La Poesía Celestial

poesía

Un renombrado artista, cuyo nombre, irónicamente, no recuerdo, dijo una vez que la poesía es el arte más difícil para un escritor. Más fácil es escribir una novela, en donde se cuenta con cientos de páginas para narrar una historia y transmitir la esencia de lo que se quiere decir. Un poco más difícil es escribir un relato corto, ya que el espacio para expresar una esencia particular se ve más reducido. Y lo más difícil de todo, es la poesía, en donde sólo se tiene como formato unos cuantos versos para transmitir una esencia, un sentimiento, y la totalidad de lo que resuena dentro del artista.

No sé si estoy de acuerdo con esta definición o no. Me parece que escribir una novela tiene sus propias dificultades, que aunque sean diferentes a aquellas relacionadas a escribir poesía, no considero menos complicadas. Pero entiendo a qué se refiere. La Poesía es inspiración pura hecha palabras. Escribir buena poesía, palabras con trasfondo, sustancia, emoción, y forma, es un arte sumamente complicado. Hay muchos más buenos escritores, que buenos poetas. Y es por lo intricado que resulta componer poesía que este arte se ha visto mermado a través de los años. Ya casi nadie escribe poesía. Ni hablar de buena poesía.

apolo

Apolo, el antiguo dios griego del sol, el tiro con arco, y las artes, convocaba a sus nueve musas cada vez que sentía ganas de crear. Eran nueve musas en total, cada una de ellas dedicada a un arte en particular. No considero una coincidencia que Apolo requería no de una, sino de dos musas para inspirarse al crear poesía. Tenemos a Erato, la musa de la poesía amorosa, que lleva una corona de mirto en su cabeza y una lira en sus manos, y también a Calíope, la musa de la poesía épica, quien porta una corona de oro y se expresa con suma elocuencia. Se necesitan de dos musas, no solo de una, para comprender todo lo que la poesía puede ofrecer.

No me jacto de ser una gran poeta. He llenado un número de cuadernos con mis versos aficionados, pero lo mío es la novela. Aún así, gozo de leer y absorber buena poesía. Nada eleva al ala más–salvo la música–que perderse en unos buenos versos inspirados que nutren el alma y ensalzan el corazón. Apolo veneraba la poesía, y con razón. Es una de las pocas formas de arte que nos permiten realmente trascender lo humano para entrar en el reino de lo divino, de lo puramente celestial.

You know you’re a #writer when…

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I’ve had this same problem since I started working, no matter where or when. At the risk of sounding inmodest, I’m going to say that I consider myself a talented individual. I can probably thrive and excel at most things if I put my mind into it and back it up with effort.

Because of that, every time I started at a new job I did well in the beginning, and then something would happen that would discourage me, it didn’t matter what, it just discouraged me. After that I would fall back into this depressing apathy and inaction that affected my work. Because in reality I wasn’t really all that happy working at whatever it was I was working on, I just wanted to conquer the challenge. I came to realize that the reason for this sudden decrease in motivation was because my heart wasn’t truly in the work, even though I was talented at it.

Since I was little, whenever somebody would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said writer. Or painter (I used to paint a-lot when I was younger). My parents, like all parents do, tried to discourage me from this, telling me that painting is a penniless profession. The writing they never took seriously enought to even acknowledge (I remember all of this, it’s funny which memories stick with you).

And so I grew up, and towards the end of high school I met a man who was a lawyer who became my boyfriend (and later my husband), so when I graduated, I decided what the heck. I’ll study Law. I certainly have the brains for it. And my parents applauded my decision. The Law is a very interesting field of study, it’s mentally challenging and also very rigorous. I excelled academically, but when I started practicing I became disenchanted by the profession. I also became somewhat overwhelmed by the demands of it. To be a good lawyer you have to put in the hours. Also, it’s a profession where you’re surrounded by other people’s problems and you’re constantly trying to fix them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it can be overwhelming.

And then you have the whole ambitious side of it, like the desire to become a partner in the firm and even name partner down the road, and it can just become so exhausting after a while. And demotivating.

When I feel that way, I inevitably think back to that girl I used to be, the girl who always had a journal at hand, who wrote short stories and poetry and drew and painted and wanted nothing more than to make art… and I realize that’s who I really am. Because even though I have the brains for Law, and even the capacity for it, it’s not entirely fulfilling. I don’t derive much joy from it. The truth is, nothing makes me happier than writing.

And sure, from an outside perspective this sounds trivial. You want to write novels instead of practicing the Law? I imagine some people thinking. And yes, I do. Because it’s the only activity that manages to inspire me as I continually work at it, instead of draining me. It’s the best of myself that I can offer to the world.

But I cannot write full-time at this moment in my life, I can’t afford it. I must dedicate some of my time in the day towards practicing law, although if I’m truthful, nowadays I do much more administrative work within my firm than actual practice, because it’s what’s required of me.

But writing full-time is and forever will be my dream job. You know you’re a writer when you keep coming back to it, over and over again, despite the circumstances in your life. If you’re a writer, you will write. And the periods of my day when I write, whether it’s working on my novel or even only blogging about books, are the highlights of my day.

It’s something I feel that will never be erased. Like a burning unquenchable fire at the core of my being. This is how I feel towards it, and I know that I will keep at it even though my destination is still unclear. Because even if it is unclear, this is not enough to demotivate me. The truth is, writing–for a writer–is in and of itself itself pure joy.  And this is enough.

Ernest Hemingway’s advice for #writers

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Ernest Hemingway was one of the great american authors. His slick, straight-forward and meaningful prose serves as direct contrast to flowery and purple prose, and it was this quality in his writing that earned him the Nobel Prize of Literature and a seat among the classic writers of the past. Reading Hemingway feels like stripping away everything that isn’t basic and primordial. It’s like studying the fundamentals, like reading raw feeling and thinking. His style serves as a great example of profound yet concise expression.

And as such, I find his advice for writers to be invaluable. Here are a few snippets it:

Pace yourself.

Take the time to sit down every day and put your thoughts into words, But finish when you still know what is going to happen next in your story. Don’t write until you burn yourself out and run out of ideas, but rather stop while you’re still excited and let your subconscious mind work on it. Next day, when you sit down to write again, you’ll start at a point in the story that you’re excited about, and the words will flow more easily onto the page.

Write, and then re-write. 

However, before jumping back into the story at the point you left off, take some time to go over what you wrote the day before. This serves to refresh your memory as to the mood and setting of your earlier scenes, so that the continuation is coherent with what you already wrote.

Edit as you re-write. 

As you go over what you wrote the day before, take out everything that is extraneous, and leave only the best. Stephen King also refers to this as “killing your darlings.” Everything that is not pertinent to the storyline has to go, no matter how fond you are of the way you structured a sentence or the words you used to describe that scenery. Don’t be afraid to move sentences around, as well. Look for the best structure in all the paragraphs you write, but make sure they are meaningful and add to the story instead of slowing it down with unnecessary fluff.

When you’re cutting things out that would be great in any other story but are not pertinent to the one you’re writing, you know you’re doing a good job.

Once a week go over your entire story, from the beginning until where you left off. 

This is important because you need to see your story as a whole every so often, and edit and re-write as necessary. Doing this is what makes your story all of one piece. I usually do this on the weekends because it’s very time-consuming. Going over 50 pages of my work takes me around 4 hours, so don’t underestimate how much work this is… but it’s also probably the most necessary thing to do. This way you become more familiar with your story, as well. You get to know it better, and can even get inspired to connect different ideas within the story and make it even more rich and ineresting.

Read the classics. 

The truly great writers of the past were great for a reason. You shouldn’t compare yourself to any existing writer, because we don’t know whether his or her work will outlast the passing of time or not. Classic works, however, have already stood the test of time. Read them often, and learn from them. Feel free to compete with them, if you’d like. It’s a good standard to measure yourself up against.

This way you’ll also know which ideas have been executed well by other artists. A writer who doesn’t read the classics isn’t really an educated writer, and his work will suffer for it.

Don’t think of yourself as being talented. 

We’ll never know whether we are talented writers or not, no matter how much praise or how much criticism we receive. So instead of focusing on that, focus on your creative work and becoming a better story-teller and writer in your appreciation every day.

upon a time

A-lot of this advice is technical. But writing well is a very technical process. The important thing is to find a balance between feeling inspired by your story and also working to refine it as you go along. Writing, re-writing and editing should be done simultaneously according to Hemingway, and I agree with him. It takes more time during the day (two hours for me, instead of one), but it’s worth it.

I know many writers work on their first draft without looking back at what they have written, and if that works for them and they’d rather not look back, then that’s up to them. But there’s a reason one of the great american writers worked this way. Personally, this advice has helped me become not only more disciplined in my writing, but also more familiar with it and more involved and invested in my own story. So I invite you to look over these tips, think about them, and implement what works for you.

Happy writing!

Source: Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers

Story Structure: The Basics

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An important part of story-telling is the structure. Compelling stories usually have a very defined structure which keeps the pace going at an appropriate speed and engages the reader to the point where the story begins to feel like it comes alive for him or her… which is what every writer wants.

Not every book has to have structure. Literary books, for example, can get away with having a looser structure and a more abstract plot. Speculative fiction, however–such as fantasy, science fiction, or horror–benefit enormously from following a defined structure. The story has a better foundation that way. Structure doesn’t limit us, but rather guides us and teaches how to better craft a story.

Here is the basic structure of a speculative fiction story. I try to follow this structure in my own stories, no matter their length. So if my story is 100,000 words, for example, then the 20% mark would be the 20,000th word, and so on.

Inciting Incident

The story must begin with a hook. It should pull the reader in. A writer I admire once said that if you manage to really hook the reader for the first 15 pages, then they will follow you anywhere. Something interesting and out of the ordinary must happen.

Even if the event itself is completely ordinary, it must capture the reader’s attention with something different. Starting from the inciting incident up until the first plot point, the writer must introduce the main character, some backstory (not too much because this bores the reader, not too little because it confuses him), and goals.

incitng

1st Plot Point: 20% mark

Also known as the point of no return. The main character is confronted with a change of destiny. The first plot point always marks a major change of direction. Whereas the first part of the story serves as an introduction to the characters and a set-up for the plot, the first plot point marks the beginning of the conflict, which is when the story actually gets juicy.

plot

1st Pinch Point: 35% mark

The first pinch point serves to show the antagonistic forces of the novel. Here we get to see who–or what–the protagonist is really up against. The main character or protagonist is faced with external conflict, which serves to build tension within the story and to give him or her something to fight against and overcome.

pinch point

The Midpoint: 50% mark

It’s the middle of the novel, and usually there is some unexpected twist that the reader (hopefully) didn’t see coming. It’s different from the pinch point because this twist doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the antagonistic forces of the book. Whether the twist complicates things or makes things easier for the main character is entirely up to the writer.

midpoint

The 2nd Pinch Point: 65% mark

Here the reader is once again reminded of the antagonistic forces working against the protagonist. Things get uglier, harder, and more complicated for the main character. They definitely don’t get easier… remember, it is always darkest before the dawn.

pinch points

The 2nd Plot Point: 80% mark

Things start turning around for the protagonist. Everything seemed to be lost, and now there’s another chance to fight. It is also the cutting off point for new information being introduced into the story. After this, it is advisable to not expose any new information to the reader, because you run the risk of overcomplicating the story. So if you want to turn things around, this is the point in the arc to do it. The rest of the story will be dedicated to the resolution.

plot

The Resolution

It is the ending where the consequences of every action taken by the main charatcer come to light, the point where things get resolved for the protagonist either for the better or the worse. It is the conclusion of everything that has happened in the story so far.

Whether it is a fitting or satisfying conclusion depends on the writer and how he or she wants to end the story, either in victory or defeat, comedy or tragedy, elated or completely destroyed. Some writers have an eye for concluding their stories well. Others completely ruin it without wanting to. Much of the quality of the story depends on its resolution, and it’s what most readers remember.

Of course, if you want to continue the story you can always end on a cliffhanger, which can be defined as another inciting incident introduced at the ending of the first story.

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And there you have it, the basics of story structure. It’s up to the writer to use these rules as guidance or not. I have personally found my story-telling to become more coherent when I follow these rules. But like I said, these apply more to speculative fiction. If you’re writing a literary book on existentialism with traces of magical realism spread out throughout the story, then perhaps this structure isn’t for you.

Thanks for reading! What rules do you follow (or break) while writing, and has it worked for you so far?

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The Anachronism of Reading

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I learned a new word today: “Anachronism”. It means old-fashioned. I learned it from a book I just finished reading that moved me in mysterious ways, not least because I could identify with many–if not all–of the characters. But there was one specific character that I could identify with the most. She was described as “Anachronistic” within the narrative becuase she was always carrying a book with her and reading in her free time.

And that made me think… has reading really fallen out of style? The art of thinking certainly isn’t much in vogue anymore. In the time when humanity did not have the comfortable option of recurring to endless forms of immediate entertainment (twitter, facebook, instagram, netflix, the internet in its entirety…) people used to talk to each other more. They used to share their thoughts with each other (face to face and not through a mechanical apparatus), and refine their points of view through actual speech.

Conversation was both eloquent and elegant, because people used their minds as they spoke. I believe that becasue of this, the minds of people in the past had much more space and were far less busy than the minds of people today. That was the beauty of it.

pride and prejudice

In those times, reading was also in vogue. And since people could think more freely, without the burden of the constant buzzing and noise of the modern world, people could also write more clearly and more elaborately than they can today. At least that is my theory. I am nostalgic by nature, however, and do look at the past as a sort of golden epoch, better than the times of today, which is a sort of illusion in itself.

But looking at it objectively, the majority of the books from the past were far more complicated than the books written today. The language was richer, the thinking more elaborate. Today people seek to be shocked and immersed rather than challenged by the words they read. So many things are competing for our attention, after all. Books have to compete with film (a worthy art form) and television shows, and compared to the immediacy and the visual immersion that these mediums offer, books grown more and more old-fashioned.

I do not see people walking the streets with books under their arms, as they did in the past. I sometimes sit down to read alone at the park, or at a restaurant (having no qualms about eating alone) and people stare at me. Granted, I live in Panama, a country not necessarily known for its wide readership. But I cannot help but think that books, overall, have fallen out of style. They are no longer a part of our wardrobe, like our purses or our briefcases are, even though they make for interesting accesories. There are of course exceptions, like those people who read on the metro (bless their hearts).

I, for one, cannot imagine my life without the pleasure of a good book under my arm. Anachronistic or not, I will continue walking the city with a book under my arm (or tucked away safely in my purse), waiting for the day when it will come into style again.

La feminidad y sus misterios… #escritora

feminidad 2

Últimamente me ha invadido una necesidad casi asfixiante de acercarme más a mi lado femenino. Siento el deseo de acercarme más y más al misterio de lo que es ser mujer. No es que no me considere femenina, pero si soy honesta conmigo misma, la mayoría de mi vida he estado más volcada al lado yang o activo de las cosas, y menos al lado yin, o receptivo.

Tengo 26 años, y mi vida ha sido una constante mezcla de emprendimientos y competencia. Primero durante mis años formativos. Tuve una crianza dura, exigente. Mi madre demandaba lo mejor de mi en las clases escolares, y durante toda la primaria obtuve las mejores notas. Me exigía a mi misma a aprender más rápido y a afilar mi intelecto.

En mis ratos a solas me gustaba pintar, fantasear, jugar. Recuerdo que sí fui una niña bastante femenina por naturaleza, que le gustaba bailar al ballet y que tenía un carácter dulce y sensible. Pero esa naturaleza fue transformada en otra cosa por mi entorno, que sin ahondar mucho en el tema, me obligaba a defenderme a mi misma de constantes ataques y críticas, tanto en el colegio como en el hogar.

Como resultado, me volví distante, un poco tosca, cínica incluso para una niña, pensando que esa era la manera en que los fuertes sobrevivían en este mundo. Poco a poco mi carácter se fue moldeando a mis circunstancias, y dejé ese lado de mi personalidad dulce y tierno detrás.

Durante la escuela secundaria me adapté a esta nueva personalidad. Era una chiquilla bastante energética, y empecé a jugar deportes para descargar mi energía. Resulta ser que era bastante atlética, por lo que los deportes empezaron a ocupar un lugar primordial en mi rutina. Crecí en un ambiente que me permitía expresarme a mi misma, y esto tenía sus lados buenos como sus lados malos.

Mis padres dejaban que leyera lo que quisiera, lo que agradezco, y también que me vistiera como quisiera, lo que resiento, ya que me hubiera gustado tener una especie de guía en esos años donde las niñas empiezan a aprender como cuidar de su belleza y vestirse como damitas. Es algo que he tenido que aprender yo sola de adulta, y no sin un par de tropiezos.

En fin, en ese entonces muchas veces me vestía como niño, con pantalones y camisas holgadas y una gorra. Patinaba, veía South Park, en otras palabras, era una auténtica tomboy. Luego entré a mis años adolescentes y las cosas cambiaron un poco. Descubrí la música rock, la psicodelia, el arte abstracto, y me fui por esa onda. Llegado mis años universitarios, todavía me encontraba indefinida.

Seguí en esta confusión por varios años más. Esta mezcla de atributos me fueron formando, pero no terminaba de digerirlo todo, ni de entenderme a mi misma. No fue sino hasta mis 25 años que me di cuenta de quien quería ser realmente. Quería prestarle más atención a esa niña dentro mío que tuvo que olvidarse de su carácter dulce y sus sensibilidades naturales, la niña que le gustaba fantasear, y que pensaba mucho en Dios, en los ángeles, en lo divino y en todo lo que era superior con una especie de reverencia. Esa niña, tan amorosa, merece salir al mundo nuevamente, pero ahora convertida en mujer.

Pasé por unos años difíciles en mi formación. Afilé mi intelecto (y mi lengua), me sé defender y competir (aún cuando no hay necesidad), fui expuesta a diferentes corrientes artísticas que me marcaron y ampliaron mi mente. Y por un lado, lo agradezco. Me siento una persona capaz. Todos esos años moldearon quien soy y me convirtieron en una persona de pensamientos y sentimientos auténticos, y con una percepción original.

Pero ahora quiero volver a mis raíces. Quiero conocer nuevamente mi lado sutil. Mi lado gentil, el que sabe nutrirse tanto a sí mismo como a los demás. El lado de mi personalidad que busca la armonía, en vez de siempre ganar la discusión. El lado que sabe apreciar la belleza y busca practicarla todos los días en su sentir, pensar, actuar y vestir. El lado que no busca competir, que no busca herir primero para no ser herido después, que sabe apreciar y deleitarse con los simples placeres de la vida, al igual que con el arte más complejo y experimental.

Pienso que el hecho de que ahora voy a ser madre tiene mucho que ver con estos sentimientos. Me estoy acercando más a los misterios lunares, teniendo esencia de luna corriendo por mis venas en estos momentos de gestación.

pregnant moon

Por un lado, este deseo de volver a conectar con mi feminidad natural es realmente frustrante. Veo mi armario, por ejemplo, y no me gusta casi nada de la ropa que tengo. Quiero vestirme con trajes y faldas y blusas bonitas y sandalias delicadas (lástima que tengo que esperar a dar a luz para renovarlo, ya que no haría sentido comprar ropa nueva teniendo 7 meses de embarazo).

Pero además de esto, quiero decorar mi casa, sembrar un jardín de flores en mi patio, inclusive sembrar una pequeña huerta. Quiero deleitarme con el arte que realmente considero bello, con música que ensalza al espíritu. Quiero cuidar de mi pequeño cuando nazca, proveerlo de un hogar bello y de mucho amor. Y por supuesto, quiero escribir. Le quiero dar rienda suelta de una vez por todas a las palabras y pensamientos que tengo rondando en mi mente todos los días.

Muchas de estas actividades tienen más que ver con el lado yin con el que estuve tan desconectada estos años, y es ahora que el deseo de encarnar estos atributos está saliendo a relucir. Son atributos que forman parte de mi verdadera personalidad, aquella que estuve reprimiendo durante años por temor a las críticas y a la dureza del mundo.

Poco a poco iré cambiando tanto mi mundo interior, como iré moldeando el exterior. Sueño con que vida se convierta en una gran poesía, uno de esos relatos que cobran vida durante las noches bajo la luz brillante de las estrellas. Con tiempo, sé que conectaré con la feminidad y sus misterios, y me volveré completa por fin, como la luna llena sobre el mar.

la feminidad

La Fantasía Natural… #escritores

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La naturaleza siempre me ha cautivado. Desde pequeña, solía perderme en el encanto del bosque, e imaginarme que hablaba con los árboles, o que conectaba con su espíritu de alguna manera. Siempre he tenido inclinaciones místicas. Y la naturaleza representaba para mi una especie de conexión entre este mundo y el que está más allá, el mundo que no se puede percibir con los sentidos.

Solía tomar largas caminatas, con cuaderno y pluma en mano, y me adentraba en los senderos de Cerro Azul de Panamá, uno de los lugares más bellos de nuestro país y al que me arrepiento no poder ir más seguido. En estas caminatas secretas, le pedía al “espíritu del bosque” que me acompañara en mi andar. Sentía como el bosque cobraba vida después de esto, se volvía más real, sentí que estaba rodeada de presencias más sutiles que no podía percibir completamente, pero que sabía que estaban ahí.

Luego encontraba algún lugar, cerca de un riachuelo, o en frente de una gran piedra, quizás, y me sentaba a escribir lo que se me viniera a la cabeza. Muchas veces escribía poesía. Otras veces, hacía pequeños ritos internos, nuevamente invitando a la naturaleza a participar en mi peculiar mundo interior. Regresaba a casa momentos después, llena hasta el tope de mi alma de satisfacción, de paz interior. Eran momentos mágicos.

La naturaleza y el mito siempre han estado, y estarán, relacionados. Los mitos son recuentos de percepciones de la humanidad de épocas pasadas que ya no logramos recordar, interpretaciones de sucesos que ocurrían en tiempos cuando el ser humano estaba más conectado con el mundo natural.

Quizá por eso me gusta tanto la fantasía, aunque ya no tanto la comercial, esa que se vende en las grandes librerías y que se publica sólo para hacer dinero, sino la fantasía de verdad, aquella con esencia, conectada a los misterios del mundo natural y también a aquel otro mundo que no se puede percibir con los sentidos. Fantasía real, y aunque esto suene contradictorio, no lo es. Fantasía esencial. Aquella fantasía rica en mito y anclada en la verdad de la mística de la naturaleza, que también está íntimamente relacionada al alma humana.

Hoy me puse a pensar cuál es mi propósito como escritora. Porque se tiene que tener un propósito, más allá de querer escribir simplemente porque le llena a uno. Tiene que haber una razón más allá de nuestros propios deseos personales. Y no estaba segura… pero ahora, pensando en esto, empiezo a divinar un camino.

Un propósito más allá de mi misma: La creación de fantasía natural. Suena abstracto, pero es un comienzo. Más que un comienzo, siento que empiezo a conectar nuevamente con ese mundo que siempre he sentido, intuitivamente, que está allí, y que he tratado de plasmar en mis relatos fantásticos, en mi poesía, en todo lo que he escrito que he sentido que es de verdad.

La fantasía natural es de verdad. Es aquella que se encuentra en los límites del mundo físico y meta-físico, la mística que rodea la naturaleza, que envuelve el alma humana en su más íntima guarida. Y se puede llegar a alcanzar, por más efímero que sea éste contacto, o por más burda que sea la reflexión a lado de este mundo sutil.

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Writing, a lonely job?

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Writing is a lonely job, they say. Even the great writers like Ernest Hemingway have said that to write means to live a solitary life. I have often wondered at this quote, and I am not sure I stand by it… and I am not sure that I don’t.

Hemingway said that writers could always join writer societies–and in this modern world I suppose that also includes online societies–and that this would help placate the writer’s loneliness and increase his social life, but his writing would eventually suffer and become increasingly more mediocre due to this exposition. (It’s all here in his nobel prize acceptance speech.)

Thsi type of advice goes directly against what experts in the industry are telling young and novel writers nowadays—which is that you need people critiquing your work and other pairs of eyes looking over what you write, that you need beta readers and reading groups and constructive criticism and the everything of the sort. In short, that as a writer you should have a community of peers to surround you and help build your work. And here I sit, wondering whom I should listen to. In fact, some claim it as an absolutely necessary step in order to produce good work.

But is this true?

Writing is inherently a lonely job. You sit down with a computer (or a typewriter or a piece of paper and a pen, depending on your style) in front of you and basically pour out what is on your mind and transform it into words in a style that only your individuality can create. It’s deeply personal and thus, also solitary work. Your writing gets better as you learn from your craft and as you learn how to communicate what’s inside your head in a compelling way and in a way readers can understand and connect with.

This can only be done by you.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had beta readers and also professional editors look over my work and some of their advice has been invaluable to me. I learned a-lot from their notes and from their perception of what I wrote. But I don’t do this all the time… in fact, after that initial exposition, I have relied only on myself to polish and perfect my work.

So I would say I am a lonely writer, after all. Not because I think beta readers aren’t worth it, but just because I have found that solitary work is more beneficial for me in the long run than community work. I needed those beta readers and editors when I was still learning how to write and construct a story… but now I feel like I can trust myself enough and have gotten to know my writing enough to produce a reliable and coherent narrative on my own. I am also sort of guarded over what I write… or at least over my fiction, anyways.

Also, having several beta-readers or editors look over your work and give you what sometimes could be interpreted as conflicting advice could result in confusion and the dreaded writer’s block, which is nothing but a lack of confidence or a surplus of idleness or a combination of both these things, in any case. So it can be tricky.

I don’t think Hemingway meant that the writer’s life is defined by actual loneliness, as in the sense of real solitude where one has no contact with the outer world and no friends. Or at least I hope he didn’t, because I do stand resolutely against this belief. Being a writer is like any other profession, and even though there are certainly moments of obsession, one cannot become a hermit and isolate oneself from the rest of the world if one desires to maintain a decent level of sanity and balance in one’s life.

“Writing is a lonely job.” 

I interpret that what this quote means is that the writer must ultimately work it all out himself, just him and his head… and that there is a chance, however brilliant that writer might be, that his work will suffer if he allows others to influence him too much or to collaborate excessively on his work while he’s working on it. It’s supposed to be his/her work. His/her vision. He should hack away at it and get better every day, without others necessarily polluting it. What’s more, he should learn what works and what doesn’t so that he doesn’t have to rely all the time on other people, which can prove to be a handicap in the long run. And in this sense, this quote is certainly something I believe in.

#Write your story, be yourself

writer

These past few years I have been writing more seriously and I have thought long and hard about the direction I want to take my writing career in. I have also done my fair share of research in both traditional and self-publishing. I self-published my first novel, thinking it would be the best way to go. And even though it did modestly okay, the results weren’t exactly I was looking for.

However, this doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue self-publishing. Self-publishing gives you a huge amount of freedom and control over your material. I want to self-publish my future non-fiction books, and also my poetry books and maybe even the rest of The Sun Child Saga, the urban fantasy series I started… I even founded my own publishing company, Yggdrasil Publishing House, in order to do this, which is really only in its experimental phase for now since I am only publishing myself (even though it’s something I would love to expand in the future).

But for the rest of my fiction works, which basically consist in other fantasy novels, I would like to pursue traditional publishing. So I want it to be a mix. But the traditional publishing industry is a beast… it’s a tough nut to crack. A very small percentage of people make it and really it’s mostly based on luck… or fate, depending on what you believe.

I want to pursue this because traditional publishing houses help writers with marketing and promotion and have a ton of resources that I, for one, don’t have. I don’t have a massive online social media following, and truthfully I don’t even know how to get one. I don’t have hours and hours of the day to spend thinking about how to market and promote my work… I’m a lawyer and a business manager and I struggle with the challenges of my day to day as it already is without adding a second all-consuming job to the mix.

Writing and blogging are the highlights of my routine because they represent my creative time, but besides this I don’t do anything special or extra in order to promote myself or my work. So I would be grateful for the help of a traditional house in this regard.

But here’s the catch. And I’m just going to call it like I see it.

Most writers who pursue traditional publishing sell out. They cater to the likes and preferences of literary agents and publishing houses, foregoing their own visions in the process. They feel like they have to because it’s the only way for them to get published. And most of the time, it is. Literary agents dislike it when ordinary people call them ‘gatekeepers’, but in reality that’s what they are. If you don’t have an agent, most publishing houses will not take your submissions seriously, and that’s the hard truth.

What’s more, getting a literary agent’s attention is a very, very hard thing to do. They are overworked, their minds are busy with stories and business deals all day long, and they wade through queries upon queries of obscure auteurs such as myself on a regular basis. The probability of your work standing out is small… and also, mostly dependent on luck. Or fate.

Despite this reality, writers become obsessed with agents, looking at them almost reverentially. It’s a natural reaction, but it’s also the wrong reaction to have. Agents and editors are people just like writers are. They are one of the factors of the business equation that underlies the publishing industry, not the golden prize at the end of a quest. Instead of catering to them, or centering their entire success or failure on these factors, writers should embrace who they are. Be themselves, like the old adage goes. Write their story.

That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. And it not only keeps me centered and focused on what’s most important (my story) but it also keeps me sane. When you put something you cannot control, such as getting an agent’s attention, as the end-all and be-all of your happiness or success as an artist, you’re bound for dissappointment, and I learned this the hard way.

One cannot center their life on uncontrollable variables. What one can do, however, is keep on writing. Make YOU the center. Make your story the center. Make your development as an artist, the center of your success. That way, no matter what happens, you’re bound to succeed.

This is the philosophy I have arrived at, and I’m beginning to live, and swear, by it. My writing is much more constant as of late, and I’m much happier with the way my stories are taking shape. So that’s why I recommend anyone in the traditional publishing rat race to give it a try. Instead of thinking all day about what to do to get an agent, focus all of that energy and focus on making your story the best you can. After that it’s up to the gods what happens next.

Bumps in the road… Reflections on my #nonfiction #spirituality #book

Punta Franca, Pedasí, Panamá 

So I’m writing a non-fiction book on spirituality that I have decided to self-publish. I just want to write it and get it out in the world and let it reach who it will through karma and destiny. I’m not planning on doing a whole promotion and marketing strategy like I did with my first self-published book (a novel), and neither do I want to pursue traditional publishing because frankly, I don’t think it’s the right approach to this book. I just want to see it grow and set it free, regardless of whether it makes any money or not. Money, when it comes to this book, is the last thing on my mind.

It turns out, however, that setting this book free is harder than I thought it would be. The book is inside me, I know it is. It’s pulsating and gestating and waiting for the proper time to get out… but I’m having trouble with it. I wrote the introduction in one sitting, and that was good. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how to say it, and knew how to broach the subject almost without thinking about it too much, feeling it come out of me intuitively.

The second chapter… not so much. To be specific, I’ve been sitting on it for the past month and a half, unable to face the screen to get those words out. The chapter is titled On Meditation.

I’ve been a meditator for close to 5 years now. An inconstant one, but a meditator nonetheless. There have been periods in my life where I meditated for two hours every day, not all in one sitting but spaced throughout the day. I’ve had breakthroughs, I’ve had experiences during my meditations. I’ve felt the underlying peace of the higher self during these moments… if only for a second. I’m familiar with the subject.

But the truth is, I haven’t been meditating all that much for the past year or so. And I think this has everything to do with my block when it comes to writing on this subject. I have a-lot of knowledge I could write about, a-lot of theory on meditation and how it works and several different practices that people can apply to their lives. But I want this chapter to be more than that.

I want the chapter not to just be a set of instructions, but a living breathing testament of the power of meditation in my own life, and the power it can have on the lives of every individual. And for that to happen, I need to get into it again, really get into it thoroughly and genuinely.

I’m coming back to it slowly and learning to love meditation again. I’m meditating every morning each day more consistently, and I have even meditated some days during the nights and after lunch. I’m working my way back into the practice… but I still don’t feel ready to write about it. Perhaps I should just sit down and write whatever I think, know and feel about meditation in a stream-of-consciousness exercise (sort of what I’m doing right now). Maybe that’s the way to go, maybe that will help me to unblock this subject. I don’t know.

I had kind of a rough experience with a group of “spiritual” people last year and I’m slowly recovering from it (hint: they weren’t really spiritual, they just liked to talk a-lot about stuff that they were convinced they understood). It made me want to surround myself with people that were the opposite of them, people that didn’t really care a-lot about these subjects and cared more about living, working, socializing, etc. What some would call “normal” people (although nobody is normal. What’s normal, anyways?)

And it helped. It grounded me, and in reality these people had a-lot less issues, and some of them were even more morally and spiritually advanced (though they don’t think about it) than others who are focused on gathering spiritual knowledge every day.

But soon enough I learned that I personally do need direct contact with the spiritual world. I cannot just live to work, even though I love my work. I cannot live to build relationships, even though I am so grateful for the friends and family I have in my life. I need something more. And so now that I have regained my distance from toxicity, and grounded myself through the noble perspective of the earthy, I am slowly returning to my roots.

And the chapter is still there, lingering inside my mind. Waiting. Waiting for my return. And I shall be there. I shall be there soon… The way is open to anyone whose will is sincere.