The Reclusive Writer

I am quick to admit that I am a very reclusive person. By nature I am painfully private about things in my life. There was a period in my life where I sought to fit in but that was as successful as trying to drown fish in water. I have since come back home to being the recluse that I am. Yet in being reclusive, intoxicated in my own reality, I find the well-spring of creativity. I imagine the lives of other people. Living and breathing the air of the characters that populate the world of my mind. It is a world undisturbed by the harsh reality of this world.

There is nothing bad about being shy about yourself. In looking myself, I realized that I have a lot of acquittances yet only a handful of close friends. People with whom I can be vulnerable with and comfortable to share my thoughts and ideas.

Yet it is in my own quiet retreat, I am able to write and spin the tales that flash within my head. I put on my beenie, wake up my iBook and type away. Some stories go unfinished, some take flight yet others remain empty pages waiting for another visit.

I sometimes shun writer gatherings for the very reason, I prefer to write alone. I am not saying writer groups are bad. No. By all means join one if you feel it would help your craft. All I am saying is, it may not work for me. I enjoy writing alone. In the comfort of my own thoughts and the quietness of my own space. Do what is best to express your craft. Don’t compromise on what makes you a writer.

If you are a reclusive writer like me, don’t worry. You are in good company.

Depression and this Writer

I never thought I would fall into this state of mind but it happened. I was depressed and this was the reason I had turned cold towards my writing. I did not know it was depression and instead blamed other factors such as work, commitments and people as the reason to why I couldn’t sit down long enough to write a sentence. Yes, within the period of depressive foggy-ness, I did managed to churn out several short stories (most appearing on this blog) but my main project merely sat on the sideline.

Depression hits for no reason and your mind just fogs over and your motivation to do the things you love just evaporates, leaving you with this perpetual sense of emptiness. In the end, you feel as if you are merely a shell and life has ebbed it’s way to the twilight zone. Nothing seems right, you become sensitive and needy. Needy for attention or someone to understand but you full well know no-one can fully understand the state of mind of a depressive person. My mind and heart were locked in a bind of negativity. Nothing seemed positive and optimism became a curse word.

There were evenings I spent walking in my backyard, devoid of thoughts and merely walking. I viewed things with an emptiness, a detachment from what was real or fantasy. In this state, plants looked alive and the world just seemed a shade of gray. It was bad.

Yet, I knew all this and I am glad I had friends I could just talk to. People I could open up to and vent. And I also had my writing. I realized the most passionate of my writings were done when I was in this state of clawing myself out of my emotional black-hole. The stories were real and the emotions raw. Sometimes our very weakness is the source of our greatest strength. Our insanity is the root of our creativity, the source of the logic for which we write about and our readers get transported to.

In my depression, I wrote about the need for love, the strength of hope and the desperation of one who has reached their end. Maybe it’s good for me to walk in that dark alley called depression, if only to gain the stories but not to dwell in it.

Am I out of my depression? I don’t know because its a part of me, yet I know I can keep it in check and continue to write with passion due to it.

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Stick to what you know best – 3 Tips for writers.

I am of the opinion that it is always best for one-self to understand their strengths and play to them to the fullest. In writing this translate to the fact, authors need to write within the sphere of their understanding. Meaning, choose your genre, choose your market and understand your own reading taste.

Choose Your Genre
There are a hundred and one different genres to choose from and I bet you will find one that suit your writing style. Each genre has a style of it own, reading Nicholas Evans and Nicholas Sparks tell me that both have a way of tugging at your heart strings and both write in the same genre. Take Stephen King and you see he writes in his genre and his style is suited to it. I cannot imagine Stephen King writing in the same genre as Nicholas Sparks but I reckon it is possible but really weird. Stephen King would be too crude and too direct in showing the movement of emotions and feelings. I would bet most of his characters would be deemed angry people with little feelings of affection towards one another. So look at your style and choose your genre. Not everyone can write a novel, so maybe your genre falls in the motivational writing section rather than romance. Give it a thought.

Choose Your Market
If you’re writing for money then aim for the market that sells. Self-help books, children’s book, educational books, billboard advertising, etc…whichever would draw in the money. But if you’re writing for writing sake than you can pick out the one’s with least competition but with potential to be your own private niche. My friends asked me why write in English when the market is so small (almost non-existent) in Malaysia. Why not write in the national language, Bahasa Malaysia? Firstly, I only think in English and though I can write in Bahasa Malaysia, it will probably turn out to be so formal and with enough emotion as a dry prune. I rather write in english and be among the select few who publish in english in Malaysia and the key thing is…I may be the only one publishing in my genre. Yes, I am in direct competition with imported titles but somewhere along the line, national pride will kick in and people would support their local writers.

Understand Your Reading Taste
We write what we like to read. Repeat that with me, “I write what I like to read.” Yes, we mimic those that have gone before us and we do it well. Let’s be honest, somewhere along the road; you told yourself, “I can write like this.” So, you pulled up your sleeves and bit your lips and pounded away a story about a fly that irritated this girl so much, she burnt down the fire-station much in the same way Carrie did in Stephen King’s – Carrie, when she burnt down the school and wreck half the town. We write what we read. So read as much as you want but know that your writing WILL BE influence by what you like best. Even if that means reading billboards for a living.

So stick to what you know best. If you know how to sharpen pencils to the max than write about sharpening pencils or sharping chopsticks into weapons of mass destruction ala a Ian Fleming – James Bond thriller. I’m floating this idea of red and black fingernails in my head, you never know it could turn out into the next best seller (in my wildest dreams).

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The Root of Passionate Writing

I read Vroom’s comment to my article “The 3 Essential Things Never Taught at Writing Workshops” and I appreciate the raw honesty in it and the question posed caused me to think. Here’s the comment in full:

what if, just what if.. i had the passion to write couple of years ago.. and it disappeared one day, in which i am unable to write like i used to, the passion ‘ran away..’ is there anyway i can help myself get over this phase? cause seriously i love writing i love writing more than playing basketball or watch soccer/football! even though the poems i written were depressing because of how i used to feel and i kind of got over the depressing days i didn’t like how depressing they were.. any suggestions?

Passion grows from within and different people exhibit passion towards different things whether in-material or material, an object, a person or even an idea. People are naturally passionate beings, we are hardwired by the Creator in such a manner. I believe the passion never ‘ran away’, I believe the passion is still there but you have put a cap on it and boxed it.

I asked myself this question, as I was writing my first book and even when I’m working on my second one now, “Why are you doing this?” in crude words, “Why write?”

Why write in the first place? Why bother? Why slave away in the wee moments just to get a sentence right? Why spend all that effort if you are not sure people want to read it? Why push on when you get “rejection letters” to your manuscript? Why would someone like me, trained in Information Technology, who hates romance books yet I write about love, heartaches, human struggles and finding one’s place in the world?

Because writing is the ONLY thing I KNOW.

Take away everything from me, all my skills, all my academic training, everything and strip me to my core – writing is still there. I’m a story-teller and writing is the tool I use to tell my story. This is where my passion springs from – the knowledge that I know nothing else except writing.

If you ‘feel’ the passion running away, take time off to ask yourself why you are doing it. What are your motivations?

Another thing, you can do is to simply find passionate writers and sit with them. Have a cup of tea, talk about writing and read each other’s work. Writers just need to be heard even if only one person reads their work, they are elated. After pouring out so much from your emotional tank into your writing, you’ll need to fill it up that tank again. Pass the Passion and absorb the Passion.

I found my muse in someone who took the time to read my work and tell me it was great. I’ve always wanted to write but I never had the courage to pursue it. In my mind, I thought it was merely a little hobby I just fiddled with in my spare time but then I met people who looked at my writing and told me there was something there. They enjoyed my thoughts, tit-bits of conventional wisdom that seemed to connect with them. I had an audience willing to hear what I had to say. My Passion for writing was ignited by encouragement from readers and then the Passion found focus when I met my muse and my writings were motivated by the pure essence of friendship and love. So my Passion was focused on writing about the pain and joys of love.

My Passion was ignited and focused.

Herein lies the key, we all have passion but it needs encouragement and focus. No matter what style you write in, whether it is depressing or uplifting, focusing your Passion will drive you on. If you find yourself ‘lost’ then take time to find your focus. Maybe it is time for you to find a new focus? Maybe it’s time to try a new style? Maybe it’s time to take a risk and write a full novel? Why not?

Passion never ‘runs away’. It’s still there. It just needs to be ignited and focused and before I forget, writers write with their emotions strapped to their foreheads. But I’ll keep that for another post.

To Vroom, keep writing. To get yourself out of that rut…pass your writing to someone to read. In his book On Writing, Stephen King tells us that he writes in order to make his wife laugh. What about you? Vroom, will your poems make someone cry because they understand the pain you write about? If they do cry, then you’ve managed to pass your passion onto to another soul via your writing.

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