Creative block?

Ever find yourself in a state of creative stagnancy? In a state where all you do is stare at a blank screen/canvas and nothing comes out of you besides a salt-and-vinegar-chips-flavoured burp?
If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing that dark hole (literally—cause the blank canvas can certainly drain you dry), you’re lucky.
I’ve certainly felt like that on more than one occasion, especially when I’ve been stressing about not being creatively productive (I know, the irony!).
While some might argue that a creative block is just a convenient excuse for not putting in the necessary work (which is true on some levels—put in the work!), sometimes we just need to take a little breather. So we can come back to that blank space with renewed vigour.
But when we take that little breather, it helps to…
1. Clear your mind.
Sometimes you just need to get into that zen state—clear everything, and I mean every thing—from your mind. Don’t worry about deadlines (yet). Don’t worry about your struggling artist state (yet). What you want to do is to immerse yourself in this moment. Look at the world around you anew. Observe the way people move. Listen to the sounds around you. Smell the gum trees, and maybe the stench of week-old garbage. Just be, and I promise you, something will inspire you—and your observations, your being in the moment, will inform your art and/or writing.
2. Read.
I cannot stress the importance of reading enough. Whether you’re an editor, a writer, a painter, a filmmaker, an actor—you need to read. Expand your knowledge. Explore different perspectives. Stimulate your intellect. You can achieve all these by reading. And by reading, we’ll bring greater depth and understanding to our work. And who knows, something we read may strike a deep chord within us, inspiring us even more!
3. Be mindful.
Understand that there’s truth to the adage ‘No pain, no gain’. You need to put in the work weekly, daily, whichever frequency you’ve set on. You need to understand that you need to get up and do what needs to be done—if you want to reach your goals—even if you don’t feel like working. (This is still a lesson I’m learning.)
But at the same time, know yourself well enough to know when you really need a break. You’re no use to yourself if you’re burned out. Take a walk. Go on a holiday. Have set rest days.
Establish a routine that works for you—but still put the work in towards your goal (one art piece a month; one short story a fortnight; two solo rehearsals a week—that kinda thing, you get what I mean).
You can do it! Keep creating.
Sending you love and light, till the next time—

Showdown: Writer vs Editor

source

Some days, that’s my reaction. I’m angrily, frustratedly, despairingly screaming in my head (or sometimes at the loquat tree in the backyard)—NEVER AGAIN!!!

Some days, some editors drive me up the wall with edits that have nothing to do with the writing or the story, but everything to do with personal preference. And then there are those who edit the tone and voice of a piece of work indiscriminately and in the most undiscerning manner, leading to a final result that has an unintended tone or message (which is a disaster—especially if you’re trying to delicately address a sensitive issue).

And on other days, some writers drive me close to tears with badly formatted documents, a piece of writing that has less cohesion than Frankenstein’s patchwork monster, and a refusal to address editorial concerns.

Now, by all means, I’m not hating on either group. I’m both a writer and an editor (my work mostly revolves around editing), so I fully understand the frustrations of both. But perhaps before the writing and editing processes lead to an epic meltdown, we could all do something to make the process easier.

Writers

  1. Make sure the document is formatted correctly. Use the specified font type and size required by the publisher. Or at least make your work readable on Word (not Pages, please. All publishers use Word.). This could not be simpler!
  2. Proofread your own work. Take a couple of days away from it, then pick it up again, and read it aloud. I know, it sounds crazy, reading your piece of writing aloud—to yourself or to anyone who will listen, even the cat. But trust me, it works. When you read it aloud, you will find things you’ve missed—transitions, grammatical errors, incoherence.
  3. Talk to your editor. Listen to/read their editorial queries carefully. Address them all! If your editor has said, “This doesn’t work”, instead of mentally telling them to shove their unhelpful and insight-less comments youknowwhere ignoring the vague and unhelpful question, ask them, “Why doesn’t it work?” Most times, you’ll find that your editor has a great explanation why, and it’ll help make your work better.

Editors (I’m going to keep this really simple.)

  1. Before changing something, ask yourself Why am I changing this? If you don’t know why, leave it.
  2. When changing something, as yourself this: does the edit change the tone or voice of the work? If it does, is that what is required? Is that what is best? Is that necessary?
  3. Do not rewrite the work. That is not your job. If massive rewriting (i.e. more than 5 sentences, imo) is required, the author should do it.
  4. If you’re unclear about the author’s intended meaning, ask—but also suggest edits!

 

Happy writing and editing, everyone!

Getting published

As a writer (and for many researchers and academics as well), getting your work published is one of the biggest goals we have (next to earning enough from our work to keep us going).

But why is it so hard to get published?

Often, publishers and commissioning editors have a specific work in mind, and our submitted work just isn’t what they’re looking for.

But at other times, the only thing standing between our manuscript and publication is us! What happens is that publishers/editors don’t notice our work because we haven’t put in that extra effort.

What’s this extra effort, though? It’s nothing that difficult, really!

  1. Good grammar
    giphy
    Trust me, there’s nothing more annoying to an editor sifting through a neverending pile of submissions than bad grammar.Unless bad grammar is a part of your character’s charm/non-charm, bad grammar should not litter your cover letter or your work.

    Bad grammar shows two things. One, you’re not interested in even getting someone to help proofread your work because you think the publication you’re submitting to is crap anyway. Or two, you’re uninterested in the value of good grammar.

    Either thing will send your submission straight out the door. Even if you have a great Pulitzer-winning idea.

  2. Submission guidelines
    giphy1
    If you’re like that guy right there… Then you’re gonna have your submission rejected. I cannot stress this enough. Read. The. Submission. Guidelines.
    If they say include an exegesis, please don’t think you can get away with not writing one. If they say use the MLA format for citations and you don’t even attempt to try, they will happily reject your submission until you try (or at least ask, if you’re not sure how to). If they ask for an anonymised document for peer review, do it. And if they say they don’t accept certain genres in their submission guidelines, and you choose to submit a work in that very genre, then…
  3. Plagiarism
    giphy2Uh, nope.giphy3

    Just nope.

    This is perhaps the most important point of all.

    Do not plagiarise.

    Many of us don’t set out with the intention to “steal” someone else’s work, idea or expression. But we do. Simply because we have a faulty idea of what plagiarism really is.

    (Read more on what constitutes plagiarism, and how to avoid it, here at Purdue OWL’s excellent site.)

    The most common form of plagiarism I’ve encountered over my career is this: failure to cite your sources.

    What happens is that I receive a paper filled with sentences (whole sentences, mind you), back to back, directly copied from multiple sources. This is plagiarism.

    If you want to quote someone, quote them properly. Use the proper in-text citation format. Use quotation marks. Mention them.

    Capish?

    I hope this helps. Till the next time.

    giphy4

Writing for different purposes

Being a good writer in a particular genre, on a particular medium, does not necessarily mean that we’re able to transpose that same writing ability and apply it to different media.

To put it in no-nonsense terms… different media require different styles of writing!

While writing an academic/research paper more often than not requires rather long prose (to accommodate all that research and explanations!), writing on digital media platforms require snappy sentences to catch the reader’s attention.

It’s pretty much the epitome of hook, line and sinker.

Digital media aims to get the reader’s attention as quickly, and as best, as possible. And then digital media steps up to reel in the reader with quality content. And the rest, as they’ll know it, is history.

It’s like, one minute you’re just browsing on Twitter, but you stumble upon Ryan Reynold’s hilariously NSFW, snappy tweets, and you’re now suddenly addicted and you wish he’d tweet every other minute.

Personally, I think these 3 quick tips help writers navigate the temperamental waters of digital media:

  1. KISSKeep It Short and Sweet!
  2. Look for the humour in things — Don’t take yourself too seriously!
  3. Watch out for errors — Do a fact/grammar/spelling check before you publish!

Till the next post!

Of course we need editors!

So in response to my previous blog post wondering whether we need editors in this technology-infused world…

YES, WE DO. (As you can also tell from the title of this blog post…)

But why do we need editors when Word has spell-check and most modern phones have auto-correct?

The answer is: this and this.

As we have all experienced, spell check doesn’t catch every mistake either, as multiple news agencies pressed for time have proved:

prince-harry-whales-spelling-error
“Prince Harry, ruler of the most majestic of mammals, whales!” WBAL-TV. Image shared from http://www.goodcontentcompany.com.
usedrugs
“Pretty sure Armstrong has a shady rug use past… All those holes!” CBC News. Image shared from bigjoeonthego.com.
public-spelling-fails-628
“Didn’t know Obama and Osama were one and the same?!” Fox40 News. Image shared from http://www.2dayfm.com.au

So while modern-day technology with the red and green squiggly lines certainly help catch some glaring errors, they don’t pick up on nearly enough. And that’s why we have editors.

Technology is advanced. Technology certainly does make our lives easier. But technology doesn’t understand the nuances and idiosyncrasies of human language.

Instead, it takes the very human eye, and of course, the human brain too, to pick up on things that a machine can’t—things like sarcasm, slang, and sometimes even just downright straightforward grammar!

And if you need more reasons why, here’s a great list-icle from Lifehack about the weird errors found in documents relying only on spell check!

So the next time someone tells you editors are just… useless grammar nazis… (that took a lot out of me, just to type that urgh!) send them here!

Till the next post! 😉 And remember folks, the human eye is better!

On yet another side note…

If you guys were wondering (I may just be overly excited) — here’s where I’m currently doing my Masters degree (in Publishing and Communications, if you were wondering)…

A building at the University of Melbourne, with Gothic architectural features
One of the many gorgeous old buildings with Gothic architecture at the University of Melbourne. (Photo by Pip Wilson, 2008. Flickr Creative Commons.)

The beautiful University of Melbourne.

A few days before the semester began, I decided to wander around on campus, just to get a feel of the school and indulge in that tingly feeling that I’m going to be a student again! feeling. I know, I’m a real nerd.

I arrived on campus, slightly flustered at being slightly lost — but whatever Omg, I’m never ever going to find my way on campus, ever (I’m quite hopeless at finding my way) panicky feelings I felt completely melted away at being surrounded by, and finding myself a part of, breathtaking buildings with old architecture imbued with so much history.

It was a magical moment for me.

I immediately sent a photo to my dad and brother saying, “I feel like I’m in Hogwarts!”. To which my dad promptly replied, “What’s Hogwarts??”, and my brother promptly “LOL”ed at.

There — this is the beautiful place where I’m pursuing my 11-year-old dream (of being in Hogwarts, of course. — No, but really, I meant the whole postgrad study thing at the University of Melbourne, specifically. I know, enthusiastic obsession since I was 16 years old.) at.