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Writerly Roundup — February 2016

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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.



Photo by Jena Schwartz

Green-Eyed VerbsSarah Manguso, NY Times

Manguso deftly tackles that unflattering emotion writers oft wrestle with: envy. We are perennially faced with work we wish we'd written, success we wish we had. How does a writer heap her words onto the existing pile of seemingly perfect ones? How does anyone purport to create against the backdrop of prior genius--without imitation or channeling? With the purest intent to produce something true, something of one's own?

The way to honor great work is to love it, then turn away from it as you write.

. . .

All writers will envy other writers, other writing. No one who reads is immune. To write despite it I must implicate myself, to confess to myself, silently or on the page, that I am envious. The result of this admission is humility . . . A humble person, and only a humble person, is capable of praise, of allowing space in the world for the great work of others, and of working alongside it, trying to match it as an act of honor.

Why I'm Giving Up On Being Published, Woz Flint (@simplywoz), Brevity

Woz Flint writes for Brevity about another supremely relatable writerly phenomenon--that drive to write, not just for joy, not for the feeling of putting pen to page, but to chase that next byline. Flint describes how this actually stifled her writing--made it all struggle, no satisfaction. Her heartfelt, candid post reads like a manifesto--a commitment to reclaim the purity of her earliest motivations to write:

I long for the days when my words were only for me. Hidden in the pages of a messy journal where obscure ideas and characters were born.

So this is why I'm giving up on the idea of being published.

I will no longer write with an editor in mind.

When a Self-Declared Genius Asks You to Read His Masterpiece, Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet), Literary Hub

In this somewhat irreverent piece, Jeff Sharlet responds to a total stranger who implored upon him to review his manuscript. Morphing his reply into a platform to review the work he did intend to read--a new book by Ann Neumann, a new essay in VQR by Scott Korb, Alexander Chee's new novel, among others--he shares his honest take on the (unfortunate? inevitable?) role of friendship--virtual or otherwise--in sifting through the ample abyss of content:

I think that's how most writers—my friends, at least—read. We're not scholars, nor are we accountable to any "profession." We don't read what we "should" or even, necessarily, what's "best." We read by hope and hint and free association, because publishing isn't a meritocracy, it's a vast, often unjust and always clumsy empire of too many words, including our own. The writers I know survive through the friendship of fellow travelers; first, we read our friends.

On Not Writing: An Illustrated Guide to My AnxietiesIngrid Rojas Contreras, Electric Literature

This post on Electric Literature--part satire, part revelation--relays the author's obsession with tracking the time she spent "writing" in an effort to achieve optimal output. But she comes to question what is writing after all? Perhaps all that time we spend--our minds wandering, our bodies in motion or immobile, our memories forgetting and then remembering again--maybe it is all, in some way, writing:

So much of not writing is actually writing. A writer at rest may at all times be imperceptibly writing. It's possible even that the type of writing that we do that you will never see in order to produce the writing that you will see, it's possible that this type of writing happens at all hours and even in sleep.

This column will change your life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory, Oliver Burkeman (@oliverburkeman), The Guardian

I'll leave you with this pithy piece on persistence that's been making the rounds. Drawing a clever comparison to the Helsinki bus route, the author's takeaway is that when it feels as though the early stages of your creative work follow the same path as those who have come before, just "stay on the f*cking bus" and keep at it; eventually you will reach your unique destination.


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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