Friday, December 30, 2011

The power of the unconscious

I set my novel aside last week, and miracle of miracles, I haven't acknowledged the urge to read it, re-read it, revise it, edit it, etc.

It used to be barely a day went by where I didn't look at my own work. I even memorize lines and passages in the book--I hear my characters' voices in dialogue. This is bad? Well, no. But the problem is if I'm caught up in the text all the time, then it gets difficult to distinguish what is working and what isn't. I read somewhere that it is wise to let a completed draft of a novel "sit" at least two weeks...or more...before beginning the revision process. So it's about time I let my guys (meaning my characters, who still live and breath inside me) rest. It's hard to resist though. I feel like they're up to something...and I want to find out what it is!

Do I sound nuts? I am, probably. But to be intrinsic, is to constantly...consciously or working and re-working a story. See right now I'm not physically scouring through my big green binder poking and probing my story, but I'll bet you any amount of money that subconsciously, there are kinks being worked out in my mind. That's what we do. It's what we have to do. It doesn't require a lot of effort, really. I just remind myself daily that even though I'm not actively involved in writing my novel at the moment, progress should prevail.

So, my advice to all you reading out there who has ever encountered the proverbial 'writer's block,' don't worry. As long as you don't lose sight of the story, you're getting a lot more done than you think! If you're intrinsic, you're intrinsic.

Keep dreaming, and let this natural phenomena do the work (for a while, anyway) then get back to the grind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I wonder if Charlotte Bronte used to receive issues of writing magazines in the mail. Or if Jane Austen got email updates sent to her Blackberry (OK, yes, I know I need a new phone) offering discounted--or not--issues, classes, webinars, gifts, kits, tools, books, interviews, articles, etc. etc. etc. I don't know about Bronte or Austen, but all my 'boxes' are certainly blowin' up with it all.

See though, those two ladies were intrinsic writers. It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out where I'm going with this. I've got a new issue of a reputable writing magazine sitting on my kitchen table. If my BB buzzes ten times, six will be writing sources, either asking me to purchase something or offering me advice on crafting indelible characters. So, here's the question: Should I read these texts, or should I well, I don't know, write?

Charlotte Bronte didn't have a choice in the matter. She wrote. Emily Dickinson--damn, talk about 'intrinsic,' she barely left her house--just simply wrote, wrote, wrote. She did have issues with publication though, too bad she wasn't force-fed advice through tweets and FB posts on how to snag an agent.

Do I sound bitter? I'm not. It's the business. It just gets confusing for us intrinsic types. My inner-inkling is to write fiction, or creative non-fiction--stories. But I'm learning that there is a lot more involved than just that. There's conferences to attend, platforms to build, relationships to make, and so forth. And sometimes, well, all that stimulation can cause me to look in eighty different directions at once when I should really only be looking in one direction: my novel, my stories, my writing.

But hey, I want to do it write, (oh wow, no pun intended, look at that! Told ya, it's intrinsic) and it makes sense in this world why it is the way it is. The writing aspect, I am discovering, is only one part of it. The sitting, the typing, the blocking-out-the-whole-world-and-creating a new one-phenomena is only a certain percentage. The best percentage, any intrinsic will tell you that, but a percentage no less.

The advice is good. It's needed. In some ways, I still have no clue what I'm doing. I just need to figure out how to filter out the junk.

Happy writing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This is just too hard for me

I'll continue with my previous post's theme: Doubt. It's decided to stick around. I tried reading the book again--you know, the one with the female author using a 'male' voice--can't get past the first page. I tried just now, in fact. A paragraph or two in, I actually heard myself say, "This is just too hard for me."

What is? Reading the book? I love books. Writing books? I love writing. So why the doubt? Who knows. Maybe it's the holidays (Christmas in three days), maybe it's my hormones, or maybe it's all just part of being an intrinsic writer.

I've decided to leave my novel alone for a while. It's been sitting in a green binder sprawled open on my work desk for months now, because as I rewrite and edit draft 2, I habitually look back to draft 1. I just closed it. Pushed it away. I think it needs some well-deserved dormancy. In the meantime I can concoct an editing plan, because you know something, I don't really have an editing plan. I don't think my editing skills are vigorous enough. No one--including myself--has ever taught me to revise effectively. All my writing classes have been great for method and story building, but not so much for revision. Maybe because everyone has his or her own style concerning the proverbial chop block. Or maybe because revision, frankly, sucks.

Here's another thing about being that intrinsic writer I've been yapping on about: Sometimes, I wish I didn't want it so badly. Imagine not expecting so much more of myself? I have a job, a fiance, a family, friends, a home, two sweet cats...what's wrong with that. Nothing. I just want to write.

Then this questions routinely pops up, "well do I want to write--because I already do that--or do I want to publish?" The bright side to this is the fact that I always can write. Even if only for myself. There is definitely an upside to that. If nothing ever comes of this, then, well I can still do it. That, maybe, is what makes me an intrinsic writer.

So what is 'too hard for me?' Maybe I'm just making it hard. I suppose us intrinsic types do that too.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Lately, I find it hard to read works by other authors. I have a hard time entering book stores. Often, I'll sample literary magazines and websites to get a feel for the kind of content each source tends to publish. It all just leaves me crestfallen.

There's something about reading an engaging work by an already published author--or worse, entering a vault (hence, Barnes and Noble) in which many can be found. Is it jealousy? No, much worse than that; it is Doubt.

Here's how it works. Last night, I picked up a new novel. I got under the covers, scanned the front cover, back cover, etc. Back in the days when I considered myself primarily a 'reader,' I'd dive right in. Open up to chapter one, and devour each page until I reached the final word. These days, now that I am releasing that previously caged, 'intrinsic writer' I find myself headed straight for the 'about the author' bit in the back. I NEVER used to care that much about the author. Unless I found it to be a particularly fascinating read, I often didn't even consider the writer. It was all about the narrator, whether he/she served as a character or not. To me, that's who told the story. It was like on some level (and all readers do this), I truly believed the narrator/first-person character actually wrote the damn tale. But the author? Nah, that was just some name on the front cover--and the spine.

So I read all about the author. Her acknowledgments, her response to all the novel's praise. It was there I read a quick bit she did on writing a first-person narration from a male's perspective. And I thought, Oh no, that's what I did. That's my book. That's my narrator. My guy is a boy too! And I'm a girl!

Enter, Doubt. Well, I'm thinking, I bet she does it better than me. She was thirty-one when she wrote this book. I'm twenty-nine, not much time. What if every agent I plan on contacting in the future says the same thing about my book: been there, done that? What if I need to re-do the entire thing? Do I have time for that? She wrote the first draft in four months!? It took me eight! I slammed the book closed. Picked up my journal. Told myself to 'calm down, you'll get there,' etc. etc. Then I wrote some more empty, bogus, inspirational messages to myself: Force yourself, Katie, one half-hour, read this woman's novel. Don't be afraid of it. She's her, you're you, right? Learn from the damn thing. Study. Evaluate. Examine.

So I begin. My first thought? How does she know so much about interior decoration? Did she research that? Or, as 'intrinsic writers' should we just know about this stuff? What the !@#$% is linoleum? Should I know this? I don't describe rooms and houses in my book like this! Her male voice is better, her story's better, this is why she's published, and I'm not, she's got it, I don't. At this point, I chucked the book across the room, hoping to God I dented it somehow. My cats darted off the bed; it was bad. I crossed my arms and huffed. Really, I could see myself in the mirror; I looked pitiful. Intrinsic Writer my ass.

THAT, to all of you reading this, is my definition of "Doubt." It's there. It's eats at us intrinsic types like lye to our skin. Unfortunately, it comes with the job. There are days when it doesn't exist. My writing looks stupendous to me. The next day, often the very next day, I'm throwing perfectly good contemporary literature into door frames.

Since I've been doing this writing gig, I'm come to discover that there are only two things I'm certain of: 1) Perseverance is the only way, the only way, I will ever have a chance 2) I AM an intrinsic writer.

Oh, and, yes, I'm going to attempt to read that book again tonight. I'll bet it's a brilliant story.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Was I born to do this?

I've always been in a fog. Even as a kid, my mind was half in fantasy. I'd hear all those proverbial comments from relatives and such, that I was on "cloud nine," or a "space cadet." I've been called quiet, shy, taciturn. Well, yeah, I am. That's because I'm deep inside, thinking, creating, speculating, observing. Is this what makes a writer? A real writer? An organically innate, intrinsic writer?

This past year, I completed a novel. In January, I plan on using it as my graduate thesis--talk about killing two birds with one stone. The revision process scares me the most. The writing comes easy, the cuts, revamps, and edits...not so much. I'm getting better, though. I may be an 'intrinsic' writer, but I'm still inexperienced. Nonetheless, I won't call myself 'novice.' Not after completing 108,000 words from start to finish with a well-crafted plot, and characters who jump off the page--no, not novice, intermediate. Getting there. On my way.

Writing this book--which I cherish--made me realize how naturally this stuff comes to me. I'm not claiming it isn't difficult, because it is--very difficult. But the ability to tune out, listen, and effortlessly create (an initial draft, anyway) has really been with me my whole life. I remember laying in bed as a teenager, and imagining what my life in college would be like. I literally concocted boyfriends, friends, and acquaintances that had names, personalities, backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. For example, my 'boyfriend's' name was Dylan Posimann, he was from Connecticut. He had two brothers, Owen and Craig, his parents were Ned and Laura. He was tall, had dark hair, green eyes, was a football player, and accounting major (interestingly, I'm engaged to an accountant). Dylan had quiet confidence. Loved James Bond movies. He was even-tempered, knew how to have a good time, but not the life of the party. He hid his emotions, though. His smooth surface masked issues with anxiety. He never knew what kind of man he was supposed to be. So he quieted himself down, and allowed his rowdier, more gregarious friends take center stage.

There were more where that came from. Tina Nirtio, my sarcastic roommate from Buffalo; M.J. Peterman, the bad-ass from Upstate New York; Jon Saoerlly, a Ferris Bueller type from Vermont; Sandra Buturo, rich, prissy, girl with a good heart from Manhattan; Glenn Biasz, dumb-ass football jock from Florida; Roscoe Posimann--Dylan's more outlandish cousin, actually; I think based him off Ducky from Pretty in Pink. Then there was Shelley Landolo, feisty red-head from Pennsylvania.

I didn't just generate imaginary friends (wow, I can't believe I'm admitting this) but these people interacted with each other, stirred up drama, formed love triangles, dumped emotional crap on one another. Of course I gave myself a star role in all this. Some idealized, slightly-altered version of myself. I remember thinking, wow, Beverly Hills 90210 in my head! Every night I'd add more to my mental script. Oh, in case you were wondering...I never encountered these people in college. And I did have my own real life friends...still do.

But I was essentially forging plot lines and characters; it wasn't until I started actually writing, composing my novel that I remembered how easily all this came to me. All I did was the initial fabrication. The rest developed on it's own. Freaky, but that's really how it works. I did this from very early on too. I was constantly envisioning imaginary worlds. I can remember, very distinctly, one night when I was maybe twelve, sitting at my Nana's dining room table while my family was over there for dinner and having this thought. It went something like this: My whole life is a fantasy. I'm going to spend my whole life imagining that something else is taking place.

So is it true? Was I born to do this? I certainly have that "calling." Will I be "chosen" though? I can't really say. I wish I could. I'd like to be further along at this point, but it's OK. I am on my way. Getting there.