Category Archives: writing

new Lipstick

Hi readers,

I’m switching over to a new Lipstick on Paper format on blogspot:

http://lipstickonpaper.blogspot.com/

Follow me on my new website – it’s a new look and a new focus in the same lovely voice.  Thank you for supporting my writing! XOXO.

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south for the winter

I’m heading to Austin, Texas this weekend with J!  After a fun trip to New York City last year around the same time,  I thought- Wouldn’t it be fun to travel to another city during the Christmas season?

Rather than trying to brave the elements in the East Coast, I’m ready for some Southern BBQ, bizarreness, and dive bar bands.  I’ll be back with an entry full of photos of my travels and foodie places.

For more Lipstick, in the meantime, check out my latest writing pieces on eHow:

How To Travel Like a Local

How to Make Small Talk more Naturally

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novel turned short story

Today marks the official end of NanoWriMo – my crazy Novel Writing Challenge.

My final word count: 11,051 (which equates to roughly 21 pages).

I didn’t make the 50,000 word finish line, but I have enough material to make a nice short story.  I do feel satisfied and proud of my little victory.  Either way, I’m glad I chose to participate.  As I’m repeatedly finding, it’s the process and journey that proves more valuable than the intended destination.

Some lessons learned along the way:

-Writing seriously requires more commitment than inspiration. It’s easy to write when I’m motivated.  I can sit in a cafe for hours on a given weekend with the right dose of energy.  On the flip side, it was tough to force myself to write during the days that I came home from work physically tired and mentally drained.  Those were the days where I fell the most behind.  And the tiring days happened more frequently than the motivating days.

-It’s cathartic to write from experience, but it’s also painful. I chose to write a mother/daughter story to help me understand the tumultuous relationship with my mother.  While it gave me good material, it also was an emotional struggle.  No wonder writers are such tortured souls.  Maybe my next work should be in science fiction.

-Being a writer is lonely. No one high fives you when you write a clever line or an insightful bit of dialogue.  Thus, another reason to stay committed even when you’re not sure of yourself.  Or find support in a writing group.  I never made it out to a NanoWriMo “write-in” to bond with fellow novelists; that’s definitely top on my list for next time.

-It’s okay to write horribly, so long as you write. The largest nugget of wisdom gleaned in this entire process!  I made plenty of mistakes – created characters I didn’t know what to do with, made them say things that made no sense, and grew bored of my protagonist’s self-deprication.  Whatever.  I made the mistakes, owned it, learned from it, and moved on.

The short story of this long entry: Will I do this challenge again, as painful and messy as it was?

Most definitely.

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breaking the perfectionist

Perfectionism is a cruel trait to have inherited.

It’s a debilitating disease that cleverly disguises itself as being meticulous, competent, and confident.  The desire to always be right and flawless comes from the root of fear.  The fear of failure.

The attempt to write this novel has proven to be an eye opening experience on how perfectionism has ruled my life, for better and for worse.  As a writer and English major, I’ve learned over the years that there a few crucial stages in the writing process: the brainstorming, outlining, writing, editing, and the revising stage.  My writing process may be a bit different from others. I’m the sort of writer who tends to edit as she writes – even at this very moment.  In writing, the idea is for words to convey a message and to be succinct.  This is more so in poetry, with the drastically shortened length, than in any other written form.

That doesn’t sound so bad, at first glance.  Editing your writing is a good process.  What you end up with is a good solid piece of text, with all of the excessive words, articles, and sentences cleanly omitted and deleted.  Trimming the fat.

But what happens when internal editing is all you do?  When focusing on finding the “right words to say” prevent you from using other words or ideas?  Creativity is stifled.  When creativity is halted, for fear of failure or being wrong or not being good enough, what happens?  Nothing happens.  Nothing gets written.  Nothing never gets the chance to even become a something.

Over the past years, I’ve had many fleeting ideas of stories, poems, and articles.  Those ideas eventually collect dust or lie around incomplete because I either grew dissatisfied with the beginning, decided I didn’t have enough skill, or became discouraged with not “having the right words.”  I definitely had a problem, but it wasn’t the problem that I initially thought. My problem wasn’t that I couldn’t write well, or that I wasn’t competent (though I certainly entertained those reasons at that time).  My problem was that I was afraid to fail.  So much so that I gave up even before I gave myself a chance.  I naively believed that if I prevented failure, I was still in the safety zone.  I could still feel good about myself because I haven’t failed yet.

The real failure is not even trying.

With this novel writing challenge, mistakes are encouraged.  Expected, even!  And that’s okay, so long as you WRITE.  It was such a radical way of approaching writing for me, that I was hooked on the idea.  The emphasis is on the act of writing, not on the quality of writing.  And here’s the key behind the success of NaNoWriMo – If the pressure of writing a great literary piece of work was lifted, quantified instead of qualified, would it encourage people to write?  If mistakes are a key and expected part of the writing process, what wonderful things will this freedom allow you to write about?

Taken from Nanowrimo’s FAQ page:

Q: If I’m just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother?  Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

A: 1) If you don’t do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a “one day” event. As in “One day, I’d like to write a novel.” Here’s the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It’s just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START.

2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. […] There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

**

It’s week 2 in this writing challenge and I am at 3,603 words. I’m still behind, but that’s okay.  I’ve written far more words than I would have in this month otherwise.  Much of it is quite awful.  But that’s still okay.  Learning to break my perfectionist habits is going to be a much longer process than the span of this month. And even when I complete this writing challenge, mistakes and all, it will still take a lot of “unlearning” to translate the acceptance of failure from the novel into other aspects of my life.  But through this writing process, it’s definitely a start.  And starting, as I’ve come to realize, is a much better approach to life than stopping.

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week 2 of writing

2572 words.

47,428 more to go.

This is a lot harder than I thought.

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french press & novel writing

This Sunday morning was filled with determination.  I woke up and decided on two things – 1) to break in my new Chambord French Press coffee maker and 2) to write a novel.

The latest addition to my kitchen, thanks to the World Market.  The box states that it is “probably the best way to brew coffee.”

French Press

Coarse ground coffee from Trader Joe’s.  It was fun learning how to use the grinder machine at the store.  Another FF (fabulous frugal) tip: spend $5 on a can instead of $3 for a cup!

Trader Joe's Smooth & Mellow

Pour hot water in and let steep with the coffee grinds for 4 minutes.  Press, pour, and inhale deeply.

steep

Enjoy in a colorful mug.  A writer’s warm and tasty companion.

coffee and a book

2) The Novel

Coffee mug in hand, laptop switched on, and a good hour of stalling, I finally work up the nerve to sign up for a NanoWrimo account.  With November 1st as the starting point of National Novel Writing Month, participants from all over the world are challenged to write 50,000 words (175 pages) in 30 days.  30 days of high pressure, crappy, and spontaneous writing.  Why am I willingly putting myself through such a painful literary experience?

– I think of stories ideas that never quite make it to paper or print.

– Knowing how I tend to start things and leave it hanging.  I will be forced to start and finish.

– The focus is on quantity, not quality of writing.

– It’ll be another wonderful to-do crossed off my list

– It sounds so ridiculous and crazy, that… why shouldn’t I?

The count so far: 743 words.  30 days left to go.

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