History can tell us a lot about the Crusades, the series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291, in which Christian invaders tried to claim the Near East. But the DNA of nine 13th century Crusaders buried in a pit in Lebanon shows that there’s more to learn about who the Crusaders were and their interactions with the populations they encountered.
Mistakes have a negative image. So we hide them, play the blame game, or beat ourselves up when they occur. In fact, these actions compound our mistakes by creating stress and anxiety, damaging relationships, squandering time and money, and most importantly, often causing us to repeat the same mishap over and over again.
Source: How Do You React to Mistakes?
Nayantara Sahgal, on Passion
Novelist and photojournalist Nayantara Sahgal celebrates her birthday today, May 10th. She was born in 1927 into one of India’s prominent political families. Her novel Rich Like Us won the Sinclair prize for fiction. She is known as a writer with feminist concerns, delving into conventional Indian society’s gender roles. These days she serves as a political journalist for Indian, British, and American newspapers.
Quirky Writing Habits
Today’s birthday quote brought to mind some writers’ behaviors that some others may find bewildering.
Have you ever encountered sidelong looks when explaining your yawns were caused by that wouldn’t-wait 3:00am idea? Or found yourself trying to explain why your antagonist has their own playlist? Or what exactly a series bible is? Have you ever tried to clarify why your character has a twenty-page biography that readers will never see? Or why you drink coffee when writing dialog but scotch when outlining?
Writers Life – Yes, Maybe We’re Odd
Face it, some of the things we writers do seem weird to the rest of the world.
Some of those folks may even consider you to be a bit odd. Acknowledge them politely. After all, they’re just baffled. So go ahead and try to explain the whys of your writing process. Smile at their blank looks.
And then get back to following your passion and write those words!
Happy Birthday Nayantara Sahgal, born today in 1927.
Marcus Aurelius Was Multi-Talented
Today marks what would have been Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius’ 1898th birthday. That’s after some minor adjustment for a little Julian calendar anomaly hundreds of years ago. Adjusted or not, he lived a really long time ago. Apparently Marcus had a bit of influence back then.
Did you know he wrote a book? Not surprising, given his philosophical bent. He entitled his work “To Himself”, it is now known as Meditations. I suspect how-to-be-a-good-writer books weren’t so common back then. I’ll even suggest that self-help books were relatively unknown in the Roman Empire.
Timeless Advice from the Emperor
Despite that, Aurelius offers sound advice for would-be authors.
If you’re like me, you’ve got little notebooks and random scraps of paper, and maybe index cards with flashes of brilliance on them. If you’re like me, they may be populating your glovebox, crinkling in your handbag, nestled in between bills and magazines. Great little gems, scenes, starting points, mental pictures, scattered amidst regular life and that paying job.
What good are they doing you? Well, other than helping kick in that declutter urge. You’ve jotted down that great bit of inspiration, but it won’t gain much traction scribbled on the back of a Walgreens receipt.
Just Do It
More recently, some Nike marketers paraphrased the great philosopher and (snicker) ran with it. Apologies, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But you cannot deny that this advice works. It worked for selling ridiculous quantities of casual footwear. And it’ll work for you, too.
That novel or poem, short story, memoir or even flash piece will never see the light of day if you just think about it. Get pen in hand or fingers on keyboard and start saving those words rattling around in you head. Sit down and do so regularly, and if you do, as Marcus reminds us, “thou wilt have finished”.
Once, she lost a loved one.
We mourned, we cried, we laughed at the wrong things. Or maybe the right things.
She didn’t feel well.
We met and drank coffee and Pepsi and solved the world’s problems and tried to sort our parenthood and wifeliness, and a good Christian life.
She got the diagnosis. I refused to believe.
We broke bread and cried a little and prayed a lot.
And I saw her strength, and her youth, and her sweet soul.
And I accepted what the doctors said, but I knew she’d beat it.
Or so I convinced myself.
And we decided hat we’d concentrate on things more fun than the world’s problems.
And I went home and prayed some more.
She had surgery. We chatted, we talked, she was tired and sore.
But feeling better every day.
We made plans to get together when she left the hospital.
And she got home from the hospital, but I couldn’t get over there, new job and all.
So we chatted some more. And she was feeling better.
A little better every day.
So we decided I’d be taking her for coffee when she felt just a little bit better.
And I waited for her to tell me to come on over, with beverages and purple ink that she probably already had in her stash anyways.
And I messaged, but she didn’t respond.
And then she died.
Just like that.
I still owed you a coffee my friend.
Today, April 12th, is the birth anniversary of Tom Clancy.
Tom Clancy was once a Maryland insurance broker with a passion for naval history.
Then he wrote The Hunt for Red October, which catapulted onto the New York Times bestseller list after President Reagan pronounced it “the perfect yarn”. Clancy was known for weaving realism and intricate plotting into can’t-put-it-down suspense novels.
I can readily recall more than a few real-life situations that I’ve transferred to the page, only to find that they were unbelievable. How can that be? It makes no sense that actual events or conversations don’t translate to fiction. Sense or not, the reality is that reality sometimes bends or tests or even shatters the suspended disbelief of our readers. Why is that?
Have you ever written real life situations that were just too unbelievable to be included in your work?
Perhaps the entertaining conversation you overheard on the train doesn’t fit into your story. Or maybe your character wouldn’t be caught dead doing that crazy thing you saw the tourist do at the national park. It could be that what you observed was so jarring that it yanks your readers right out of the story. Speaking of story, did that real-life tidbit actually further your plot or develop a character? Did it serve a purpose?
The possibility exists that, sometimes, truth actually is stranger than fiction, and should be left alone.
Keep it in your idea arsenal for another time. You never know when your fiction could use that dose of actual real-life.
Photo taken by Gary Wayne Gilbert, 20 Nov 1989 at Burns Library, Boston College and is used under Creative Commons License.
Robert Sabuda illustrator and author, turns 54 today. He bucked convention and experimented with a variety of artistic approaches to book illustration, including batik, stained glass, and papyrus textures.
Three time recipient of the Meggendorfer Prize (in honor of German illustrator Lothar Meggendorfer), Robert is a multiple No. 1 New York Times best-selling children’s book creator and has over five million books in print published in over 25 languages.
Robert focused on 3-D paper engineering during his studies at Pratt Institute in New York, and his enormously successful pop-up books, both for children and adults, showcase his mad skills.
Most Important Tool of All
Robert reminds us that the most important tool in our craft can’t be bought. Like Robert, we create magic with paper (okay, words, not necessarily on actual paper). He uses folds and engineering, we use language. We all use imagination – the magic emerges from inside our heads. The apps, the type of keyboard, the kind of pen or brand of paper, they don’t matter so much, do they?
Or perhaps they do.
How You Get the Words Down – Does it Matter?
Some of my most intriguing ideas seem to bloom with the flow of actual ink. I organize and plot primarily on a keyboard, making full use of assistive tech for word-processing, outlining, time-lining, world-building, formatting and whatever else I’m forgetting at this moment. If I didn’t have the convenience of online resources and cut-and-paste for my research, I’d probably never get past information gathering. I use all kinds of resources. But the bottom line is, I can use whatever medium is available to get that story out of my head and into the real world. The magic comes from within.
How Does Your Magic Flow?
How about you?
- Do you find that the mechanics of how you write has in impact on your creative process?
- Does the speed with which you get the words down impact your creative flow?
- Does the ability to forego spelling worries in the latest app keep your mind focused on story?
- Does slowing down to write words out longhand help you think through the story?
I’ve spent a few paragraphs exploring how the mechanics of writing impacts the process of making a story. I have no doubt it varies from person to person. And now, having reflected, let’s get to writing. In any way you like.