Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading

Welcome to this Saturday Edition of What We’re Writing and Reading.

We’re taking a little detour on the weekends now to share some of what we’re up to with our writing (when we’re not here) and what we’re into with our reading (around the web). We’ll also pull back the curtain a little to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what went into a piece.

We hope you enjoy this little diversion and encourage you to share your own posts and picks in the comments.

Happy writing! Happy reading! 


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: It’s Friday night as I write this. My daughter and beau are rough-housing in the other room and my two cats  – Cinder & Bella – are waiting patiently for their dinner. I’m coming off what feels like the fifth or sixth week in a row of hardcore, brain-draining copywriting projects. To say that I feel a little fuzzy is a major understatement. I feel like my muse is nursing a hangover on the heels of a serious bout of insomnia and sleep deprivation. She’s not looking good.

Fingers crossed, I will catch a bit of a break after next week, and I have to admit that my inner creative writer is fairly  trembling in anticipation. Even my usually dependable Morning Pages have fallen by the wayside, so I’m long overdue for some noodling time. Until then, however, I continue along, nose-to-grindstone and grateful for the work and the lovely clients. Tomorrow is another day and next week is another week.

What I’m Writing: I’ve been wrapping up the website content for a credit reporting agency (which has been an enlightening experience given that I’m shopping for a home and the bulk of this agency’s business is servicing mortgage brokers and lenders). I’ve also been pulling together a research paper/ebook for one of my favorite marketing clients.

I didn’t have time to write for my own blog this week, but I’m working on a column that will appear in my local paper in a week or two.

question mark circleI HAVE A QUESTION: I often wonder (and sometimes worry) that all the marcom (marketing & communications) writing I’m doing might negatively affect my ability to write creative nonfiction and fiction. On the one hand, I believe that “writing is writing” and any form of the craft will help me improve. On the other hand, perhaps the marcom writing puts me at risk of losing my creative writer’s voice. What do you think? Anyone else out there in the same quandry?

adventure blue carbuncleWhat I’m Reading: I’m happy to report that although I’ve often been working until midnight, I’m still reading a little each night. The funny thing is – though I crawl to bed feeling like I can barely keep my eyes open, once I’m a page or so into reading, I suddenly get a second wind and feel like I could stay up all night, nestled comfortably between the pages of my book.

In addition to my nightly reading, I enjoyed an audio book of the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that it was my first time reading any of Doyle’s work, but I’m happy to report that I found it charming. It was fun to read something that I wouldn’t normally pick up (it was a freebie for members).

And then, of course, there were the blog posts – all the lovely blog posts. 🙂

7 Fatal (But Avoidable) Mistakes Freelancer Writers Make by @tomewer (For more along these lines, you can check out my two-part series on the secrets of successful freelance writers.)

7 Ways to Get Smart(er) by @demianfarnworth via @copyblogger (Because you can never be too smart, can you?)

Hey, Kid: Thoughts For The Young Oddballs We Need So Badly  by @nprmonkeysee (Let your inner geek child come out and play. We need all the geeks we can get.)

Isaac Asimov’s Fan Mail to Young Carl Sagan via @brainpicker (Literature and letter writing – lovely.)

If Hemingway Tweeted by @PettitCarl (An interesting exploration of how participating in social media might impact our writing. Funny, too.)

The Frazzled Writer: 5 Strategies for Alleviating the Guilt  by @tglong (Ditch the guilt. It’s not doing you any good.)

What Inspires Me: Amare and Things That Go Bump in the Night @annhandley (Most people know Ann as a marketing dynamo and the face of Marketing Profs, but she is also a mom, a dog lover, and a wonderful writer. This evocative piece made me want to get out my notebook and pen.)

And my favorite writing quote of the week:

“… if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

– Madeleine L’Engle 

(Hat tip to @wellfedpoet for that one!)

And, finally, this little gem from Grant Snider, featured on the New York Times: 


P.S. Just one more. 😉 Couldn’t resist this series of photos of Grumpy Cat at his very own book signing:

grumpy cat

NOW … Go write!

Question Mark Image Credit: Leo Reynolds


Deborah Lee Luskin: As always, I’m amazed at how productive my colleagues are. So, this reminds me to remind myself that every writer is different, everyone’s process is different, and comparing myself to how other writers do it is as unhelpful as

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

comparing myself to how other women look. So I won’t go there.

I’ve been silent on these Saturday pages because I’d just be writing the same thing week after week: more progress on my novel. When I’m this deep into a book, I think I’m a pretty boring person. Basically, I’m either thinking about what I’m going to write, writing, or thinking about what I’ve just written. I do this while hanging laundry, picking berries, plucking chickens, and other activities of daily living on my farm. But this week I did a little calculating: Since starting over (again) on June 2, I’ve written over 280 pages, and the end of this very incomplete, very sloppy copy is in sight!

I’ve completed about five books (so far) in my life, so this process is mildly familiar and very exciting. I’ve been thinking about this book for years, and I finally feel as if it’s one I can tell – I am telling – and the writing is now fun, the narrative problems ones I can solve. So, I don’t really want to go out, invite friends in, watch movies, or even think about the state of the world (maybe especially not think about the state of the world). I just want to get to the end of this draft. And for the first time, it seems like I can and will. That said, I did host my family for a celebration of my dad’s 88th birthday this week.

I finally finished reading Dear Life, a collection of short stories by Alice Munro, and now I’m reading The Tie That Binds by Kent Haruf. And the usual assortment of newspapers and magazines as well as a few posts that come my way, like the one about Jane Austen’s portrait to be printed on the 10-pound note in Britain. And today, I’ll get dressed and go forth to build my audience at Bookstock, the literary festival I’ve been invited to speak at in Woodstock, Vermont. And, as always, I’m thinking of my next post for Live to Write – Write to Live. Stay tuned!

16 thoughts on “Saturday Edition – What We’re Writing and Reading

  1. I enjoyed reading your posts, and will plan to write something during this weekend. English is not my first language, it takes me a long time and a lot of courages to write something and let others read what I have been writing. I just set up an account at WordPress a few days ago, with a hope to share my experience in life and career. Here is the link to my blog:

    Thanks for visiting!

    • Congratulations on your new blog, Yan. It does take courage to get out there. I hope you stick with it and enjoy the journey. Glad to have you here.

  2. Jamie, in response to your question, I don’t think one form of writing dulls another – or not if you write creatively throughout, as you do. I think that it may even help, because you’re still practising the craft and flexing the muscles, and just waiting on the starting block to be up and running as soon as you have the time. I’ve worked in so many disciplines (not as a writer but as a visual artist) and I used to worry about ttp:// too – but I’ve found that the only thing that makes creative work difficult is not doing anything creative. I’ve found the if you pour yourself creatively into whatever it is you do, it kind of stokes the fire for every other project you have and can even help in surprising ways.
    I have to tell you while I’m here that I love reading your own blog and your contributions to nhwn – there’s always so much in them and they’re so delightfully written. And by the way on your thoughtfully devised readers’ survey, I was the one who confessed to trying to develop writing as an art form….. something that Grant Snider has done with hilarious success – thanks for that, it’s wonderful! If you’re intrigued, look at my post The Art of Giving.
    Thanks again for inspiration, great advice and a lot of entertainment.

    • Hello, again!
      I really enjoyed your post The Art of Giving. What a wonderful event and concept. Is that your artwork at the top of the post?

      I’m also glad to hear your thoughts on the blending of different kinds of writing. I think you have hit on something very important: “… the only thing that makes creative work difficult is not doing anything creative.”

      Even when I am not making time to write creatively, I find other ways to explore my creative side. I love playing with Instagram for instance ( Though my picture are only a dabbling sort of effort, I get so much satisfaction each time I post one. I take great pleasure in saying, “I made this.”

      And it gives me even more pleasure to have someone tell me, “I love what you made,” so big thanks to you for taking a moment to say such kind things about my posts here on Live to Write – Write to Live. They are definitely one of my favorite assignments. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for sharing your post. Here’s to real & invisible horses alike. They both bring magic into our lives.

      • What lovely Instagrams! I particularly love the butterfly. Yes, the artwork on the post is mine, one of a series I’m developing. I think one will have to feature horses, but not invisible ones this time…
        Thanks for the reply, and as you say, here’s to horses – and to all the living things we share our lives with. (Just been drawing a snail.)

  3. great stuff–many thx….
    since moving to Taos, NM (and trust me, it’s not quite of the united states), i’ve started a blog–despite swearing i never would–about living in the high desert. i’m trying to post 3 times per week; at the moment i’m working on a piece “The Begging Spot”. just finished reading “The Journals of John Cheever” (devastating content and yet beyond dazzling writing) and headway into Flannery O’Connor’s letters “The Habit of Being” and David Foster Wallace’s essays….

    • Taos – it sounds so romantic. I have only visited NM briefly while on a thirty-three-day road trip with my family. I was just out of the sixth grade and the four of us drove all the way around the country in a Volkswagen Rabbit. I have vague recollections of the desert – the seeming stillness that was, in truth, teeming with life.

      Good luck with “The Begging Spot,” and please feel free to share a link to your blog next time you stop by.

      PS – Thanks for the reminder about David Foster Wallace’s essays. I’ve been meaning to check those out.

      • ok, so i highly recommend reading: “consider the lobster” collection of DFW essays…so off-the-charts, beyond ditto-infinity exceptional, and a good way to begin him (for ex. his novel “infinite jest”? is wicked complex/mind as well as blowing/genius).i’m about a 1/3 way thru and need to start over–very
        here’s my link (thx for asking). (can you tell i’m wicked new to blogging?)

  4. Jamie, your question is one which did trouble me a couple of years back. I was working on a PhD and my supervisor kept saying my writing style was not academic enough. I always wanted to be a novelist and was worried that the obsessive intensity of writing a thesis in academic style might ruin my voice and make it inaccessible (some academic writing is readable, but some is really not…). I did not understand why a thesis should not be an enjoyable read as well as rigorously researched. In the end the issue became moot as I had to leave due to ill health, but I think that disconnect between how I wanted to write and how I felt I was being forced to write did contribute to the stress condition that was half of that health problem. So, not a really helpful comment as I have no advice, not having solved my own problem! Just to say that you’re not alone with that kind of concern 🙂

    • Hello!
      First, I hope that you are well now. I’m sorry bad health interrupted your academic pursuits.

      Though, like me, you don’t have any definitive answers, I love your additional question about why any type of writing (including a thesis) should be anything but a pleasure to read. I definitely bring that sensibility to my marketing work, encouraging my clients to adopt a conversational, “human” voice for their copy and showing them how to use stories to bring their message to life.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. Glad to know I’m not alone!

  5. Congratulations on your progress, Deborah! You’re my hero 🙂 I feel lucky if I fill two pages of my journal these days. I can’t imagine tackling a novel.

    Jamie, I was pleasantly surprised to see your question as I’ve actually been thinking from the opposite direction – should I attempt freelance work to broaden my writing skills? Would the precision and research and “voice” required for writing for clients help me with creative writing, simply by expanding my range, by inspiring ideas via the content, and by forcing me to learn and abide by the rules (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, composition structure) that I often toss aside? For all those reasons, from my perspective, I say no, the marcom writing will not negatively impact your creative writing, except in the sense that your marcom work steals time from creative writing. As far as skills and inspiration go, I would think your marcom writing could inform and deepen your creative writing, as well as give you enough space from your “fun” writing that you end up craving it. And it’s always good to sit down at the keyboard with a craving to write 🙂

    Also, LOVE the Hemingway piece. I haven’t been tweeting much lately because I’ve been processing and marinating and ruminating on life experiences that are currently too close to write about. I was grateful to read Pettit’s treatment of allowing that rumination to happen rather than just bursting forth with it and ruining a good story by writing it prematurely (and in 140 characters). Thanks for that link.

    • Hello, Andrea! 🙂

      Like dapplegrey above, you’ve hit on something really important – that the biggest negative impact my marcom writing has on my creative writing is that it steals time. That is SO true. I just need to learn how to steal it back!

      I’m glad you liked the Hemingway piece. It made me laugh while also making me think seriously about the question at hand. As writers, we are caught in a bit of crossfire when it comes to social media. Since we are prone to agonizing over each word we “publish” – even if only on a Facebook page or in a tweet – our participation feels like it carries extra responsibility. On the flip side, we need to be careful that our social writings don’t cannibalize our “real” writing – either by sucking the life out of ideas or stealing time away. It’s definitely something that bears more thought.

      And now – off to edit my column for next week’s paper. THAT’s some of my fun, creative writing. 🙂

      See you around the web!

  6. Jamie – got a giggle over your Muse’s condition.
    Grumpy Cat and a publishing roller coaster – how much more fun can we have…oh, great quote, too
    Deborah, nice to hear others have to let “books” ferment a while before writing them down.

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