Influence and Inspiration

If I had to choose one person who has influenced my writing the most (as compared to other individuals in my life, not necessarily compared to other influences and sources of inspiration)…

I’d choose my favorite high school Literature teacher. I know, I know.  I’ve already rambled on about him in one of my last posts, but I honestly can’t think of anyone else who has influenced my writing more.  For me, the problem with choosing the one person that has most influenced my writing is that most of my top “influencers” haven’t been people.  If I think in the context of my creative writing, my influences include God, nature, emotions, my family, etc., but no specific people (unless you count dozens of book authors that I’ve never met…)  So I literally sat there, staring at my computer screen for a good 15 minutes before I finally decided on my old lit teacher.

Even though I’ve gravitated towards the creative side of writing for my whole life, I’ve only relatively recently begun to actively pursue it (only in the last two years, really).  In that time, there hasn’t been a certain, prominent figure that stands out in my mind as a big influence to me.  So, knowing that, I looked even further back: to the foundations of my writing skills, in my latter years of middle school and throughout high school.

As I said last time, the foundation of my writing skills (which led to seriously pursuing creative writing) began then – when I was first learning the tedious grammar and structure of sentences, paragraphs and essays.  It was then that I put in the immense amount of time and practice that resulted in the uncounted essays and writing assignments that gave me the necessary experience to pursue other types of writing that, of course, based themselves off of those skills.  And throughout this whole process, this man, my favorite literature teacher, was the one who taught and critiqued my writing the most.

I remember the times when he would smile at me as I grew enthusiastic while we discussed an assignment or point of opinion that we differed on.  He knew his was my favorite class, and he knew why – I simply loved words.  I loved reading, I loved discussing our reading, I loved story, I loved philosophy – and though essays often piled up and made me scream in frustration, I couldn’t deny the pleasure I felt when I turned in a finished paper and got it back with a high mark.  We both enjoyed discussing the fine points and individual mistakes in my papers because I also loved learning – and he could see that.

So, I choose him.  He not only taught me how to write, he taught me how to think.  Not only did he share my enthusiasm and love of words, he made it grow and mature into a passion and purpose.  Not only did he teach and mentor me, much of the time, I felt as though he treated me as an equal – as if my opinion really mattered.  I think that’s where my voice was born – because he listened.

And that, my friends, is the most important thing for a writer to have – a voice.  Without it, we merely spin words into complex jumbles that can only turn out dull and flat and lifeless.  With a voice, with a purpose and something to say, we breathe life and color into our work, no matter what it is.

I hope I didn’t bore you… But if you got to this point, then thank you for reading!

My Creative Writing: Prose

Prose time!:)  This time, I’m going to show you a piece that I wrote in late October last year after being inspired by an movie I watched (I don’t remember what movie it was…). It’s not a short story, but a piece of emotional prose.  In short, it is my interpretation of grief.  I’d really like to hear your feedback on the ideas I talk about, and, of course, what your general impressions were of the piece!  Thanks for reading!

 

Stages

Grief is not something you can just “deal with.”  It hitches in your throat.  Spreads its cold fingers over your skin and doesn’t let go.  Takes a hold of you that’s so strong, you shake and tremble but can’t get free.  Tears are no comfort.  All they do is leave you exhausted.  All you can do, in the end, is moan and scream until your voice is gone and your heart is cold.  Dead in all but reality.

That’s stage 1.

Grief has a way of chilling you so much that you get too numb to feel anything.  You become a zombie, going through your life as if it’s all just a routine: meaningless.  The only reason you do it is so that, at the end of the day, you can shut yourself off and scream.  And no one will care because you have no obligations.  You shun everyone close to you because every kind word and every troubled look is either pity or arrogance.  You don’t need their help.  And they’re arrogant if they think they can understand.  Or help.

That’s stage 2.

Grief festers.  It rots you from the inside out, discoloring your heart and making your control weak and holey.  The best you can manage is a few fake smiles, and endure your life in the hope that you’ll have to lie the fewest times that day.  Yesterday you said you were fine six times?  Well maybe today it will be four.  Eventually, you start believing your own lies.  Your mask – your acting – gets so good that it becomes you.  You don’t realize it because you think you’re still acting.  But now when you get home, you start feeling the pain less and less.  You think it’s a result of getting better, but it’s not.  You’re getting worse.  You’ve stopped trying to get better, and instead have put everything away: in a neat little box in that specific corner of your mind.  But you don’t realize it.

That’s stage 3.

There’ll be days when you remember.  Days when the knot on the box slips; the weight is crushing.  But most days you’ll continue to live your life.  Living the act.  Believing it.  Putting faith in something that’s having the opposite effect on you.  Stage 4 never ends.  Or when you think it does, the mask is simply replaced with a more intricate one.  The mask never dissolves into the blackness.  You’re a different person now.  The unconscious secret has hidden a small corner of your soul away from everybody that knew you before.  You’re not aware enough to know you need to flip the light switch.  And nothing is ever the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
And the sea of black umbrellas continues to sway.

Feedback

It may seem surprising to you, since I’ve made it no secret that I am an avid and passionate creative writer, but I’ve never had the chance to take a writing class other than the one I’m taking now.  My high school didn’t offer any specific writing classes, and we only very rarely did creative-writing projects for our regular Literature classes. So, other than having one or two very close friends read the manuscripts of my novels and posting some of my other works online, I’ve not had the chance to get very much formal training or constructive critique from any sort of classroom environment.  As a result, the only experience I have to report on is the critique I got for the non-creative writing I did in school, and the critique and community I get from posting my creative writing online.

My high school literature class was amazing. I think I learned more in that class – about literature, logic, clear reasoning, philosophy, myself, etc – than any other during my high school years. My teacher was witty, good-natured and well-respected for both his writing and teaching. My fellow students and I would often say that we believed he could have been a great college professor if he wanted to, but he chose to stay at our little school and teach high-schoolers how to think well.  When I look back on my past of writing improvement, he and his class are the first thing I think of.  As I mentioned before, his class was always a place where I could learn how to reason clearly, and it is his tutelage that I credit when I get good grades on essays and other kinds of non-creative writing.

Learning how to reason and argue effectively in essays and research papers also taught me another valuable lesson that I could apply to my creative writing: to be thorough.  After you’ve been taught the rules of logic and reasoning for 6 consecutive years, it’s no wonder that even in my creative writing, I rarely leave a stone unturned.  In my stories, one thing that I always seek to remember and work on is to not leave a question unanswered or a dilemma unsolved.  Granted, seeming to do these things can be a powerful tool of story-telling, but I always try to make sure that I don’t accidentally or inadvertantly leave unanswered questions or yet-to-be-explored possibilities without some kind of closure – whether that closure means knowing they exist and choosing to answer or pursue them later, or only answering them partially.

As far as technical skill goes, I’ve learned a lot about my own style and process in the past year or so since beginning to post my creative work online and getting feedback from it.  I’ve begun to discover what I do best and why, as well as what I am weak in and need to work on. I certainly very much look forward to taking more writing classes, and I hope to never stop learning more about my craft.

Thank you for reading!

My Creative Writing: Poetry

Since I’ve written more complete pieces of poetry than I have short stories, I’ll probably be posting a bit more poetry when I do present some of my creative writing. I hope that’s alright with everyone:) This poem is called “When Sunset Turns to Dusk,” and I thought it an appropriate one to show you on Valentine’s Day, although it wasn’t written for the occasion. It was originally written for two friends of mine that were together at the time, and my inspiration was watching a glorious, colorful sunset on the Puget Sound in northwestern Washington. Feel free to lend me your critique, and thank you for reading!

 

When Sunset Turns to Dusk

When sunset turns to dusk and the pinks fade to a shadowy grey,
And when the light weakens to shadow and the trees become hostile,
When the moon begins to rise and the stars follow and obey,
That’s when I flee to you, my love, my fear changing to a relieved smile.

When the creepy creatures
And the morbid monsters
Of the night come out to scare me,
And when the growling gargoyles
And the frightening fiends
Of the night blink their red eyes at me,
When the bloodcurdling beasts
And the terrible terrors
Of the night open their maws to whisper at me,
That’s when I beg, I plea,
“My love, please stay with me!”

So we sit by the fire and tell stories over coffee,
Talking of love and life and light,
Until, in sleep, our dreams take flight.
And in the morning, there you are, smiling at me.

That’s when the sun comes up to reveal the bright, new dawn,
When the dark is defeated and the warm light of day returns;
It’s when the stars begin to fade and the moon is long since gone,
And the love I have for you is rekindled, and brightly burns.

It’s when the creepy creatures
And the morbid monsters
Turn out to be does and fawns that stare at me;
It’s when the growling gargoyles
And the frightening fiends
Turn out to be the neighbor’s cats that ‘meow!’ at me;
And it’s when the bloodcurdling beasts
And the terrible terrors
Turn out to be sleepy owls and doves that blink at me –
That’s when I thank you, my love,
For protecting and reassuring me.

Bryan Davis Interview (and My Thoughts)

Hello readers! The video below is an interview of Bryan Davis, author of the Dragons in Our Midst series. Watch the video, and I’ll comment on it afterwards:)  …Sorry for the not-so-good quality……..

Well, what did you think? First off, I’d like to highly, highly recommend Davis’ books, partly because I’m a fantasy fanatic and so I love the storylines he’s created, but also because I love how he weaves Biblical truth into his stories, using the facts and painting his stories around them, filling them in and giving them new meaning. His books are amazingly deep, and they leave you almost gasping for breath as you experience the settings he creates. They make you really think too…they encourage you to examine yourself, seeking out what your beliefs really are and what they mean to you.

The other thing I found interesting is the way he said he got his idea for his first book (the first book in the Dragons in Our Midst series, called Raising Dragons): it all started out with a dream. Interestingly enough, dreams are where all three ideas for my three current novel projects came from!  Another similarity between him and me is our view on fantasy: his definition – or rather explanation of why fantasy is so important – is that it opens the reader’s eyes to the world around him. This is one of my goals in writing: to communicate truth and virtue through meaningful and deep storytelling.

I also thought his views on audience were very interesting, and very applicable to me as a teenage writer. I honestly can’t imagine “writing down” to an audience – I can’t imagine how I would do it, and I can’t imagine why. Reading – and therefore writing – should be an enriching experience. Sure, it’s ok to “pleasure” read now and again, but I don’t think it’s ever profitable to read trash. In the same way, I believe writers ought to know who their audience is, yes, but I think they – er, we – also ought to seek to enrich our readers, not simply tell them a story that has no lasting impact.  That’s just unsuccessful writing – what’s the point of writing something if we don’t intend for it to influence our readers?

Oh, Echoes From the Edge….. If you really want a trilogy that will stretch your mind to its limits, these are the books to read! I found myself absolutely lost in their convoluted plots and deep characters.  Bryan Davis really has a way of making his prose poetic in its beauty, and making you absolutely fall head-over-heels in love with his characters! I respect him immensely for both of those things, and I really hope to be able to spin tales and create characters as well as he does!

One final note: I love how he admits to his interviewers that he “lives the story right along with that characters” and is “carried along by the seat of his pants” as he writes these books. I’m mostly the same way – for my novels, I do a little bit of long-term planning, but most of the story “writes itself” as I just try and ride the river of description and dialogue. It’s an extremely enjoyable way to write, and I find that it results in successful writing.

So that’s it for now, but tell me your thoughts on this! What happens when you write? What did you think of this interview and this author? And, as always, thank you for reading!

Processes

Everything we do has a process that must be followed in order for that task to be completed.  For example, cooking: to make any sort of food, there is a recipe and list of directions to follow, otherwise that food will turn out to be inedible.  The same goes for taking a test, working 0ut, writing an essay, etc.  In the same way, every writer has a different way of going about their writing.  Some pull out a notepad and pen, others open their computer and use their favorite word-processing program. Every writer also has their own way – or style – of actually producing a piece of writing – that is, what steps they go through to finish a specific piece of writing.

It’s taken me a while to find the habits that work best for me, but now that I do, the routine of it can actually improve my writing sometimes because I’ve trained myself to think and do it that way. For me, I like to use my computer to write.  I can switch around words and phrases a lot easier, and I’m a much faster typist than I am if I’m writing with a pen and paper.  As for the writing of the piece itself, the process slightly depends on what it is that I’m writing.  Since I’m primarily a creative writer, when I think of my own personal “writing process,” what comes to mind is the process I use when I’m writing a creative piece – i.e., poetry, a novel chapter or a short story.

Usually a piece will start out as a raw idea of inspiration – an emotion, a conviction, or – if I’m doing prose – a certain scenario or scene occurs to me.  If I’m able to, I usually like to get that idea down, and any other ideas that might occur to me as branches off of that first main bit of inspiration. Sometimes, though, I get hit with some bit of inspiration when I have nothing to write my ideas down with but my phone – so I text the bare bones of the idea to myself, so that I can write it down and use it later.

After I’ve got the inspiration, I start on a first draft. If it’s poetry, this starts out very rough… no rhymes, no rhythm, just bare ideas in a rough form. Prose starts out a little less rough because it tends to have a bit more flow to it, so the problems I run into later when I’m editing are more about content running away with itself! After I’ve written a first draft, I go back and fix the obvious mistakes, and clarify vague areas in the text as well as cut and add content where it needs it.

And then I let it sit. I’ve found that leaving a piece be for a good length of time allows my mind to recover from the excitement and emotion of having had a good bout of inspiration.  So, after a day or two, I’m better able to come back to the piece with a more distant eye, and I’m able to find the jumps in logic or awkwardness in the lines or sentences without that bias of, “Oh wow this is such a great, amazing idea!”

At that point, after having let it sit and then re-edited it, the piece is usually “done.” Sometimes more time will pass after that second bout of editing, and I’ll come back to the piece and edit it again, but most often, I consider it “done” after the first wait period.

As I’ve mentioned before, I often post my work on a number of websites, and this is usually what I do after a piece is finished. I seek critique and comment on it, and if I succeed in getting either of those, I consider using it to practically improve my writing skills.

I’d be very interested to hear what your writing process is and what you think of mine, so please don’t by shy with comments! As always, thanks for reading!

My Creative Writing: Poetry

This time I’m going to show you a poem that I wrote. This particular poem was written almost a year ago, when I was vacationing in California. I got the inspiration while I was sitting on a beach in San Diego, right in front of the ocean where the waves crashed and the wind blew a cool breeze. There were countless birds in the sky, and the sun’s light made the sand look like pure gold. Anyway, these colors and the birds gliding on the breeze gave me the idea for this poem.  As always, be free with your critique!  And thank you for reading!

 

The Griffin

With wings soft as down
And beak fixed in a permanent frown,
The Griffin soars in open sky,
Reveling in his talent to fly!
But be not deceived by his fearsome face,
For it is as noble, powerful and endowed with grace
As it is ferocious and wild, impossible to tame.

His eyes sparkle red and gold,
And his coat is truly a sight to behold;
Smooth and sleek, it glows amber in the setting sun’s light
And under the moon it shimmers silver and white.
His ruff rises like hackles at the slightest threat
And his tufted ears prick, for though not one to fret,
He’ll not relax until he knows the danger has passed.

Tall, strong and majestic he stands;
With wings spread wide, the ground shakes when he lands.
All are awed by his legendary fame
But only some are privileged enough to know his name.
Look for his shape among the clouds so high
And listen on the wind for his savage cry;
For you may yet be one of those few.

Who has the courage of heart and virtue of soul
To meet the Griffin on his towering knoll?