Anne Bean

I make delicious words. // I make words delicious.

Tag: advice


I was out working in my garden yesterday, trying to get it semi-tidy before the autumn rains set in. I know it’s still August, but the chilly wind and low-angle sunlight made it feel like fall. (Fall and spring have always been my favorite seasons. Thus me moving out to the Pacific Northwest rather than Colorado, wherein fall and spring are each one week long.)

Anyway, I did some much needed pruning and brush-clearing in my large and absurd yard. And thoughts bubbled up in my head, like they do when I’m doing repetitive physical activities (Julia Cameron calls them “Artist Brain activities”). I was thinking about how well writing practice and gardening parallel each other. Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is easily a year-round endeavor. (Unconvinced? Check out this, the most awesome PNW veggie gardening book ever!) Writing is a year-round endeavor. Both have seasons of more intense labor. Both require daily maintenance for best results. Both can be kept up surprisingly well if you spend half an hour every day at them*. Noveling is more like upkeeping the whole damn yard: epic, takes a long time to come to fruition. Short stories are like container gardening: attention must be paid to each plant’s exact location. Poetry is like bonsai: every twig matters.

Now, with this beautiful metaphor and all, there comes reality. In reality, my morning pages** are like the stack of unturned compost in the corner of my garden. The chaos that is most of the overgrown herb beds is like my novel draft. The two functioning (ish) vegetable beds are like the chapters I’ve revised. For both my novel and my garden, it’d help if I really did work on them daily and keep the big picture in mind.

So, the nice metaphor is not necessarily ruined by the desiccated wasteland that was my lawn and the undealt-with piles of branches from my pruning efforts…neither my novel nor my yard are particularly well-maintained at the moment. And that’s okay. Because I’m working on both of them. Every damn day.

*Writing advice from my two favorite writers:

"30 minutes every day. Every damn day!" -Terry Pratchett

"And finish things. Then start new things. Then finish them..." -Neil Gaiman

**I write brain drain journaling for half an hour every morning. Julia Cameron calls them “morning pages.” They are important. Now, if I could manage to work on the novel for half an hour every day too, then that’d be closer to Terry Pratchett’s plan.

Nerd Times!

Firstly, Happy Pi Day to one and all. I am celebrating with an apple-raspberry pie which will hopefully turn out as coherently as I want it to.

In other news, yesterday I went to Emerald City ComiCon, which was an experience, let me tell you. It was my first comic book convention, and was replete with amusing people-watching, elaborate costumes, and moments of fangirl silently-flipping-out-on-the-inside, which is how I deal with it when I meet people I admire. I probably come off as somewhat bland and introverted, when on the inside I’m going Holy crap I’m talking about the meaning of success with Jill Thomson holy crap or Pete Freakin’ Abrams! I’m talking to Pete Freakin’ Abramsreally, I guess my silent freakouts are better than the squealing teenagers there*. Although I did tell Pete Abrams that he was responsible for me getting into comics at all in the first place. He said, “I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.”

Anyway, I had a secondary agenda during the whole thing. I brought along a sketchbook with two questions written on the cover: 1. How do you define success? and 2. What do you do that helps you be successful in your creative endeavors? This I handed to almost everyone from the middle school students who had a booth of scrawly, photocopied manga to big-shots in the world of webcomics to actual Marvel illustrators.

What I got was an intriguing collection of answers…

Some were obviously satiric…

Others were far more serious…

A few themes were recurring…

And Alex Maleev, an artist for Marvel, very very seriously signed my Daredevil comic, then equally deadpan, drew this:

“That’s what I do,” was his only commentary on the matter.

…And that’s about all I’ve got. If anyone wants to add their own verbal or pictoral definition of success, I’d be eager to hear about it.

*I think my most impressive fangirl moment was when I ended up sitting behind Terry Pratchett during the opening of Only You Can Save Mankind: The Musical. I got to hear him commentate during intermission about what he thought of the adaptation. I asked him, rather calmly, I thought, to sign my ticket at the end of the show.

Link of the moment

So, this article from The Guardian cracked me up:

Writers’ Top Rules for Writing Fiction

They are diverse in style and content, everything from Richard Ford’s, “Marry someone who loves you who thinks you becoming a writer is a good idea” and “Don’t have children,” to Elmore Leonard’s “Using adverbs is mortal sin,” to Margaret Atwood’s “Take a pencil to write on airplanes.”

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