Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius probably wasn’t thinking about writing when he said this:
Do not disturb thyself by thinking of the whole of thy life. Let not thy thoughts at once embrace all the
various troubles which thou mayest expect to befall thee: but on every occasion ask thyself, What is there in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For thou wilt be ashamed to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this.
But I’ve always found a sentiment like this to be enormously helpful in writing. Breaking down a task into little bits, isolating them, then doing that one task, and not thinking about all you have to do to finish your project. Even if they’re not done in what would seem obvious chronological order, it’s better to focus on small, doable writing tasks.
When I’m on a larger writing project — as I am now, with a book I’m putting together on heroin and prescription painkillers, I usually spend a lot of time writing what I call “chunks.” Could be anecdotes, or stories shaped around a quote, or just observations or descriptions of a place or person — things that might well make it into the final draft of what I’m writing.
I was talking to a prison inmate the other day who wants to write a book about his life. I said, don’t set out to write a book. It’s like climbing a mountain. Try crossing the street — write a story from your childhood. Just one. then write another, maybe from adulthood. Next day, another. Never think you’re heading toward assembling a book. Pretty soon you’ll have a selection of pieces and can gather energy and encouragement from that.
Here’s what an author at The Atlantic had to say about Marcus Aurelius’s quote.
Up this week on Tell Your True Tale, my storytelling website, is a piece by Kansas writer Rachel Kimbrough.
Check out “How I Know” – a story about doubt, faith, a child and a mother.
Rachel’s a great writer. This is her fourth TYTT story.
Remember, I’m eager to look at all submissions. I don’t pay, but I do edit.
So get writin’.
Very happy to be speaking to writers, students and storytellers at Cerritos College in Norwalk Thursday night.
I’ll be talking about storytelling and writing.
I’ll be telling some stories that I love and discussing students’ stories from their own lives — a little bit of my Tell Your True Tale workshops.
Hope to see you all there…
Thanks Library Club of Cerritos College!
Salon has an article on novelists using software programs to deny themselves access to the Internet.
This is what I need. I wrote my second book — Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream — in a cafe mercifully before the era of Wi-Fi hookups.
My focus was deep, as I listened to music via headphones and wrote for 5-6 hours at a time for weeks. I remember reaching profound levels of concentration doing that.
Now, Wi-Fi allows us to cut away at any moment when the writing gets tough. Very frustrating and counterproductive.
This week on my storytelling website, Tell Your True Tale, a new story by Angelino writer Julian Segura Camacho.
Check out Being Saved – the story of how a young man from Inglewood was asked to convert to evangelical Christianity.
I’m very eager to read more submissions, so if you’ve got an inner writer, write a story of your own and send it in.
Hey folks –
There’s a new story up on Tell Your True Tale, my storytelling page.
Southern California writer David Chittenden contributes “Climbing the Mesa.” Cool piece.
You can also read the story Huffington Post recently used,which I posted to TYTT a few months ago.
My First Bank Robbery is by federal prison inmate Jeffrey Scott Hunter about his, you guessed it, first bank robbery.
Again, I’m always interested in submissions to the site. I do edit, don’t pay, and love good true stories. So get writing and send one in….
There’s a great appreciation of Ray Bradbury, who died yesterday at 91, by Scott Timberg in Zocalo.
In it, among other things, Timberg wonders why it was California where science fiction writers flourished. He concludes that it was because there was no literary elite or hierarchy to disapprove of the genre.
Reminds me of Tijuana in the 1950s through the 1980s, where lots of poor people could join the middle class because there was no wealthy class controlling opportunity as there was in the long-established cities of Mexico’s interior.
Timberg sees a California vibe in Bradbury’s stories about Martians, and notes the author was a young autograph hound, with no college education, who wrote his first stuff on butcher paper, and Fahrenheit 451 on a UCLA library typewriter into which he had to keep pumping dimes.
“Libraries raised me,” Bradbury is quoted as saying. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries.”
Timberg writes the MisreadCity blog.
One thing I’ve learned is that you can always count on something hip at the blog written by C.M. Mayo.
Here, she talks about writing an essay on the legends surrounding Maximilian, the Austrian emperor that Mexico imported to rule it for a few years in the 1800s — which has to be itself one of the weirdest chapters in the history of any country.
Then they set him before a firing squad and that was that. Except that his body was embalmed and put on display for a while. His wife, Carlotta, died many decades later.
I’m hoping C.M. writes that essay, since in the duel between legend and fact, legend is usually more interesting. In another life, she was an economist who wrote a lot about informal methods of savings/finance. Now she does other stuff.
Meanwhile, check out the C.M. Mayo blog.