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Writerly Roundup — December 2015

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Our Writerly Roundup blog series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don't want you to miss.


How to Write: A Year in Advice From 'By Heart', Joe Fassler (@joefassler), The Atlantic

In this excellent year-end piece, Fassler culls the best nuggets of advice from across a wide swath of writers who contributed to The Atlantic's "By Heart" series. What emerges is a treasure trove of insights that reflect both the remarkable idiosyncrasy of the writing process, as well as the utter universality of the challenges writers face in their work.

7 Pieces of Life Changing Writing Advice From Dear Sugar, Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday), Thought Catalog

Holiday ticks off seven valuable pieces of writing—and life—advice by famed "Dear Sugar" author, Cheryl Strayed. Among them: "Contain the arrogance," "Let yourself be gutted," and "You don't have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you're holding."

On Wanting, Shame, and Artistic Ambition, Sonya Huber (@sonyahuber),

In this compelling blog post, Huber explores the sinister motivations behind the shame spiral she would experience upon facing a disappointment in her writing life. She confronts her tendency to internalize and personalize rejections of her work, challenging herself instead to view a "no" as simply meaning "not this time." A woman, a writer, should not slink away upon receiving discouraging news, but, she argues, press on, allowing those worthy words to work their way into the world.

As much as possible I want to praise the hunger and the wanting itself. What your work longs for is to connect with others. That wanting is not ego. It's artistic ambition, and your art deserves that. It's natural, because art often seeks communication and communion.

You can pair Huber with this recent short piece by Allison K. Williams (@GuerillaMemoir) on Brevity about how, even in the face of repeated "no's" and ruthless editors, we can and should keep writing. "Writing a book is a craft, and craft gets better with practice."

Own Your Story: Overcoming Fear About Writing Memoir, Dana Schwartz (@danahschwartz), The Gift of Writing

In this post, Schwartz, a lifelong fiction writer, relays her journey beyond her comfort zone and into the world of memoir. She teases out the relatable stumbling blocks—fear, misrepresentation, the potential for hurting others, unworthiness—and tracks how she encounters them in her quest to write about her relationship with her deceased mother. Schwartz weaves in inspiration from sources such as Lamott, Strayed, and Sue William Silverman, ultimately leaving us with the uplifting reminder that "everyone's story has the potential to touch a universal nerve. We are all worthy."

Writing Is Not Hard Work, Mike Minchin, Brevity

In this brief ode to the writing life, Minchin contrasts putting pen to paper with hard labor, describing in vivid, visually compelling language just how beautiful and alluring a life of working with words can be.

…writing, that essential listening, that patience with words, hearing the voices come, seeing a scene come to life in front of your eyes, sitting at a computer until the computer falls away like the page of a good book falls away, until the screen becomes clear like the surface of a pond after rain so that someone looking into the water can see the rotting logs and Budweiser cans on the bottom and the fish swimming around.  The act of creation has nothing to do with hard work.  Writing is, to me, a beautiful, liberating process that feels unlike any work I have ever done in my life.

Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves, Teddy Wayne (@TeddyWayne1999), NY Times

In this well-crafted, cogent piece, Wayne makes the case for preserving tactile manifestations of intellectualism, art, news, and literature. In our world of digital media and relentless purging of physical objects, something in the transmission of a love of literacy and learning is inevitably lost.

Will parents go out of their way to grant access to their latest book to their 9-year-old? True, the 9-year-old is unlikely to pick up a physical copy of "Between the World and Me" on his or her own, either, but at least the child sees that tome on a shelf and incorporates it into an understanding of what a life of the mind entails. As an unshared e-book, it is never glimpsed, let alone handled and, possibly, someday read.

. . .

Data files can't replicate the lived-in feel of a piece of beloved art. To a child, a parent's dog-eared book is a sign of a mind at work and of the personal significance of that volume. A crisp JPEG of the cover design on a virtual shelf, however, looks the same whether it’s been reread 10 times or not at all. If, that is, it's ever even seen.

Wayne's article inspired me to reflect upon the implications of what we preserve and record and display--not only for ourselves, but our offspring.


Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we'd love to hear your input!

Dina L. Relles is a writer with work in The Atlantic, Atticus Review, River TeethSTIR JournalBrain, Child Magazine, Full Grown People, The Manifest-Station, The Washington PostThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. You can find more of her work on her own site, Commonplaceand you can connect with her on Twitter She lives in New York with her husband and children. Dina is a former blog editor for Literary Mama.

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Thank you so much for gathering this terrific collection of articles. I have been taking my time and reading each one. A lot of great stuff to think about and a lot of encouragement to start the new year off.
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