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Posts Tagged ‘writing process’

Sunday Serial: 6 Blog Posts to Start your Week off Right

First off, I want to thank each and every one of you for stopping by and reading this blog. I’m lucky to be a writer who blogs because unlike writers of fiction and epic novels that are published in a static journal or book, you and I get to speak to each other if we want to. I get to share my thoughts and perspective with you, and you, if you choose, get to share yours. No writer has ever had this direct-line to his or her readers before.

For that, I want to thank you.

6 Blog Posts to Start Your Week off Right

Paper, boy

It has been an enormous week and I’ve spent most of the weekend with my head down, recovering. And while I’m really getting into the flow of writing and blogging once a day, I want to take some time to share. So allow me to introduce the Sunday Serial, a weekly installment of the top blogs, articles, and essays that I read over the past week. Enjoy! (more…)

Nobody Tells This to Beginners (and Other Developments)

Ira Glass Quote

Ira Glass said this at some point and since I’m writing about writing a lot lately, it’s too relevant not to be shared.

Random fact: Did you know that I met and worked with Ira Glass during year two of Wordstock? Yep, I’m just that good.

In other bits of trivia – Scott Berkun wrote a response to my blog post from last week, 500 Words or Less, which was actually inspired by him. (Is your head spinning yet?) And in this post, he explains the difference between an essay and a blog…sort of.

You should read it.

New development: Did you know that lamiki.com is on Facebook?  You should like me over there, because we all know that you can’t get enough lamiki in your life.

Come on, toss a girl a like.

Oh, and I have big news to share tomorrow. Really, really BIG news.

But you’ll have to wait. ☺

For now, rock the rest of your Thursday.

Am I really a writer?

Am I really a writer?

My husband shared this picture with me today and it speaks to me too much not to be shared.

This is something that he and I have been struggling with for our entire lives but only embraced last year (it was the secret I was talking about in this post actually). The challenge for me is declaring and ‘owning’ that I am, indeed, a writer. For John, it’s that he is an artist.

The difference between a writer and an author

As someone with a background in the book publishing industry, I hold the titles of “writer” and “author” to high regards. Just because you write does not make you a writer.

And it all comes down to something that my first college writing professor said –

Next time someone you meet at a party introduces themselves as a writer, ask them what they’ve written. If they say, “Oh, nothing you’ve ever read,” then they’re not really a writer.

Last spring I had a conversation with Simon Salt about this topic and he pointed me to a very good blog post he wrote on the topic: Author, Writer, Blogger – it’s all the same write?

Here’s how I define it:

To be an author, you need to write something that is published by someone who is not yourself. This means your writing is in a book, a journal, or in a magazine (though periodicals usually mean you’re a journalist) and it was edited and endorsed by someone else, usually your editor and the publisher. Again, not you.

To be a writer, you should have some level of formal training and be paid or endorsed by someone to write. In other words, the transaction of a payment means that someone else has endorsed that you truly are a writer. Can you be a ‘writer’ if you’ve never been paid? Sure, just like I’m an athlete though I’ve never competed in a competition but I’m not going to carry around business cards that declare that.

The point is this – you are what other people say you are and what other people validate you to be. If you’re a writer, like that quote is inferring, people will start to label you as one.

Is that fair? No, not really. So that means you better self-promote the hell out of your work if you want them to notice your writing and call you a writer. 🙂

Am I really a writer?

I have been writing since I was seven years old, since before I knew what a paragraph was. In spiral bound notebooks, using colored felt-tipped pens at recess. I did not play kickball or foursquare, I wrote. Harriet-the-Spy-style, but instead of writing down what I was seeing, I wrote stories. And I kept them to myself because I was not brave enough to share them with other people.

It wasn’t until I read blogs like Damsels in Success (which is no more), Penelope Trunk’s Blog, and a year later Matt Chevy’s Life Without Pants that I decided I, too, had shit to say and was brave enough to say it.

And it wasn’t until the evening after publishing my first blog post after seeing the positive response on Twitter and reading my first comments in my friend’s kitchen that it hit me – people wanted to read what I had to say.

I almost threw up.

About ten months later I got my first job as a paid writer based on the writing my client found on my blog. She was the first person to call me a “writer” and it wasn’t until December that I started adopting that title to my friends.

Malcom Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours or approximately 10 years to become an “expert” at something. While I still have a lot to learn and every thing I write is hard to produce, it’s safe to say I’ve crossed that mark.

Am I really a writer? I have no idea. But I know what I’m doing.

And, yes, I’m scared to death that people will find out that this is exactly who I want to be.

500 Words or Less

Writing a paper

Last night I went to Scott Berkun’s launch party for his new book, Mindfire. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a literary event and I started the night off right by going to a bookstore.

During his speech, he said two things that I keep thinking about. The first was an anecdote about how writers don’t normally self-promote by telling a story about a poet who did (Walt Whitman) and how the art of the essay has been lost in this age of blogging.

The Art of the Essay

‘Essay’ is a dirty word that brings back memories of learning how to master the five-paragraph essay in high school and endless late-nights to crank out three-to-five double spaced pages with correctly formatted citations in college.

What’s the difference between writing an essay and writing a blog anyway?

Essays

According to every high school teacher, an essay is like an inverted pyramid that introduces a broad idea, delivers a thesis, and leaves you three more paragraphs to defend it, and it all comes together in a very fine point at the conclusion.

Essays contain the author’s personal point of view and require that you take a stand on a subject, research it, defend it, and convince your reader to agree with you. They also take a lot of editing to make sure your point is crystal clear and cohesive.

Essays are akin to articles, which exist as a ‘published’ piece of work to generally deliver news, research, academic analysis, or debate (thanks, Wikipedia!). Notice that articles are not required to represent the author’s point of view, but facts; very important distinction.

Blogs

Blogs offer real-time, fresh content that’s updated on a regular basis. (Or to the bane of most bloggers, they want to update it regularly.)

Blogs can provide commentary on news and events, be the blogger’s personal (and public) diary, or provide a content marketing platform for a personal or corporate brand or product. A blog can be anything, though common characteristics include visual graphics, links, and the ability to comment (hint, hint).

The conversation and commentary is the main distinction between an essay, an article, and a blog. Though, with the way that the media has shifted, readers expect to be able to ‘comment’ on any and every piece of writing that appears on the web and have their point-of-view be listened and responded to (and the latter part of that cycle rarely happens). As readers, we don’t write letters to the editor in hopes of receiving a response; we demand it.

Blogs can be articles, but not all articles are blogs.

Citations, quotes, and proving your point

Essays require you to cite your sources in lists or very specific ridged ways that the MLA, APA, or CMS guides require. Articles are based on eyewitness reports, interviews, and quoted references, and again, provide a non-biased perspective on the subject. Blogging, well, there are no rules for citing sources, just common courtesy to link back if the blogger is ‘inspired’ by someone else’s ideas so they can prove that they didn’t steal them.

Are we all on the same page now? Good, now we can move forward with the initial point I was trying to make.

500 words or less

Scott Berkun said one thing in his discussion about essays and blogs that stuck with me – “If you can’t make a topic interesting in 500-words, what right do you have writing a book?”

@Berkun Twitter quote

What I think he was getting at – and this is not confirmed by the time of posting – is that many people bloggers write and ramble. They toss their ideas out there online and add to the content overload that we experience every time we log into Facebook or check our stream on Twitter. And the process of writing an essay requires restraint. It requires you to think and process and prove what you want to say before you throw it out there.

And the 500-word limit means you need to get to your point. Fast. It’s a reflection of the 140-character, enlighten us, but make it quick, world that we live in. If you can’t get to your point right away, then you shouldn’t even bother.

Photo Credit: Erunion

Note from lamiki: Everything that did not sound like my usual voice for it was too formal can be attributed to articles on Wikipedia to help define the difference between an essay, blog, and article. And in case you were wondering, this post was over 500-words.

Bookstores, Silence, and Solitude

Stacks By Kirby Gladstein

Tonight I did something that I haven’t done in a long time – I took a walk, by myself, and browsed through a bookstore. Alone.

The happiest place on Earth

Not a lot of people know about my book publishing background or the fact that the happiest place on Earth is getting lost in the stacks at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. Growing up that was my oasis. I would get absorbed in the fiction section for hours and emerge with a tower filled with an army of protagonists. When I was in college Powell’s was my solace, my break, my habit. I went there to discover new thoughts, new ideas, and meet new characters that I would take home in perfectly bound, 288-page escapes from real-life.

Books breathe things into your life that you never thought you were missing. They give you a perspective that you weren’t looking for and never knew that you needed.

And that smell of paper and wooden shelves. And the low hum of voices, pages turning, and shoes clomping, delicately, on the wooden floor, trying to be impossibly silent.

Silence and being alone yet surrounded by endless opportunities and new pathways, that’s the feeling I appreciate the most about books and bookstores.

When was the last time you ‘turned things off’ and went dark?

And I’m talking more than unplugging, but literally not communicating with anyone other that that who is inside of your head or a book away.

Not in the crazy kind of way, but the solitude kind of way.

When was the last time you did that and it was okay?

Photo Credit: Kirby Gladstein