7 Books I Wish I Read Earlier

There are some books that find you later in life than you would like. When you finally get to read them, you find yourself wishing that you have read them at an earlier stage in your life, when their wisdom would have been of greater usage to you in regards to your circumstances. Nevertheless, it’s never too late for good wishes or good books, and I am very glad that I have had the opportunity to read the books from this list after all, regardless of the somewhat late timing:

  1. 1984, George Orwell

    This dystopian novel has been on my reading list for a very long time, but I have somehow managed to ignore it. After I finally got around to reading it, I realized what I have been missing all along. The manipulation of the public and the constant surveillance by the government sound all too similar to the society we have today. I wish I haven’t regarded this book as a quaint, boring classic I considered it to be before reading, because it is actually a fascinating, and unfortunately, rather relevant read.

  2. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

    While 1984 explores the concept of evil and oppression on a larger scale, Lord of the Flies scales it down to a small group of boys trapped on a tropical island. When I was an adolescent, this book managed to pass me by, and when I have read it as a twenty-something, I regretted not getting my hands on it earlier. I believe that there is the right time to read certain books, and Lord of the Flies is certainly meant primarily for adolescent readers. Not to dismiss it as a light read, on the contrary: only teenagers can fully appreciate the juicy darkness that permeates this book, but it can also be read (and loved) by adults.

  3. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

    The only novel written by a famous and somewhat controversial poet, the Bell Jar convinced me that it is okay (even necessary) to accept one’s own darkness. As someone who has struggled with anxiety during puberty and well into my early adulthood, I wish I have been able to read this book earlier. Plath left nothing out: and her sensation of being trapped under a bell jar, struggling for breath, felt all too familiar to me. This novel gives hope to everyone who is struggling, and shows that, under the right treatment, it does get better, and nobody is a lost cause.

  4. The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood

    The Edible Woman was my first literary encounter with Margaret Atwood, and I was immediately hooked (noways, Atwood is one of my favorite authors of all time). It wasn’t just her master storytelling that ensnared me, but also her profound understanding of a woman’s mind. As a feminist, there were so many times while reading this book that I felt relieved: someone understood. I wasn’t the only one who feels like this. Marian, the protagonist, taught me the importance of taking control over your life and standing up for the things you believe to be true.

  5. Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood

    I have shared my experiences with failed young love (or what I believed was love once, anyway) in one of my previous posts. A friend recommended this book to me, and it honestly blew my mind. Every embarrassing detail felt astonishingly familiar. Everything suddenly made sense. Except for one thing: if I had read this book earlier, I wouldn’t have stayed in a toxic relationship for as long as I did. Noways, I wholeheartedly recommend Norwood to every woman who feels like she is the one putting all the effort in a relationship and receiving nothing in return. The truth is, when love is real, it doesn’t feel like a constant battle. And everyone deserves a chance to find someone who will treat them the way they deserve to be treated.

  6. Stoner, John Williams

    I might not be entirely to blame for not reading this book earlier: Stoner has been under a sort of literary renaissance in the past year. For fifty years, the general public has decided to ignore this book, and today you can’t even find it in the library because all the copies are out. The plot of this book sound ordinary, almost boring, but in reality, it is a novel about what it means to be human: it means to go on with your life, despite everything and everyone. It shows us that work is the ultimate consolation, and it is our dreams and passions which ultimately drive us forward, despite the sometimes dull chores of the daily life.

  7. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell 

    I rarely recommend a book based on a film, but this 1988 documentary is an exception to the rule: Campbell’s ideas about the ongoing role of myth in contemporary society are truly fascinating, even more so for writers. It refers to the general mythology, however, much of his theories can be applied to creative writing, and give you some ideas about basic plot structures. Personally, I know that his elaboration on different types of heroes, their transformation and evolution was of great help to me while trying to come up with story outlines.

There goes my list. Do you have a similar one of the books that you wish you have read earlier? Let me know!

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Creative Writing vs Writing as Therapy

I had a rough childhood and adolescence (but hey, who hadn’t?), and often times found consolation in making up stories. I would write short, gothic stories with monsters and witches that helped me cope with my everyday issues. Later on, when I became more serious about my writing, I realized that creative writing is so different from writing to soothe your soul, because you have a responsibility towards your readers (and towards yourself) to deliver something a bit more concise than fumbling notes about how your dad doesn’t love you and all the other kids are stupid. Here are some of the main differences between creative writing and therapeutic writing:

  1. Your audience

    While therapeutic writing is usually intended for your eyes only, creative writing should aim a little higher than that. There are many things that a writer should take into consideration when writing, and his target audience is crucial. Which brings me to my next point…

  2. Editing

    The best way to show your readers you care for them is to edit and proofread your text. As I’ve already mentioned, having an audience means you will have to cut out some of the things which are perfectly fine if you’re writing just for yourself, such as unnecessary adjectives/adverb, cliches, etc. Your readers are not interested in the “truth”, if it’s badly written: they expect good storytelling and prose which is more than a sob story (sorry, I am being brutally honest here). Remember, it’s not all about you. It’s about you, and your readers.

  3. Consistency

    Also, if you are writing a piece of prose you are looking forward to publishing one day, it is important to get organized and to keep a working schedule. While writing for therapy does not require keeping up with the deadlines, in creative writing, consistency is key. Building up a habit of writing regularly, and not only when you feel like it, is what distinguishes professionals from amateurs (mea colpa).

  4. Art for Art’s Sake

    When you are a professional writer, who wants his writing to improve with each written piece, you are looking forward to acquiring new skills and making your prose as good as it can be. Not because of money (let’s be real, nobody takes up creative writing in order to get rich), but because of the art itself. And this is something that is absolutely irrelevant when you are writing only for yourself, because you couldn’t care less about the form or style of your writing as long as you are succeeding in whatever your specific therapy goal is.

The reason why I have decided to dedicate today’s post to the difference between writing as therapy and writing as art form is because I have seen several other young writers struggle with this issue (separating the two worlds, that is), and I want you to know that you’re not alone in this. It took me quite some time to progress from writing down my (then) teenage thoughts to the more polished prose I am striving to write today. But that’s for my readers to judge 🙂

Have any of you struggled with this? I would love to hear about your experiences!

A Cat And His Writer

This is Jimmy. His full name is James Marshall Hendrix, but we only call him by his full name when we get mad at him. We feel very posh those times to be honest, almost like English aristocracy (or aristoCATsy? Hmm.) More often, he is our Jim Jim or Jimbo.

He is actually my boyfriend’s cat, or should I say my boyfriend is his human. He found Jim on the street while he was still a tiny kitten with no teeth, claws or wish for world domination. However, this changed quickly.

The black dot, named after my boyfriend’s favorite rocker, soon realized that he can get away with pretty much everything thanks to his overwhelming cuteness, and developed a taste for throwing stuff on the ground and leaving red marks on the skin of his humans. My boyfriend swears that Jim Jim is, deep down, a good kitty, but at first I wasn’t so convinced. In fact, Jim Jim and I had a very rocky relationship.

At first, I was a little reluctant to play with a tiny black monster. He was also extremely careful around me, and would always run away when I tried to pet him (or, more often, would just lower his head until it practically became flat, because, you know, cats are liquid). With time, much to my boyfriend’s amusement, I have grown to love him despite the manipulative little bastard he is (by “he”, I mean the cat).

The first time I slept over, he actually jumped on my side on the bed and spent the whole night at my feet. I discovered that there are very few things in life that are warmer than a sleeping cat, and if you’re someone whose legs are always cold, like mine, you might consider getting this living and breathing heater. And yet, I woke up with a strange feeling that I was being watched. Sure enough, there he was, staring right into my eyes in a totally not creepy way.

Today, Jim and I have formed a truce. He tolerates my need to pet the shit out of him (especially when he is sleepy) and I occasionally give him treats and try to adapt to his adorable craziness. Let’s face it: no matter what he does, I can’t stay mad at him for long.

P.s. About that world domination thing… yeah, that’s still on.

Similarities Between Running and Writing

  1. First step (or sentence) is the hardest

Imagine this: it’s cold outside, and all you want to do is stay indoors and drink a nice cup of tea. But you know better than crushing on the couch: you put your running shoes on, and start your training, even when every inch of your body seems to protest against it. After you get going, something amazing happens: it gets easier. And when you come home, you are glad that you didn’t listen to the lazy voice inside your head and chose to go for a run instead.

The same goes with writing. Beginning are always the hardest: the decision to actually start writing a new story or a novel is not an easy one. However, once you’ve started, it gets easier. As your word count goes up, your resistance and fear of failure slowly subside. I am not saying that writing is ever easy – especially good writing – but making that first step might be the hardest part of the whole process, especially if you are a procrastinator like me.

  1. Persistence is key

The key to running long distances is gradually increasing your weekly mileage until you reach your goal. Giving up is not an option, because you know how hard it would have been to start all over again. Writing is similar: a lot of writers start from short stories, and than later, when they have mastered short fiction, turn to novels. The key is to not to give up and to try and improve each step on the way. Every run and every story matter.

  1. Success is variable

There will be good and bad running days. Sometimes you will wake up feeling refreshed and energized, and other days you will be grumpy and the weather would be horrible, as if things couldn’t get any worse. Also, with writing, some days you will feel inspired and write diligently without stopping. On other days, you will feel like everything you write is crap and would want to delete the whole thing and give up from your writing career altogether. Don’t. Be aware that success is variable. After all, we are only human: it is natural to change your productivity level according to your mood or outside conditions.

  1. Schedule is important

If you know that you always run on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, you won’t have the time to change your mind. You will make a habit of it and if would be harder not to do it. The same goes with writing: if you have a fixed writing schedule, you are much less likely to put it off indefinitely or wait for inspiration instead of “going after it with a club”.

  1. Comparing yourself to others is a bad idea

If you are running, and another runner passes you by, the worst thing you can do is to get discouraged and quit running, or try to outrun him and risk an injury. You never know where someone’s start line is, and comparing yourself with others is rarely a good idea. If a writer compares herself with great writers and becomes desperate because s/he feels s/he will never be as good, it is important to stop that line of thinking right away. Use others as a source of inspiration, and not to torture yourself. Try to be aware of your fortes just as you are aware of your flaws, and use this knowledge to improve your writing. Always be the best you you can be.

Are there some fellow runners and writers among my followers? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

How To Stay Positive When You Feel Like Your Writing Sucks

Being a writer can be hard. Especially when you are just starting your writing path. I should know: I have published a lot of short stories and poetry in various collections and online, but still haven’t gotten around to publishing my first novel. That’s why it is sometimes hard for me to even think of myself as a writer. That’s why I sometimes struggle and wonder if my book is ever going to come out.

The truth is, I have written several books. But I am still struggling to reach out and finally release them into the world. It is not the actual process of publishing a novel that I am worried about, but what bothers me the most is the teeny tiny voice in my head that whispers: “You are not ready. This novel sucks. Nobody will ever read your book.” And so I procrastinate, write some more, and put off publishing my writing ad infinitum.

Of course, none of this makes sense. Besides being a Writer in Wedges, I may also be a Worthless Writer, but hey, the only way to find this out is to actually publish my writing. If I never publish my novel, I will never know how it might have turned out. More importantly, I will never have received the criticism that is necessary for me to improve my writing and to make my next novel a good one.

I must admit, I am a perfectionist. It is real hard for me to finish my story and just be done with it, even after extensive editing. I just find it hard to accept that the editing process cannot go on forever. The old saying that “perfect is the enemy of good” is truly the story of my life. Despite the fact that many people have praised my writing, some of them already acknowledged authors, I still doubt my ability to write fiction. This may not be a particularly useful blog post for those looking for writing inpiration, but at least I’m keeping it real.

What gets me the most is the comments of my family. Like, I have written some really dark stories. I am talking murder, violence, crime etc. When my Mom reads them, she always says something like “Why can’t you write about something more cheerful? Why are you so obsessed with those criminal minds? Why can’t you just write about regular, happy people on a sunny day?” Now, I know that my Mom, even though well-intending, is hardly a literary connoisseur: she likes feel-good stuff which helps her relax after a long day. I am perfectly aware of the fact that she does not understand the basic laws of writing fiction (there has to be a conflict of some sort), and is in no way qualified for literary criticism. However, since she is my Mom, her comments get me every time.

Also, if I write about a character who has family issues, she always finds a way to make this about her and invent a reason to be mad at me. Often times I have to explain to her that not all my stories (in fact, almost none of them) are autobiographical and are based purely on fiction. Because that’s what writing is, basically: inventing stuff. But she still refuses to believe me. Ugh.

Anyway, dealing with self doubt can be really difficult. It seems that one negative comment about my writing can ruin my day, especially if I am already in a bad mood. Those days, I wish I could just dig a hole in the ground and hide in it. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. So I push myself forward, even when I don’t feel like it.

When I am particularly frustrated with my writing and feel like everything is going wrong, I like to do something relaxing that helps me recharge. Being around people is no good at those times, so I usually go for a walk or a run. Nature allows me to gain some perspective: it also magically fills me up with positive energy so that I feel that everything will turn out just fine.

Also, when I need some reassurance of my writing abilities, I like to read my beginner stories. They are just so bad that it’s funny. Comparing them to my newer work, one can definitely see progress. This gives me hope that, one day, I will look upon my current writing and laugh because it will seem terrible in comparison to how I will be writing then. But for that moment to come, one thing is sure: I must keep writing, and not allow the bug of self-doubt to bring me down.

Have you ever felt this way? Hopefully I am not alone in this. Do you have any reccomendations on how to get out of writer’s blues?

What I Do To Avoid Writing

We have all been there: the clock is ticking and the deadlines are making a familiar whooshing sound as they go by, and you still cannot bring yourself to start writing. The reason for this might be perfectionism, requirements of your day job (in my case, teaching), or simply because Internet is a magical place where time passes really fast and before you know it, you realize you have spent the last hour watching pugs dressed as Stranger Things characters. Since I am fairly new to the blogging world, I will use this post to briefly introduce myself by writing about my favorite ways to waste my writing time.

  1. Reading

This one is pretty obvious. It is true that all writers should read as much as they can. But sometimes, when we come across a book which seems unputdownable, our writing time becomes our reading time. I am so guilty of this. When I get hold of a shiny new book, I cannot seem to concentrate on my own writing. It is almost as if i cannot focus on my own characters when I am so caught up in the lives of the characters in the book I am currently reading. Crazy, I know.

  1. Watching Doctor Who

If there is one thing you should know about me, besides that I write fiction, it is that I am utterly obsessed with Doctor Who. It is the one show that I have watched for as long as I can remember. My key chain is a Tardis. My ringtone is the sound of Tardis taking off. One of my favorite possessions is the Sonic Screwdriver. (Any fellow Whovians here? Which is your favorite Doctor/Companion? Mine are Ten and Amy, and it is my greatest regret that they never did an episode together.). I should probably stop fangirling right now. My family and friends told me that I tend to become a bit too excited when talking about the Doctor.

sara-sonic-screwdriver

  1. Running/Exercising

I am a long distance runner, currently training for a half marathon which is due in two months. I have done some sort of exercise my whole life. Besides running, I do pilates, yoga, tae bo and zumba. I used to do strength training at the gym, but right now my routine consists mostly of body weight exercises that can be done at home. Exercise helps me recharge and get rid of daily stress. After a training session, I feel relaxed and energized. Besides, when suffering from a writer’s block, an additional boost of oxygen and feel-good hormones, which are released during physical activities, may be beneficial to my writing.

  1. Cooking

Cooking is one of my passions. I like experimenting with recipes from all around the world. I prefer making tasty, but also healthy meals, rich with all the nutrients my body needs to replenish my energy. Since I do a lot of physical activity, I need healthy food to give me the additional boost in my performance. I am firmly against going all Bukowski style and prefer Murakami’s way of life instead. His dedication to health and fitness goals is rare among writers and is something I truly respect and can only aspire to.

  1. Planning Trips

I have caught a Wanderlust bug. Since I am currently living in Croatia, where I was born, trips take a lot of planning because the traffic here is terrible. When I was living in Germany (for six months), I was amazed at how easy it was to travel everywhere. I have visited almost all major capitals in Europe, and I am really looking forward to expanding my list. So far, my favorite cities are Dublin and Belfast.

Which are your favorite ways to waste writing time?

Why do we write?

Which topic could be more appropriate for starting a blog about writing, than wondering what it is that makes us sit down and write, over and over again, even when we are busy, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we think we will never get published? There have been many objections to books and writing: people have said that it’s outdated, pointless, even egotistic, as writing is sometimes seen as a wish to live forever. But if we eliminate these common complaints, we are still unsure what it is in writing that has proved to be so addictive to humankind during our history? There are no easy answers to this. But I will try to offer you mine.

I believe that writing gives us the possibility to wonder about things. Everywhere around us, there is a story waiting to be told. Where is that man in a tuxedo headed to? What caused that murder I have read about in the newspapers? What if people were able to live on Mars? It makes us curious, and curiosity is one of our most underestimated traits. Most of us have been taught to be obedient, to go to school, to acquire information without even questioning them. While writing or thinking about stories, we’re doing exactly the opposite. Einstein said that “creativity is intelligence having fun.”, and I couldn’t agree more. Writing allows you to explore the potential of innumerable possibilities, to travel, to meet different people, to experience all kinds of situations, without ever leaving your desk. Also, it is my opinion that, in a world like ours, the importance of a harmless escape from everyday life can hardly be exaggerated.

Also, writing allows us to change the world, or at least, to try. We may not solve issues related to world politics, but we may point out things that are wrong with the present system and offer some alternatives, even in sf or fantasy. It is our task to point out injustice and say: that is wrong. Words are powerful, and we should treat them as such. Even if we do not cause any global scale change, giving hope to a single person who is currently struggling can be just as rewarding.

I write because I believe it is a task of every human being to contribute to this world by doing the thing s/he does best. In my case, this is teaching and writing. I believe that writing is a vocation. I write to leave a trace in this world, not because I want to achieve fame (there are less tedious ways to achieve this, I think, than writing), but because it is what we, humans, do, in one way or another. We write, we paint, we compose music, we build monuments, all in the attempt to preserve a memory. To communicate to others and say: you are not alone.

While there are as many different reasons to write as there are writers, there are some things I believe we all share that do not need any further explanation. Trying to explain to your non-writing friend the thrill you get when your characters surprise you with their actions, or the feeling of pride like no other when someone praises your short story, can be like trying to explain a taste or a color. I think that the majority of writers agree that writing is like a disease you can never cure, and wouldn’t even want to. At the end, it enriches your life in ways you never thought possible.

Enough of my ranting for today. What do you think? Why do you write?