Have you ever stayed up far too late writing? Even if you didn’t really want to, pushing through your projects until your eyes burned and you felt like a zombie the next day? What about ignoring your mental, social or physical health needs in favor of your word count? If anything from here applies to you, you may have fallen victim to hustle culture.
I often find myself tearing the pages of my notebook because I find what I have written to be painfully awful. The constant self-doubt that plagued my writings and mind made me wonder: If everything I write is horrible, then what objectively qualifies as good writing?
NaNoWriMo (or ‘Nano’ as it is more commonly known) definitely isn’t for everyone. To write 50,000 words in one month is hard for most, especially those with full time jobs, studies, school or just the general stresses of life, but it is still a fun and motivating challenge to take up every now and then. Right? For some, having a set goal of words to write for a month is encouraging and helpful to keep them on track, but for others, it is a looming dread that becomes more and more impossible as time goes on.
Thousands of years ago, Aristoteles probably took a look at the people attending the theater during the Dionysian festival. He saw them cry and scream and gasp during the three days dedicated exclusively to watching tragedies. And -- as Greek philosophers do with everything — he decided to give their experience a name.
Pushing yourself is important. Without drive and determination, nothing great would ever be accomplished, and the same goes for writing. Writing a novel isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of dedication. But there is such a thing as pushing yourself too hard. When you’ve been working on the same piece for months on end, the words might start swimming on the page while the characters all blend together. This would be a good time to step back and let your work in progress breathe.
Spoilers for Invincible and The Last of Us 2
I was surprised to find out that the Last of Us Part Two was so hated, because I loved it. Maybe it’s because I’m a big fan of depressing stories. Maybe it’s because I watched a playthrough of both games in the span of 3 weeks. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t get the time to get super attached to the characters like the people who waited years between the first and second game did. Whatever the reason was, I was baffled by all the hate such a brilliant game received, and I spent hours watching video essays compiling the good, the bad and the ugly of every part of the game, but even after that, I still couldn’t find a good answer as to why some despised it and others didn’t (although there were some main reasons).
However, if I had to summarize one thing that divided the fanbase and gamers all over the world about The Last of Us Part Two, it’d have to be the way the creators tore at gamers’ heart strings over and over again.
“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”
This is probably the most famous piece of microfiction nowadays. At first sight, this story might seem unfinished, just the pitch for a novel to come. But, unbelievable as it is, Agusto Monterroso told a complete story in nine words and two punctuation marks. This skill, despite being difficult to hone, is dynamic and fun to experiment with. It offers writers an immense amount of possibilities and doesn’t take much time to write.
When reading a book, the plot and the characters will keep me reading, but often what first grabs my attention is the language. I’m a sucker for poetic prose and figurative language, and often try to incorporate similar writing styles into my own work.
But as I’ve gone through various writing classes and workshops, I’ve learned that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. You may string along pretty sounding words and form meticulous metaphors, resulting in a beautiful passage, but at the end of the day what is really being said?
One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers is to read a lot regularly and rightfully so: reading is like food to a writer's brain, and it is a simple fact that someone who does not read cannot hope to become a writer.
Almost every book about writing I have ever read actively advocates for reading daily. But recently I read Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, which changed my perspective. At one point in the book, Brande talks about how reading can sometimes be harmful to writers. Preposterous advice, right? But stick around a little longer, and I will convince you that as a writer, reading is of utmost importance, but reading every day is not.
Spoilers for GtN and HtN
CW for discussions of death, murder and toxic relationships
Gideon the Ninth article
Harrow the Ninth is the galaxy-shattering sequel to Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth. It follows Harrowhark Nonagesimus, who has just risen to the position of Harrowhark the First, eighth hand to serve the Emperor. She has just achieved Lyctorhood, but at a horrible cost.
One of the best things that this book manages to achieve is using all three kinds of perspective. First, second and third person are all used at some point over the course of the book. The other strong point that this book holds is the use of incredibly complex relationship dynamics.