Category Archives: Editorial Board Essay
We’re already deep into NaNoWriMo, and you might be chugging right along, on target to hit your word count goal—maybe you’re even ahead of it! To you, I commend your efforts. That’s a very remarkable feat already, as you are balancing other demanding responsibilities like school and sports, work or college applications. But you might be the writer who missed a couple of days, who hit a block and just couldn’t get out of it—you might have thrown up your hands in surrender and given up. To you, I say, I know exactly what you’re going through. NaNoWriMo isn’t a challenge to be taken lightly. Regardless of your word count goal, whether it be 7,000 or 50,000, sitting down and writing every day can be very difficult. When I write, I don’t like to plan. In fact, nothing I’ve written has ever really been planned! It usually comes as a burst of inspiration. This might be easier to materialize in poetry, as you have more freedom to rework and embellish smaller pieces of text. But with a novel, it’s like analyzing the building you just constructed, and realizing one of the bricks is a little deformed, or perhaps a different color, and to remove it and reshape it could send the whole building crumbling down. If you’re very wary of that as you dive into NaNoWriMo, or if you’ve realized this is your issue when trying to hit your word count goal, don’t worry. NaNo isn’t about finishing your novel.
You might be scratching your head at that. “Isn’t that exactly what it says on the website?” you may ask. “Isn’t the challenge to get to 50,000 words?” Yes, and yes. But if you think about it, it’s really difficult to write a whole novel where quantity is greater than quality. We’re writers—when we write, we are deliberate. We have a purpose when we begin a novel, and trying to squeeze it all into thirty days is tough! So if you’re one of those writers who is struggling to climb the mountain of “abandoning your inner editor,” or “writing with a stream of consciousness,” know you’re not alone.
NaNo is really just about writing. So many of us may have a burst of motivation to write a novel, but we can quickly run out of steam. We might put it back on the shelf in our “Projects” folder on our desktop, collecting dust. NaNo creates the atmosphere many of us need to push past these ruts we can get stuck in by making it competitive. How many words can you get in today? It doesn’t mean you have to get in a specific number of words—the competitive spirit serves as pure motivation to get you writing. Truthfully, having 15,000 or 10,000 or even just 5,000 more words than you did October 31st is awesome! This is only the foundation, the clay you’ll have waiting to rework and reshape later. If you don’t finish your novel, if you don’t get anywhere near your word count, that’s totally fine.
Realistically, completing a novel worth publishing take years! So, what if just one chapter, one sentence you wrote in your “stream of consciousness” will serve as the inspiration to construct that novel? What if a character you designed using the Snowflake Method that only appeared in two pages in NaNo became the main character for that novel? One perfect example is the novel Water for Elephants. Its author, Sarah Gruen, used NaNo to draft many of her novels, including this highly acclaimed best seller. She often fell behind in her word count, too. The key phrase here is “use NaNo to draft.” That is exactly why we participate in NaNo!
It’s not really about finishing those 50,000 words on November 30th at midnight—though this is a huge accomplishment and highly commendable. It’s about giving yourself that draft to knead into something incredible for years to come.
I wish you much success as we near the deadline, but do not lose hope if you’re so far behind. Remember: NaNo is about giving yourself something to work with, so you can start writing the next best-selling novel!
Last month I talked a little about stepping out of your comfort zone with reading and writing and gave some examples and experiences I had in my own life. If you’re really set on doing this, but maybe don’t know where to start or find you just can’t push yourself out entirely, here’s a few things you can do that might be helpful.
If you’re not even sure what genre or style is your “comfort zone” have a look at your bookshelves or a list of books you’ve read recently. You’ll be able to see what kind of books pop up the most and what you tend to be drawn towards. You can try something completely different or something only a little bit different than usual just to get started. If you don’t have a Goodreads account, consider getting one. It’s an absolute fantastic way to keep track of your own reading and discover some amazing authors and books you might not have otherwise.
So, you have an idea of a genre you really want to try out, but don’t know of a good book to pick from that potentially endless list. Call up a friend who you know loves that specific genre and ask them to give you some suggestions on what they think the best is and go from there. In similar terms if you have a genre or type of writing you really want to try out see if you have a friend who loves that kind of writing and try and talk with them about it. They’ll be an excellent source of advice on how and where to get started, and can be fantastic at encouraging and inspiring you into that.
Start a “To Be Read” or writing prompt jar. This can go two different ways. Maybe you have a list of genres you really want to try and read. Write all of those down on slips of paper and put them in a jar or anything of the sort. Pick one out and try to read how many ever books in that genre as you want in the time frame you set. If you want to get more specific, have a jar for one different genre and write a bunch of titles you’re interested in or that have been suggested to you. If you want to read a new and different book pick one of those and read away. You can do the same kind of thing with writing prompts. Trying finding prompts that relate to something you don’t usually find yourself writing. Whether that be prompts related to a different genre or prompts related to a different type of writing (poetry, etc.)
These are just a few things you can do to help you write and read some new things! If you find that you don’t like anything you’re trying that’s completely okay. There isn’t a problem at all with knowing what you like and sticking with it. In trying these out though you might just discover something you never knew you would love so much.
We are in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an exciting time of the year for writers of all backgrounds. Ever wonder why a child squeals at the thought of their birthday? Because it’s different from all of the other 364 days in the year. This is why I like to refer to NaNoWriMo as the writer’s birthday; it is indeed different from any other time of the year when it comes to creative writing.
Last year was my first year participating in NaNo. As someone who struggled to finish what they started in relations to most things, it was certainly a challenge to get through. While I didn’t reach my word count goal, I felt refreshed, motivated, changed, but most importantly, I finished something.
However, starting something for the first time can be quite intimidating. Perhaps you have run into that block in the road, or maybe you haven’t even started yet. Do not fret, friend, I have made a list of tips in relation to NaNo for those who haven’t done this before:
1) Don’t overthink it.
The point of NaNoWriMo is to get your creative juices flowing and to get you to write as much as possible. Don’t worry about following your pre-planning 100% and don’t stress about it being perfect. The more you think, the less words you’ll get down.
2) Don’t go back and fix mistakes.
Try not to re-read you’re novel and certainly DO NOT go back and change anything. The voice in the back of your head will tell you to critique or fix things, but put that inner reviser away. You may make as many changes as you would like when NaNo is over.
3) Stick with your story.
It is difficult for some to continuously write one story for a long period of time, but it is crucial that you stick with it. Store away any other story ideas that you might want to try for later, and stay loyal to your current one.
4) Find a rhythm.
As middle/high schoolers, it is a challenge to fit time into our hectic schedules to write, but make sure to find a rhythm when writing your novel. Some tend to write better in the evening and some in the morning. Find out which is best and try to write then. If you have free time on your hands, write some more. Any opportunity you find, set it aside for your novel.
5) Most importantly…have fun!
NaNo isn’t made to be stressful or intimidating, but to make you a better writer and open up your horizons. To write a novel at all is a great accomplishment, whether you never look at it again, or continue to pursue it as December comes around. Just relax, move forward, and enjoy the experience. You can do it!
In the most poetic sense, writing is a catharsis of life. It’s a way to take everything you feel and pour every drop of it into twisting prose. It’s using words to convince the world that you are here, that you are worth something. It’s a tingling sensation extending from your chest as letters and words and paragraphs start tripping from your fingertips. A little ball of adrenaline that burns itself in a dozen quick smiles when you think of a new story idea. In its own paradox, the magnetism of writing cannot easily be described using words alone. When someone asks me why I write, why I devote hours and hours of my life to an oftentimes unforgiving pursuit, I’m at a loss for a response. Do I explain a passion for storytelling, and how it has shaped my entire life? Do I grasp for the right words to describe the near ultimate form of escapism? Or do I sound like a rambling fanatic and wax lyrical about the instrument of human language?
In a more realistic sense, writing can be demanding and harsh. It can be discouraging to stare at blank pages and have nothing to say, your mind wiped of creative thought. For everything that can be exhilarating about writing, there’s a part that can make you doubt yourself and your work. There have been times in my life when sitting down and writing seemed pointless. I thought that I thought I wasn’t good enough, or that dreams of working within the industry were just too pointless to even ponder.
I think a universal truth for writers, and most creatives, is that there is rarely a time when you’re satisfied with the work you create. Every time I’ve submitted something to a contest, award, or even just to my friends to read, I always thought that I left the piece with something to be desired – and sometimes I did. I can honestly say that I have written some terrible stories in my life, many poems that I look back on now and laugh at. But that’s okay. Because I didn’t give up when one person told me I wasn’t talented enough. I didn’t stop when I felt I was never going to go anywhere with this passion I had. I may be wrong, but in my experience, what makes a writer isn’t knowing the exact words to place where at the exact time. That can be learned and taught. What makes a writer is the ability face the fickleness of passion, face the self-doubt, and continue writing anyway.
“Tomorrow’s only a day away,” were the words sung in the famous musical, Annie. And senior year was only four years away. But now, here I am, at the beginning of my senior year, writing this post. It has not fully sunken in yet that this will be my last year in high school, and with CWC, but I’m happy it hasn’t. I still have that familiar knowledge of another club meeting, another day of school, another moment to cherish with the friends I have made in FLVS. But I am also reminded that this will be a year to make memorable, a year to achieve what I have yet to achieve, a year to leave my mark before becoming the smaller fish in a big pond (although FLVS is a pretty big pond itself!).
And it’s another year of growing, as well. Growing as a person, as a student, and—you guessed it—as a writer. I’ve come to realize, after a long writing drought, that it is the work of a good novel that can put you back into the youthful writing spirit. A captivating story, a striking sentence—the mechanics of your writerly instincts kick into high gear, and now you look at writing fresh faced and with the eagerness to execute. I have just experienced this after reading “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly. I had only heard about Frankenstein through mainstream outlets, but upon reading the book my whole understanding of the story has changed. What a marvelous novel! I am thankful to have read it, because my purpose for writing has resurfaced.
But that novel wasn’t the only factor—this club, year after year, always rejuvenates me. Already I see so many members sharing their writing with one another, exercising their talent and enriching us with who they are. With this new club year, I cannot wait to once again dive into the world of writing, further my skills, and learn from new and old members alike. Creative writing has always been an outlet for me, but sometimes it can be a chore (writing can sometimes be that way!). Now, a thousand ideas fill me, and I already am working on some poetry. Sometimes it takes time away from writing to read and experience, so we can come back to writing again with new material and a new perspective on things.
This will be a bittersweet year for me, but it has only just begun! I am so excited, so adrenalized by the thought of writing and working with literature this year, my last year before college. I hope these feelings translate into the following years and even decades. Writing is timeless, and at the beginning of the end of this chapter in my life, it continues to open my eyes to all that is around me.
The pen is in my hand—I can’t wait to start!
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us our people who know what they like and prefer to stick with that. A lot of us don’t always like to venture out of our comfort zone, and that includes me. Whether that be in our own writing, our preferred genre of books to read, or anything else in life. Doing anything out of our comfort zone can be hard and seem scary. I’ll be honest though, sometimes it can just seem annoying and pointless. I’m realizing though, more specifically in terms of reading and writing, that stepping out of my usual genre or style can be fun and a way to learn and discover something new, even about myself. It’s led me to authors I never would have heard of other wise, and has led me to considering genres I wouldn’t have before.
For example, I’m a very big fan of fantasy, and more often or not you can find me reading fantasy books and writing in fantasy worlds. It’s just something that excites me and at bookstores and libraries it’s the genre that I’m drawn to. I recently picked up Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I’ll tell you that I’m way more comfortable reading more modern books and I rarely ever pick up Mystery novels. Really the only experience I have with Mystery is The Boxcar Children series when I was in elementary school, and that hardly counts I’m sure. I started it, I finished it and I absolutely loved it and days later I’m still thinking about the story and it’s ending. Now, I would love to read more of Agatha Christie’s books, and I’m on the lookout for more mystery stories. Neither of which I would have put much thought into if I didn’t step out and pick this book up.
In terms of writing, an example of me stepping out of my comfort zone would be me writing poetry. I mainly write fiction short stories, and attempts at novels and again it’s almost always fantasy related. I’ve always adored poetry and I’ve always been in awe of people who can write it, more specifically spoken word or slam poetry. I never thought I could write it though. I either felt like I didn’t have the ability to or I didn’t have any experiences to write about. Last year I just got this random burst of inspiration for my first spoken word out of nowhere and I just wrote. It wasn’t pretty at first but I worked it and rewrote it until I finally liked it. I stepped even more out of my comfort zone by preforming it at my church. It was extremely terrifying but through this whole experience I learned just how much I love writing poetry and just how much I love preforming spoken word poetry.
All this to say, take a step out of your little bubble of comfort. Try reading a genre or an author you may never have given a second thought to. Maybe try a different genre of writing, or maybe even a completely different style. You just might learn something new and discover how much you actually like it.
The demand for motivation is high as a writer. What else could push us through the artistic slums while forming the perfect novel? You’re casually going about your day until that brilliant idea slaps you in the face. You write, revise, revise again, publish, become discovered, and then it’s happily ever after, right?
Unfortunately, this does not happen too often. Even the most successful writers get caught in this dreadful dilemma called writer’s block. One of the most common questions that I have seen writers ask are related to lack of motivation, that is why I have decided to make it the topic of my first essay as a editorial board member.
Motivation and how we find it is a mystery. It has a tendency to come around randomly and only lasts temporarily. While lack of motivation is annoying, you can still write without it. Yes, you read me right: you don’t need motivation to write. I recently learned about a technique called “The Five Second Rule” created by Mel Robbins that could help with both procrastination in relations to writing, and just in general.
Whenever you get that feeling to procrastinate on your writing or are facing lack of motivation, simply sit in front of your computer, notepad, or any other preferred writing device, and count down from five. Five, four, three, two, one, take action. Start writing continuously for a set amount of time, and don’t stop. It’s that simple. There are scientific explanations to back up the effectiveness of this technique, and if you want to learn more about it, consider looking it up or getting Mel Robinson’s book, “The Five Second Rule.”
All in all, there is no specific way to find motivation, but you can still accomplish your goals without it. Don’t wait for it to come to you, but carry on with your narrative journey and trust that it will come around again.
It’s hard to believe the end of the school year is already here. Honestly, it felt like all the months morphed together to form one single day—I can hardly think of when I felt time was moving slow. With an entire year at our backs, the future in our sights, and the present a single heartbeat, it might feel overwhelming. I look back at this year and felt I didn’t really progress as I had wanted to. I gave up easily, I didn’t take on many new challenges, I didn’t balance my school and my writing life at all, really. I kept saying, “I’ll work on it tomorrow,” “I’ll try that tomorrow,” “I’ll begin this piece on the weekend.” But when tomorrow came, I was still struggling to make up for what I hadn’t accomplished the day before. There are still many things I am proud of, and still more challenges and experiences to come, but I do think it’s important to abolish that timeless excuse of: “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Because tomorrow may have a new challenge you didn’t anticipate, and you’ll end up never getting to do what you wanted to.
I have one year of high school left, and there’s still so much I want and need to do. If ten months felt like a blink of an eye this year, how much faster will it go next year? Probably twice as fast. Sometimes it troubles me when I feel like I have nothing to show for my growth as a writer—I certainly have felt like I’ve learned a lot this year. I learned to not hold myself to somebody else’s standard, but to strive to succeed on my own terms as a writer. I learned it’s okay to take a break if things become overwhelming—you can’t force good writing (sure, you have to force it sometimes, but the best writing comes when it wants to!). And, of course, I learned (as I do every year), that wasting your time only hinders your success. Productivity is the key, and boy do I struggle with it.
Don’t despair if you didn’t accomplish what you wanted to, if you ended up in that state of laziness that you couldn’t get out of. You have today to get working on it. Set aside some time today to get cracking. Spend time today drawing inspiration, immersing yourself, building yourself back up to the writer you were meant to be. Don’t tell yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Because I have found that tomorrow became today, and like dominos, each day was knocked down without a single word written. I know it might be an overused, clichéd message. But having experienced it myself, it really is important to understand. When you work on it today, you have tomorrow to make it better.
And it’s better to have something to work off of than to have nothing at all.
I hope everyone’s summer is safe and wonderful! May it be filled with countless days of writing. I am just itching to begin!
As my high school years come to a close (as do my FLVS and CWC ones), I’ve taken a long hard look at the things I’ve accomplished and learned along the way. While thinking about the CWC and how much it has been a part of me, I came to realize the real importance of writing. Although creative writing is fun and an art all by itself, I reflected on how critical writing is as a skill one should seek to master.
I admit it, my writing skills were pretty poor when I first joined CWC. I was well aware of this and challenged myself to become more involved in an activity I didn’t particularly take up on my own. On top of all the books I was reading, I figured some writing for fun would help me out. Although I was driven to challenge myself, I didn’t quite realize that my decisions to become more literate would eventually benefit me in the long run.
As many of you reading this may relate, our generation has become lazier when it comes to improving a skill we aren’t too keen on. This could be art, a particular sport, or playing an instrument, for example. However, I believe writing isn’t something we should just ignore as one of our lacking strengths. If you want to impress people (employers, coworkers, friends), then having a strong friend in writing will be extremely beneficial.
If we’re talking specific examples of why writing is meaningful, then a few would be:
- Communication. If you’re trying to get a point across but don’t know how to word your letter correctly, that could backfire when you really can’t afford it to.
- Monetary value. If you can write well, many doors open up to you in terms of making some extra money (or even a career). Software writers, creative writers/novelists, and bloggers put their literacy skills to good use in ways they can even be paid for it.
- An engaging writer grabs your attention. For example, if you have to make a presentation for work and need to make an impression, possessing strong writing competence would certainly upgrade the quality of your work.
- Speak better. By having a superior knowledge in writing, your vocabulary would have improved as a side effect (a good one!) You’ll be able to get ideas and thoughts across more easily, give and present feedback in more effective ways and get your thoughts out more clearly when you need to most.
- It can be a hobby. Everyone needs one or two things they do for fun in their spare time, and for a lot of people that’s creative writing. If you’re reading this, the odds are that you do take up creative writing for fun (woohoo!) and enjoy all the pleasures that come from forging new ideas into stories and other exciting forms of writing.
I feel as if I can’t emphasize the importance of literacy and writing enough, but I’m also aware that many, many people feel the same. On that note, keep challenging yourself and pushing to become an even better writer no matter what skill level you’re at. When you stop learning, you stop growing. Good luck, Scribblers!
It would be cliché to spend an entire work of writing referring to life as a story, however because of the truth to this clique, it would be frankly inappropriate to dedicate this piece to anything other than such. Life is in fact a story. It is a book in our lap as we sit on a Spring day combing through page after page eager to get to the next thing that we can never see coming. Like a good book of writing, life carries a future that is unexpected, a past we sometimes ache over and other times smile at the memories of, and a unique and complex structure that holds our attention and urges us on. Like good characters life introduces us to relatable and lovable strangers that become branded on our hearts, to evil and pained creatures that scar our souls, to passing glances and smiles on street corners.
Life inspires books and stories, that is where authors got the idea in the first place. Fiction is simply reflections and parodies of real life and things we sometimes wish were possible, or would like to see change. Fiction is life through another dimension, but let’s pay attention to the real life stories for a moment shall we?
I’ve been a CWC member for all my years of high school, even some before, and this essay that I write for you my fellow club goers will be my last. As I prepare my departure from the CWC, FLVS as a whole as well, and move onto my college journey that will shape the remainder of my life, I say goodbye to Chapter One of my existence. I say goodbye to the events that have occurred in my short eighteen years of living, and I turn the page to Chapter Two. A chapter that is sure to be full of it’s decent share of adventures and great achievements, as I also expect it to carry it’s equal if not heavier burden of challenges and battles to be won.
In no way am I long lived, nor as wise as my mother or her mother before her. By not a single chance do I bare the adult experience of those that have walked this earth as beings for decades in time, however I do bare preparation and expectance. Not to say I know what’s coming, only to assert I am set. As I ready for words on fresh pages, I harden my skin and armor my soul for the future. Dawning my horse, pointing my sword straight ahead into my fight. I have fought, and though I am young, Chapter One has been full of long lakes to jump, oceans to swim across. I’ve completed one of the four seas. Three left, and I will have lived.
I consider my activism to be just learning to walk. I see my strength as only beginning to speak it’s first words. My skills are merely about to be born. Chapter Two is frightening, but to not apply all it’s labels would be sin. Chapter Two is also exciting. Chapter Two is rousing, Chapter Two is challenging, Chapter Two is standing in my face with war paint streaked beneath her fiery eyes. I must only need to apply mine to be officially part of this quest.
Chapter Two is not the biggest challenge, but it is the next step, and the next step always seems so much larger than truth. You yourself may be turning the pages, and seeing you’re nearing the next part of your story, but perhaps you don’t know what it is you’re about to start reading. Truthfully, no one knows. I believe not even the highest of power’s could have a clue, and the reason for this is because you’re the author yourself. You have turned to blank pages, that at first may imply your life has come to an end. But in reality, you have been writing Chapter One since you left the womb. The moment your breath found you in this world, your first cries dripped beginning speckles of ink to your story and the words poured from you in waterfalls. You wrote this so far, you beautiful writer you, and now you have reached a point where you’re beginning to realize just how involved you have been. Your reason is THE reason that life has happened in the way it has, that you have made it this far. Through strength and wit and bravery you persisted, and now it is time to continue to rise.
Your heart is your blank page, your soul is your pen, your intentions are your ideas, so write, write, write my friend.
Chapter Two has come at last, and perhaps sooner than any of us could ever think. So now move forward passionately. Embrace all that comes with it, fear or pain or happiness or all. This is Chapter Two, this is the second ocean. It is time to swim. It is time.
“Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.” – Maya Angelou
YOU will rise…