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

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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!

Of reverse sexism and moving backwards

A (not so) long, long time ago, I was proofreading the final copy of a magazine (I won’t name it, for obvious reasons) as a favour, and I was happily going about my business until one of the articles (purportedly written by a self-professed “feminist”) made me want to cover my face with my hands to hide my wailing soul, and then migrate to the most deserted, liveable place on Earth (that’s Tristan da Cunha, by the way, in case you were wondering) and never have contact with another human being ever again.

The said article’s headline read:
ALL MEN ARE EGOTISTICAL AND SELF-CENTRED TYRANTS

The article went on in pretty much the same vein, generalising and stereotyping men as uniformly awful, sexist and childish creatures.

Oh, the irony. Let’s be serious here—feminism was never ever about subjecting men to the same sexism women face from patriarchal conventions and attitudes! I wonder how many feminism pioneers have been rolling over in their graves. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ongoing wave of sexism masquerading as feminism causes a feminist pioneers zombie apocalypse.

And the scary part? This article isn’t alone in its angry sexist drivel that either flat out discriminates or denies discrimination against men.

So I looked at the Chief Editor and went, “Uhm, Mr X? I’m not too sure about where this article’s heading … Doesn’t it sound sexist to you?”

Mr X looked hyper worried at the mention of “sexist”, snatched the article from my hands and started poring over it, word by painful word.

Exactly forty-seven minutes and thirty-five seconds (and two strong coffees, three doughnuts and one very antsy me) later, Mr X looked up from the papers strewn over his desk, and started squinting at me.

I tried to move away from his very uncomfortably nervous sort of gaze—I was starting to sweat. Did I do something wrong? But just then, Mr X cleared his throat and managed a squeaky, “Are you against feminism, Geri? ‘Cause if you are, then I don’t think we can have you helping—”

“No! Of course I’m not against feminism! Goodness, X! What were you thinking!” I jumped in hastily.

“But you disagree with the article?”

“Yes …”

“But you say you’re not against feminism?” Mr X didn’t believe me.

By this point I was close to tears.

I mean, seriously, come on. Sexism against men by stereotyping them all as entitled and self-absorbed tyrants, even in the name of “feminism”, is—guess what—still sexism! True feminism is anti-discrimination. Feminism’s pioneers fought for sociopolitical equality for women, not for discrimination against men. Capish?

These days, almost everyone just seems to nod along to reverse sexist rhetoric spouted by pseudo-feminists, thinking that to disagree with reverse sexism would mean they’d be labelled as sexist and discriminatory. But why? People seem to think that they’re being “progressive” by blindly agreeing with anything with a seemingly noble label (like feminism) slapped on it. Really? Really?

Where is our spine?

In being afraid to disagree with militant pseudo-feminists, we’re setting back the work of feminist pioneers like Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton by a few hundred years.

Where is our heart?

Feminist pioneers—the ones who fought for women’s right to vote, who passionately supported the abolitionist cause, who, in short, fought hard for an egalitarian society based on merit—who basically helped to build today’s society, they paved the way for us. They, these wonderfully courageous people who dared to challenge inequality, are the ones who have enabled us to share in their vision of a world where discrimination, be it gender, race, age or nationality, isn’t a factor.

Feminism, at its purest form when it first took root, is all about anti-discrimination and fighting for a world where everyone is treated equally. So how can people who subject men to sexist stereotypes call themselves feminists?

And yet, we’ve gone and thrown all of that away in this generation.

Where is our grit?

Perhaps we all need to be reminded.

To carve out a path where there was none is a daunting task. It’s like getting lost in the middle of a thick forest with no trail to be seen. Where, and how, do you go on from there?

To go where no one else dares takes a certain amount of courage and faith.

To break ceilings and challenge the status quo with innovation necessarily requires grit and a skin thick enough to withstand any possible ridicule. Because let’s face it: if we’re going to go where no one else has gone, or is prepared to go, we’re going to have to face the naysayers who will laugh at us.

To do all of that, to break barriers, to lay the foundations of today’s society, to do what was once thought impossible, to be the first to say “Let’s do this”—basically, to be a pioneer—this is daunting.

After all, feminist pioneers like Mary Wollstonecraft sure got trolled and hated on a lot when advocating for women’s right to equal treatment in the 18th century, when everyone thought she was crazy for calling for equal treatment.

And yet the direction that we’ve now taken with feminism… We’re practically taking a wrecking ball to the foundations the pioneers have laid down for us.

Because this is what people are missing—reverse sexism is still sexism.

So where do we stand? Where do you stand?

Are we going to be the kids at the playground who get pushed over by the mean, big kids, and then decide to bully these bullies right back? I sure hope not. ‘Cause that’d be like hitting a heavy ball hanging on a chain, and then having it hit you right back in the face. That’s painful.

True feminism may not mean anything to these pseudo feminists, but it does mean something to the rest of us.

Well, for now, I’m going to keep pointing out the hypocrisy in pseudo-feminist articles and edit the sexism out of it, armed with my ridiculously strong coffee and obesity-causing doughnuts. That is, until I go stark raving mad and move to Tristan da Cunha, or until the day comes when I don’t need to.

(But I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you.)

P/S: I know, I know… I usually talk about editing and more technical stuff, but I really needed to get this out. As editors (and writers! and artists!), we have to be mindful and sensitive, to be careful we don’t become the monsters we rage against in our overly zealous quest to condemn.

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!

What do writers need from editors?

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Neil Gaiman’s tweet on 30 December 2015—perfectly encapsulating all the horrors I’ve experienced in my professional career. *cue hysterical crying*

So I recently had a conversation with another writer friend of mine, and we went into a rant-like discussion about what writers really need from editors. Because trust me, though the two have to work very closely with each other, there’s a lot—a lot—of tension, especially when it comes to creative differences.

So I’ve come up with a short list that editors can keep in mind when working with writers:

1. Do not be their overly demanding boss.

Okay, so I think this is fairly self-explanatory.

Don’t order them about, no matter how tempting it is to put on your stern voice and start issuing tasks or arbitrarily demanding certain changes.

Everyone has their own style and preference, and own perspective on things. It’s great to share your own thoughts and feedback, but it’s not okay to override the writer’s style.

Instead, be their creative collaborator. Establish a common understanding (goal: to produce an awesome piece of work!) in order to have a fruitful creative discussion—what are the objectives of the product, who are the target audience, what are the limitations?

Work with them.

2. Do not think you know better than they do.

If in doubt, always query!

The problem that writers (and other editors alike—you have no idea how many times, as both an editor and a writer, I’ve had editors make changes to the manuscript just because, without any real cause besides stylistic differences, resulting in substantial rewriting that changed the entire tone of the manuscript) often face is of editors changing their work without clarifying, or checking with the writer about what the writer really means.

Just because we’ve had a mental block and can’t see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there in plain sight.

Moral of the story: don’t arbitrarily (this is my new favourite word in this post) change anything and everything. Check with the writer!

3. Do not be their ghostwriter.

Now, I’m speaking from my experiences as both an editor and a writer. What a writer needs is someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to help make their work do what it wants to do, someone to be a creative collaborator.

What a competent writer does not need is for someone to do the writing for them!

The writing should be done by the writer, and the editing, the editor.

The editor should in no situation take upon themselves the responsibility of writing. While some may argue that substantive/developmental editing would include lots of rewriting, my humble professional opinion is that this is Mistreatment of the Editor and Infantilisation of the Writer. Developing the content of the work should include a collaborative process, reviewing the manuscript and working with the writer to fix problem areas.

Rewriting the work should be left to the writer. The writer has been hired for this exact purpose—to write! Extensive rewriting takes the editor away from what their main task is—editing.

While substantial editing is unavoidable in some cases (in an ideal world, substantial editing would be dead!), rewriting a piece of work should always be a no-no.