Deconstructing

I'm working on the final (ha!) rewrite of my novel, coming up on part two.  I did a lot of thinking and making notes before I started this rewrite, which included many Great Ideas, and most of that affected part one.  Why?  Because it was character stuff.  I worked on figuring out how characters reacted to each other so that their throughlines were nice and straight and sturdy, not weak and floppy.  I got really clear on character motivation.  And so I breezed right through the rewriting of part one. 

Its a damned good rewrite if I do say so myself.  At one point as I was working on it I thought, this is the rewrite where I actually know what I'm doing, what I'm trying to accomplish.  The previous four (yes, four, which is really not all that many) were more of the take a deep breath and dive in variety, which just speaks once again to the value of writing as a process.  Sometimes you just gotta go with it and trust.

Now I am to part two and the hard work begins.  I didn't take many notes or have many Great Ideas for this one.  Because this is where the set up is long over and the weaving in begins.  I-yi-yi.  I-yi-yi again.  I think everything is there it just needs to be rearranged some. 

Which is where the deconstructing begins.  This morning I took index cards and went through every chapter in question, five of them, and wrote down every scene.   By this I mean every little discreet event of action, ie Emma Jean calls Riley and they argue (which could cover two pages) or Aunt Cleo and Bob arrive from Portland.  I felt I needed to do this because in the dense chapters I couldn't remember what all happened.  Plus they've been rearranged a few times already.

Committing scenes to cards really helped me get in my head what I have and where, exactly, it is.  I've deconstructed part two and committed it to sepearate little pieces, like disassembling a puzzle.  Now my plan is to throw all the cards up in the air and put them in order according to where they land.

Kidding.  My plan is to lay them out on the bed or on the floor (if the Big Scary Beast Pug and the Demon Feline will stay away from them) and play with them, like that old kid's game Memory, where you match two like cards.  Being able to see how the scenes currently flow should give me some good ideas on how to make them flow better.  The truth is, I already got a lot of ideas as to how to do this just in the process of deconstructing.  So I have high hopes for the rest of the process.

Techniques for Writing Flow

The Big, Scary Beast and the Ancient, Frail Feline are both asleep (in separate rooms, I might add) and so I have a moment to ponder techniques to keep access to the muse alive and well.  This is on my mind because at the recent Loft orientation, my fellow mentor and old friend Betsy Woods gave me the details on a new-to-me technique.

It is called a Weather Journal, and its a bit like writing morning pages, only more so.  With Morning Pages, you write down a stream of consciousness account of anything and everything, just to get it out on the page.  A Weather Journal is more crafted, more reactive, more of the moment.  With the Weather Journal, you start from where you are at the moment you sit down, and you write about that place, every blessed bit of it, starting with the things you are experiencing through your senses.

This invariably leads to more writing, perhaps an account of something that happened to you the day before, or an inquiry into an emotional upset.  The Weather Journal is very Zen in that it starts in the present moment and assumes that the entire universe exists in that moment.  And, well, every writer knows that its all in the details.   Keeping a Weather Journal is an excellent way to begin noting the details.  I've noticed this magical effect of the Weather Journal, which is that when you start by noting the details of the present moment, it is much easier to put on the page details of the scene that happened to you the day before when you were at the coffee shop and the barista with the red hair gave you a Frappucino with whipped cream on it instead of your usual grande latte.

While I'm at it, I'm going to run down a list of my Top Techniques for Writing Flow.  So here goes:

1.  Weather Journal–see above.  And let me know if you come up with a better name for it, would you please?

2.  Morning Pages–I did these faithfully for years.  They are the brainchild of Julia Cameron, who advocates their use in her book, The Artist's Way.  To do Morning Pages, often called MPs by devotees, you get up, grab your coffee or tea, and sit down with paper and pen in hand.  And then you write three pages, no more, no less, and get your ya-yas out so you can get on with the real business of life.  MPs are also a great way to track the desires of your true self.  So, if over the course of a month you realize you've written, I want to move to Africa and be a missionary, 5 times, it might be time to start checking airfare to Rwanda.  My problem with MPs is that they tend to devolve into a laundry list of things to do, and thus they end up feeding an obsessive thinking trait I'm trying to end.

3.  Free Writing--Sit down with your journal, set a timer for 20 minutes, choose a prompt and write until the timer goes off.  No lifting the pen from the page, no stopping, even if you are writing I hate free writing over and over again.  There is no shortage of books chock-full of prompts for free writing.  Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones,is probably the most famous advocate of this type of journaling.  The problem with free writing is that it is easy to get lost in it and end up with a bunch of useless writing that goes nowhere.  One way to get around this is to take prompts from your own current writing project.  This can be a great technique for solving thorny plot or character issues.

4. Lists--The lazy writer's way to keep a journal.  Not surprisingly, I love this one.  Say you find yourself on vacation in the Yucatan in Mexico and everything is exotic and different.  But you're on vacation and you end up spending most of it on the beach, drinking Pina Coladas from the beach-side bar.  Who has time to write in their journal in such a situation?  Especially when there are silly floor shows to attend every night?  And more Pina Coladas? Should you find yourself in such a jam, remember the benefits of writing a list.  It can be words or phrases, or whatever you want it to be, related or unrelated.  The key is to just get down descriptive words that you can later go back to and write from.  (And can I just say that I'm glad I visited Chichen Itza, back in the day, not so long ago, when you could still climb to the top of the ruins, even if I did only get halfway up before my fear or heights kicked in.)

That's it.  That's all I got on techniques for writing flow, and I think you'll find all of them useful in different situations.  If anybody has any other good ones, leave a comment so we can all steal it and use it!

A New World, Where Nothing is Impossible

I'm home from Nashville.  I actually got home Monday night, but I went right from being picked up at the airport to see my Mom, and came home exhausted.  Its a long drag across the country.  I know, I know, people fly much longer distances all the time now, but I don't care, it is still a long flight to me.  Despite being exhausted, I awoke at 5 AM, which seems to be my new default time at the moment.  Its actually fun to be up so early, and boy oh boy, does it give me a lot of time to write. 

Yesterday it was great to be awake at 5 AM, because it was a GREAT DAY.  I set up two TV trays in the family room, which is lacking in tables, and placed my laptop on one, and my journal and pen and the remotes (for some odd reason it takes two to operate our TV) on the other.  And then I sat in front of the television all morning–that is, when I wasn't running to the bathroom to grab kleenex because I was crying so much.

Obama and Michelle pulled up at the White House, Michelle with gift in hand, I started crying.  The limousine taking them to the ceremony pulled onto the crowd-lined streets, I was crying.  Hilary was introduced, I cried again.  And so on throughout the day.   It was really an amazing day.

A note about that present Michelle gave Laura Bush: rumor (or NBC) has it that the gift was a journal and pen for Mrs. Bush to begin her memoirs.  Here's what really interests me: it is said that ole Laura did not keep a journal for the entire eight years Georgie was in office.

She did not keep a journal.

Can you even imagine such a thing? Of course you can't because you are a writer and writers process everything through writing.  But so do people who are living through extraordinary times or events, and Laura qualifies there.  I can't understand how she would not have felt even a slight impulse to write something, anything, down.

While we're discussing the inauguration from a writerly point of view, how about that poet?  People on Twitter were making snide comments but honestly? I think the average American (myself included, alas) is just not that familiar with what is good poetry and what is not.   That being said, I liked her.  Her name is Elizabeth Alexander and I thought her poem hit just the right note–balancing the every day concerns that make up the lives of the citizens she addressed with the momentous aspect of the occasion.  Some of the lines I liked:

We encounter each other in words

What if the mightiest word is love?

Love that casts a widening pool of light

Praise-Song for the Day will be published in book form by Graywolf Press and sell for $8.  Oh, and they are printing 100,000 copies of it.  Not too shabby for a poet.

Finally, I leave you with the words of one of the NBC commentators (alas, I didn't catch which one, I don't watch TV often enough to recognize the voices):

"Nothing, now, nothing, is impossible."

Amen.

Twitter: The Art of Writing Tweets

Twitter is, of course, the social networking rage.  Seems like everyone from corporations to small businesses to solopreneurs to politicians are tweeting.  And with good reason, I some people find it addictive.

There are posts galore on how to best use Twitter to promote yourself or your business, how to not waste time on Twitter, (yeah, right), how to save the world using Twitter (I'm making that one up, but Barack Obama did use it to help get himself elected).

But what about the tweet as a creative art form?  A mini-essay?  Yes, I know that it is hard to consider writing something creative in 140 characters or less.   However, once you start using Twitter a lot you begin to mold yourself to its limitations–and find creative ways to work within them.  Ah, of such restraints are genres formed.

I've been thinking about this over the past couple days as I've found myself tweeting a lot.  I'm really a moderate tweeter.  As of this writing, I have only 800 tweets (there are people who have thousands) and about that many followers.  But the more I tweet, the more I get addicted to it into it, and the more I get into it the more I learn about the art of being succinct.

Not only that, but while being succinct, one can also express deep thoughts and tell mini-stories.  Here are my how-tos for the art of writing tweets:

1.  Cut all extraneous words
.  So this:  "I went to see my mother tonight and she had what looked like a really bad meal" becomes this: "Saw mother tonight, she had bad meal."  Now I have room to describe the bad meal, or say something of related interest.

2.  Create tweets that stand alone but are part of a larger whole
.  I've been experimenting with this one.  Sometimes when I get back from doing something away from the computer (gasp! It does happen upon occasion)I'll write a series of posts about my activities.  Each post links to the other, but each post stands alone and makes sense if that is all you read.

3.  Use good, active verbs.  Amazing how the rules of good writing cut across all genres.  I'm guilty of not paying enough attention to this one.

4.  Express it differently.
  We don't want to hear that you just walked in the door to the coffee shop.  We want to learn what is going on in that specific coffee shop at the moment you walk in the door.  I'm probably more interested in your reaction to the painting on the wall then how much you need caffeine.  I've heard the latter a million times, the former can come only from you.

5.  Find the telling detail.  This is, of course, intimately related to #4.  What is the one detail of the coffee shop that brings the whole scene alive?  If you can do it in your creative writing, and I feel certain you can, you can do it on Twitter.  As a matter of fact, writing tweets is probably damn good practice for any kind of writing.

Which gives me an excuse to keep using it as much as I want.

It’s Sunday: Do You Know Where Your Niche Is?

I just found mine.

It wasn't really lost, in the sense that it was something I desperately missed.  It was more like it was buried under the multitude of interests and ideas that crowd my sometimes-mushy brain (too much going on in there!) 

It wasn't even something that I felt I needed.  The experts, however, say otherwise.  It took quite a bit of convincing, and reading a book to get me searching for my niche.  And then, as is so often the case, I found it right under my nose.

Are you ready?

My niche is information about creating a writing life while writing your book or waiting for it to sell. Or, in short, creating a life devoted to writing.  That has a nice ring to it.  Right?

I know.  Duh. Like I haven't been writing about just that already.  But you'd be surprised how difficult it can be to decide what it is exactly that I do.  Because, like many writers, I do many different things.  I'm terrible at networking events because my 20-second elevator pitch goes something like this:

"And what do you do?"  (Woman dressed in killer designer suit with beautifully lacquered nails.)

"Um, I'm a writer."  (Me, in my usual writerly outfit of gypsy skirt and lots of jewelry.)

"What do you write?"  (Killer woman.)

"Well, I ghostwrite.  And I teach writing.  And I coach writers.  And I run a writing program.  And I write this blog that talks about writing.  And then there's my own writing, the novels and short stories."

I'm telling the last part of it to the woman's back–the suit cuts a gorgeous line from the rear, too–because I've lost her.  She is off looking for someone who can tell her succinctly what he can do.

Since I'm not a big fan of networking events anyway, except for one I belong to in LA, I've managed to convince myself I don't really need a niche.  I have now seen the error of my ways and will spend the next year repenting. 

Actually, I'm really happy about this because identifying my niche gives me permission to do more of what I'm already doing.  I'm going to continue writing posts about craft and creativity and how they apply to making a life devoted to writing. 

One of my twitter friends, Mary, asked me to define "writing life" after I proudly tweeted about my niche.   And so here goes.  Creating a life devoted to writing can mean actually making a living writing, supplementing your income with writing, or just learning how to make contacts and attend events relating to writing, even if you don't need to earn a living from it.  A life devoted to writing implies that you make time for it regularly–another thing I talk a lot (some would probably say too much).  Creating a life devoted to writing means that the written word (and you practicing it) is front and center in your life.

So, there you have it, a niche, found.  And now excuse me while I go practice my elevator pitch.

The Writing Process: Digging Deeper on Trees and in Writing

I took down my Christmas tree on Thursday night.

I know I'm a bit late in getting this done, but I've had good reason.

I developed a bit of a system this year.  First, I removed the soft ornaments, home-made stuffed fabric Christmas shapes and gingerbread men, as well as furry bears from various sources.  Those could all be stored in a plastic tub without a lot of wrapping.  And, many of them sat on the tips of the tree's branches.Snow 031

Then the ornament removal got more complex.  The next round were glass bulbs, which needed to wrapped in tissue and placed in the big ornament crate that had partitions.  Included in this round were the most precious ornaments, funny little things my kids made through the years that never fail to make my heart skip a beat.

After these two rounds I'd  gotten most of the ornaments off the tree.  Or so I thought.  But as I started to walk away from my finished job, I noticed another one hiding amidst the pine needles.  And when I looked harder, I saw another, and then another.  There's something terribly sad about the image of a forlorn ornament getting tossed out with the tree, so I started beating the branches, looking for more.

And throughout all this, I couldn't help but think about writing.  Looking for more ornaments, even when you think you've found them all, is similar to the writing process.

As a refresher, here's the writing process as I see it:

1.  Write a rough draft, also known as a Shitty First Draft (or SFD) in the world of Anne Lamott, or the Glumping it All on the Page Draft (GAPD) in the world of Word Strumpet.

2.  Rewrite the draft.

3.  Rewrite the draft again.

4.  Revise the draft.  (I think of revising as having more to do with removing commas or adding them, fussing with words and so on.  Rewriting is for the big stuff–character arc, plotting, and so on.)

5.  Rewrite and revise the draft one more time.

6.  Read it again, decide it needs another rewrite, finish the revision.

7.  An impatient editor or other pressing deadline such as old age or senility finally forces you to send it off.

So it is easy to see how this endless rigorous writing process is much the same as ornament hunting.  Just when you think you've found the last plot problem, suddenly a light goes on and you realize that Jimmy didn't go to jail but Bobby did, and then the whole story has to change.  Or, after numerous rewrites, it may suddenly occur to you what the theme of your story actually is, a eureka moment if ever there was one.

Have you ever completed a rewrite, certain it was your last, only to discover almost to the end that you have to go through it one more time?  And even though your civilian friends think you are nuts and that you should just submit it already, you know that making the changes will make the book into the book that you see in your mind and feel in your heart.

Writing is, above all else, a process of digging deeper and discovering what lies hidden amidst the branches.  When first we begin writing, we tend to fall in love with our work, just as we fall in love with a newborn baby, and we don't want to do a thing to change that lovely creation we've brought into the world.  (Anne Wayman wrote a great piece on falling in love with your work this week which you can read here.)

But it doesn't usually take long as a writer to start to appreciate the wonders of rewriting.  I know you've heard it a million times–writing is rewriting.  It's true, to the point where many writers begin to prefer the rewriting phase to the hard work of writing a GAPD. 

And then the problem becomes how to get yourself to stop rewriting.  But that is a topic for another post.

Looking Back, and More Important, Looking Forward

It is New Year's Eve, 2008, the cusp of a new year.

I'm a wildly optimistic person and every year I proclaim that the next year is going to be the best yet.  And, nearly everyone of them turns out to be best in some arena.  It may be very difficult for some people to come up with good things to say about 2008, given the upheavals we've experienced.  Once again turning on my Pollyanna persona, I believe these are necessary shifts we've had to go through–and that 2009 will be better.  I'm excited about our president-elect, for one thing.  And I'm excited about the opportunities for writing in 2009.

Although the publishing industry is in turmoil, it is going to be a good year for writers. Not only will many of us find more time to write because of fewer business obligations, but in general a depressed economy forces us to stay home more–and what better thing to do at home then write?  Along those lines, I have plans in the works to assist you in your writing endeavors next year.

But first, before we get to what's in store for 2009, I present my year in review, along with a list of favorite posts.

Good Things About 2008

1.  My ghostwriting career took off.  I've been privileged to write several books for wonderful clients. This allows me to enter a different world and become the person I'm writing the book for.  Gives me a small taste of what being an actor must feel like.  

2.  After teaching in the program for five years, I became co-director of the wonderful writing program, The Writer's Loft.  Anybody interested in improving their writing skills should take a look at the program.  It is based in Tennessee, but since its a distant-learning program you can live anywhere and take advantage of one-on-one focused mentoring.

3.  I started Bookstrumpet, which is floundering at the moment but had a glorious beginning with many wonderful reviews from various people.  I'm pondering this blog's future at the moment.  One possibility is to incorporate all the material into Wordstrumpet.  Ideas?

4.  Word Strumpet became available on Kindle and at this writing it is currently #12 on the bestseller list in Lifestyle and Culture.  Thanks to all my Kindle subscribers!

5.  I began a newsletter, The Creative Equation, and got some subscribers.  Thanks, guys!  For those of you who don't yet subscribe, you can do so on the front page of Wordstrumpet.  I send it out irregularly and don't harass you with tons of emails about stuff to buy.  But it is the best way to keep up with news about product releases and my plans.  (See below)

6.  I started running and found many commonalities between the practice of running and the practice of writing.  See below for some of my posts about it.

7. I made two wonderful new friends, Rachel, and Mayanna, both of whom I adore.  And I kept up with my old friends in Nashville, too numerous to list here, and LA, and my bestest friend, Suzanne.  I share a love of writing with all of them.  Rachel and Mayanna both started blogs this year and Suzanne really got going on hers.

What I Resolve to Do Better

1. Respond to comments more consistently.   I love, love, love it when you guys comment yet I don't always manage to comment back.  No excuses.  I'll do better.

2.  Be as helpful with your writing as possible.  I want to do more posts on craft and motivation, as these are what the respondents to my survey said they really appreciated.  I also want to do more posts featuring exercises you can use in your work immediately.

3.  Send the above-mentioned newsletter out more regularly.

4.  Fully embrace the possibilities of blogging and allow Wordstrumpet to be all that it can be. 

Favorite Posts of 2008 (Mine and Yours) 

1.  The series on words.  Part one is here, part two here, and part three here.  This seemed to be a crowd-pleaser, and I loved reading the comments about how you find strong verbs and other good words.  We writers are a word-loving bunch!

2.  The series on scene.  Series seemed to be big this year, and since scene is often a point of confusion for writers, this one went over well.  Part one is here, on flat scenes is here, part two on elements of a scene here, and part three on rising and falling action here.

3.  When One is Born a Writer.  This one got so many great responses I did When One is Born a Writer Redux.

4. My posts about running.  Read them here and here.  At the moment, I'm sidelined with a knee injury, but I can't wait to get back to it.

5. The Filtering Consciousness.  An arcane but important aspect of craft.

6.  A Day in the Life.  I'm trying to get better about not devoting quite so much time to writing.

7.  Birdsong.  I thought this was just a little throw-away, but people loved it.  I did too.

8.  The  Character Who Wasn't Dead. Sometimes we writers are kinda dense.

9.  A two-part series on erotic romance.  Part one, on writing it, is here.  And part two, on publishing it, here.

10.  Finally, I resisted this one, because it is multi-parts, and creating all these links is a lot of work.  Plus its almost time for me to get ready to go out.  But I did a whole series on The Writing Bogs that I've since turned into an Ebook called Set the Words Free.  So, here are the links:  part one, part two, part three and part four.  Phew!  I could swear there was another one, but I can't seem to find it.

Looking Ahead to 2009

For the record, my biggest non-blog-related goal is to get a contract for my novel.  Go, Emma Jean!  I know a lot of you are also looking for agents, writing query letters, submitting like crazy.  So let's all communicate and support each other through the process.

Besides the above-mentioned goals, I want to give you a heads-up on what I'm planning, project-wise. My biggest goal is to get my pet project off the ground–the Charlotte Rains Dixon Novel Writing Academy.  Is that not a fabulous and grandiose name?  I adore it.  And its going to be wonderful, a membership site full of lengthy and informative articles, forms, and exercises.  Plus regular teleclasses, videos and all kinds of goodies.  

Realistically, it is also going to take a few months to get off the ground.  So in the meantime I hope to offer a product or two.  Stay tuned–and thanks for hanging around as long as you have.

Happy New Year to all!

Kindle-ing

It has come to my attention that this blog is now available for subscription on your Kindle. (I hope that you, unlike me, are lucky enough to have one.)  Not only that, but yesterday this very blog reached best seller status, achieving a rank of #16 on the Lifestyle and Culture Kindle Blog list.  As my daughter used to say when she was a small child, exigun!  (That's "exciting" for those of you who do not speak small-childese.) It gives me the merest hint of what having a best-selling book must feel like.  Note I said merest hint.

Of course, by today Wordstrumpet was down to #30, alas.  And no, I'm not checking the stats every half hour.  Only every hour.

I have absolutely no idea how the blog got picked up by Kindle or how long its been available or what the true sales figures are (for all I know having one subscriber could make it a best-seller). At the moment I'm trying to figure out if Amazon has connected my blog with my Associates account so that I can collect royalties.

Just as with regular books on Amazon, readers can write reviews of the blog on Amazon.  Poor little ole Wordstrumpet has no reviews yet.  Nary a one.  So if any of my loyal readers want to post one, I'd be very grateful.  The link is here.

And for anyone reading this on a Kindle, give me a shout-out.  I'd love to hear how the text and images come through.  And thanks for subscribing.

Stay tuned for my end of the year wrap-up and look forward tomorrow.

PS.  Don't know what a Kindle is?  Check it out here.

When a Novel Grips You

I'm reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, and, like an obsessive lover, I can hardly keep my hands off it.   I steal moments during the day to read it, I read it at night and I wake up thinking about the book.

This kind of getting lost in a book doesn't happen often to me anymore.  As a writer, I'm constantly absorbing what the author I'm reading is doing as I read.  This makes it difficult to simply get lost in a book.  Instead, I'm analyzing: how did she make that scene so snappy?  Why did he put the backstory there? And so on.

One way to get around this is to read books completely unlike that which you are writing.  Bury yourself in a science fiction title if you're writing a mystery, for instance, or read an historical novel if you're writing science fiction.  Thus the tendency to compare and contrast is somewhat reduced. 

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery, and while what I'm writing is completely different, that is not why I chose this book to read.  I can't even remember how I happened upon it, but I found it on Amazon and after reading the rave review there, I bought it on a whim.  For once, the Amazon reviews did not let me down.

The novel is a traditional closed-room (not even sure if that is the correct term) mystery, though in this case it is a closed-island mystery.  It is set in Sweden, and makes me long to go there, activating my Danish genes.  The characters are complicated and flawed and yet full of integrity and righteous indignation about injustices which translate to action. 

There are also reasons the book shouldn't work for me: long stretches of narrative, some of it inside our hero's head; scenes that go on forever with talking heads; that weird switch from third to first inside a character's head that drives me nuts.  But, for whatever reason, I love this book and I'm thrilled that the second in the series is due out in the states in July.

Sadly, Stieg Larsson died a few years ago or a heart attack when he was only in his early fifties. The good news is that he had turned in the manuscripts for three novels before his death.  He was a graphic designer (like a character in the book), a magazine publisher (like the hero of the book) and an expert and campaigner against right-wing extremism and racism.

So that's my report on my reading.  Now excuse me while I get back to it.

Character or Plot Driven? and Other Between Holiday Thoughts

My screenwriting friend Marc sent me a link to an article by Lawrence Konner, writer for a gazillion projects including Planet of the Apes (!) and multiple upcoming movies that sound blockbuster-ish.   There's a lot of good bits in this article, so much so that you could take any one of Konner's pronouncements and expand into a longer article.  Remember, nearly everything he says applies to all kinds of storytelling, be it fiction, or creative non-fiction, or you latest short story.  It is helpful to study screenwriting no matter what genre you are writing in, because screenwriters focus on story.

The part of the article that I enjoyed most was his thoughts on character versus plot.  "If you try to get characters to do what the plot determines, then they're moving falsely," Konner says.  He goes on to explain that the first thing you should do is write a biography of your character because the number one thing you want to do is get your audience (or reader) involved in some way with the character.  You must know your character's background, upbringing, current status, dreams, goals and desires.  The last aspects are among the most important because a character wanting something is what will power the plot.

Go read the article, its worth a look.

In the department of other bits and pieces, here's a small round-up of recent interesting things that have crossed my desk:

Nobel Prize winner Le Clezio says that writing was actually his third choice of career.   Firsthe wanted to be an architect, but his math skills were poor.  Then he wanted to be a sailor, but his eyesight was bad.  So he became a writer.  Writing soon became an "uncontrollable impulse."  Le Clezio considers himself a storyteller above all else, and not someone who writes to espouse political views. 

Has anybody read any of his novels?  I'm intrigued by them, myself.  Read the article about him here.

Anne Wayman did a good post called Of Creativity at the beginning of the month.  She links to a couple good posts on the subject. All of them are worth checking out.

PhilosophersNotes is a really cool idea–they call it Cliff Notes for Self-Development books.  During this holiday season, you can download the top 25 titles for free–its an awesome deal.  Be sure to read the Meet the Philosopher page on the site, about Brian Johnson, the guy behind it all.  It's inspiring.

For those of you looking for freelance writing jobs, Anne Wayman lists the places she hunts for them (or just subscribe to her job listing).  Two links to Anne Wayman–clearly she's doing awesome work for writers!

And, finally, Obama's chief speechwriter is 27.  Honest.  This is a fascinating article about him and his relationship with the president-elect.

I think that clears up all the things I've been saving to post about in my Google notebook.  Now its time to return to the magnum opus I'm working on, my 2009 goals.