Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Deadlines, Writing, and Other Terrors

Blank piece of paperWriting's a funny thing. Terrifying actually, if you think too much about it. Before you start, the page is empty. There's nothing there and you, the writer, have to create content from scratch. You have to fill that blank space. And it's not enough to fill it with letters and words. Those letters and words must form ideas that link together, make sense, and, most terrifying of all, are worth reading. Perhaps that's so many writers struggle with procrastination.

I find creative writing quite difficult for this very reason. The writer has to come up with the story, or poem, or song on his or her own. You can't just describe something that happened, you have to create what happens and then write about it in an understandable, engaging way. At least I'm not alone in feeling this way. Even established writers such as Tracy Chevalier, express trepidation at confronting the blank page. Chevalier, for instance, notes that, "It takes me hours of circling each day to finally 'land' on the writing. Hours of cups of tea and checking for e-mail, checking Twitter, Facebook, the news."

Book cover for Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living
If you're seeking instruction for your creative writing, MCPL can help. A search of the phrase "creative writing" in our catalog will bring up a variety of adult and children's books on the topic. The results will include items such as The Making of a Story: a Norton Guide to Creative Writing. Most of items brought up by this search will focus on the practical, how-to aspect of creative writing. A search of the term authorship will include some how-to texts as well, but also inspirational works such as Joyce Carol Oates' Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life. One book I read and enjoyed in this vein was Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living. It is a collection of essays by well known authors such as Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Weiner, and Nick Hornby about their experiences trying to make a living as writers. I learned, for instance, that even after Cheryl Strayed received her seemingly substantial advance for Wild, she was struggling to pay her bills.

There are different types of writing, of course. Even people who don't think of themselves as writers nonetheless do a lot of writing at work. Business writing includes a variety of forms of writing, from seeking information from a coworker through e-mail to putting together the input of a dozen people into a grant proposal. If you're looking to improve your business writing, try some of our books on the topic. We also provide access to online classes about business writing through our Gale Courses database. Available courses include Effective Business Writing, Writing Effective Grant Proposals, and the Fundamentals of Technical Writing. Gale Courses also offers some creative writing classes, such as Romance Writing and Writing Young Adult Fiction.

How to Not Write Bad by Ben Yagoda book coverIn addition to the lofty goals of sharing ideas and stories, there are more mundane aspects to writing, specifically spelling and grammar. Wait, don't go! It's true, many people don't get excited about spelling and grammar. They're the plumbing of the written word. Dull, but vital. So take a look at our writing handbooks if you need to refresh your memory on the proper use of commas or figure out what a semicolon is for (I'm still not sure). If just the thought of the MLA Handbook makes you weep, try something less formal like How to Not Write Bad: the Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them.

In addition to our paper and online writing resources, we also have teen writing clubs at Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Kensington Park, Potomac, and Silver Spring. Share your work and meet other writers in an open, supportive environment. In addition, the Silver Spring Writers Meetup Group, which consists of writers of all levels of writing experience and ages, often holds their meetings at our Silver Spring branch.

MCPL offers opportunities for customers to meet published writers at one of our many author events. For instance, children's book writer Hena Khan, author of It's Ramadan Curious George, will be the next speaker in our Contemporary Conversations series. She'll be at Silver Spring on June 4 at 4 pm. (Registration required).

Well, look at that. The page isn't blank anymore. Having written is much easier than the actual writing.


Mark S.

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