Author Persecution? Sounds Like Free Advertising!

Last Tuesday, I did a speech for my political discourse class on extremist literary censorship.  In researching for it, I came across some interesting stuff – some of it depressing, naturally, but some of it encouraging.  The thing that really stood out to me is how often attempts to stifle dissent via literature actually strengthen writers’ abilities – instead of being allowed to point out specifics in their own societies, they have to dig deeper and find the universal.  They have to learn to put their theme between the lines, avoid preaching it outright, hone their ability to write with subtlety.  All of those skills are important to good writing, especially if a writer values social commentary.

The other beautiful irony of banned books and persecuted authors is the number of times that such bad publicity backfires and simply becomes free advertising.  Let this be a lesson to any writers who worry about being controversial….  I hope somebody with serious motivation decides my book is dangerously subversive and obscenely irreverent.  Maybe if they’re loud-mouthed enough, it’ll spark a publisher’s interest – ha!

And I really must finally get around to reading some Upton Sinclair soon, because I have a newfound fondness for him based on the fact that, when Oil was banned in Boston, he paraded through the streets reading obscene passages from the book of Genesis and from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a protest….  Has to be the best protest modus operandi I’ve heard of recently.

Writing Snippets

The shift in my schedule in the past two months has definitely shaken things up in my writing life.  Since I’d been in a rut for a month or two before I went back to school, I don’t actually mind that.  The down side to not having time every day to write is, I can’t do a daily word quota like I did with NaNoWriMo last November or, on a more reasonable schedule, like I did when I wrote Erica Flynn.  If I was already going on a long-term project, I honestly might be able to do my Erica Flynn quota of 250 words a day – I’d miss some days, but I know from that project that I tend to catch up and/or surpass my quota when it’s that low anyway.

But enough about the down side.  Only having time to write in snippets means that, when I do have a minute or when something occurs to me, I don’t question it.  I just write.  If I have sentences rattling around in my head that intrigue me, I don’t bother to wonder if they’re going to lead to anything or not, if they’ll be the best sentences to get across what I’m saying, if I’m aiming for a short story or a novel, if I should choose first or third person or male or female or whether I can figure out what this character does for a living (my least favorite decision about characters, by the way).  All that crap I piddle over when I have the leisure to do so goes out the window when I’m in the middle of a 14-hour stretch of school and work, and ten minutes between my jr. bacon cheeseburger and my next class is the only time I have to jot down my ideas.  Instead, I actually write, which means I’m actually exploring more ideas than I do when I have more time.  When I can sit down and think about what I want to write, I kill around 75% of what occurs to me before I’ve even explored its potential.  Now that I don’t have time to fully explore any ideas, I’m scribbling down about 50% of what pops into my head at random, and since I don’t have time to shut down what I don’t have time to write, the other 50% is still being processed while I go about my business.

Lesson one here is, self-censorship is an inspiration killer – give your ideas a chance!  Unless you’re in the middle of actively writing a novel, you should at least let your random ideas run around a little bit in the open air before you decide anything about them.  Lesson two is, you’re never too busy to be a writer.  You might be too busy to produce a polished, finished product at a given time in your life, but you’re never too busy to think like a writer, to watch and listen and pay attention to details and new information, to have ideas and to express those ideas as eloquently as time will allow.  Lesson three:  You can polish later.  You can put the pieces together later.  You can make it coherent later.  My hope is that by this summer, when leisure time goes up again, I’ll have let enough of my ideas run around in the sunshine that I’ll be itching to draft a novel out of some set of them, and I’ll have all summer to write the rough.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

Write Like You’re Getting Paid to Do It

New topic for Sara D vs. Reality…whining about writing for a grade.

So I’m trying to put together a speech for one of my classes.  I am not having luck with my topic research.  What I’m trying to do is a speech on the politics of literature, specifically dealing with the historical persecution of authors, with a focus on how and why a government decides a work is subversive.  It isn’t going well.  I can find lots of specific examples, but almost nothing in the way of an overarching, comprehensive look at the subject.  And for a 15-minute speech, I’m not going to be able to turn 500 examples into my own overarching, comprehensive study, because that would be a freaking thesis project, not a 15-minute speech.  I am frustrated.

Mostly I’m frustrated because I was excited about this topic, and now I’ll probably have to change the focus of my speech so I can use the TONS of stuff I’ve found on censorship and book burning and so on.  Same general topic, just not the angle I was going for.  I suppose the moral of the story is that, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, prose or speech, sometimes what you set out to write just doesn’t work, and you have to be flexible about it.  Even if you have to pout about it for a day or two before getting back to work.  And maybe it’s a good idea, if you’re not writing for school, to pretend that you are.  Yes.  Pretend you have a professor and your grade depends on getting over yourself and writing it anyway, and your financial aid for next year depends on your grade, and if you don’t follow through your GPA will suffer and no one will give you any money for school.  Pretend those things whenever you want to sulk about your writing.  It does wonders for lighting a fire under a writer’s ass.

Did You Miss Me?

Long time no blog.  Well, I’m going to try to start keeping up with this thing again, on a Tuesday/Thursday-and-sometimes-the-weekend schedule for updates.  Why haven’t I been around the blogosphere for so long?  1. Laziness and 2. School.  Going back to school after ten years off takes some adjustment, but academics are my soul’s primal hunting ground, and I’m hungry for some challenging coursework in my relatively near future.

At the moment, my writing life is limited to journaling and random little snippets that pop into my head during my lunch break on campus, but I’m aware of my writer brain happily processing social interactions, potential characters, new facts and discoveries from classes, and the multi-faceted experience within myself of being a non-traditional student that no one realizes is, in fact, 28, and not 18.  Old parts of myself, both good and bad, that faded out when I was last a student, are revitalized in flashes here and there, sometimes surprising because I’d forgotten about them, and sometimes because I thought they’d been more a part of me than they have been in the past ten years.  Among other things, I’m re-realizing how much I can’t abide slow walkers (unless they’re old or on crutches; then it’s okay).

In spite of the obvious choice to major in English, since that’s my strongest area and what I hope I can dedicate my life to someday, I’m going a different route.  In an effort to expand my horizons, nurture a wide range of interests, hopefully inspire myself, and someday earn a living, I’m majoring in anthropology, with a triple minor in Russian studies, English literature, and history.

I’m not sure how the blog will be structured at this point; I’ll have to see what comes to mind as I go along this semester.  Lots of change and transition and self-discovery right now, which I hope will lead to a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts on perspective, personal journeys, and so on, that will be good fuel for writing about writing here.