Wednesday, October 31, 2012

She’s a Natural Writer. I’m a Natural Surgeon


Maya Angelou reciting her poem, "On the Pulse of
Morning", at President Bill Clinton's inauguration
 in 1993 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“There’s no such thing as a natural surgeon,” Someone argues. The same holds true for being a writer. You will have to work your way from the bottom rung up to the top.

Like all things worthwhile in this existential life, writing is the product of time, patience and intense sacrifice. We can grow up without maturing but we cannot experience the stages of maturity and still be children.

Writing is a delicate art. In writing, a reaching out to the individual heart occurs. The writer lays pursuit of a million nameless emotions; it’s his duty to present these to the mind of the reader, untainted. It’s almost an impossible task since the writer is deprived of the tools of expression. S/he depends entirely on the power of imagination, the mastery of language and skill at working with imagery.

Writing and all the while, believing the reader would discover for himself the unspoken expressions tossed in between the phrases. Tell me that does not require a work of genius.

You can’t just dump yourself on the bed a complete analphabetic and wake up the next morning to find you have by some natural process, become a writer! Not only is it impossible, it’s not realistic. Mastery in any field worth the grain comes by sweat, tears and blood.

Maya Angelou once made a statement to this effect, ‘Being a natural writer is like being a natural surgeon.’

Don’t drag fear into the picture. Becoming a writer is tough work. Yes. But you can’t achieve anything trucking with the hounds of fear. Even though it still doesn’t change the fact that becoming a writer is not piecemeal, you can kick start your journey into the realm of letters right away. You learn mastery by being consistent.

Courage will defeat fear of ridicule. Don’t let nobody bring you down with their taunts. Believe in yourself right from the onset. Remember, if the guys who built the pyramids did not believe in their capacity, Gaza would be just another plateau buried and lost under desert sands.

There is no such thing as being a natural writer, just like there’s no such thing as being a natural surgeon. It all comes through practice, practice, practice.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan



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Monday, October 29, 2012

Writers Live Double Lives

Pretense is a syllable too many for most writers when they take account of the role they play in their stories. It’s one word that don’t fit into the puzzle. Doesn’t spark a vibe.

Feigning their fictional people’s emotional roller coasters is too… well, shallow. As a writer, you want to, really throw yourself into the life of your characters to live out the peak moments with them. Including the low periods, as well. If you want to give your fiction an edge of reality and make it ring true in your readers’ ears, you must tackle this important step.

A writer is the best actor/actress of his own story. Let your characters be your director. Step into the spaces where your characters live, mark their footsteps, thread in them boldly. Face your fictional people’s fears and battle their dragons; go from their darkness into greater darkness; fail in their weaknesses until you drop off the lip of reality into a world that could only be magic. Until the spectacular culmination of art where the character wakes to life within you and walks out of your frame to a different plane, a unique personality separate from you and no less alive.

A New York Times review of his novel, Lisey’s Story, quotes Stephen King as saying (about his perspective on writing),

“The question which haunts and nags and won’t completely let go is this one: ‘Who am I when I write?’”

The quote was taken from a 1993 Stephen King essay but in a scene in his novel The Dark Half the main character in his novel makes a similar statement. (Did the author become his character or is his character voicing the writer’s fears?)

Thomas Harris wrote in the foreword to his novel Red Dragon,

‘I want to tell you the circumstances in which I first encountered Hannibal Lecter, M.D…’

Do you sense the urgency in this statement? See how those words push you to believe there might a real walking and breathing, psycho among us and, who goes by that name? Hannibal is a creation of Thomas Harris, a character in his books.

Writers possess more than one soul residing within them and these angle aggressively, for expression. Life often takes drastic twists for a writer; he cannot be one man at every turn of the page. He must not or he’ll lose the very substance which holds him in one piece, bonds his faculty together as a sane entity.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan


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Saturday, October 27, 2012

If Elephants Were Writers


Elephant footprints. Source: Wikipedia
Our minds are chronic recorders. Voracious feeders. But if our output doesn’t measure up with the intake of electrons, we limit our potentials as the creative individuals we were created to be.

If these land behemoths could convert their physical and metabolic process into literary accomplishments, there would scarce be room for all the books produced.

Elephants are herbivores and spend up to 16 hours a day eating plants. An adult elephant consumes 140–270 kg (300–600 lb) of food a day.Wikipedia

Apparently, if most writers could eat (feast their minds on life’s voluptuous magnificence) in a fashion similar to the elephant’s rate of consumption and actually work (bend their backs over their desks to create) like healthy, adult eleph-ANTS, the world of fiction and creativity would be a pretty combed-out spot.

Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures and are famed for their memory and intelligence; their intelligence level is thought to be comparable to that of dolphins and primates.  Aristotle once said the elephant was “the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind.” – Wikipedia

There has to be some sort of balance, though. I wouldn’t have you work like an elephant and eat like an ant. If you tow this lackluster line eventually, you’ll start imitating yourself. Your work becomes repetitive (like you’re going around in circles), you dry up from inside out and the magic fizzles away, as a direct result. And there’s nothing more gruesome than the death of the intellect. No other misery is quite as appalling as a man who stops thinking, quits being imaginative.

Danger awaits the writer who writes more than he reads; who goes through life without really living it up. Playing his own role as an actor and flaunting his stuff.

The internet reeks of information. You can find stuff on the news, talk-shows, films, soaps, the radio, the dailies and, the world around you. There’s always a phrase, a word, some picture to spark up your muse.

But what do you do when you are all alone by yourself?

Elephants can’t go through a forest or path without leaving their mark. It’s unthinkable. Their footprints are like giant ‘Periods’ in the sand punctuating their passage with emphatic, decisive dots.

What can you take away from all this talk? If elephants were writers, would you be in business?

Let your pen bleed.


Akpan



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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Do The Thing You Love That Sells!


We often hear people say, ‘Write to Please Yourself!’ (Which is true.) We are told to choose subjects we are deeply passionate about and I’d like to take this a step further in this write up.

Do the thing you love that actually appeals to other people.

How can you tell people are going to buy into your idea? Well, you can’t. That sounds mean, don’t it? But you can rest in the fact you did the right thing.
Study the market!

Of course, we may not always know for sure, in what genre we will make our big hit. And it’s been said, ‘Do not set a deadline for success.’ I agree with that 100%. I guess I’m one of the lucky dudes who found role models who have made it to the top rung of the ladder from the depths of their dungeons and went one step at a time. The beautiful thing about this is I can relate. I can copy their examples.

Break your talent(s) or gift(s) down to the basics:
What’s that you have in your hand;
What uses can you put it to;
Which of these functions lead upward;
Which aspect appeals to your audience;
What will give you the satisfaction of achievement and trigger the cash flow?

Successful art or Commercial art is Self-Expression plus Communication.’

You have to save a little love for the guy who needs what you got to give. You must have enough of that kind of respect for your audience so they know you’ve been looking for them like they’ve been waiting for you to come out of incubation.
Think of it. There’s actually people out there waiting for somebody like you to come along with your stuff. Showing you need them as much as they need you can make all the difference between a hit and an all-out flop.

Seasoned artists are true to their hearts while watching out for the hearts of their readers or audience.

Work on what you love and spill your passion over into what the market wants. There’s no greater gig on earth than getting paid for doing something you’re truly in love with.

To be straight up about this, it’s not an easy job. Finding something you’re good at and turning it into what sells are on opposite sides of the coin. Sometimes, you might look to the money instead of the art. But if you keep at it long enough, at some point, you will exhale!

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The World Owes You Nothing

Courtesy: Naja Niketa
Every single day I remind myself that the world owes me nothing. I whack myself upside the head with the essence of that affirmation daily. No man is indebted to me and I think the feeling is genuinely reciprocated. When I run into a fix, I like calling this fact to mind. And I think the guy on the inside is gradually, coming to grasps with this reality.

Life is an adventure, which if mastered, could develop into art. I strive for clarity in the pursuit of my goals and battle to remain persuaded that what I know about myself would still be true whether I believe it or not. I long to separate myself from the beguiling influence of come-easy ideas and hurtle into the willful abandon of creative aloneness.

Still I recognize the fact (I must, you see) that I cannot survive without the rest of humanity.
            I am indebted to society to exploit the depths of my individuality; to reach for the utmost I could achieve and to bring that into the development of man. I must come to terms with the reality that to a certain measure, I share similar qualities with the rest of the human family.

I see a need to repaint the big picture. I perceive a call to define my destination and attain a level of awareness of the inner individual. Life can be a work of art, I tell myself. And the more I see the frame of the picture, the more I acquaint myself with the truth that stares me in the face. I see how I fit into the scheme of things and Im able to separate wit from ability; to understand the debt I owe myself and the blame that is not the worlds.

The faith I possess in my abilities turns my eyes on responsibilities. I cant refuse my obligations because I recognize I can only thrive and expect the full thrust of fulfillment to do its work when I admit I have nothing to prove to anybody.

Keep your pens bleeding!


Akpan



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Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Do Writers Do?


When you pick up your pen to write, what thoughts dance to the edge of your mind? When you sit to think on paper, what ideas drive your muse? What devils you?

In writing, a ransacking of the faculty is set in motion like the turning out of pockets of a school kid would reveal what s/he’s been up to. It’s an adventure into the still small things that run deep. Because a writer is the freak who would not let sleeping dogs lie.

Sometimes, a writer may present answers to nagging issues. But, much of the time, writers raise dusts that are impossible to still. They are literary mischief-makers with a knack for exhuming best forgotten matters. It is the writer’s business to guarantee the dust does not settle on a matter.

Writers seemingly crave for knowledge that’s never theirs to attain. Desecrating history’s sarcophagus like Time’s own tomb raiders yet, trying their very best to be quiet about the whole subject (as if that was possible). As time goes by, they become fairly successful at keeping the peace like woodpeckers in a forest of silence boring deep circlets into the trunk of century old trees. And in a manner similar to these species of avian activities, always taking quick peeks between pecks, glances that were they words could mean, ‘Am I disturbing the peace, now?’ or ‘Am I prodding a raw nerve, yet?’

I don’t need to draw you a picture, do I? Writing is a gift. A blessing as well as a curse. Not if you’re Sylvia Plath who predicted her own demise in her poetry and effectively closed that chapter. Taking her own life.

Writing is also savage pleasure. A trespassing if you like that word better. A mending of broken links and a crossing of boundaries, unlocking of painful memories, stripping it right down to its birth suit and taking heart-wrenching moments to nibble at minutiae.

This obsessive streak has a way of turning on the writer. Stephen King said he wrote his novel, The Shining out of a personal simple phobia that he might harm his own kids. (Owing to his state of mind at that time.) Just because writers ain’t marching up and down blowing their own whistle doesn’t make their job any less quiet than the last minutes of new year’s eve.

The pen is louder than the boom of a nuke on impact. What’s more, the scenes are reenacted through all generations every time a reader cuts into the meat of the words. The power at the fingertips of a writer pushes the lip of eternity. Chew on that for a minute. And you might come to grasps with what could possibly be the greatest power available to wo/men on earth.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan




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