I could not agree more.

This is C.J. Casey explaining to a poet-friend why she should read poetry. I am excerpting it because the larger point about the relationship between reading and writing will be a recurring theme here. Just scroll down and read my post from yesterday, or this comment thread at Scholars and Rogues, if you want to know how I feel about it. I’ve made liberal use of ellipses, because it’s a really long excerpt and I don’t want to just copy half a post. I have done my best to represent C.J. honestly here.

I haven’t yet said why you should read poetry. For this, I’m going to dip into the pool of metaphors, the pool of subconscious speech and imagery, the pool where we as writers go to pick out the phrases and images that we want to use for our writing. The actual pool itself is vast and inaccessible  . . . Most writers and artists have little pools of their own . . . and when we are casting about for an idea to write, or we want to add to something we want to write, we reach into the pool and pull out a handful of inspiration. This is the feeling you get when your paper suddenly fills itself of its own accord, when you feel like your pen is going to ignite because you’re writing so fast . . .

When we first discover that we, as creators, have access to this pool, it’s easy to get lost in the joy of creation. It feel so wonderful, better than any other experiences we’ve had in our young adult lives, to pull these ideas seemingly out of nowhere and pour them on paper. But unfortunately, the water in these pools is cloudy and opaque, We can’t see the bottom until one day we reach in and scrape our knuckles on the rock . . .

. . . The trick . . . is  to walk up the mountain, or around the mountain, where the collected subconscious of Mankind runs down in rivulets, cascades, and sometimes waterfalls. Do this, carrying your cap or a bowl, and dip it in. Then go back to your own pool and empty it . . . Let it mingle with your own ideas, your own subconscious. Let it form new worlds and new ideas. Then pull it out to work with it. This is essential… going to the works of others to recharge your own work. If you don’t, one day you will sit down to write and it will be as useful as trying to look out your elbow.

You can read the entire post at Stark Writing Mad. The post C.J. is responding to is at The 365 Poetry Project, which I follow with great interest.

Write Something.

goodwriter meme

That is my advice for today.

I thought about posting something about scene structure, or some thoughts from a successful author, but no. Drink coffee until you feel that vein in your temple start to throb (you know the one I am talking about), and unplug yourself from all your devices except the word processor.

Sit down in a corner somewhere and get writing. That is the only way to get where you’re trying to go.

If you just can’t do that, find a couple of well-written examples of what you are striving for and read them.

Sunday Photo Blogging


The weather has been too bad, and I have been too busy with this Thunderclap to to find a flower photo for today. I think this is just as good, though.  It’s a composite image of Pandora’s Cluster constructed with data from  the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and several different telescopes.

Pandora’s Cluster is officially designated Abell 2744. It’s 3.5 billion light years from Earth, and 400 trillion times the mass of the sun. It is formed by a group of four galaxy clusters that have been colliding for 350 million years. The red in the image is hot gas. The blue shows concentrations of the dark matter which makes up 75% of this massive structure.

The photo link goes to the BBC story where I originally discovered the image.

Crafting the Message part 2: The Inspiration

You can read Part 1 of this series here

By the time we were done setting up these blogs and coming up with an actual strategy to grow them, I wanted to do more than just connect The Writing Catalog to my social networks and say “hey, here it is, come and read it sometime.” I wanted to create an event. I wanted the event to be funny, because funny things are memorable.

The ribbon cutting invitation and the two debuts were a series of rhetorical flourishes. That makes the inspiration for them a legitimate topic for the Writing Catalog. The Thank You was sincere and heartfelt. It also provided a nice ending to our party.

You can look at those four posts as 4 episodes of a story. The story was inspired by a series of conversations I had with Diana. Here is the distilled version:

Me: It’s going to take us a bit more time than I originally thought to organize the sort of collaboration we want on our fun Geek blog.

Diana: I already have this personal blog. I personally want to blog right now and I want people to read it. In a year or two, I want a lot of people reading Part Time Monster even though I’m contributing to a bigger blog.

Me: I know, and I really really want a blog devoted to writing. I just don’t want it to be my only blog. I also want to write about history and social theory and pop culture and games and mastermind discordian antics on the internet. Oh. And videos. Don’t forget the videos. How am I going to do that stuff with a writing blog?

Diana: Well, why don’t we just set up the collaborative blog and each publish a couple of pieces there a week. We’ve invited other folks to contribute. Once things slow down a little and we get into Spring, it will grow from there.

Me: We’re already talking about four blogs here. We’re going to be strapped for good content in the beginning, and you just told me you want an audience for Part Time Monster. You aren’t off to a real start until you have at least one blog posting something delicious four times a week. From there, you find a way to increase your posting to every day as quickly as you can. Then you do it for a year consistently. That’s how you start building the kind of audience you are talking about.

It only makes sense for us to publish three posts per week on a shared blog if that is the one we plan to start growing from day one. We need all four of these blogs, but the only way we have a chance at attracting a large audience is to pick one of them to grow and post our best stuff there. We have to make a choice about which one it’s going to be before I throw the switch on these two blogs I’m building.

Diana: Then let’s think of Part Time Monster as our brand and build it first. If anyone wants to contribute before January, they won’t even have to set up an account. I’ll paste their contributions in under a byline if that’s the way we need to do it. Once we get a few more people interested, and they have the time to think about what they want to write about, we can start the collaborative blog and put most of our energy into growing that one.

Me: Yes.  If we work hard to establish a couple of blogs as consistent providers of good stuff now, we have a better chance of getting where we want to be than if we just write a few pieces on a shared blog and do our everyday posting at personal sites for three or four months.

Her “brand” comment was just a way of talking about a concept. We don’t seriously think of ourselves as “Part Time Monster Media.” We don’t even have premium accounts or $50 a month to spend on promotion. But that comment got me thinking about how to organize my own blogs, and I decided to play the idea of a startup for laughs.

My hope was that most readers would get the joke and be amused enough by it to follow us for a couple of weeks and give us a shot, and I also thought adding a little business language to my first two posts would not be a bad idea.

It was more effective than I dared to hope at the time I was writing, but I am not sure it was the best way to kick this project off. I will always wonder how I could have done it differently, but in the last two weeks, I haven’t been able to brainstorm a better alternative plan.

Next week: Composition and Revision

Sunday Flower Blogging: The Spider Lily

image: Louisianablooms.com

image: Louisianablooms.com

Ten years or so ago, my father taught me to watch for these little wildflowers to appear, because the first frost of the year occurs about six weeks after they bloom. They bloom for only a couple of weeks, usually from mid-September to early October. They come in a variety of colors. The ones I see in my local area are mostly purple or hot pink.

Whenever I or my wife notice the first spider lilies, we mark it on our calendar so we can see how closely they predict the first cold snap.

This year, we saw them on Sept. 25. and marked Nov 6. on our calendar. We noticed our first frost on Nov. 7 or 8 – it was so light it barely qualified as frost, but it was there.  We had our first sub-32-degree low a week later, on the night of the 13th.

That’s a pretty accurate prediction, considering the fact that it’s based on the appearance of a single flower.

Note – Sunday Flower Blogging is the one non-writing thing I plan to do here. I think it’s legitimate because writers definitely benefit from stopping now and then to notice a little natural beauty. Also, it’s just plain cool. Usually, I will feature my own photos or reader-submitted images here, but I’ve been busy and the weather has been bad, so I didn’t have time to make a photo run this weekend.

If you are in the mood for something thoughtful and entertaining about writing, you might like Scholars and Rogues’  Art Sunday post on the art of the short story.

Elmore Leonard: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

photo: Rob Kozloff, AP

photo: Rob Kozloff, AP

Leonard originally published these 10 rules July 16, 2001, in the Arts section of the New York Times. You can read the original article, with his discussion of each of the rules, here.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue
  4. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  9. Try and leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The most important rule, the one that sums them up: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”