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The blank page and writer's block

An issue I think all writers experience at one time or another, whether they are writing fiction or non-fiction. Firstly, however, is writer’s block a real thing? What does it actually mean? How can it present? What would be interesting to follow this is a discussion of a range of strategies that are often suggested, along with some anecdotes from published writers (from literature, to television, films or even journalists) on the ways they have overcome their own writer’s block.

  • Cool topic! I've got some thoughts that might help. I'm a published writer myself, and I've heard a lot about this. A lot of fellow writers say writer's block isn't real. They say when we claim to have it, we're just stonewalling ourselves and the process. But for me at least, there does come a time when you're just...dry. It happens for a lot of reasons - you're out of ideas, you just finished a project and don't know how to start on the next one, you name it. In my personal experience, writer's block happens because of my fear. That is, I sit down to write and my inner editor/critic/prospective agent will not shut up. She says things like, "You're telling, not showing! This has been done! No one will read this! You can't do it again!" And no matter how much I tell her to shut the you-know-what up, she keeps yakking. I'm thinking of naming her - after Delores Umbridge. :) Anyway, perfectionism is a huge culprit. There's also the fact that as writers, we think of any excuse not to write. As in, "I gotta work on my day job first/I haven't showered yet/there's something good on TV/maybe after I work out the juices will flow..." As for strategies, I'm a fan of "just suck it up and write," but sometimes that doesn't work. Getting out of the house can be extremely helpful, and I'm a big fan of music. I associate a lot of my favorite songs with characters I've created, so listening helps me think of where I want to take them. Hope this helps! – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
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  • Journaling helps. I just read the book 'The War of Art' and essentially it chocks up creativity as more of a transcendent message that we as humans are just agents for. Even Tom Waits believes this. So, to combat these bursts of creativity, I keep a journal. Sometimes my thoughts are ten-fold, and sometimes it's as simple as "A man on the bus sitting with flowers." Well, imagine the possibilities in just that statement. Is it valentine's day? Is he apologizing? Why does he have flowers? It's these little nooks and crannies in life that can inspire so much. So journaling really helps in making sure my thoughts are worth something for the times when I don't think they are. I recommend actually getting a journal rather than notes in an iPhone, something tangible means more in the end. Another way I combat writer's block is to just go out and live. As writers there's a romanticism involved with the sequestered author hidden away critiquing the world. But I always try to engage with strangers I come across. This is where characters come from. Something as simple as the way a man's ears wiggle when he talks, is a character trait that will aid any story. Everything is borrowed, but it's only borrowed if we take the time to notice. So my two tips: 1) Journal and 2) Live! – ryhook 2 months ago
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Can Anxiety Be Cured with Creativity

I think everyone has suffered from anxiety at some point in their lives. Whether it’s gut-wrenching anxiety with extreme mind fog or worrying about present/future events. Being a writer, I understand exactly what it’s like to have several things pulling me in different directions, in a single day. I want to write, I have creative ideas, I’ve gotta find leads, family, friends, exercise and all of the other things, I need to do to "adult".

What if I could tame the beast with creativity. The ability to transmute anxiety from one container and articulate it into a creative container. Creativity comes in numerous forms, whether you’re cooking your favourite dish, writing blog posts or even arranging flowers in your garden. Practicing a creative cycle weekly has proven to lower stress levels and I think it would be an interesting topic in a day and age, where anxiety is at such a high.

  • I think this is a great topic! The only thing is that anxiety can often prevent individuals from being creative. Even though I don't think that anxiety can necessarily be cured with creativity, I definitely agree that finding treatment options that help revitalize creativity will certainly help ease the burden of anxiety. – Kurlehh 1 week ago
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  • I agree with Kurlehh, and I think that if somebody writes this article they should focus on how well anxiety could be "treated" with creativity. – Indigo 1 week ago
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  • Instead of the word "cure" maybe "manage" is more appropriate in describing how anxiety can be handled? Maybe the topic could be broadened into what exactly is anxiety, how to recognize it, and how to go about handling it with creative pursuits; how anxiety can be a force for productivity and accomplishments. – chloet2 7 days ago
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  • Things about how creativity could be motivated or created and through that you can judge about anxiety and how it can be treated – Rusi 4 days ago
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Taken by princessmia (PM) 3 days ago.
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In writing, is it more important to create or to perfect?

What is more important when writing:
The Creative Process?
or
The perfection of structure, language usage, and grammar?

  • I think it would be interesting to approach this topic by examining the creative process in its entirety, i.e. the importance of creativity versus perfection when coming up with the idea in the first place, creativity versus perfection when writing a first draft and creativity versus perfection when editing. – PhoebeLupton 1 week ago
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  • I tend to agree with Phoebe's comments. In my case when I write the first draft it's very much in the 'stream of consciousness' vein, just letting it all flow out and getting the ideas down on paper (or screen) before they vanish. If we edit as we go then we tend to over-edit and be too self-critical. My advice is write with your 'right brain', then edit with your 'left brain'. Oh, and a good cup of coffee helps too :) – Amyus 1 week ago
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  • I agree with the comments above; the creative process and the perfection of structure complement each other and each act is more useful than the other at different stages of the writing process. However, I think that there's another interesting question implied by this topic: which draft features the writer's most sincere and authentic voice: the intuitive, free-flowing, and spontaneous first draft, or the meticulously crafted final draft? – Vertov.Isou 1 week ago
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  • Nice topic, but perhaps a bit too broad? I'd narrow in on a subtopic that deals with both creation and perfecting, such as how and when to make your inner editor be quiet. – Stephanie M. 1 week ago
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Drugs and the Creative Process

‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan. A stately pleasure-dome decree…’. It’s said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed his classic poem whilst under the influence of Laudanum (an alcoholic tincture of Opium). Similarly such great names as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron had ongoing ‘relationships’ with the same. What was once considered acceptable behaviour amongst the creative is now legislated against, often for good reason, but many of us today start our daily routine with our drug of choice, i.e. coffee. Narcotics have had a profound influence on the creative mind across the centuries and will, no doubt, continue to do so in the future. Consider why the creative mind sometimes requires or even craves external stimulus and why we are frequently willing to ignore drug usage among the creative when enjoying the fruits of their labour.

  • You bring up an interesting topic. I myself enjoy caffeine, I use it as a tool. Likewise, other substances such as, LSD, DMT or psilocybin mushroom are sometimes used as creative tools. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for example used LSD as a creative tool. Drug use today is looked down upon. I think that some substances can be used to help with art but within the right context and environment. – LucaTatulli 3 weeks ago
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  • Being more specific would be useful - are you asking about narcotics/opiates only, or including psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, or stimulants such as methamphetamines, not to mention other classes of substances? What exactly do you mean by 'drug usage'?? – Sarah Pearce 3 weeks ago
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  • Like Sarah Pearce, I was left wondering what the focus of the essay might be: all drugs? narcotics? stimulants? I would also encourage anyone who takes up this topic to consider the roles of drugs (esp. stimulants and hallucinogens) in the writings of the Beats. – JamesBKelley 3 weeks ago
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  • I have so many questions. Are you considering alcohol as a 'drug'? If so, I don't think we 'ignore' alcohol usage amongst creatives. I would also question using the word 'ignore' - why must we ignore drug usage? The question speaks of evident bias against 'drugs' (however you are defining this term) - I suggest that the more interesting questions revolve around the role of various substances in the evolution of human culture and creativity... – Sarah Pearce 3 weeks ago
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Taken by LucaTatulli (PM) 3 weeks ago.
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Approaching "Survival" in Zombie Apocalypses

Zombie apocalypse stories in TV, film, etc. deal with "survival" in some way or form. How do stories like The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, World War Z, Shaun of the Dead, The Girl With All the Gifts and others deal with this theme in thought-provoking ways? Are zombie apocalypse stories defined by a basic need to survive, or can we approach them in new, creative ways?

  • I think an interesting way to take this, at least in regards to "the basic need to survive" in these shows, would be to examine the ways in which the survival narratives can align with or oppose certain capitalist imperatives. while it isn't a zombie apocalypse story, Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" very intentionally aligns imperatives of survival with capitalism, and perhaps similar stories that also feature zombies could do something similar. whether or not this ends up condoning/promoting or dissuading viewers from follows this ethos of survival, and what that means, might be an interesting way to take this topic. – ees 4 weeks ago
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  • It’s useful to consider what the point of survival is. Is survival about continuing the human race? Is it about finding a solution to the problem (like in I Am Legend)? We all know that we have a survival instinct. Evolution explains it with our innate desire to keep the species going. It would be interesting to consider this from different viewpoints, particularly a Christian one. – tclaytor 4 weeks ago
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Can Writing Fanfiction Have Benefits?

While writing fanfiction can be time better spent on one’s own original creative endeavours, are there benefits? I’ve read fanfics that have elevated original works in interesting ways, showing a deep understanding for characterisation, narrative structure, and significantly, the pitfalls those original works might have fallen into. So, can writing fanfiction teach us to be critical and inventive in *what* we write, therefore benefiting how we construct our own original works? Or can its normalisation of appropriation do more harm than good? (Then again, what goes in a post-modern society?)

  • I get that you're referring more to "artistic benefits" than "financial benefits," but the author might find this helpful nonetheless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsTN5ZUnypQ – ProtoCanon 1 month ago
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  • When writing on this topic, it will be helpful to think about how writing fanfiction is a stepping stone to becoming a real author, if that's your goal. Although one does not have to create their own characters or setting, the story line is completely up to them and by having already existing characters, it helps the writing to narrow down exactly what the fanfiction will be about. – Mandymay123 4 weeks ago
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  • Like many things, FanFiction does have benefits, but when writing on this topic, make sure to emphasise how some negatives can impact the writer and how the writer can improve on them. For example, FanFiction writers generally forget to describe the character in detail - and if you plan to write your own work in the future, getting into the habit of skimming your writing isn't great. Make sure the reader is aware of the negatives and in turn knowing the negatives can be beneficial. – DylanThomas 4 weeks ago
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  • I think Fanfiction is a very helpful way to step into writing for those who don’t know where to start however, there are negatives: ie. using other people’s characters and settings can detriment creativity to an extent. – AshTrenwith 4 weeks ago
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  • This is a really interesting question and it actually falls in line with some research I'm currently doing so my PhD. I think to just tack on to what the previous people have commented, pros and cons are key. It can certainly help people develop their own skills, researching and developing characters, practicing structuring stories, experimenting with styles etc. I think it might be helpful also to think about how AUs allow fanfiction authors some real creative freedom to take previously existing characters into whole new worlds of their own. And note how many ideas that originated as fanfiction have gone on to be successful. Dare I say Fifty Shades of Grey? Its not a great example but its there. Plus, a number of published YA writers have started as fanfiction authors. (Cassandra Clare for instance has at least three successful series and a popular tv adaptation now). However, of course I think it's important to note its limitations. As someone already noted, in your own work you can't take the readership's existing knowledge of the characters or worlds for granted. The question of whether people get stuck into certain fanfiction tropes might also be interesting (how many coffee shop AUs are there?). Also, and I don't know if this would be too much of a sidetrack, but perhaps it may be worth thinking about the ethical issues with some fanfiction - real person fiction for instance can be a bit of an iffy thing. – BethLJones 4 weeks ago
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The Art of Academic Writing

As an academic writer, I am aware of many "myths" about academic writing, which many people call rules. But what are the rules? Or should we abolish the notion of rules and become writers in our own voice rather than being so "academic"?

  • Part of the discussion needs to be on the contested idea of what academic writing actually is and how it differs between not only disciplines but also countries. – SaraiMW 1 month ago
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  • I agree with Sarai, this is a wonderful topic, but it will need to be broken down if you really want to get into the nitty gritty. Each country is different, but even the disciplines are completely different. For example: I'm an Anthropology major. With this, we use Chicago 17 or AAA to cite sources. In our wriitng, we use heavy theory and heavy concepts of our own voice with only case studies to have as a way to prove our point. This is what our data is. Now if you look at Psychology, they use APA to cite sources. Theirs has less of a 'voice' and is more about having the data of research and hard numbers to prove a point. I think this would be really good to do, just a lot of work and making sure you're organized. – AuthorAsh 4 weeks ago
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  • Thanks for the feedback. I agree that different countries and disciplines have different styles. my research is Business, as part of the social sciences. What is really contestable is the divide between quantitative and qualitative research and how to write it. Quantitative is similar to Psychology, while qualitative research has more "voice". – jdumay 4 weeks ago
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  • I definitely would agree that it’s key to note that there are different kinds of academic writing. I write in history and film and that sometimes that can involve writing almost narratively and it’s perfectly okay to be self-reflexive and sometimes even use the much dreaded ‘I’. This I know is frowned upon in other disciplines but they might write in ways that I would never dream of. Point being, there isn’t really one cohesive set of rules for ‘academic writing’, there’s a set for just about every discipline. So maybe yes, perhaps there should be more room to be experimental or flexible but on the flip side, sometimes these rules exist for each discipline for them to be comprehensible and cohesive. It’s also important perhaps to consider the fact that you have to publish and journals often have very strict rules about how the paper should be written and structured. If it is to change it needs to be across the board. – Beth Jones 4 weeks ago
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  • Hi Beth, Thanks for your insight. The use of the dreaded "I" is one myth I was referring to in my original post. As a social scientist, I use "I" or "we" in articles when I need to show how a person discovered something and then makes an argument based on evidence. What is annoying to me is when someone writes "the research shows" as if the "the research" is a person. What is wrong with, "Our analysis shows" or "I argue" and support the argument with data from the research? – jdumay 4 weeks ago
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What it takes to compete as a freelance writer

Help college students and new writers to navigate in this competitive market.

  • As as career advisor, I see this all of the time with my students. I'd like to lend helpful suggestions to the writer on this topic. – charisewilson 1 month ago
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  • I would also love to read and write more about this topic! I'm currently studying in a professional writing program, and all of my classmates have so much talent but are struggling to navigate the world of freelancing, especially at the entry level. – MeganAlms 1 month ago
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  • I would also like to know how to get started freelancing. I am an academic writer and I don't get paid or receive royalties. I would like to reverse that situation. – jdumay 1 month ago
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  • I've recently graduated from college and am currently enrolled in a professional program so this topic resonates with me! It sounds like the topic is pretty broad and general right now. So make sure you narrow it down on specifics! You can address any controversies/stereotypes that new writers have to overcome or focus on what it takes to spout out original work. I know that many other writers my age are constantly working hard to find their voice and personal style - another issue that you can address with this topic. All in all, good idea but needs to be more specific. – jay 1 month ago
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  • I just graduated from college and this is a question that I've been asking myself for a while. – larrymlease 1 month ago
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  • Writer's Market (most recent year available) Implement Google Search for contests and more. – denaelerian 1 month ago
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  • I would love to know how to get into freelance writing as a current college student hoping to make it as a journalist. – AshTrenwith 4 weeks ago
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  • I would say passion. Any freelance writer must have the drive and passion to write independently. – LucaTatulli 3 weeks ago
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  • There are several sites and companies for freelancing, however the most lucrative and legitimate would be Upwork. You have to be willing to raise yourself above the cometition, but dont get cocky. If you value writing and you're good at the craft, give it a try. – PoweredxJarvis 3 weeks ago
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