Reading…

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Actual picture of my bookcase. Note the vases and general crap in front of all the books.

I have a confession to make.

I have not read a physical book of more than 25 pages since I graduated from Grad School.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I had to re-read The Hunger Games in order to teach it to my class last fall, and I’ve picked up various books to start reading them since then, but I haven’t really had/taken the time to actually read a book for my own pleasure.

Not that I haven’t been reading. I read at least ten books a day — Of the cardboard variety. And, of course, I read articles and posts online on my computer and on my phone all the time. Articles are much easier put down when someone shouts from the other room that she needs help wiping herself. The article doesn’t lose its place so that I have to re-read the same paragraph each of the five times I go back to it over the course of the three hours it takes me to finish reading it.

I haven’t thought much about this fact in a while. I read a lot while in college, of course, but not so much in grad school. I had less time and more going on outside of school to deal with. I read all of the books I needed to for school and loved it, but I didn’t really take the time to read anything that wasn’t assigned to me.

Another fact has become increasingly apparent to me, and I think the two are probably related: I haven’t been writing. Other than Facebook updates and things that are necessary for basic communications, I haven’t been writing on my novel, any songs, on any short stories, or here (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). And while the last couple of posts here have been about living my life and being okay with being away from my online presence, I think that this is something that I need to address in my life.

Because let’s face it, I still have a lot to say. I still have things I want to say to the world. I still have characters and stories and ideas in my head that are trying to get out. But these things aren’t going to find an outlet or a road into the greater world without a little help. Words pave these roads and blast through the mountains of doubt and writer’s block. Ideas help fuel the energy to bring incorporeal things to life, to create, to birth.

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“Thanksgiving” cactus blooming at MorSkies Ranch

 

So in order to do justice to the voices in my head, I am going to try to focus back on my creativity. Writing has always been a big part of my life, but I’m not feeding it in the same way that I did. Without reading and putting in words and ideas, I’m not getting anything out. Anything that isn’t nurtured and taken care of isn’t going to flourish.

I’m just hoping that what I have is a cactus that simply needs a little water to bloom.

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A misery shared…

Just kidding. Writing isn’t a misery… most of the time.

image Porter and Menolly, working hard at the “Learning Farm”

What I am laughingly trying to say is that if you’re having a hard time writing, you might consider a different approach: collaboration. It is amazing how much I can get hashed out just talking to a trusted friend or loved one about a story, and if the person you’re talking to has a vested interest in what you are writing, as in it’s their writing too, so much the better.

One of the tenants of first year English at the college level is workshop and collaborative writing. It always gets mixed results, and there hasn’t been any project structure that can account for all of the potential problems with group projects, but when it works, it is one of the greatest learning and writing experiences that you can get.

Now, most students have had a very bad group experience in school, and very few have had great ones. There is often one person in the group that is a leader and does most of the work, one who is a follower and will basically do the least amount of work to get a decent grade, and one person in the group who simply doesn’t show up. There are ways for individuals in groups to try and keep the work load and participation balanced, but so few students know these tactics or how to employ them, so they just go through the project as quickly as they can and keep their head down hoping for a passing mark.

This, of course, is not why teachers assign group work. If nothing else, seeing how other people view your work and getting their feedback on it is one of the best things to happen to any writer. While you might be writing for yourself, if you ever intend to be published, you are writing for an audience, too. If you don’t have any idea what the audience thinks about your work, you don’t know how to give the audience what they want.

On the collaboration front, if you have more than one mind working on a project, you’re guaranteed to get something more creative and more interesting to more people. You simply can’t get away from the fact that someone else will look at your writing with another perspective and other ideas will come to them that wouldn’t have necessarily come to you. If you’re actively trying to put your individual spin on a piece, you’ll get something even better because your separate perspectives are focused in one direction.

There are a couple of different ways that you can collaborate that are advantageous, and I’m sure you can come up with new ways, as well. You can write the entire story together, each pick a character or a couple of characters, switch off chapters, even one of you come up with character development and another work on plot while a third is creating the world. There are all kinds of ways for writers and creative minds to inspire each other and come up with great work.

So you might groan when a teacher assigns you group work, but there are a lot of great reasons to complete it, not the least of which is that you will probably have to do group work in the ‘real’ world, as well. And you never know, maybe this will be the group that changes your mind about group work?

And yes, this post was inspired by watching two one-year-olds (see the picture!).