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

Deserted.

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?).