Tag Archives: creative writing

Edward Abbey – The Voice Crying in the Wilderness

The Voice Crying in the Wilderness is one of those books that I have long wanted to read but never quite got to until this week.  I wish I had read it when I was younger.  I’m glad I didn’t start reading it until now.

Abbey was a writer of some repute authoring books like The Monkey Wrench Gang and The Brave Cowboy.

A naturalist, well-educated and well-read, Abbey was also a truth teller, a writer who pulled no punches, a man frequently described with a single word – iconoclast.

He was, also, a man who kept a journal for 21 years, jotting down thoughts, observations and ideas and eventually coalescing all into the small but powerful book of which I am writing, today.

This small volume looks like an easy read and it is.  It’s also a deep, insightful, belly-laughing, terrifying and sad read.

Abbey saw, really saw his world, the world around him and the world we live in.  Divided into categories like Government and Politics, Life and Death and Money, etc, Abbey’s book doesn’t just report what he sees, it shares what he thought, his philosophy, if you will.

But The Voice Crying in the Wilderness went a bit further because Abbey’s insights are, in some cases, more than 30 years old and yet, spot on for today.  For example, the current and terrible economic situation – 1% of the United States population owning 42% of the financial wealth of this country, might resolved or at least ameliorated if we followed this insight of the author’s:

“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others.  Neither to serve nor to rule. That was the American Dream.”

Abbey’s predictive powers appear to be like those of the best science fiction writers, writers like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon,  Sturgeon once told me that sci fi was predictive because it was based in science. Sturgeon called it “scientia fiction.”

In coming weeks, I will be sharing other Abbey insights that I find compelling, telling or just plain funny. Do you have a favorite Abbbey quote? Please feel free to share it, here!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Death & Dying, Inspiring People

A Short Lesson in Perspective – The San Francisco Egotist

I am so tired I can’t remember what I ate last night.  I have no energy to do any of the things I know I love –  ride my horse, sew, plan my garden.  I want to sit and absorb hours of mindless television then take two Tylenol PM and go to sleep just to get up and do it again.

I am working again.  And I am doing it again – jumping into the job with both feet, trying to fix everything, manage all the moving bits, save the children and do battle for truth, light and the American way.

Did I mention that I’m tired?

So, I was trying to think what kind of message could I write here that would be uplifting, that would convey the importance of showing up, of being in the harness, of “….getting it done” while simultaneously saying…happy holidays, merry christmas, happy Chanukah, merry kwanzah…get a life.

And I was stuck.  Nothing, nada, no brilliant phrases, no unquenchable urge to write, to tell this story.  Then I read this article.  And I got it.  And I hope that this holiday present from Linds Redding fits you like it fit me.

I have to work, yes.  But I have to find and keep the boundaries that let me live, too.  Thank you Linds!  And happy holidays to you wherever you are now.

A Short Lesson in Perspective – The San Francisco Egotist.

 

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Filed under Death & Dying, Education, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

One Writer’s Mistakes – Buying But Not Reading

Writing has been in my blood for decades.  Words dance in my head from the moment I wake up to the moment my head drops onto the pillow.  Successful as a writer for magazines, professional groups and web sites, I still long for success as a writer of the Great American Novel — a wonderful goal that, at my current rate, I will never reach.

Why?  Because I persist in making all the mistakes that novice writers make starting with a common one — buying books — not reading or writing them.  I consider this…

Mistake #1

I am surrounded by books — on my desk, in the bookcase, on my nightstand, even in my car!   Pick a day or an hour and you will find me with two or three books “in progress.”  But somehow, with all that information filling every space in my rooms and in my head, this reader and writer has managed to ignore some of the best advice in the world.  I buy books on writing…but I don’t read them.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s book Steering The Craft languishes on my shelf beside Artful Sentences, Writing Dialogue and Modus Operandi.  I could start a lending library with all the books I own.  But instead of reading them, I dust them , look fondly at the titles and think about cracking one open until life intercedes and the books go back to gathering dust and fading in the sunlight.

Well, they did until last week when I idly picked up James Cross Giblin‘s Guide to Writing Children’s Books.  Giblin  has authored twenty-five books of his own and in his years at Clarion Books helped grow its titles to 400 books in print.  The man knows the children’s book market and he shares ideas, resources and just plain common sense advice in his guide.

I wrote my whole YA novel with that book sitting about six feet from my elbow.  Three hundred pages, three rewrites and my novel is still in the “shopping” stage.  Now, only two words dance in my head…if only.

So while I wrestle with the fact that I had insight and wisdom sitting on my shelf and chose to ignore it, here’s hoping that other, aspiring authors can learn from my mistake.  Don’t just buy books – read them!  Even the bad ones have something to offer.

There are many more writer’s mistakes to explore.  In the coming weeks, a few more mistakes that can derail your writing and a few more ways to avoid them.

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Filed under Business writing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, Medical Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Articles, Writing for the Web, Writing Resources

Writing for The Examiner; An Exercise in Stupidity

Okay, I will admit it.  I was appealed to by the idea that I could write on a topic I love – horses – and get regional exposure.  So I signed on to write for The Wilmington Examiner.  I went through the application process and they did a background check on me that would have made a police department blush.  I was found “fit for writing” and given a chance to provide content to them.

I wrote for them from September 16th of 2009 until March of 2010.  Six months ago I stopped writing for them.  I held off posting this because I needed to decide if I was overreacting.  I don’t think I am.

I published close to 3 dozen articles that were well-written, well thought out, contained original content and included interviews with local, regional and national experts.  Then, one morning I received an email from The Examiner “auditor” informing me that an article I posted on natural fly control was not “local”, got  a verbal slap on the wrist and was reminded that I w0uld not get paid for articles that were deemed not local.

When I was done laughing, I sent them a note telling them why I would no longer be writing for them.

If you write for the The Examiner, you really cannot be writing for money.  Local articles earn the writer $1.00.  No that is not a typo – that’s 100 pennies.  The article in question took me several hours to put together.  At my usual writing rate, I would get $200 for 4 hours of work.  By writing this article, I lost $199.00 in income.

Beyond the obvious, if I had been writing for money, why would I have spent 6 months writing solid, appealing articles about horses, horse rescue and horse care to earn a total of $12.34?  I earn 4 times that, per hour, for articles written for three magazines for which I am a regular contributor.

So this is NOT about money.  This is about trying to contribute content about a topic I love so that people who live in the tri-state area (or anywhere in the world since the web isn’t geographically limited) would have yet another resource for solid information and entertaining stories about the equestrian world.  My average page views ran 1210; Wilmington Pets ran at a rate of 1228 and the average for pets, in general was 1457.  I’d say I had a readership.

The article in question covered a topic that a LOT of equestrians are interested in and used experts from several companies/places discussing their respective products.  It was linked to different web sites which should increase traffic to The Examiner’s site and was tagged for SEO.

So, who is the editorial genius that says writing from my desk in Pennsylvania has to be limited to….well, Pennsylvania?  And why?  This article was about flies.  Flies don’t limit themselves to the tri-state area.  They aren’t restricted to ADIs or zip codes.  Last time I checked, flies tend to hang around stables and barns.  And Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland are… duh…in horse country.

If The Examiner wants to incent writers to leave their enterprise, this is the way to do it.  As a former journalist and a frequent contributor to several magazines with readerships in the hundreds of thousands, I find their approach short-sighted and insulting.  I have written my entire life and the product that I produced for their web site was  top drawer.

The operative word in that last sentence is “was.”  I officially resigned and have not written for the Examiner since the email from the auditor.  To their credit, the auditor did send me an apology for the email but the damage was done.  Theirs is a business model that works for them but, not, I would wager for 99% of the writers toiling over articles for this company.  If you are a writer and you are smart, you will save your words for someone who appreciates the effort, literally and figuratively.

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Filed under Copywriting, Equestrian Articles, Freelance Writing, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories, Writing About Horses, Writing Articles

What Makes A Writer Run

I was standing in a store yesterday waiting while someone tried to figure out how to mail the manuscript for my first novel to a publisher in Canada when, suddenly, right there, my next novel started to write itself.

Granted, I have had the idea and the high level outline for this one in my head for about 9 months but my character was strangely quiet. Then, while watching the various characters come in and out of this store, each with his or her own story, each wearing their hopes and dreams on their faces, Trish started to speak and I was ready for her.

One thing a writer is NEVER without is pen and paper so I whipped out my pad and wrote the words as fast as I could, barely keeping up with her/me. If you want to write, carry the gear. Guess why?

Because the way it comes into your head the first time you hear it is almost always the best way to write it! Even 15 minutes later, chances are you just won’t be able to capture the thought, the words, the scene the same way. And believe me, there is nothing worse than trying to remember the moment of inspiration.

So be prepared, listen and when the talking starts….start writing!

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Filed under Copywriting, Freelance Writing

Writing Around Work

I HATE it when I have to write around work…but like most writers, I have  a full time job to pay for my full time but low paying passion — the job of writing!

Sometimes I start work at 5:00 AM and don’t get back to my home office until 7:00 or 8:00 PM.  By the time I plop down in my favorite chair, I can’t even string words together in a coherent sentence.  So how do I keep my creative writing pencil sharpened?  I cheat, sort of.

I keep a small, digital recorder with me at all times and during my long commute — sometimes it takes me 2 hours to get home — I consciously push my brain in the direction of a writing project that I need to work on but can’t seem to get to.  Amazingly, after just a few minutes of thinking about the topic, article or story, words seem to flow from me.  I have written pages of my tween novel while driving! 

Has your work ever gotten between you and writing?  What tips and tools have worked for you?

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