So, back to the Write Stuff... I just did a writing exercise that changed my life, and I didn't even lift a pencil.
A lot of the beginning of the book has to do with self-discovery, knowing who you are as a person so you can know who you are as a writer. One exercise sounded kind of off the wall, but as I wanted to really get into the spirit of things (and make progress on my decluttering), I decided to go for it.
Step one of the assignment: go around your house and collect the books that are really special to you. The ones you've read fifty times, or at least three or five times. Put them in a pile. Then do the same for DVDs, CDs, even art. Longyear then gives a long list of genres/categories, both fiction and nonfiction, and tells readers to sort all their stuff into those categories (yes, you'll have piles of junk all over the house). Now, look at the biggest pile (and for me, there was no mistaking which pile THAT was). That pile is you. It's you as a person, and it's you as a writer.
He preempts the question, "Well, what if I want to write kid's books but my biggest pile is mysteries?" His answer is that what you want to write and what is truly you and what is in your heart don't always jive. If you want to write mysteries, for example, but your biggest pile is historical romance, he wants you to really think about why. Why do you want to write something that doesn't represent what you surround yourself with every day?
I really suggest you pick up a copy of Longyear's book (available as an ebook, too). My pile truly opened my eyes. It made me feel extremely...relieved. I felt relieved to find myself once more. When I looked back at my bookshelf afterward I was shocked to see how much I had been deceiving myself, as far as who I am, etc.
Some of it has been a coping mechanism. We had a really tough year in our house a couple years ago, with a matter that I won't go into here, but where I felt as though I failed someone in a big way. I think some of my putting certain things aside had to do with hiding a side of me that felt shame, inadequacy, and other pleasant things like that. It was a part of my grieving process, I think, to hide my Harry Potters and Narnia books. A lot of my anime and manga were put away. Robin McKinley, Neil Gaiman, Ursula LeGuin, Diana Wynn Jones, all collected dust on my top shelves. To do this exercise, I had to take them all down again, because those were the books I had always gone to. I haven't read the same book twice since I put them away. I had to look into that mirror that Atreyu has to look into in the Neverending Story, and see my true self.
|Atreyu at the mirror gate|