40 Times.

“It has been said that Ernest Hemingway would rewrite scenes until they pleased him, often thirty or forty times. Hemingway, critics claimed, was a genius. Was it his genius that drove him to work hard, or was it hard work that resulted in works of genius?”
-James N. Frey-
author of 
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: 
A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

"Take it easy, bro."

I was horrified when I saw this sentence appear in my first draft. The word 'horrified' doesn't even come close to describing how shocked and shameful I felt. The second I got to reading "Take it easy, bro." I was like:

Excuse me, I think I'm gonna puke. 

I mean, seriously. "Bro"?!! What the hell was I thinking?  

Exactly, I wasn't. I was writing but not with clear thinking. I just wrote down whatever came out on my mind (actually, even this reason still can't justify the fact that I note that sentence down in the first place because by god, that is one of the lamest sentences ever!) and when we do, sometimes we become blind of judging our own writing. This is what happens with first drafts. This is why almost all of our first drafts are shits, no matter how experienced, how gifted and how good we are as writers.

Who would have thought editing was this crucial? I didn't. I have written a number of essays, articles for web contents, short stories, lyrical poems and throughout all these writing, I didn't see editing as something as crucial until I come across this first draft of mine. Obviously, it was wiser to read through the essays before submitting them, but the amount of revising necessary was nothing compared to the changes I had to make for this very long story of mine. Editing is crucial because when we write with so much emotion inside of us, we become like little kids running around at rooftops, not knowing the danger of falling over the edge. They won't realize it as long as they stayed ON the rooftop, unwilling to STEP DOWN and STEP OUTSIDE the building to look at how high it actually is from the ground. This is what writers do, a lot of times.

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We stay on the rooftops because it's much more comforting than stepping down and realizing how life-threatening the height is. We stay drunk in our stories because it's much more comforting than stepping out of our first drafts and realizing how crappy our writing is. I'm not saying all writers will write crappy first drafts, even though most of them will (probably 99% of all writers in the world), but there will always be these sloppy parts that bring the entire writing piece down to such low levels that you do want to fix it before you show it to the rest of the world. This is why editing is so crucial and rewriting is essential. It may not be as life-threatening as falling from the rooftops, but when readers found the sloppy parts before you, it will be a humiliating moment for you as a writer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Entering the New Stage: Editing.

I didn't know the first thing about editing when I started on this writing journey. I knew that if I wanted to ever finish a book I would have to enter the stage of editing at some point, but I guess I never bothered to actually learn about the craft as much as I did when it comes to the writing itself, which was a mistake. I should have bothered to learn about it because entering this stage as in about now, I see how different the process is between actual editing and actual writing. 

Many said that authors make the worst editors. To some extent this is true because reading through my own work, I find it challenging to be 100% objective in judging the piece. It's hard to realize the holes, the missing points when you already know the events happening by heart before even reading them through. I've only gone through the first chapters in the plot and I realized the further you go, the harder it is to maintain objectivity because every line rings a bell. The more lines you read, the more bells it ring. I can't imagine how I will be able to judge my characterization when I already know those characters by heart, as if they were real people standing in front of me right now. 

This is exactly why you need to make sure you give enough distance between finishing your draft and starting to edit it. Trust me, a week won't be enough. Spending only a week away from the characters you have grown to love for a year, or maybe two, will not be enough to make you step out of your own story. If you have a deadline, then you have no choice but to work on it as soon as you can. But if you don't, spend weeks away from it, months if you can. I'm not saying don't do anything for months. I'm just saying don't do anything with the draft for months. Work on something else, start a new writing project, whatever it is, keep yourself busy with other writing stuffs so that your mind will be absorbed by something else. This will help you to grow out of your story and build objectivity over it. 

Okay, don't get me wrong. Editing isn't as excruciating as it sounds. It's actually kind of fun. You get to read through this thick bundle of pages that you have written and as you go on, you will realize that you can write. I don't know whether you can write well or not, but I'm sure you can write, because you have written that many words on paper and that proves you have something. I mean, you just have to admit that some sentences will blow you away and you'll be like: WOW! Did I really write that? Am I that awesome? But of course, this only applies to "some" sentences, as in a very small number of them, because most of the things you wrote in your first draft will be crap. Now, to turn those crappy sentences to a masterpiece, you need to go through this editing stage. And to complete this stage with style, you need objectivity, lots of it. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Irrational Exuberance.

First things first, do you know what the phrase "irrational exuberance" means? In case you don't, here's what the dictionary has to say:

Irrational: illogical; absurd
Exuberance: the state of being exuberant
Exuberant: effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic (in other words: very, very, very enthusiastic)

Put them together and you get "irrational exuberance", this state of feeling the illogical tremendous amount of enthusiasm, or we can also say the state of feeling super enthusiastic that it's beyond absurd.

So yesterday, August 6th, 2012, was a historical day of my life. Yesterday I finished my first ever first draft. Yes, finally, after struggling on and off for what felt like a very long time, I finally finished it and the second I realized I was finished I felt a rush of what I like to call as an irrational exuberance. It felt awesome beyond what words could express.

I'm telling you, if you're wondering how it feels to fly, I suggest you go back to your computer, write like a monster and finish off whatever it is you're working on, that's so grand and hell important for you and you will find yourself flying to the highest skies when you type that "The End". (You'll probably fly even higher if you decide to print it out. Once you do and you start flipping through the pages you will be so awestruck at how many words you could extract from your brain and believe me, it's A LOT of words.)

Come to think of it, it's crazy. We should be writing for the "greater good". You know, all those talks on writing to share messages to the world, be the voice that speaks out opinions which are usually being covered up in public, and so on, and on. I'm not saying these are stupid reasons because on the contrary, I think those are noble reasons and we should be writing for those reasons but, man! We can't deny that to some extend we write for the thrill, for that sheer satisfaction we get after we finish crafting words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs and paragraphs to masterpieces that finally speak. It's crazy sometimes when we think about it, that we writers are willing to struggle for years just to get that one piece right, just to experience that one rush of irrational exuberance.

I raise my glass, for everyone who finished their first drafts. Cheers!
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PS: I researched the phrase "irrational exuberance" on the Internet and it was a real phrase. Look it up yourself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Just Write.

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"Take our another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."

Natalie Goldberg
American Author, 
As quoted from AdviceToWriters.

Keep Writing.

Yesterday I said my goodbyes to probably the smartest and the craziest Professor ever. I didn't even know he existed until about a month ago and it was a huge honor for me to have the chance to meet such a smart-ass like him. That's not the point, though. The point is that before we part ways, he gave me this one piece of writing advice that I think is very important for all writers to take note of: keep writing.

We forget this a lot, don't we? We forget that when we gave in to our sense of comfort, to more sleeping, to our favorite TV shows, to date nights, and so on, and on, and on. We even gave in to our favorite books (although this, to me, is the very best reason to give in), which we still shouldn't do in the first place. We forget that writing should comes first and that our writing time should be treated as sacred hours, not as working hours that you're allowed to skip.

"Keep writing. Even just for a sentence, or a paragraph, because that's the only way you are ever going to get there."  
- JF

Keep writing, every single day. Don't even think about skipping a day just because you don't feel like it because once you do, you're going to do it for the next day, and the next day, and the next day, until you lose your sense of being a writer and you'll end up never wanting to go back to it. Don't think that the next day you will have the "push" to write twice as much as the day before. In fact, don't think at all, just write and write and write, no matter how crappy your day was or how head-over-heels you were over that boy in your class, and one day you're going to look back and realize that you made it through your first book.

Famous authors, legendary writers, our mentors and ancestors, they have said it all, that writing itself is a long and hard process, and without persistence and diligence, you will never get to the end.

PS: that was my first time getting a writing advice from an actual writer. what an honor!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Books and Swimming Pools.

I was spending the weekend away with my friends when we decided it was a beautiful morning for a swim. I didn't feel like swimming (and so were my other two friends), so I decided to bring a book along for company. It was all good, all was positive, until I started walking across the narrow pathway between the swimming pools and this weird thing happened. As I was walking on the narrow, dry pathway between the pools, I felt all nervous and jiggly knowing I had a book in my hands and I was, at that moment, surrounded by water. We all know paper don't go well together with water, so it was as if the water could rise and somehow snatch the book away from me and swallow it up (okay, probably not). 

Anyways, this weird feeling of obsessiveness and the need to protect the books are I guess somewhat natural for people who have passion for literature. I mean, writers, to begin with, love books like they're their own babies, which is a little bizarre sometimes because to most people they're just paper and ink. Well, they're not just paper and ink. What happens with writers and books is that we would grow so attached with the stories from the books we love as if they were our own, that we felt if the book was destroyed somehow, the stories would die with it. We knew that, right? We knew stories doesn't die when books are burned or when books drowned, but still, we can't help it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your Support System Matters.

If you Google "Writing Support System" or something pretty much similar to that, you're going to start talking about agents, editors, publishers, writing tools or programs and so on. True, this is also a part of your support system as a writer. But this is more or less professional and that, is not what I'm talking about here. The support system I'm talking about is the most basic support system you're going to need, doesn't matter you're a writer or running for President. I'm talking about friends and families.

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Yes, your friends and your families matter. I posted a quote from Roald Dahl a few hours ago and he emphasized on how writing (or finishing a book, if I may call it) is actually a long and slow process. He emphasized this journey to make writers realize that writing is not just about jotting down words on a blank page (well it kinda is all about that), but if you really want to get somewhere with your writing, you have to stick to it. And you can't exactly stick to it for just a day or a week. We're talking about years and decades of actually 'sticking to it'.

I've done several attempts to complete a novel and believe me, sticking to writing can sometimes be a big challenge. You're going to feel like every part of your brain is no longer interested in your characters and refused to corporate with them, you're going to think over your plot and start feeling insecure about everything and this will make you hesitate to write more and it will end up to a series of useless days and blank pages. You can feel the story calling you back but you have lost your confidence and spirit, and you feel like less of a writer than you were before. At this point, the people who can bring you back are your family and your friends. But at the same time, the people who can make you finally quit on writing are your family and your friends, too. 

Why? Well, here's the thing. If you have a good support system, it means that your family and friends not only know and understand that you want to be a writer and that you love writing, but also accept that dream of yours wholeheartedly. It means that they will show you that they do have your back, and that no matter how badly the sales of your book is, they will still buy every copy available at every book store they run into because they give a crap about it. And this is exactly the thing that will bring you back from the dead. 

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A writer's support system matters. They can't go far if what they hear all day are their friends making fun of their writing, mocking them for their love of books, calling them names (like geeks, nerds, freaks, etc.) and constantly telling them to stop writing. Eventually, no matter how much confidence they have in themselves, these evil voices will get to them. It will affect them psychologically and this isn't good, because writers need their mind, body and soul in one piece to make good writing. 

So, I guess while we make our ways to the end of our books, it wouldn't hurt to become best friends with an avid reader, make out with a book collector, or have a sister who likes poetry. And it definitely wouldn't hurt to marry someone you love and who thinks being a writer is a good idea (as quoted from Richard Ford). Like I said, your support system matters, thus make sure yours is a damn good one.

A very, very long, slow process.

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“When you're writing a book, it's rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. 

Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. 

The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it's got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you've done all ties up. But it's a very, very long, slow process.”

Roald Dahl.
September 13, 1916- November 23, 1990
British novelist, short story writer, children's author and screenwriter.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hemingway's Willie.

"Dear Gianfranco:

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Just after I finished writing you and was putting the letter in the envelope Mary came down from the Torre and said, ‘Something terrible has happened to Willie.’ I went out and found Willie with both his right legs broken: one at the hip, the other below the knee. A car must have run over him or somebody hit him with a club. He had come all the way home on the two feet of one side. It was a multiple compound fracture with much dirt in the wound and fragments protruding. But he purred and seemed sure that I could fix it.

I had René get a bowl of milk for him and René held him and caressed him and Willie was drinking the milk while I shot him through the head. I don’t think he could have suffered and the nerves had been crushed so his legs had not begun to really hurt. Monstruo wished to shoot him for me, but I could not delegate the responsibility or leave a chance of Will knowing anybody was killing him…

Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs."

Ernest Hemingway
Quoted from The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907-1922.
(Posted also on

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Desperation of a Journalist.

I see journalists as the manual workers, the laborers of the word. Journalism can only be literature when it is passionate.
Marguerite Duras, French Novelist. 

Today was the first time I came face to face with an actual TV reporter, carrying an actual wireless microphone, surrounded by actual video-cameras and crews. It was an interesting experience, not because of the possibility that my face might appear in the news, but because I know now how reporters do their jobs. It was funny to watch the frustration on the reporter's face as she interviewed someone in my class because her objective was to get a killer story, which means she doesn't give a crap about what the people she interviewed actually feel as long as they say the right words and bring her that perfect scoop. Unfortunately, in this case, it seemed like she picked the wrong respondent as the answers given to her didn't seem to satisfy her at all. She was going nuts because the meaning was there, just not the exact words she was looking for, which made it a not-so-killer story.

I'm not writing this to mock reporters or journalists, because I honestly give them my highest respect for so many reasons. On the contrary, I'm writing this  because I admire their effort in collecting data and information merely to put together a good piece of article, their hunger to capture as widely as they can but deliver them as precisely as possibly. It's hard work, serious hard work, like every other writing process. I'm writing this because I was jealous of them, jealous of their desperation to share their story in such a way that so that the whole world will turn their heads and listen to them. The thirst and the passion in their eyes are not something you get to see everyday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Different Set of Eyes.

photo credit: National Geographic Channel
I don't believe in spiritual journeys. I'm pretty sure I've said this before. I don't believe in going to remote places, that going to the high ends of a mountain or into the darkest edges of the forest can inspire you. Well, maybe they do to some extend, but I'm pretty sure these kinds of journeys aren't for me. What I believe can inspire is the process of getting new understandings about how the world works, which to some people is done through spiritual journeys.

A different set of eyes, that's what I would say. This is because by going through those journeys you learned a little bit more about yourself, you experienced something you have never experienced before. It's like the first time you went camping and you were faced with a bear. At this very moment, you will know how it feels to be (literally) scared to death, to muster all the courage within you for the sake of seeing tomorrow and the way you see life from that moment on will be changed. It's like you get a brand new set of eyes that will allow you to have a different perspective from what you used to believe in.

So maybe camping is a bad example of a spiritual journey, but that's not the point. The point is that it doesn't matter where you go or what you do, what does matter is how your choice of destination and activities there can introduce you to things you have never encountered before. In other words, how far are you going to allow yourself to be adventurous?

We all want our stories to be fearless. We write for the adventure, the ride and the thrill of it all, but how far are you willing to push yourself? Fearless stories come from fearless writers. How fearless are you willing to be in pursuing the experiences you need to reach greater depths for your stories? Because in reality, you can't really capture the heart of a  love story in New York if you've never been to New York and actually fell in love with someone there. Well, probably not 100%, but you'll capture the story better if you've experienced it first-hand.

How many set of eyes are you willing to have, so that you can step into your characters' shoes, again, at greater depths? Because if you want to create 10 great characters, you're going to need 10 different set of eyes, or should I say 10 different perspectives, and putting yourself in the shoes of 10 different people is a hard thing to do. If you hold yourself back and you don't start being fearless, you'll have less experiences which means you have fewer set of eyes that will lead you to weak characters and result in not-so-great stories, proving you're a not-so-great writer. And for me, being not-so-great isn't enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Trick Question.

Chemistry. Are you any good? 

Ba + Na2 = ?

This was a hard question for me because "Ba" is for Barium and "Na" is for Sodium. Barium is under the category of alkaline earth metals and Sodium is under the category of alkali metals, which to me, doesn't help at all. I tried thinking of the concept of acid and base, but still nothing came up. It's even more frustrating because I know I was good at Chemistry, it's just the equation just didn't make sense to me.

Well, of course it didn't make sense because I didn't realize this wasn't Chemistry, this was basic logic: 

Ba + Na2 = BaNaNa
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Banana. How could I not thought of that? That's the problem, I didn't thought of that. I was too caught up with all the theories and the rules taught in Chemistry classes that I forgot to play around with the equation, to see it from a different angle so that the equation actually made sense. And we do that a lot, don't we? We create characters that are bound by the rules, bound by the basics, bound by the traditions. We write stories about same old dragons and elves and werewolves in the same old evil-dark-forest. We dig in the world of pretty young girls building their careers in fashion design the city of New York instead of maybe telling the story of a dyslexic teenager trying to make her way to be the President of USA, which is to the common people, something impossible. 

I don't blame the basics, I love the basics. I think stories about uptown girls living in New York, their summer love affairs in LA, these regular characters, typical people we see on TV series and in our daily lives, I think they're fascinating. I think these characters and stories help us understand our surroundings better, give us a better picture about other people and their lives. But every once in a while we have to break all the rules and write stories about people we have never heard before, explore the world we have never been to before, because this is what keeps the literary world alive. They say rules are made to be broken, and that's probably true, because I don't see the fun in Chemistry but I see tons of adventure awaiting in Creativity. 

Sometimes we have to let go, let our minds imagine outside of the box. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not, but that's the trick question. The only way to find out is to give it a shot. Write fearlessly and we'll see. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Still Believe.

Anne Frank
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"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." 

In Memory of Anne Frank (June 12, 1929 - March 1945).
Quoted from The Diary of a Young Girl.
Entry of Saturday, 15 July, 1944, pg. 237.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Remember The Holocaust? The catastrophe that happened during the World War II that killed around six million European Jews, the one sponsored by the Nazi and led by the "great" Adolf Hitler? Yes, how could we forget. I was watching a documentary on the National Geographic titled "Nazi Death Squads" and I was reminded of this tragedy.

The Diary of a Young Girl
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There have been movies and books made to honor this event, to remind us all of the selfishness of human beings in their pursue for power. One of my favorite pieces is Anne Frank's Diary: The Diary of a Young Girl.She was born on June 12, 1929. She was bright, beautiful and brilliant like every other teenage Jew living in Frankfurt, Germany. She had hopes and dreams just like everyone of us and it was a shame she had to die at such an early age. What's even worse is that she died for the sake of someone's inhumanity. During her time in hiding, Anne Frank spend her time writing a diary about her daily lives in the secret annex. Her diary was kept by Miep Gies, a family friend that helped the Franks went into hiding, and eventually published as one of the most iconic literary works of the World War II.

Her diary became an inspiration to me both as a writer and as an independent citizen. I didn't just get to know who Anne Frank was, in fact I think getting to know what kind of girl she was is just a small part of the diary. The bigger part lies in understanding her family and her own struggles in getting through the times of war, her courageous spirit to keep on dreaming of freedom in times where death could come knocking at any moment. The better words to describe this is probably "to try to understand" because we could never get it, not in a million years, unless we were ever to be put in the same position as the Jews were at that time.

I don't applaud her for her writing skills, because I know there are so many other legendary writers in this world with much, much better skills than her. But I applaud her for her spirit, which is something not many of us have. I admire her for her spirit to pour out everything she had in her heart into writing and just dwell in her passion upon words instead of drowning herself in misery in the midst of all the mess she had to go through. It's humiliating to reflect on the fact that many writers fell into depression after receiving their first rejection slip. I mean, the World War II compared to a rejection slip, seriously? 

Anne Frank
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How I wish that to fight like hell the way she did was easier said than done and how I wish that every person in this world, including myself, could have the heart and soul that she had. And until today, I still envy her. I envy her joy, her courage, her inner child that allows her to dream beyond all kinds of impossibilities. Until today, I still find her one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I will forever be in awe of her life journey. 

"Still," she writes, "what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart."

In Memory of Anne Frank (June 12, 1929 - March 1945).
Quoted from The Diary of a Young Girl.
Saturday, 20 June, 1942, pg. 2 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Point where You have to Write.

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"Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write."
Paul Rudnick. 
American playwright, screenwriter and novelist.

The Element of Procrastination.

Ha Ha. Everybody does this, right?

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pro·cras·ti·na·tion  [proh-kras-tuh-ney-shuhn, pruh‐]
the act or habit of procrastinating,  or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention: She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late with almost every assignment.
 Modern Language Association (MLA):
"procrastination." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 07 Jul. 2012. 

I found that in the process of writing a book, or a story, or writing anything at all, you will always come to a point where you want to delay getting the job done because of a million reasons: your favorite TV show is on, your dog wants to play, your mom just finished making her famous lasagna and etc. You will feel the urge to do things you never felt like doing, things other than writing. This is the beginning of our procrastination.

Here are 5 of probably the most common things that drive us to procrastinate (and also the things you should avoid during your attempt to write):

1. Internet 
Ooh, I've got new tweets coming in! I should read them first. Clicks on Facebook. OMG, he's with her now? This is crazy, I have to tell Annie right away. Look at that shirt, so cute! I want one. This can't be delayed, I have to get one now! Clicks on Etsy.

2. Cell Phones 
Text Annie. Annie texted back. Text Annie back. Annie texted back again. Oh shoot! Grey's Anatomy is on!

3. TV
Patrick Dempsey is so cute. Thank goodness I didn't miss this episode.

4. Food
I'll go grab something to eat first. Can't think when I'm hungry! Eats a bar of chocolate. I'm sleepy now.

5. Yourself
Never mind, it's getting late. I'll just write tomorrow.

Like I said, everybody does this.
(But let's make it a habit not to do this.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoughts on the Freedom to Express.

Being a writer and a reader exposes us constantly to the freedom to express opinions, emotions and all sorts of things. Some people express their political views and beliefs through plays and poetry. Some others express their disappointments in wrong upbringing, their concerns for crimes happening in the world and even their issues with mother-in-laws through essays and even write stories reflecting on their personal experiences using fictional characters. The more I understand this, the more dig through the motives of why writers write about something, the more I get where the writers are coming more, the more overwhelming it becomes. Because it's crazy how much emotion we feel and go through on a daily basis and it makes me wonder how could we ever survive from becoming some nutcase without this freedom to express our opinions? 

We express our thoughts in so many ways, from merely just talking to a friend to becoming a social activist or running for President, and yet even if we have already been appointed as the President, we will always have something more to say, something else to fix. And thinking about this makes me understood what Ray Bradbury said about how he was often called a nutcase:

"Writing keeps you sane." 

I didn't understand this, when I heard him say this in one of his speeches, because I felt like he was being over the top. But looking back, I figured it's probably true. Bradbury writes because he felt joy when he's writing and he found his voice there. This voice he founds through writing gives him the capability to express everything he wanted to share to the world and that, kept him sane. That voice kept him in a good shape because he didn't need to hold back on anything and when you don't hold back, you find peace. Isn't that the whole purpose for having the freedom to express?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Make Good Art.

"Remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do:Make good art.

I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art."

Neil Gaiman.
Novelist, Graphic Novelist, Screenwriter.  
Quoted from The University of the Arts 134th Commencement, May 17th, 2012.
(complete script: click here)

Grief and Gratitude.

Grieving is human. Grieving is a part of life because nobody is perfect and people will let you down. There will be moments in life when you're going to feel so helpless, so out of place, so lonely, so mad about everything that's going on and you find yourself desperately wishing for things to go back to the way it were. But you can't because past is past and that's it. People get sick and they die, relationships end and you suddenly have to go your separate ways, friends back-stab and friendships get ruined, people leave to be somewhere far away from you, these things are all bound to happen to some of us eventually. And when they do, you're going to want to cry a lot, eat chocolate a lot and I don't know, probably sing and dance and spend nights not sleeping a lot. But you can't go on like this forever, right? 

So in the midst of all the mess, we write and we read, a lot. We write and write and write, and read  and read and read, and don't stop until you finally get a hold of yourself and realize you're going to be just fine. Bruised, obviously, but it doesn't make you less than what you truly are, it doesn't make you less of a writer or less of a reader than you ever were. We are writers and writing should keep you sane (Ray Bradbury said this too in one of his speeches). Writing should (and will) be your therapy in getting back on your feet and your characters should be one of the people you find comfort in. Reading, on the other hand, should allow you to have peace. Reading should take you to places other than reality, take your mind off the mess and give you the necessary breaks you need when you feel helpless and sad and mad again. 

Writers, I think, when we are faced with devastating events in life should be grateful. I don't think this applies to writers only, but to artists in general. We should be grateful because we get the chance to experience the process. I'm not saying I enjoy losing friends or I like breaking up relationships and dance over people dying, but if it did happen, if we did had to deal with those things, then I'm saying you should remember to be grateful. Be thankful that you get the chance to experience first hand from the tears, the happiness, the longing, the desperation, the exhaustion and all the raw emotions, because now you get it. Now you know how your characters feel when you kill their friends and now you understand how the grieving process is supposed to be too. People always say, experience is the best teacher, and to some extend it's true. And as writers, every moment of our lives is precious, it should be precious, including grieving, and this too should be taken as a valuable experience.

Oh, and, you're going to be okay. The storm doesn't last forever. That's for sure.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

3 most inspirational moments.

photo credit: Pabro Barra (flickr)
We, humans, root for inspiration everyday. We search highs and lows for ideas, for perspectives, for concepts and even for meanings in life. We crave to be inspired day after day because inspiration makes life exciting and somehow allows us to extend our imagination at new heights. Writers, although we may be a little geeky, are also human and we long to be inspired everyday. It's not just everyday, but in every step of our waking moment, we long to be continuously inspired. Inspiration is the core of what we do. We write about things that made us feel alive and the thrill we get is from things that inspire us. 

It's pretty obvious actually to see how desperate writers are when it comes to finding inspiration. They are willing to go to remote places merely for the sake of meditating, hoping they will eventually come out with new meanings and new perspectives that will help them write better. Others travel around the world to see places, to be enchanted by the many wonders of the world and to learn about different cultures which will help them to get stronger character development. In my case, I don't believe in meditation and I don't travel much, but I've learned along the way that we can be inspired everyday through simple things. So, here are my list of the three most inspirational moments of our daily lives (from the third): 

3. Driving
I know what you're thinking, driving is an activity that requires your undivided attention and total focus but sometimes I just couldn't help to space out and start thinking about other things (please note that this can endanger your safety). When you're driving, especially when you're going through familiar routes (like driving from home to school), you will feel like your body moves on its own and you suddenly just got there to your destination. During these times, your mind will be so deep in thought, it's like you're no longer in the same reality that ideas will start popping up in your head.

2. The Semi-Unconscious State between Dreaming and Waking Up
In those mornings when you wake up very slowly (not suddenly) from such an intense dream, that you can feel like you're somehow still asleep and still dreaming but at the same time you're already aware it was just a dream? This is when you still remember what went on in your dreams, though probably not every little detail, but at this moment you have the ability to jot them down into a story. After you gain your full consciousness, the memory will start to fade and eventually you will have only glimpses of what happened and not enough details to make a story out of it. Some people can remember their dreams vividly even after days and weeks,  which is a blessing, but most people cannot. Dreams are actually one of the best sources of inspiration as there are no limits. So if you can experience that semi-unconscious state and you manage to get up and note what your dream was all about, it would be a a great source of inspiration. 

1. The Shower 
Yes, the famous "shower" moment. Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest writers of all time, said that one of the places he go to find inspiration would be the shower. I also don't know the scientific explanation behind why so many great people find inspiration in the shower. When we write (or work) we pressure our brains to think, explore and be critical, but at some point we get tired that we ended up generating zero ideas. So it's probably because when showering, our minds are more relax and can drift off just like that. Some people also say that taking a shower is a passive activity that doesn't require high brain activity therefore our minds can go deep into other things, for example: your characters, plot and settings. 

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So, are you inspired? 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reading is Everything.

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"Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss." 

As   quoted in  AdviceToWriters.
In Memory of Nora Ephron.
Filmmaker, Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Novelist, 
Playwright, Journalist, Author and Blogger. 
(May 19, 1941 - June 26, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Books are important.

Anne Lamott.
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“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

From the book: Bird by Bird,
written by Anne Lamott


When you talk about art, you are talking about the so-called muses. Writing is an art, which means there is also the so-called muses. I used this word a lot when I share my frustration in dealing with writers block and self-discipline issues. I knew this word by heart. I have a good understanding over what the word means, but I never looked it up in the dictionary before, so this morning I just did

muse 2 (mjuːz)

— n
a goddess that inspires a creative artist, esp a poet

[C14: from Old French, from Latin Mūsa, from Greek Mousa a Muse]
quoted from:

The nine muses
—Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, Melpomene—
on a Roman sarcophagus (2nd century AD, from the Louvre)
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I was so in love with Muse's definition: a goddess that inspires a creative artist. Turns out what we call as "Muses" are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts. Pretty cool, right? But I won't be talking about history or Greek mythology here, probably some other time.

Let's talk about muse in a more general perspective. I knew what muse was, it's more of a abstraction state (this definition was also stated in the same page as the one mentioned above) where you feel like you're "in the zone". Writers wait for this a lot because once you find your 'Muse', you'll feel like flying, like your fingers couldn't stop typing one word after another one and you'll feel so alive when you do. The 'Muse' is exactly like a goddess that inspires a creative artist. The thing is, this 'goddess' doesn't come around and go as we wish. She doesn't act under our orders, it's actually more like the other way around. Stephen King wrote a wonderful quote on this in his book 'On Writing', and it said:

"Muse's job is to smoke cigars.

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. King talked about how our Muse, our goddess, has always been by our side. She never left. But she won't be able to help and inspire if she doesn't find you working, or in other words, writing. He said that we could never feel like she's helping us if we don't discipline ourselves to write everyday because when we don't, there's really nothing she could help us with. Muse is only there when we write, so when we don't, she's gone. It's kind of like telling her our working schedule so she knew when she should show up and decide if we're working hard enough.

If you've read enough writing advices and writing quotes, there's a lot of chatter about self-discipline in writing and this is actually one of the keys to get our Muse working. A lot of great writers from decades ago until today talked about sticking to a certain writing schedule that you follow every single day. It's hard at the start, but as you go along, it gets easier, not because of the writing itself, but because our minds are trained to process and work on ideas like a routine at scheduled hours. You know how our bodies and minds react towards routines, after a certain period of time, they seem to automatically act accordingly to their required functions in completing the task (for example: waking up at certain hours automatically without alarm at similar hours every morning). This is what we called as our Muse, when we're 'in the zone', when our bodies and minds are focused to the writing process which helps us to come up and process ideas to write about.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The extension to my summer reading list (so far).

The other, I posted my summer's reading list so far. And I've noted down that there was a big possibility for the list to grow, and so it happened. I have recently bought 6 books, one of them was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which I have finished reading from the beginning of last year (2011).

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It wasn't a surprise that the book was an enjoyable, memorable and thoughtful read, as it was appointed by New York Times  as one of the best books of 2010, alongside with other contenders, such as Room by Emma Donoghue (another fine piece of writing), A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and also Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. The experience of reading Freedom was simply one of a kind, as Franzen told the story at such great depth, allowing us readers to bond strongly with the characters. At the time the book was a borrowing from a friend. I saw a smaller size of paperback recently at the bookstore and I just couldn't resist.

As for the rest, here are the 5 books I'll be adding to my summer's reading list:

1. Big Girl by Danielle Steel

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2. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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3. True Blue by David Baldacci

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4. The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes

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5. Safe Heaven by Nicholas Sparks

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I'm not sure if I'm going to have enough time to finish them all, but who cares? You shouldn't read to meet deadlines. You write to meet deadlines, that's normal, but you read for pleasure, for the sake of enjoying the imagination of another's writer put into work.