How Writers Write

Writing with Music

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the year has been treating you and your pen and paper well, so far. Today I’d like to talk about music while writing.

Do you like to write with music? Why or why not? Is there certain music that really inspires you to write and write, and other music that makes you dry up and not know what to write next?

For me, I usually always like to have music on in the background. Lately, lofi helps me to write, because it helps me to feel calm, and there are no words to distract me from the words flowing from my keyboard onto the page. However, a teenage daughter of my friend just convinced me to check out BTS, the famous K-Pop band (oh no! lol). So, I am listening to sad foreign songs while writing, today. What new thing might it spark in my writing? We’ll see!

While researching writing and music, I found that many writers like to have music on in the background. Others, not so much, and others still, used to write in silence but then found that music did help them write! Some writers even make soundtracks for their novels, and I find that so fun and intriguing! I’d like to research it more and return with a follow-up post about it soon.

What if we listened to these authors’ soundtracks while reading their novels? Maybe it would enrich our experience of the book! If you’ve ever done this as a reader, please tell me! It sounds like a fun experiment, I’d like to know how it went for you.

Here are some stories from famous writers about their experiences writing with music:

This article taught me that Stephen King writes to heavy metal, specifically Metallica. I found this funny and fun! Also…it kindof makes sense. To enter into the strange, eerie worlds and disturbed minds that he creates, no wonder King has to listen to heavy sounds.

Let me know your thoughts and what your favorite writing music or environment is, in the comments below!

Until next time,


Artist's Way Book Journey · My Writing

The Artist’s Way, Week 4, Ch. 3: Realizations & Re-filling the Well

Thoughts From The Horizon, WordPress

This week’s Artist’s Way was an exciting eye-opener. It felt like getting closer to seeing the top of the mountain as you climb it.

For my artist’s date, I went to a ceramics studio and painted a bowl, which I am super excited to pick up this week! It was so relaxing to just sit for two hours amidst quiet fellow artists, silent, painting my bowl. I had no limits. I had no worries. Past and future melted away. It was just me, my paints, and my bowl.

It was SO relaxing! I felt so de-stressed after. I also felt my creativity was invigorated. It helped the rest of my week whiz by. Perhaps due to that lovely, long, respectful artist’s date, I got flashes of inspiration this weekend and started outlining my entire novel, so that I can more easily revise it.

I think there’s something getting through to me, even though I’ve missed so many morning pages in this read-through of Artist’s Way:

RESPECT. (Really tempted to spell that out and attach a YouTube video of the song here, but I won’t…hehe).


I am starting to respect my writing time again. Because of that, I’m starting to respect myself more. I love myself more when I feel inspired to write. I love writing. It really is a part of me.

This week’s artist’s date felt the most respectful and calming of all the ones I’ve done so far. It was very private (even though I was in a room with others, it was quiet), and I was really able to let the rest of the world sink away. The lack of stress and noise really helped me dive into that creative mood, to just sink into my piece, my bowl.

Sinking into my work is my favorite part of writing. Don’t you just love it when you sit down and the words flow easily, the scene makes itself clear, the characters who who they really are? It’s such an amazing feeling. I would love to hear you all describe it, because I find it tough to describe, myself.

I also really enjoyed working on my outline. I’ve got about 12 chapters outlined now. It was on a day that was sunny and breezy. I had decided to read on my back patio, but brought my notebook too, just in case. Then when I was in the bathroom (yes, LOL, no one ever talks about getting your great writing ideas on the toilet – but it DOES happen!). While there I got my ideas, and when I returned outside to my patio and notebook, they  just sortof flowed out of me for a while.

Even when the flow ebbed off, I kept going, and spoke encouraging words to myself. I wrote what happened, in scenes. I’ve never really done that before. I scribbled questions to myself in bubbles. And next, I’m going to do a chart showing how the main plot and the sub-plots weave together, so I can keep outlining the other chapters (middle arc and final arc stuff).

So my friends, if you’re thinking of reading The Artist’s Way, don’t be discouraged. It’s challenging at first, but it does get better.

This week, I’ve got some crazy tasks Cameron gave at the chapter end. We have to NOT READ ANYTHING for a whole week, so that the sludge of constant stimulus and others’ ideas can leave, and we can get ideas, aka “refill the well”, Cameron says.

from Rocky Mount Peacemakers

I’m going to try it, not reading. I know it will be, well, insane. I WILL ask someone to glance at my email for me, so I don’t miss anything super important. But I’m happy to say goodbye to Facebook for a week, I can certainly live without Twitter. The real hard part will be not reading your WordPress blogs, my fellow writers, friends and bloggers…and, of course, the awesome newsletters by Jennie Nash and other writer coaches that I love. I’ve already taken a break from Writer Unboxed so I can focus on my story and not get too hyped in just reading articles ABOUT writing, instead of actually writing.

Well, it’s late here, so I must stop. But more tales of The Artist’s Way adventures will be here in a week!

Thanks for reading,





Artist's Way Book Journey · How Writers Write · Musings

The Artist’s Way, Week 1, Ch. 0: The 10 Principles Creative People Should Live By

After so long, I am so excited – scared! nervous! ack! – to finally be starting my Artist’s Way journey. Again. With you! It is both nerve-wracking and wonderful. When I started this book last spring/summer with a group of friends, it was a group adventure. We were all in it together, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was just glad to be doing a group activity, and curious about the book’s tagline: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”, and it’s second tagline, or hook, as you could call it, which runs across the cover: “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self”.

My First Attempt

During my first attempt at said course, I met with my friends once a week. During our week, we brought ourselves on “artist’s dates”, meant to rejuvenate our non-judgmental inner artist and child, and journalled – or attempted to, or procrastinated! – daily, writing our 3 “morning pages”.

I really liked the experience. I am usually one of the more creative people in my group of friends, especially with words, so it felt very comforting to be in a group where people were trying to be more creative. Usually groups I’m in are related to work, or in the past, school. Creativity was never in very high demand. So here I saw, all of a sudden, in a group where being a creative weirdling was an advantage. Yay! My heart sang.


My Experience with Morning Pages

The group activities we did were always full of laughter. For me, one of the most freeing things I did alone was the morning pages experience. Sometimes I was busy or reluctant and did not do them, I’ll admit. But! When I did, wow! The feeling surprised me. I felt so relieved. I unburdened my worries and anxieties onto three little pages, and then was able to go about my day. It was amazing how writing down the negative thoughts helped me to not think of them during the day or evening. I was even safe from the demons before bed! It was such a relief.

On the days I didn’t do the morning pages, I really felt the difference. I found myself more cranky, more worried, and likely to experience heart palpitations or anxiety attacks (which I do suffer from, sometimes). I knew it was because I had forgotten my morning pages. This made me more determined.

Increased Self-Esteem!

Besides this, I also found that Julia Cameron’s book did help me gain some self-esteem. I felt more determined to finish my current work-in-progress fantasy book. I wrote more eagerly, more often, and the quality of my work improved. It was so exhilarating. After months of struggle, scenes flowed into my mind. After months of working creatively and feeling alone in my endeavors, I had a group of friends who were also trying to re-ignite their creative sparks. After so long of back-and-forths, I could finally sit down at a determined convenient time each day and write. And I didn’t throw out everything I wrote, either. I kept it. It was good stuff! It has now led me into a third draft of the first 7 chapters of my book.

Starting Over

Unfortunately, I stopped the momentum when I moved from California to Florida, which was a big move. And I didn’t resume my journey, and made excuses, one of them being that my group did not continue without me – they, too, got swamped by life.

But now I am starting it again, and it’s because of you guys! I noticed extra interest in all the posts where I mentioned Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and seeing your heart respond, I remembered how mine had responded, too. So now I start my journey over, and instead of my physical group with me, I have all of you to witness my progress (or lack thereof – we’ll see!).

Today is Day 0, because so far I have read the book’s Introduction and Foreward. In it, Cameron gives a magical list of absolute gem advice, which she calls the Basic Principles. They are as follows, and I will let you think on them and judge them, take them up, or leave them by the wayside – whatever you wish:

Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s Basic Principles Creative People Should Live By

  1. “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.

  2. “There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life – including ourselves.

  3. “When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creatior’s creativity within us and our lives.

  4. “We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.

  5. “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

  6. “The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

  7. “When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.

  8. “As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

  9. “It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.

  10. “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move towards our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”


Now wait, WAIT! Before the word “God” or the idea of our creativity being given to us has you deciding to leave – please just wait. Know that I, too, take Cameron’s word with skepticism. Hear me out.

Thoughts on Writing + Spirituality

When I read these the first time – and even now, to be honest – I wasn’t sure how to feel about them. Part of me said, “Wait a second. God wants me to use my creativity. But what if I don’t want to write about God? What if I write about murderers, or something dark, why would God want me to write about that?” Similar thoughts in that train circled through my head, and I determined that Cameron was taking the Higher Power (or God, or whatever you may want to call Him or Her, or maybe you don’t believe in any thing at all) too seriously and linked Him too much with what was, really, a selfish sort of thing we do for ourselves.

So then came a dilemma for me, in a way. Because I am a person of faith, who believes in serving God, but I am also creative. How to balance that out? Well, it’s another, long sortof story, but let’s just say…I’ve accepted my identity as a writer, who isn’t likely to stop writing, who is also trying to become a good servant of God. And that’s okay. It’s where I’m at.

And I also believe that we can use our creativity to write about spiritual experiences. I’m not sure if I do believe, as Cameron implies, that the act of writing is inherently spiritual. But! Though this may deter you from wanting to read my Artist’s Way journey further, don’t fear – I DO read on, I DO find tremendous creative benefit from reading her book, and who is to know what happens when I get past chapter 6? That was the furthest I got with my group before. Suffice to say, I have seen and experienced the benefits of Cameron’s work, regardless of her personal philosophy, or in spite of, or because of – it doesn’t matter. What matters is, it works.

What’s Coming Next…

Want to see if I’m right? Well then, keep an eye peeled! (What does that even mean? Who would want to PEEL their own eye? Maybe a study of weird phrases is worth a separate post some day, hmmm….haha!) I will be posting an Artist’s Way post every week now, steadily. My day is Thursday. And I may squeeze in another post or two on other topics, as they come to me, or I land a couple special guest post ideas I’ve been meditating on.

Would love to hear your thoughts on Cameron’s Basic Principles!

See you next week,


10-Day Blog Makeover · Announcements · Musings

My Blog Mission – Makeover Day 1


The first assignment I got today as part of the 10 Day Blog Makeover, by Daniela Uslan, was this:

Write your blog mission statement.

Uslan goes on to say that the mission of your blog is the fuel for your blog. It’s what everything in your blog should center around – even your headings!

Fortunately, she doesn’t just leave it at that, and gives a simple formula around which to form a mission statement around.

I am happy to say I figured out my mission statement pretty quickly. I think this shows that this blog DOES have focus. Writing is a very broad category to write under, but I do have a certain mood pervading all of my posts. I had to think about what it was exactly, for a while, and then how to word it succinctly, but…I came up with something. It is a rough, and I may change it later…but honestly? I don’t think I will. I think this is it. I think I got the GOLD!


This Blog’s Mission Statement:

I, C.S. Kinnaird, blog about writing in order to help writers find a balance between writing with their hearts and writing with their minds. I do this because I want to know how creativity works psychologically and how we can put our heart’s struggles and triumphs into every piece we write.

What do you think? Does it make sense? I hope it made it clear and not too abstract. I want writers to read that statement and feel excited about what this blog has to offer. Do you?

In case it isn’t clear, I guess I’ll explain myself a little bit.

There are a lot of websites out there that tell us how to write. They give us “the five best techniques for writing your villain”, or, “10 steps to finishing a first draft”. I see them all over Pinterest, and I see a lot of technical articles on big writing websites. All of these articles are helpful, and some of them are super fantastic.

But once you’ve read all those and digested them and learned how to implement them in your daily writing work…it’s still just you, and only you, who can write those pages. It’s you who has to search inside and figure out what you want to write, and why, and how. Some people are just beginning writing, and that can be a very floundering time. Other writers are published authors and have done tons of books, and yet even they have struggles. Sometimes they get stuck, too. A lot, actually.

And sometimes the “stuck” moment isn’t due to your missing out on some technical point on a list. It’s because you’re, say, not sure what your story is about anymore, or you lost track of a character’s motivation. You have to go back to the ideas and feelings that first made you start writing that story. You have to go back to you, to just sitting inside of yourself and thinking of things that hold meaning for you. And then you go back out, bit by bit, to transport that meaning and feeling inside of you onto your pages.


And when you’re done, if you’ve done that work of looking inside and putting what’s inside on paper, then you have a good book. This is what I believe, based on my experiences as a writer and a reader. You have to write with your heart, not just your mind.

It can be hard to find that balance between heart and mind, in writing. That is why this blog is here!

As for the second part of my mission statement, I’ve referred to the part about heart triumphs and struggles – going inside and grabbing what means something to us and putting it on paper – but what about the psychology of creativity? What do I mean by that?

This was the part where I got stumped, mid-way in making my mission statement. What did I mean by “how creativity works psychologically”? At first I wasn’t even sure.

After some thinking, my conclusion was: Look at Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She makes her workbook function as a study in how we writers think, where we fail, where we need encouragement, etc. This seeing ourselves helps us to then go out and create. Cameron does this in her books and it really, really helps us a writers to step away a bit and look at ourselves (really, it’s more like stepping in). Cameron calls us out on all of out bullshit and leads us to a solution to our creativity issues – not just by following her formulas, but by being free. Ultimately the work is up to us.


In a nutshell, by saying the psychology of creativity, I mean how our minds work as creative people and in practicing our craft, and what we can do to manipulate our emotions of doubt, fear, etc. to help us in our work. There is room in “writing by mind” for the technical articles, too; I read them and enjoy them, and include that advice in this blog, too. But by psychology of creativity, I refer to the need to study our trains of thought and catch what’s useful and what isn’t.

Thank you all for reading! Tomorrow, you may see more posts or changes on this blog for the second day of the blog makeover challenge!

Until then,



Book Reviews · Musings · My Writing

Of Writing Progress and Reading Steampunk

Recently I joined a fun website to keep myself accountable about writing something every day, even if it’s just journaling. The website requires you to write 750 words a day, and gives you badges as rewards for hitting special rungs of the ladder.

Here’s a bit of a journal entry today; please excuse my sleepy typos and bad sentence structure:

Journal Entry

Writing is good. I think that is what makes me happy and contented, today and yesterday, basically. I wrote a few paragraphs in Chapter one in Emna’s point of view, ad then I went over them a little, and they were good. I like them. I think they serve the story well, and show who Emna is, an dmake her likeable, and they also show who the queen is a bit and why she is likeable. I wanted the readers to be able to care about her later, when she is in trouble and Emna is very worried, and has to choose between Phen and the queen, who to help.
I think I am getting better at seeing the overall arc of the story and at tying things together. What I want to get better at now is tying overall themes together, and plot. The thing is I still don’t know the exact end and middle, since so much is changing from the rough draft, so….still gotta work on some sort of outline. I think that will help a lot.
Once I get it outlined, I will know what happens. Once I know at least a general idea of what happens, then I can think about what I want the main points to be, and how to say them.
I read this great article on the “golden thread”, where you basically have an “aha!” moment and find out what your story is really and truly all about. What the heart of it is. Then you go through your entire book and you pepper in that golden thread. Sometimes the point gets in a few times per chapter; other times, it is given a rest and doesn’t appear for chapters at a time. But each successive time it is present, Jennie Nash‘s article seemed to say, the golden thread gets more and more powerful. Sortof in such a way that the reader gets an “aha!” moment with you. The readers gets more and more excited about what you are saying in your book, as it gets more and more clear what it is you are saying. By the end of the book, they don’t want to leave it. They want to keep reading. You have succeeded in thoroughly engrossing your reader in an idea, in your characters, in your book. Your book is thus a success.
Thinking of this makes me happy and excited. I want to do this with my books.


At the same time, I am also realizing how many aspects there are to this book I am writing. Fantasy is complicated. There is so much worldbuilding to do. A lot of politics seems to come up in fantasy. I am not a big fan of politics and don’t take much interest in it, but somehow it got in my story. There is a civil war going on. It takes a back-burner to the rest of teh story, but it IS still going on, and of course it affects the story, the setting, the characters, etc. So I have to research and think on all of THAT, even though it’s just in the background.
There is also just so much to think of, regarding magic. I don’t think anyone knows about this except a fantasy author/writer. It is a whole other realm unto itself. For instance, what rules are you to have in the magic of your story? In Harry Potter, they wave wands and have to memorize certain phrases and tricks. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf has a staff, but the Elves seem to do magic just by force of will, or through song. In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe has to know the names or essence of things before he can have access to them. And etcetera, etecetera, etcetera. There are so many books and so many types and ways of accessing magic. It’s all so interesting and fun! Where I am not excited by politics, I AM thoroughly excited by all the magical concepts. Deciding how my magic works is hard but fun.


Recently I have started a big binge on steampunk. I am hoping to get some ideas that I can jot down, during downtime from Phen and Emna’s story, for my steampunk book about witches, a sort of grief/adventure love story.

The way that the airships work, and the way the books’ authors change history to suit the steampunk genre, are very intriguing. I don’t know the first thing about mechanical devices, but some of the authors make it fun, even for me (others are boring, I do say).

Illustration from Leviathan by Keith Thompson

The one I am reading right now is a YA, set in pre-World War I drama. It takes the idea that Darwin discovered DNA and that Britain uses it during wartime to make creatures that are animals all mixed up together, that act like machines. The airship in book 1 of Steven Westerfeld’s trilogy, Leviathan, is like this. There are also krakens, and walking machines driven by the “Clankers”, which is the British nickname for the Germans, Austrians, and Russians. The two main characters are a girl disguising herself as a boy to join the British airship, and a prince who has been disabled from a royal title because his royal father married a common woman. The two have individual points of views and individual adventure stories, until suddenly their two points of view intertwine into one story – both points of view still separate, still going – later in the first book. I am in the second book now, still happily reading. A third one is yet to come out, the last of this trilogy. I really recommend these books. They are so fun!

The two  main characters are very engaging. Deryn, the girl in disguise, is a very funny tomboy who has a knack for being more clever at being a boy than some of her male counterparts on ship. Alek, the prince on the run, is less confident of himself but very determined to do right by his friends, and make allies.

Illustration from Leviathan by Keith Thompson


Please check out this trilogy! =D


Until next time,



How Writers Write · Musings · My Writing

The Internal Story

While my follow up to my post on cliche is coming soon, I wandered into this amazing article on Writer Unboxed. The articles on WU are usually amazing, however, this one particularly struck me, because it spoke to my current struggle in my current WIP 2nd draft.

It was a deeply dark and gloomy night: 'Why don't you create the great American software instead?'

Right now I am working on a 500 page draft of a fantasy (meaning, it’s 500 pages at first draft, but will be shorter, hopefully). It is a baby of mine that I am ashamed to say I’ve been working on for years. I’ve lived with the characters for so long that they feel real to me. But, at the same time, one gets weary of writing the same story for so long. I took a hiatus for a couple years and banged out another novel, but now I’ve returned to my fantasy one.

Even though I have to whittle 500 rough as rough pages down to 300 or so brilliant ones, I feel happy. I recently participated in a writer’s critique group in California and plan to find another one here in Florida. And, Writer Unboxed makes me feel less lonely.


But it is hard. I started drafting draft 2 only to realize that it was, well…just not working. The revisions felt hollow and phony. So I went back to chapter 1 and started in again. Now I’m on chapter 7 and “draft 3”, as I like to pretend it is, is going better. I’ve been drawing up web with questions in the middle about my villain, villain’s backstory, protagonist’s family — digging deeper into details I already knew, because I realized I needed them. Yet, something still seemed to be missing…my draft still felt a little wooden and strange, like my first attempts at draft 2 did. What was wrong? I’ve been trying to figure it out. Until now.

This article at WU made me realize what I’m missing in my “draft 3”. I may be figuring out what happens, making the plot tighter, less cliche, and fixing problems, but…what I’m not figuring out is how what happens makes my characters feel.

oh-the-feels-begin_o_1818433-5-551b9275c902aWithout knowing how my characters struggle internally, what realizations they make, what disturbs or angers them, etc., then even the exciting-for-me, “ooh” plot changes that I’m making will mean nothing, because without affecting my characters, they won’t affect my readers.

This all connects back to fearing your readers, cliche, The Artist’s Way, The Courage to Write, and other topics I’ve discussed on this blog. They all come back to a central point, in my mind, which is:

How do we write an amazing novel that comes from our hearts, while also keeping in mind practical methods that work and affecting our readers?


Or something like that, eheh.

All of this means a lot to me because, of the two novels I’ve written, one came very easily and one came with great difficulty. The one that has more character but less plot and doesn’t always make sense, has a lot of heart, and the one that has better plot, needs some more heart. I think both of my novels have potential to be powerful and say something, and I can’t abandon these characters from my heart, and this is why I must finish them. And I feel that I have to find an answer to that question above, in order to finish both novels well.

Please wish me luck, or give me blessings, so that I can finish them.

Do you have a story you’re working on now that causes you trouble? What’s your trouble? Do you focus on your characters’ internal struggle more in writing, or lean more towards the plotty, what-happens side of things?

Tata for now,



How Writers Write · Writing Mentors

Cliche, Part 1

Right now I have a wrist injury from too much typing work at my part-time day  job *sigh*, so I can’t type a lot.

Instead, I am going to share with you a hilarious, enlightening, epiphany-inducing page full of “rants” by a young woman, online name Limyaael, who has a lot to say on cliche.

Part 2, coming soon, will be a review and commentary on the late, great Diana Wynne Jones’ (Howl’s Moving Castle, anyone?) book, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. This book has great reviews on and, from what I can see of the excerpts, is very funny and astute in its observations of the cliches in many fantasy books. I am reading it to try and weed cliches out of my fantasy book while I work on draft 2.

Here is the link to the rants on cliche. My apologies; I believe I may have linked to it in a previous post, briefly. Here is a second opportunity for you to read some of Limyaael’s genius!

Howl’s Moving Castle, written by Diana Wynne Jones Adapted to film by animator Hayao Miyazaki

Happy writing! =)


Author Interviews · Book Reviews · How Writers Write

Book Review: If You Want to Write: A Book About Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland

Hi all,

Recently I read a great book on the art of a formal book review. In order to try and practice this, I am giving a formal review for an excellent book I just finished reading:

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Graywolf Press, 179 Pages $8.45 paperback

In this concise, powerful nonfiction, Ueland discusses the nuances of what it is to be a writer. Rather than go over, as many writers have, the practical methods that can assist one in a writing career, Ueland strives to explore and pick apart the inner heart of a writer. She challenges the writing reader to question: What is the real, deep, inner reason behind my writing? Why am I writing the story I am currently writing, and what recesses of my soul is this story bringing out for the world to see? Is my writing genuine, or am I just writing what I think people will like? Do I let my creativity fly free as a bird, or do I cage it with rules and etiquette?

Ueland first pulls us in by using chapter titles that are very alive, such as “Be careless, reckless! Be a lion, be a pirate, when you write”, and quotes such as “Know that there is often hidden in us a dormant poet, always young and alive” [de Musset].

The second thing which stood out to me as I read this book was the mood of encouragement that Ueland has for the reader. Throughout the book, her voice is very friendly, personal, helpful and understanding. I felt as I read that Ueland was my teacher, but not just any teacher, but one of those fun ones that treats you like an equal – who earns your obedience by respecting you and wanting to help you shine, rather than just demanding it. Like this favorite-teacher type, Ueland constantly validates her writer reader, saying things to the effect of, “I believe in you. I want to see you succeed in the world.” This stood out to me because although other “how to write” books do want to teach you something, their approach is much more distant and clinical.

Like other writing books, Ueland shares her opinions and proven methods of what works for her for writing; she also gives examples of writing which embody the concepts she is presenting. Even here, though, Ueland does something different. She quotes from the letters of Van Gogh to prove various points. For example, Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother, “The world only concerns me so far as I feel a certain debt and duty towards it and out of gratitude want to leave some souvenir in the shape of drawings or pictures — not made to please a certain tendency in art, but to express sincere human feeling.”

Not only that, Ueland quotes anonymously from the writing of her students. She shares what writing she felt was forced, and what writing sang to her as honest, and therefore well done.

I think this is the main point of Ueland’s book: The best writing comes from expressing your truths about life sincerely. I would go so far as to say, I think Ueland’s idea is that the real point of writing is expressing one’s sincere feelings. To express the honest truths you have learned in your life will create good writing, Ueland argues. She is wholly against pandering to what is commercially popular, or writing just to sell. As a writer newer to publishing, this might have bothered me from another author, but Ueland was so genuine, sweet, and enthusiastic for the freedom and morale writing has to offer to writers; it struck me as true and good.

Ueland believes that not only is genuine, truthful writing what makes the best experience for the reader, but also that you can help yourself by writing your truth. To communicate something you honestly feel can change a reader’s life – and yours. I was convinced by Ueland’s personal mood. “Yes!” I wanted to shout at the end of reading. “I can write my truth! I can write what I really feel from deep in my heart! And it will be good, for me and for my readers!”

In case I have not explained it well enough, or my sentences were too long in my enthusiasm, I would like to share a quote from Ueland. This quote shows the main point she is trying to express in her book:

“A gifted young woman writes a poem. It is rejected. She does not write another for peraps two years, perhaps all her life. Think of the patience and love that a tap-dancer or vaudeville acrobat puts into his work. Think of how many times Kreisler has practiced trills…But here is an important thing: you must practice not perfunctorily, but with all your intelligence and love…A great musician once told me that one should never play a single note without hearing it, feeling that it is true, thinking it beautiful…Work freely and rollickingly as though talking to a friend who loves you…”

Here is where the trouble comes, though. How to do this thing? You might be thinking now, if you are a writer, “Yes, this is all great fun, but one can’t always write honestly. Writing requires drafts, and it’s just unrealistic to wait to write when you are really feeling it.”

Ueland faces this challenge, knowing her readers may be thinking it. She includes advice in her book for how to make the best environment for your writing to be the most genuine and best it can. Her suggestions include long walks, and times she calls “moodling”, where you don’t have anything to do and your mind can wander and create. These methods may or may not work for people. The one that I feel holds the most merit is in Ueland’s chapter called “Microscopic Truthfulness.”

In this chapter, Ueland says that to free yourself from the Inner Editor and the side that wants you to be popular in the book stores, which “cramps your style”, to use a modern term….what do you do? Write very truthfully about various topics, to help block out those editorial voices. She shares a short story that one of her students wrote about an old female servant. The student described everything about the servant, all pleasant and unpleasant details, from her hair upper lip to the annoying impression she gave off to guests.

Ultimately I have no real critique to give to Ueland’s work. I think that her book does what it intends to do – to encourage writers to be more flexible in their demands on themselves, and loosen up a little. I cannot say that I agree wholly with her argument until I have tried out her methods and suggestions for myself, and tried to go over to her more easy, positive way of thinking, rather than being strict to myself. I have the feeling though, that if I believe…I may get some results. Perhaps that’s cheesy, but…what’s to lose? Read Ueland’s book, and see if her ideas spark anything for you!

From Goodreads:


Born in Minneapolis, The United States October 24, 1891
Died March 05, 1985
Brenda Ueland was a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing. She is best known for her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.

Ueland was born to Andreas and Clara Hampson Ueland; the third of seven children. She attended Wells and Barnard colleges and received her baccalaureate from Barnard in 1913. She lived in and around New York City for much of her adult life before returning to Minnesota in 1930.

Ueland was raised in a relatively progressive household; her father, an immigrant from Norway, was a prominent lawyer and judge. Her mother was a suffragette and served as the first president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters. Ueland would spend her life as a staunch feminist and is said to have lived by two rules: To tell the truth, and to not do anything she didn’t want to.”

How Writers Write · Musings · YA-related

The Melding of the Minds, Part 2 – My Story

Good morning, everyone! Today is a good day. Sometimes I have trouble thinking positively, even in the morning, but today feels pretty good so far.

Today, I’m going to finish my little duet on writing one’s gender opposite. My previous post, The Melding of the Minds, Part 1, discussed famous men and women who have written their gender opposite to great popularity. I also shared some insightful, interesting posts from other writers on this topic.

Property of Flickr

I would like to thank everyone who replied and has been following and commenting. I have blogged before, but never about writing, so this whole experience is new to me. Sometimes I feel like I am stumbling along in the dark on a cobbled road, with witnesses! So excuse me if I occasionally let out a yelp as I stub my toe. One thing I’m really loving about writing this blog is discovering new blogs about writing. Just now, I stumbled onto Ingrid’s Notes, which I look forward to perusing after I finish this post. There are a lot of you guys out there! It’s great. I’m having so much fun reading the many perspectives of different writers – from so many varying backgrounds and places, doing so many neat things in this wonderful craft we call writing.

Back to topic. I’ve been writing and reading gender-opposite for a long time, and I never really gave it a lot of thought before now. There are countless books I’ve read written by women about men, and by men about women, and vice versa. When I used to read a lot of YA, too, I found women writing about young men and men writing about young women.

Young Adult Fiction books

This can be one of the more challenging ways to write one’s gender-opposite. It’s one thing to try and get in the head of the other gender when they’re your age; it’s another to write about a teenage experience very faraway from one’s own. I applaud all of those who do this, and I can imagine it’s a lot of fun.

That’s one of the points I wanted to make in this post. Writing your gender-opposite is so much fun! I find that it’s more fun than writing in my own gender’s point of view, sometimes. The challenge of getting into the character’s head forces me to really ruminate over the character. Who are they and what makes them tick? What is their backstory? Those are such vague questions; as writers, we get to delve into the details with questions such as:

What does this character eat for breakfast?

What is their favorite animal, if any?

What is the character’s pet peeve that they absolutely hate?

What makes this character afraid? Angry? Sad?

I find that the emotional questions are what really gut me and pull me, whether I’m writing my gender-opposite or not. I really love it when people share from their hearts with me. It moves me. It makes me love and appreciate the person more. And, it makes me want to give of myself to that person. My brain and heart tick along and wonder, how can I help this person? What do they need and want that I can help them get? This is how I like to repay heartfelt honesty and genuine sharing. I love it so much, that it inspires even selfish old me to get up and do something for someone else.

I love to create characters because I get to see what is in their heart. I don’t have to talk to them or wheedle it out of them (though I do interview them, sometimes). I DO have to develop it like a regular, real-world relationship though, sometimes. Some characters don’t want you to see in their heads. They want to play around, they want you to write a few scenes about them before you can see what makes them tick.

Other characters are easier to get to know.

The point is, I get to see the contents of the characters’ hearts, and from there, it fuels my writing. The characters who I feel that I really “see” as people, are the characters that really feel alive and are really appreciated by my readers. By appreciated I don’t mean liked, necessarily; I’ve written some unlikeable characters in believable ways, and had my readers tell me that they loved how that character was written, or loved scenes with him or her, even if they disliked the character’s personality or actions.

When I set out to write a character who is a man or a boy (my gender-opposite, in case you didn’t know), I don’t make a big deal about it. I don’t fret over, how can I make this character sound like a male voice instead of a female voice. I focus more on studying what makes my character tick, and start writing.

Later on though, sometimes I do worry about my male character’s sounding feminine. For example, right now I’m working on an epic fantasy book. It features a main male character who is very gentle and serene. He believes in nonviolent communication very much, and tries his best to help people, even those who may have mistreated him. He believes in an optimistic view as much as he can, and he is also a big believer in Fate. All of these serve to make him “in touch with his feminine side”, you could say. He’s in touch with his emotions and forthcoming about them, and enjoys nurturing others.

So, I worry that these qualities which are seen as feminine in our world today will make people think my male MC is a pansy. But I hold by his personality, because there are certain incidents and facts of his history that have made him have those so-called “feminine” qualities.

We come to my challenge then: How to make this male character appealing to male readers, even though he shows more feminine personality traits than male?

Perhaps I’m stereotyping. Really, that’s what it is. After all, there are sensitive men out there. They smash all stereotypes. They do exist! So perhaps I should not worry about it so much.

I have no conclusion to make on this, really, because…I still worry about that male MC. He’s not likely to change toooo much over the course of revising the first draft (or subsequent drafts), unless someone really balks about something in his character. Hopefully, he’ll be a success and loved even though he’s unusual…*I* certainly love him. (That’s another fun topic worth exploring – loving one’s characters as if they are real!)

We may think we have our ducks – er, our characters – all lined up in a row and figured out…even Snoopy thinks so! (Snoopy writes his gender-opposite, too).

Another story of mine features two male characters as the mains. For some reason I feel more confident about their believability and their draw towards male readers, in comparison to my mage character. I think it’s because I was able to get in their heads really well. When I write either of them, it pretty much just flows without too much overthinking.

Funnily enough, these two male MCs that I write more easily were never officially profiled, whereas the mage MC has a long character profile. So here’s another topic I might take up the challenge of: What makes one story flow more easily, and how helpful is it to write stream of conscious versus planning out scenes, dialogue, etc.?

What about you? Have you written your gender-opposite, and what was your experience? What do think about reading something in the viewpoint of your gender-opposite? Are you yay or nay for this type of writing in YA fiction?

Also, votes are welcome as far as what topic I should write on next. Is there something that you’re curious about in the writing craft world? Should I say more on my own stories? Is there a topic you find confusing or rarely discussed that you would like light shed on?

Until next time,