Better than you remembered

“In truly good writing no matter how many times you read it you do not know how it is done. That is beacause there is a mystery in all great writing and that mystery does not dissect out. It continues and it is always valid. Each time you re-read you see or learn something new.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Fred on the Head has posed an interesting question: Do you re-read?

To this I can only plead: Guilty.

There are about a dozen works I find myself returning to, and for exactly the reason Hemingway cites above. In fact, three of Hemingway’s works are on my list: The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Killers, and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. For me, they never lose their power to amaze and teach. Even when my intention is to analyze, I end up getting lured in once again by the robust narrative.

Mishima’s Patriotism leaves me reeling each time I experience it. What a show: breathtaking eroticism and rapturous prose made all the more vivid and potent by the blunt reality of sepukku. Whoa.

Among the classics, I keep returning to A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Beowulf more than any of the others. And I’m in the process of travelling to Mordor once again with the Fellowship of the Ring. I’ve almost finished The Two Towers, and am just as carried away by Tolkien’s imaginative world-building as the first time I experienced him.

All good friends I could never get tired of.

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How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

I will confess to having never been tempted to participate in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal of dashing off a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days struck me as gimmicky and pointless.

But I may have to change my mind. Though a recent Publishers Weekly article on NaNoWriMo is entitled “How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo,” I’m more interested in WHY I should participate.

Turns out the article zooms right in on that concern, and it got my attention:

NaNoWriMo’s pressing time constraints leave little time for polishing and perfecting—and that’s perhaps the point.

Marissa Meyer, whose novels Cinder and Scarlet (Square Fish, 2014) began as NaNoWriMo drafts, says the beauty of the program is that it “forces you to silence that internal editor and just get something written. If you’re telling yourself that it’s OK to be writing something bad because you can always come back and fix it later, it takes a lot of the pressure off.”

Ouch. That hit home. That internal editor remains one of my biggest writing roadblocks. I can’t peck out two sentences on the laptop without having to go back and proof what little I’ve done. I know I’m supposed to complete my manuscript before getting all editorially and nit-picky, but I succumb every time to the temptation to tweak what I’ve written. And that slows me down, which impedes the completion of my manuscript, and a completed first draft, despite its inevitable ugly spots, is an accomplishment that will spur me on to sticking to the whole process.

I used to dismiss flash fiction as a gimmick, too, until I tried my hand at it and discovered the rigor and discipline it takes to complete quality pieces. It isn’t easy, and that’s the point. There’s no doubt writing flash fiction has improved my writing by forcing me to say what I want to say in fewer, stronger words. You can judge for yourself here and here.

So look out, NaNoWriMo 2015. Here I come.

You’re human

From Young & Twenty, a new favorite:

Your family may fight but it shows that they’re there. Your job may be boring but it means you still have one. Your skin may be flawed but it means that you’ve grown. Your mistakes may be bad but it means that you’re human. Your smile may be temporary but it means there’s still hope. Your life may be hard but it means that you’re living, and the fact that you’re living means you’ve done something right

News that stays news

Ezra

Compiled by il miglior fabbro

Sara Hoyt : No More Crying Now
Ryan Lanz: Under the Microscope: The Destiny Matrix
Alice Osborn: How to Effectively Prepare For Your First Writers’ Conference
Jacke Wilson: Brush with Greatness: Harry Shearer and Me!
Notes from an Alien: Some Questions for The Serious Writer
Bob Mayer: The Last Czar
Fred on the Head: What Does a Half-Century Look Like?
Cristian Mihai: Over the Edge

The Body Keeps the Score

Hemingway Writing

There’s an old saying that nothing bad can happen to a writer because it’s all inspiration. We’ve heard about writers pouring their hearts onto the page to confront and expel inner demons. Edgar Allen Poe. H.P. Lovecraft. Ernest Hemingway. For them, writing was therapy.

Now we have science that confirms that insight:

It is now widely accepted that stressful experiences — whether divorce or final exams or loneliness—have a negative effect on immune function, but this was a highly controversial notion at the time of Pennebaker’s study. Building on his protocols, a team of researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine compared two groups of students who wrote either about a personal trauma or about a superficial topic. Again, those who wrote about personal traumas had fewer visits to the student health center, and their improved health correlated with improved immune function, as measured by the action of T lymphocytes (natural killer cells) and other immune markers in the blood. This effect was most obvious directly after the experiment, but it could still be detected six weeks later.

Numerous experiments have since replicated Pennekbaker’s findings. Writing experiments from around the world, with grade-school students, nursing-home residents, medical students, maximum-security prisoners, arthritis sufferers, new mothers, and rape victims, consistently show that writing about upsetting events improves physical and mental health. This shouldn’t surprise us: Writing is one of the most effective ways to access an inner world of feelings that is the key to recovering from genuine trauma and everyday stress alike.

The goal is a sound mind in a sound body. It’s not either/or. I’ve long felt that Cartesian dualism is as wrong-headed as it is mechanistic and dehumanizing, and that living and feeling and thinking as a whole person rather than as a ghost in a machine is the path to fulfillment. That theme often inspires my writing.

Rather than rejecting the body and nature as lowly, and the mind as somehow imprisoned in dumb matter, we need to grasp the unity of both and live — and write — accordingly.

Celtic Influence in the South

Fiona

Fiona Ritchie, founder, producer, and host of NPR’s award winning The Thistle & Shamrock Celtic music program signs copies of her book, Wayfaring Strangers:  The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia.

I am a long-time fan of Fiona’s show ( and have fallen in love with her honey-like burr!). Thistle and Shamrock is a tradition at our house on summer evenings, when we lounge on the back porch with the radio tuned to her weekly presentations of Celtic music. There’s usually something smoking on the grill as we listen.

So my wife and I attended the Charlotte Folk Society’s program last night featuring Fiona with her Wayfaring Strangers co-author Doug Orr. The two provided background on the Celtic roots of Southern music, and the musical duo Little Windows (Julee Glaub and Mark Weems) performed the songs. It was a wonderful evening, and I was glad to stuff a five into the hat when it came my way.

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