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Filtering by Category: writing

cleaning house {1/24/13}

Kelley Clink

I'm having one of those angry revising weeks. You know, the kind where I keep poking at the same chapter, and I know how I'm supposed to change it but for whatever reason my mind goes blank every time I open the word doc. And then I start thinking do I even need this stupid chapter? And then, whose freaking idea was it to write this book anyway? And then, WHY AM I DOING THIS WHEN I COULD BE PURSUING A PERFECTLY REASONABLE CAREER AS A BARISTA??? 

I bet there's some practical advice somewhere for getting through these rough patches. Trying to find it would be a great way to procrastinate. Instead, I decided that today I would clean my house.

Cleaning is one of a writer's healthier distractions. Watching TV, surfing the Internet (or "social networking," as I like to call it), and sleeping are a writer's junk food. Reading and blogging are somewhere in between. Like a Subway sandwich.  

Why would I rank cleaning above reading and blogging? Because it has nothing to do with writing. Sometimes you just need to get the hell out of the way and let your subconscious do a little work. Which is hard to do if you're still working on writing, however tangentially. But cleaning, ahhh cleaning. Anne Lamott calls it "monk-work." It puts you in the present moment and forces you to shift your focus on the external. You have to look at the floor in front of you if you want to do a halfway decent job vacuuming. You can't really zone out while washing or putting away dishes.

There's another benefit to cleaning: ordering your environment tends to help you order your mind. If I'm able to sort, clear out, and throw away all the junk on my kitchen table, I'm setting myself up for sorting the jumble of my thoughts.

So now that I've brought a little order to my home, I'm going to see if I've cleaned out any of the dust bunnies in my brain. And if I haven't, hey, at least the vacuuming is done.

UPDATE: I got some editing done on my chapter today without wanting to throw my laptop out the window. I deem this a raging success. Big fat plus sign in the cleaning column.

letting in the chaos {1/9/13}

Kelley Clink

I'm in the process of moving right now, and let me tell you, my house is a mess. There are boxes everywhere, things half-packed and stacked. And if you are anything like me, your external environment has a hefty impact on your internal one. This week the inside of my head feels as chaotic as my living room. Once I start packing, I start stressing about how I'm not writing. But when I try to write, I stress because I need to pack. Not ideal working conditions.

On top of that I am not just revising right now--I'm trying to generate a new chapter. From scratch. There is nothing quite so uncontrolled, so messy, so uncomfortable as a first draft.

But this is how things begin. It's necessary to embrace, or at least accept, the tumult. The brightest flowers and most magic of mushrooms sprout up from piles of shit. And here's the rub: you don't have to do anything to make that happen, other than leave the shit alone.

So yes, I can live in the same place for the rest of my life, shuffling around the same words from the same draft of the same manuscript. Or I can choose to move forward, into the unknown, with the boxes, blank pages, and shit that entails. It isn't easy, but today I am determined to let shit be shit, and trust that there will be some psychedelic beauty as a result. And hey, even if mushrooms and flowers don't appear, I will at least have a two-car garage and a backyard.

the next big thing {1/8/13}

Kelley Clink

Just before the holidays I was tagged by Barbara McDowell to participate in something called The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Just what is a blog hop, you ask? Well, this is a blog chain that originates from She Writes. Each person tagged answers a series of interview questions and posts them on his/her blog or website while also linking to five other writers. Those writers then answer the questions, post and include links to five other writers and so on and so on. Unless you are like me, and fall pitifully short of five writers.  

Here we go!

What is the working title of your book? A Different Kind of Same. 

Where did the idea come from for the book? The book is a memoir about my brother's struggle with bipolar, his suicide, and my own experiences with mental illness. I knew as soon as he died that I wanted to write about him, but it wasn't until a few years later, when I sat down and wrote a draft about cleaning out his apartment, that the book began to take shape.

What genre does your book fall under?  See above, re: memoir.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Macaulay Culkin circa 10 years ago would be perfect to play my brother. I'd probably cast Ellen Page as me (people say we look alike, and she's the right age for the time period). Frances Conroy (also 10 years ago) would be great as my mother, and Paul Giamatti would be great as my dad. James Franco would crush it as my husband.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  See above re: idea for book.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  I would LOVE to find an agent, but it hasn't happened yet. I am not averse to self-publishing. We'll see what happens.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Three, maybe four years?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  Yikes, no clue. I have yet to find a memoir about losing a loved one to suicide written by someone who has also attempted suicide. I am inspired by the writing styles of Anne Lamott and Lauren Slater, so maybe that gives you some idea?

Who or what inspired you to write this book? After my brother died, I searched like crazy for books that dealt with the suicide of a sibling. The pickins were slim. After reading the few I could find, I realized what I was really looking for was a manual for my own grief--which, obviously, no one (other than I) could write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?   Life changing moments in psychiatric wards and Taco Bell bathrooms. Believe it or not, this book might actually make you laugh. I hope.

Now that you’ve had a peek into my writing, please stop by and visit the only other blogger I know: Gillian Marchenko

alternative fuels {1/3/13}

Kelley Clink

There are some writers out there who don't believe in writer's block. "Freewrite!" they say, with a smile. "Write about something else! Write from the point of view of one of your other characters!" These people always seem to be fiction writers. They use the word "craft" a lot. They are the ones who tell you that, in addition to writing your way through blocks, you need to write everyday--"if you are serious."

I don't mean to slam these guys. This is really good advice: for beginning writers. I followed this dogma frantically for the first four years or so of my career, so much so I damn near gave myself an ulcer. But around year five I experienced a level of language fatigue so severe I nearly quit altogether. I was out of words. I hated words. I didn't even have enough left to think a complete sentence. I'd been told that the well of creativity was bottomless, but there I was, curled in the fetal position on its floor, choking on dust.

This is how I learned to tap other sources. When I got burned out on words, I started making pictures: photographs and visual art. I listened to more music. I cooked. In short, I used my senses. Writing is so cerebral, frequently so one dimensional, that its easy to get trapped in your head. Like Anne Lamott says: "My mind is like a bad neighborhood--I try not to go there alone." The friends you can take with you are sight, smell, taste, sound. If you find yourself getting stagnant, if you find yourself hating words, stop. Breathe. Put on some music, get out a camera or some crayons, make some cookies. And do yourself a favor: stay away from Microsoft Word for a few days. It won't derail your entire writing career. I promise.

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