Posts tagged with ‘peptalk’

I don’t care about advancing the state of the art. I care about being a creative person who lives a good life and does projects that make me happy.

— Really extremely great essay by Darius on the importance of small projects and how they lead to a unified body of work: Thoughts on small projects

An Interview with Porpentine, Maker of Mutant Feminist Cyber Games →

An interview that is a nutrient-rich slime bath for anyone trying to do something creative on this terrible planet. Favorite quotes:

90% of making a game is dealing with the physical and emotional exhaustion of constant harassment, misogyny and transphobia in my field. The rest is where I come in.

I don’t think about [engaging with the audience]. I’m beautiful and everything that comes from my mind and body is beautiful. It’s 3014, our flesh is literally melting before our eyes, I have no time for nonsense.

A piece of art can be powerful and feel like epiphany but it’s no substitute for the regular maintenance required for scraping out the oppressive sludge building up in our joints every single day.

Answering the Questions

One of the first stories I ever wrote was for an American Lit class my junior year of high school. I can’t remember the book we read, but it was by a woman? took place in the south? After we finished the book everyone had to write a paper. I don’t remember there being specific instructions—the teacher probably intentionally left it open-ended.

I was terrible in this class. I was not good at writing in high school, and I was not good at remembering what the symbolism of Moby Dick was when the teacher called on me and waited for me to answer, and I was definitely not good at writing essays about falling actions or why the denouement added something important to the story.

So I didn’t know what to write. I had enjoyed the book, liked the protagonist, but couldn’t even begin to tell you what was motivating the antagonist and why the knife is the same color as her door or whatever. And then I thought: maybe I could just write more of the story. Like, what happens after the last chapter. What are the characters doing 6 months after the end of the book.

(This was the early 90s. It makes sense and all seems so obvious now but I didn’t have the vocabulary for fanfic then. The idea of doing something with someone else’s characters wasn’t handed to me, it was just the only thing that made sense to me at the time, based on my options.)

I decided to write a story for my essay. Like, actual fiction. But was that dumb? I told my plan to some of my friends (who got better grades and were actually good at school). A friend of mine from that class, easily one of the smartest people in our grade, looked straight at me and said: “I would not do that.”

But I had no Plan B. So the night before it was due (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) I sat down to write this story and had no idea what to even write. Like where do you even start. It was totally overwhelming. With no plan or ideas and my panic rising with every passing second along with the sense that I had better start writing SOMETHING, I started writing a list of the questions I was stressed about:

  • What happens in the story
  • Where does it take place
  • What does the room look like
  • Who are the characters
  • What are they doing at the beginning of the story
  • Who else do we meet
  • What is the problem that needs to be solved
  • What happens at the end

I filled a page with questions like this and then two things happened:

  1. as I started asking myself these questions the story started appearing as an image in my mind, and
  2. I realized writing the story was just a matter of answering these questions.

So I wrote the answers as best as I could and then I wrote the story.

A great ending to this anecdote would be the teacher being blown away and me getting an awesome grade (And I do have a story like that! But this isn’t it.). I probably got a B for the paper. I remember the teacher being more interested in my process than the end result. I showed her the list of questions I’d asked myself and she held it up to the class and said “This was a good idea”.

(Sounds like a great teacher, right? She was hateful, one of my least favorite teachers ever. You can’t choose your moments.)

Writing this out now I realize how similar this is to a method Lynda Barry teaches. Start with a single word. That word conjures an image. Ask yourself questions about that image:

  • Where are you
  • What’s to your left and right?
  • What’s beyond what’s to your left and right?
  • What time of year is it?
  • What do you smell?
  • Who’s there?
  • Who’s on their way there, who just left?

and then after you answer those questions just start writing.

You don’t have to know what you’re doing before you start moving your pencil or your cursor. When you don’t know where to start, just start anywhere. Directly addressing what you don’t know makes it safe for you to not know it.

I mention this now because I unlocked this secret about writing my first time out of the gate, and then promptly forgot about it for 20 years. I would like to not forget it again. (I will.)

beardmanly asked: When you were just starting out as a writer, before you had a family and a career to keep you going, what would you do when depression hit and you couldn't find the energy to write? Would you just force yourself to write anyway, or was there something else you would do?


i dunno. i’d feel depressed and write, or i’d feel depressed and not write. i don’t force it well regardless of my mood — forcing me to do anything is a surefire way for that thing to be done in a spectacularly half-assed and resentful manner. 

mostly i’d just… I have to grind it out. happy, sad, sleepy, horny, mad, lazy, in love, enraged, at home, abroad, wherever, whenever. you don’t have to PUBLISH it. you don’t have to think it’s GOOD. even when i have nothing to say i’ll write ‘i have nothing to say’ a hundred times in a notebook or whatever.

sometimes the writing is easier when i’m depressed. i can work through stuff, think through stuff. or just wallow, honestly. sometimes the writing can show you the way out. 

or sometimes i’m so into some other goddamn thing that the last thing i want to do is sit and write and it’s just as much a slog. it’s not a… i don’t understand the feeling of, the way people speak of writing as though it were, like, some kind of djinn to be summoned or like it’s the loch ness monster or seeing a shooting star. it’s a physical act. it is a thing you do with your muscles and your body and your willpower. watch, i’ll show you: get a piece of paper. get a pencil. put the pencil on the paper and write the word “something”

there. you did it. you wrote. you wrote ‘something.’ now put a word after something. Something what? Something… happened? creaked? died? flew? exploded? snapped? Tell me. With your hand, with the hand holding the pencil or pen or marker or crayon, it doesn’t matter, push your fingers and hand up and back and across and back until there is another word after “something”.

There. Now you’re writing a story.



"Let’s Draw a Car and then Let’s Draw Batman"

A comics essay by Lynda Barry

Illustrations retrieved from materials discarded by participants in Lynda Barry’s writing workshop at The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fall 2013

Filed under: Lynda Barry

I used to write chronologically when I started, from beginning to end. Eventually I went, That’s absurd; my heart is in this one scene, therefore I must follow it.
[N]o big break is going to make it easier to get up in the morning and write. What makes it easier is trusting your own instincts and noticing that you have giant ideas percolating in that herd-animal brain of yours, you just have to dig in and find them. After you find them, you have to write something terrible that eventually, through a lot of editing, over and over and over, becomes something great.
[Mark Duplass] said something about how he’s happy to release just okay/good enough work on a regular schedule. Where his brother Jay would probably prefer to work on one thing for a long time, and release only A-level projects every few years, Mark is fine with releasing B to B+ projects more frequently. Mark Duplass is a workaholic; he always needs to be making stuff. Some of that stuff will be great, but more of it will be “good enough,” and that’s fine with him.

what happened?:  

OK like usual everything Ms Geier talks about in the post abstracted above is A+ & cosigned BUT this thing here in particular is on my mind a lot lately, in fact this very issue is on my list of Things I Need To Mentally Tackle in 2013.

My whole life I’ve been kind of a ~slow writer~ stressing over every little detail past the point of all reason, being afraid to let go of things, being afraid to call something “done”. Letting it be “done” means we having to admit it’s not perfect and never will be. One of my many goals for this year is to move through things quicker: write, let it go, don’t obsess, move on to the next thing. 

Part of this, if we’re being honest, is driven by my cynicism about the internet, and this hunch I have that having done some things OK is better than having done one thing really well. That quote about 90 percent of whatever is just showing up. But also, maybe, getting things done, putting them out into the universe/blogosphere/whatever, maybe that’s the thing that matters. Worrying about whether something is perfect, worrying that things have to be a certain way, worrying that every project has to be the ultimate best you can do, maybe that’s not super healthy. Writing and letting go and not looking back, maybe that’s the part that’s healthy.

The Next Big Thing Survey Meme Thing

Mary-Kim tagged me to fill out a survey. I haven’t been tagged in a thing since livejournal, easy. I’m having emotions. Is this fall-out from whatever Anil was saying about the web we lost? Anyways:

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Why don’t we just stay focused on my current book, which is Magical Neon Sexuality.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came in October because I was having a panic attack about all my other creative projects from the past two years having utterly failed and I just felt like I needed to do something to salvage this year/my life/my sanity. But actually I’d had the idea for this book years ago, it was just these other circumstances that finally kicked it to the top of the to-do list.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Post-TMZ magical realism.

4. What actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie rendition?

The characters in my book are all famous actors and actresses, so they would play themselves. With the exception that Lana Del Rey would be played by Kristen Stewart. And all the male roles would be played by Ryan Reynolds. Except Idris Elba, because Idris Elba

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An erotic and emotional rendering? shattering? of your most intimate fantasies as they relate to Hollywood’s brightest stars.

6. Is your book represented by an agency?

I think it’s more fair to say that my agency is represented by this book.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A few of the stories were written as far back as 2007, one was written in 2010, and a bunch were written a few weeks ago. Overcoming the self-doubt associated with these stories took longer than actually writing them.

8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?


9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

So as previously documented in this tumblr I was working on a novel. The details aren’t super important but sometimes you get pretty attached to an idea or project and you start to imagine that it has wings, so you push it out of the nest! and then watch as it plummets to the ground and lands on its neck and dies. So I was very depressed, and wondering if anything I ever do is going to be interesting to a wider audience. And then I was like, well, fine, if it doesn’t matter one way or the other, I’ll just write the most unpublishable thing I can think of. And I started writing this story about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez being zombie-fighting centaurs. And then I realized that it was symbolic! LIFE was the zombies and Selena Gomez was ME and WRITING was my Justin Bieber and CENTAURS was the internet? or something? It made sense at the time. But it was a good pep talk and so I just kept writing. 

PS: whoever wrote this questionnaire, I think questions 2 & 9 are too similar.

10. What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?

It contains information about a certain celebrity in a complicated relationship with a VERY famous Pokémon. It limns the incredibly supportive and loving partnership of Ryan Reynolds & Blake Lively as they embark upon high adventure in the Amazon. It affords the reader the opportunity to imagine themselves —in lurid detail— lounging post-coitally in bed with Idris Elba. What else. I mentioned about the centaurs? If none of this is interesting to you we live on very different internets.

OK now I have to tag other people. Forthwith I tag two of the sasha fiercest writers I know, Erin Fitzgerald and Anne Boyer.


YES!  A free writing lesson w/LYNDA BARRY — this is what we teach in Writing the Unthinkable!  Professor Lynda is teaching this semester at UW in Madison WI and she’s being crazy-cool and sharing it with y’all!

All you need to start is ten nouns (just look around your room: ‘dictionary’ ‘band-aid’ ‘dog hair’ ‘rag rug’ OR look in your magazine or newspaper and write down the first ten nouns — the more “boring” the better) and follow the Lynda’s directions.  

Ooo-wee, you’re gonna feel so good. The exercise doesn’t last long either — shorter than a colonic or root canal — “accept chaos as a temporary state” — YOU CAN DO IT!  I know you can.


Dear my great ” What It Is” class,

RE: Stories read out loud tonight: GOOOOOD!!!

Your homework:

Four Minute Diary every day (click here for video)


Seven and a Half Minutes Worth of Writing (click video above)


First write ten nouns on ten little pieces of paper

Number a page from one to ten

Relax your whole body from top to bottom and say the alphabet to yourself or something else you have memorized and think back to early days in your life

turn over one of the pieces of paper and that’s your word.

Write down the first ten memories that come to you from that word

Read the list over

Circle one that seems vivid or has trouble in it and write it on a clean sheet of paper like it was a title to a story and then draw a big X on the page.

Then start the video.

Remember to skip a line as you go so your page is double spaced -that’s important- and if you get stuck to use the alphabet. It likes it!


Professor Lynda (who looks forward to seeing you on Thursday)

PS: Even if you are not in our class these assignments are good to try just for fun.

P.P.S. Remember to monkey around

After I took Lynda Barry’s Writing the Unthinkable I sent an email to Kelly Hogan with my suggestion that they make/sell a 10 minute mp3 of Lynda talking you through the WTU process. It’s not complicated or hard to remember, but having her voice in your ear, walking you through it? How special would that be. And now this thing exists! A blessing. If you and I ever share space and you want to do Writing the Unthinkable please say so because that would be so much fun for me. And if I sound cultish about this that is because I am. If writing is a form of prayer (it is) than WTU is a religious ritual, in the most pure & true & holy sense possible.

(via maura)