Nancy: Writing Around the Web

Sometimes when writers are neck-deep in our own ideas and stories, we turn to other fiction for a mental reboot. Other times, it’s non-fiction, perhaps craft books. For the past week, I’ve been thumbing through Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story and Story Genius as I continue developing a novel with her brain science technique. For fun, I’ve been reading Stephon Alexander’s The Jazz of Physics. (Yes, that really is what passes for fun in my world.)

When I need a quicker fix, a quick shot of creative inspiration, or just a boost in the will to go on (because some writing days are just So. Damn. Hard.), I like to visit some familiar haunts on the web. A few posts have really struck a chord with me these past few weeks. If you feel yourself needing a boost, check out these articles for yourself, and poke around these sites – there’s so much good stuff to discover!

Arghink. This is the blog of Jennifer Crusie, mentor of the 8LW crew. Jenny’s blog is always chock full of great information, fun, and community, but recently, she’s also been sharing early drafts and revisions of her WIP. And it is as amazing as it sounds. Ever the teacher, Jenny is also sharing the way she approaches revisions. Continue reading

Nancy: 5 Things I Learned from Krav Maga (That Might or Might Not Apply to Writing)

I might have mentioned a few (hundred) times here on the blog that I love a good physical challenge. A few years ago, I had an idea for one that would not only get me in better shape, but would also train me in self defense. So I started searching for Krav Maga classes. Before I could sign up and start kicking ass, I broke my finger.

Fast forward a year and a half. Did I mention it was a serious break? So yeah, a year and half later, I finally signed up for a 6-week introductory class to the fighting style developed by the Israeli Army. And hey, they developed it so anyone of any age and fitness level could learn defensive fighting quickly and easily! So said one of my instructors while he had us doing brutal sprints and one-arm planks at the end of hour-long, full-out hitting and kicking sessions, when I was pretty sure I was going to die of exhaustion.

After expending so much energy, sweat, and – not gonna lie – a few tears, though thankfully no blood, I feel stronger and maybe a little better prepared to take up a fighting stance and protect myself if it ever becomes necessary. But I like to get a big return on my investment, and I can find writing lessons in almost anything, so behold my Lessons from Krav Maga: Writing Edition.

1) Don’t be surprised; be prepared.  If I had to boil my Krav Maga experience down to one line, this would be it. While the techniques do teach you how to fight (and flee!) effectively, there’s more to surviving a street fight than that. You have to be prepared for the unexpected and ready to fight the unknown.  Continue reading

Nancy: A Year of Change…Checking In

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about it way back in 1971.

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes way back in 1971.

A few months ago, after we’d all realized the world had changed and turned our eyes toward the hellfires of Mordor, Michaeline and I got into a discussion about change in the comments section of this post about writing as our superpower. She mentioned she’d put a tarot card app on her phone and ‘change’ cards kept popping up. Around the same time, I’d had a tarot reading (I was in Salem, MA; it seemed appropriate to do something ‘other-worldly’) during which I’d gotten three change cards (which I gathered from the tarot reader was a lot).

The card reader told me so much change so fast would be…unsettling might have been the least disturbing word bandied about, and warned me I wouldn’t be able to control ALL THE CHANGES. I should learn to change and control what I could and learn to adapt to the rest. Which is definitely a life lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again.

Luckily for me (she said sardonically), Continue reading

Nancy: Writers Resist

democracy-pen-americaAn interesting thing happened in America on Sunday. Writers – novelists, poets, songwriters, essayists, and artists of every stripe – gathered in cities and towns across the country for “a re-inauguration of our shared commitment to the spirit of compassion, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.”

The collective movement is called Writers Resist (#writeourdemocracy), and the gatherings encouraged writers to read original works, participate in panel discussions about democracy, and show support for the most important pillar holding up the house of democratic government – free speech. Many of us in this country have taken for granted a right that is, in actuality, far too easy to stifle, as many of our kindred writer souls across the world could have told (and have been telling) us.
Continue reading

Nancy: Another 2017 Watchword: Patience

Patience is a VirtuePatience is a virtue, or so I’m told. I have to admit, I don’t have as much first-hand knowledge of this as perhaps I should. But like writing, life is a process, and as I continue pondering and acting upon my plans for 2017, I’ve decided to see how the other half (or whatever the percentage of patient people is) lives.

I should be clear: in my experience, impatience is not always a sin. It can be a driver and a motivator. It can ensure All the Things get done in a timely manner, something which was of the utmost importance in the strict deadline-driven professional world I used to inhabit. In fact, it is probably my impatience with my own work pace and quality, and (sometimes) that of others, that pushed me toward efficiency and higher-quality output. It made me really, really good at what I did.

And then I burned out. Continue reading

Kay: Art in Turbulent Times

guernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso, 1937

Do turbulent times create an environment that produces great art?

“Art has always [forced people to confront a dark reality], and it is a really powerful space for expressing anger,” said Genevieve Gaignard, a photographer and installation artist, in an interview for the Huffington Post. “If you’re not the type to protest on the streets or don’t have the words to express your outrage, your voice can still be heard through your art.”

liberty

Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix, 1830

Plenty of examples back her up. Picasso painted Guernica, probably the most famous anti-war painting ever, only two months after the bombing of that Spanish town during the Spanish Civil War. Eugene Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People to commemorate the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France—a painting the French government thought was too inflammatory in its glorification of liberty, so they bought it and removed it from public view. It was roughly in that same period that Victor Hugo wrote the novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

And of course, the theory is that the artist has to starve in a garret while writing or painting the masterpiece, because genius flowers only when it’s drunk, high, unhappy, destitute, or emotionally scarred.

But many artists would prefer not to suffer. In an interview in The Atlantic, the Danish writer Dorthe Nors, author of Karate Chop and other novels, said such ideas are self-destructive, and glamorizing suffering is dangerous. “We can separate artistic pain, the experience of feeling deeply, from leading a painful life,” she said. It’s because art is painful that she strives to keep an even keel, because the work itself is hard enough.

Are we entering turbulent times—times when the political climate could lead to a diminished quality of life for people, including artists, who might be marginalized? Some artists think so. They’re worried about it—and they’re wondering what they can do to stay on an even keel and produce their work.

John Scalzi is a novelist (winner of the Hugo award) and “critic at large” for the Los Angeles Times who feels “knocked for a loop” by the election. He wrote a 10-point plan for how to create art in turbulent times. Actually, it’s good advice even for peaceful times. It starts with “Acknowledge it’s bad, and other facts of life” and ends with “Remember: Your work matters.” For the full article, go here.

Are the times turbulent for you? And are you finding the time and bandwidth to create anyway?

Nancy: Intention

Seated yoga poseJanuary, that post-holiday start of a new year, is a natural time to reassess, reprioritize, and reorganize our lives and our writing. Yesterday, Jilly shared her watchword for 2017: publish. Last year I made up my own word (phrase): joie d’ecriture. This year, my watchword/mantra/true north for 2017 is intention.

Intention. It’s not just paving material for the road to hell. It’s having a purpose. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them. Living each day as though it could be your last and knowing you won’t regret having misspent it. That’s all fine and good, you might be saying, but what the hell does it mean? How does one work toward intention? Continue reading