October 23, 2010

How writers spend their days…

by caroanna

Did you ever want to know how the typical work day of a writer looks like?

If you’re looking for some inspiration or are just interested, Daily Routines is a wonderful compilation of writers’ and other artists’ typical daily activities, whether written by themselves, others or through interviews.

So far common among them: Although most don’t have to be anywhere during the day, their schedule is structured and they wake up early. There you have your stereotype of the lazy writer sleeping until noon… On the other hand, most of them only work a few hours a day.

March 20, 2010

Keeping or not keeping?

by caroanna

Dear diary,

I confided in you my deepest secrets when I was younger, only to realize that it’s a bad idea to give others the chance to know them. Yet, in my teenager folly, I still wrote some passages that I should have kept to myself.

Now, I’m older and wiser (I said wiser, not wise) to not confide in you, especially not in electronic form.

Yet, some writers found a new trend in publishing their diaries, or at least keeping one. Should I trust their wisdom and write down what is better forgotten?

Maybe. But I won’t. My secrets can be veiled in metaphors to make them accessible to me, and only me. Works better than a password.

And when I’m old and interested in how I thought and what I did when I was young, I read my stories and wonder how on earth I could have come up with them.

Goodbye diary,

your faithless writer

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March 14, 2010

Typing away your day…

by caroanna
I imagine many writers dream about a life dedicated to writing. No need to be somewhere at a particular time because you can write anywhere, at home, in cafes.
“In normal times, they tap away in their ‘offices’ at Starbucks, thanking their lucky stars for the book contracts that allowed them to give up their day jobs. But in recent months a cry has gone out for fiction writers to get up from behind their laptops and get back to work, real work — or at least to start writing about it again.”
– Jennifer Schuessler, “Take this job and write it,” The New York Times Sunday Book Review (March 14, 2010)

Of course it’s nice to spend your day doing whatever you want. But let’s not forget that novelists usually don’t just write some stories by using imagination. Their stories are often a reflection of society, however hidden an elusive it is. Good novels are usually somehow related to the current society.

So, in order to know something about the society you write about, even if your character live on, say, a planet like Pandora, you need to immerse yourself in it. If you wanna write about life, you need to live it first!

February 1, 2010

A world without readers? What a sad vision.

by caroanna

J.D. Salinger may not be able to actually rest in peace with everybody talking about his reclusive life now that it’s over.

But Jennifer Finney Boylan has a point when she writes that the literary recluse is nothing to be jealous of. Writing without the purpose of it being read is keeping a journal or therapeutic writing. That’s fine, if you enjoy it. But I don’t think these are writers.

Writers relish people reading what they have to say. What makes writing worth its while is when other people take the time to read it and think about it. That’s the greatest compliment you could pay to a writer. Even if you hate their style or content. I will deem myself a successful writer if someone cares to comment on it because he wanted to read it, not because he has to or because he knows me.

June 8, 2009

Just what I was talking about…

by caroanna

   I’m not sure if I’m glad or sad about Paul Nizon’s comment on writing:

“Ein normaler, angepasster Mensch würde doch gar nicht mit dem Schreiben anfangen, Schreiben kann man ja nur aus einem Übermaß oder einem kardinalen Defekt heraus. Auch ein glücklicher Mensch würde doch nie schreiben wollen oder müssen. Also am Anfang ist der Defekt oder das Querstehen oder das Ausgestoßensein und nie das harmonische Aufgehen in einer Welt oder Gesellschaft oder Umgebung.”

   So, basically he’s arguing that happy and content people don’t feel the urge to write, they don’t need it and they can’t. He mentions that you need to have a flaw of some kind, probably caused by rejection or not fitting into your surroundings. So what would you chose if you could? Feeling good about yourself and walking on air through life or being a good writer? Damn, I hope he’s wrong…

June 7, 2009

Wanna stay mentally healthy? Don’t become a writer!

by caroanna

   Upon reading a collection of interviews with German writers about their profession, I noticed yet another writer who suffered from a fragile mental health condition, adding up to those I read about in the last few months. I was surprised at Elfriede Jelinek’s honesty about her social anxiety disorder and the ease with which she mentioned it, as if it was just a character trait that has to be accepted and not faught. At that, I was hopeful that we transcended the social stigma that is put on people whose behavior diverts slightly from those of the so-called “masses.” My hopes were vain because the only people that afford to have mental issues, that are even desired, are writers.

   Trouble with dealing with life seems like a veil that adds mystery to a writer and his work. It is an old fantasy that fiction writers turn to invent stories and character because they try to deal with their own problems, and use it as a kind of therapy, or because they try to create a parallel universe that fits the writer’s needs. Certainly, this is not the primary reason for imagination and story-telling. It is, however, striking that many famous writers suffer from mental diseases, mostly depression, and many have committed, or tried to commit, suicide. The mystery of Silvia Plath and the incidents and consequences surrounding the Plath/Hughes family and the recent suicide by David Foster Wallace are only two examples of writers who chose to free themselves from life’s burdens.

   A few weeks ago, I read a compelling essay by the writer Daphne Merkin who has suffered from depression for decades and went through a series of therapies. While Daphne mentioned that she couldn’t write a word during attacks of depression, other writers seem to be driven to writing when they feel overwhelmed by their surroundings. Surprisingly, or maybe not, writers seek privacy and solitude during their writing process but hang around in the urban landscape in order to get ideas for stories. After all, it is difficult to create characters when you cannot observe the diversity of real people’s behavior.

   The important question is: Where does this correlation of mental health issues and writing fiction come from? Is it the writer’s occupation with research in how the world functions and the meticulous observation of other people’s relationships and lives that leads them to overcompensate and realize how insufficient they are prepared for the complexity of the world? Or is it the sheer despair and fear of this complexity? Do authors overreact or is it common to be afraid when they realize how dysfunctional and dangerous the world really is and that most people are just too naive to see?

   A few days ago I had the strong urge to get away from concrete, metal, and throngs of people while I was surrounded by it without recourse to more peaceful and tranquil places. I was disgusted by the mechanic movements and repetitive reactions both by machines and people. At that moment, I was longing for the wild and frantic dancing of leaves and branches during a storm or silent waves roaming in the river. I suddenly realized how much I enjoy spending time on the meadow and in the woods while I never lived outside big cities. Am I just fed up with this environment and need a change or did I just realize the stupidity of this civilization that values the choice of more than ten kinds of sausages in one supermarket or at least one cell phone store in each alley in downtown?

   But coming back to what I was talking about earlier, I wonder if mental instability is the source of imagination and creativity. Does it sharpen our perception of what is happening around us? It is plausible when we consider that fear makes us notice danger much sooner than when being calm. But do we notice more than the danger? Ergo: are we biased then because we don’t see the whole picture?

   I guess every writer has different sources of creativity; and as art lives by its subjectivity, we don’t need to answer all these questions. But it gives me hope to hear about writers who are confident enough not to be underestimated because of their personal problems. I hope this message also gets through to those who don’t bother to look beyond their limited horizon.