Weekend Edition – Speed bumps, identity crises, and shorts plus good reads and writing tips

Every once in a while, I hit a speed bump.

six by nineI have been a writer since the age of seven when I penned (or, rather, penciled) my first entry in my first journal. I have been writing ever since. Every once in a while, however, I hit a bit of a speed bump. For one reason or another, my certainty about being a writer wavers.

In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series, the super “Earth computer” works out that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42. That’s all well and good, but a bit useless if you don’t know what the actual question is. In a wild, last ditch effort to find out exactly what the ultimate question is, Arthur Dent (the book’s protagonist) pulls random Scrabble tiles out of a bag. Lining up the tiles, he finds the message, “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?” Clearly not very helpful.

Sometimes that’s how I feel about writing.

Usually, I have no doubt that writing is “my thing.” I am also very clear about why it’s so important and valuable, not just to me, but to humanity in general. But, now and again my cocky conviction wobbles and I’m suddenly wondering if maybe writing is a crazy thing to do. I worry that I can’t really understand why I do this thing or whether it matters.

But then I come to my senses. I remember that writing is not a science. It’s an art. It doesn’t need to be defined and categorized and explained. It just is. Writing does not need to justify itself. And, furthermore, I don’t need to justify being a writer.

After that, I get back to doing what comes naturally. I write.


What I’m Writing:

multiple personalities

Just how many “yous” are out there?

Though my workload for my marketing clients continues to keep the vast majority of my writing time tied up, I have managed to stay on track with my bi-weekly column for the local paper. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet (and its corresponding deadline). It gives me the chance to craft a different kind of story and express my own ideas instead of a client’s.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to share my latest pieces with you. You see, up to this point I’ve been posting my columns on my marketing site under the heading “Off-topic.” I have decided, however, that this is not the right approach. I need a better way to manage my multiple online identities.

Though I make my living as a marcom (marketing and communications) writer, I aspire to write fiction, publish my column, and handle the odd feature assignment. I need to figure out the smartest way to blend (or not) these different aspects of what I do into a cohesive and sensible online presence. I haven’t figured out the solution yet, but I’m leaning towards creating another site or blog where I can post my personal and creative writing.

I bring this up because I wonder who else might have a similar problem. Do you have multiple writer personalities? Most writers I know fill a number of different writing roles in order to make ends meet and/or keep their creative muscles limber. If you’re such a person, how do you manage your public persona?


What I’m Reading:

Last week I mentioned how much I enjoyed Robin Sloan’s Kindle Single, Ajax Penumbra 1969. This “follow-up prequel” (is that a thing?) to his novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore was the perfect fix for a reader who wasn’t quite ready to leave Sloan’s quirky and hopeful world.

This week, I pulled a beautiful book off my shelf. Lyra’s Oxford (affiliate link) is one several stand alone short stories that Phillip Pullman has written as companion pieces to his extremely successful His Dark Materials trilogy (affiliate link). This tiny, clothbound tome is beautifully designed and includes a fold-out map and some other printed ephemera on the last few pages of the book. It’s a gorgeous edition that delivers all the sensory pleasures that we bookish types adore.

While I did enjoy the story, I enjoyed its presentation more. I wanted to love the story as much as I loved the trilogy, but it didn’t capture my imagination in the same way. The ideas in the trilogy are so big, I can see why it would be challenging to reduce them to a scale suitable for a short story.

What I found most interesting about reading these two pieces was the concept of creating short stories and even novellas around a larger work. I like the idea of an author being able to dip back into a particular world or collection of characters, even if creating a whole new novel doesn’t make sense. I was also struck by the difference in (perceived) value associated with the two “shorts” that I read. Ajax Penumbra 1969 clocks in at about sixty pages and is available as either a Kindle Single ($2.99) or an Audible audio edition ($3.30). Lyra’s Oxford is also approximately sixty pages long, but is more expensive ranging between $5.98 and $13.45 across five formats including paperback, Kindle, hardcover, CD, and audio download.

I’m honestly not sure where I’m going with this (yet). I just found it interesting and thought you might, too.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin no self

So – here’s to writing for yourself and finding your public. 

Happy writing & happy reading! See you on the other side.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Men in Tree Photo Credit: Andy M Taylor via Compfight cc
Six by Nine Photo Credit: adamgerhard via Compfight cc

22 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Speed bumps, identity crises, and shorts plus good reads and writing tips

  1. Nice to come across someone else who started writing early. I don’t know how old I was ? about 5 perhaps when I made up a story and persuaded my aunt to copy it out for me. As far a s I am concerned writing is a much a part of me as breathing or eating. People sometimes ask “Are you still writing?” meaningless really. “Are you still working on your novel/” or “are you still writing short stories for magazines?” would be more meaningful. Or even “Have you published anything recently?”

    • A writer is always writing – even when they are only thinking about their stories. That’s all part of the process. We’re always working on some part of the process.

  2. I also started writing when I was really young. I think I was about seven too; I think I penned what I didn’t know was called fanfiction yet, as a follow up to the original Star Wars movie trilogy (funny thing is that a couple ideas were actually used in follow up official novels). When I was a child, I also dabbed into poetry, which I don’t do anymore.

    Regarding writing persona, I originally thought about publishing my original fiction under a pen name (I hope to self publish a science fiction children novella this year) but realized that I would likely end talking about it on my blog so I’ll go with my real name, which I use for my blogging and my academic writing. At this stage, I believe that my academic nonfiction writing will remain my biggest type of writing/publishing, so that makes sense.

    As for my leisure writing, in the form of roleplaying on a Star Wars board, I write under the characters’ names for the account, but I don’t hide any of them (some writers choose to keep certain characters a secret, but I don’t, also because I find it too much work to have to remember not to say it’s me). If roleplaying comes up as a topic on my blog, I wouldn’t have any problem to speak of my own experience and even use my characters as example.

    The few days I don’t write for my papers/books and/or blog, I’ll still be found writing roleplay posts anyway, because I always need to be writing one way or the other. It’s as necessary as food and water.

    I’m still behind on any reading, besides reading blog posts. If all goes well I’ll finally finish reading the 2 books I started in February in April! A woman can dream, right?

    On the writing side, I managed to get back into better and more consistent blogging, got another publication out, gave my guest lecture and am working on the final stage of my upcoming book, before sending the draft to my publisher. I’m fighting with the formatting. I was thinking about starting writing my next paper at the same time, but I realized that my brain needed to finish the formatting to feel uncluttered and refreshed for the next papers.

    Oops, this turned out much longer than I expected! Have a good weekend! 🙂

    • I love how your early writing dovetails so nicely with the types of projects you’re working on today. That’s very cool. 🙂

  3. I was once told by a Native American man that being a story teller and being a flute player (of which I am both) are very noble callings. That the words and the reeds choose their players and it is an honor. I began story telling before I can remember (apparently when I was 2 I told my mother the dragons had messed up my toys…I now have 3 published novels in a dragon series, go figure!) and I began playing the flute in 8th grade.

    This really doesn’t explain anything and since I write everything under my own name, I’ve just started a page on Facebook with my father (a minister and author) and am going from there. I thought it was a nice sentiment though, especially since I’m part Native American and it seemed like a connection at the time.

    Good luck with figuring it all out!

    • I love dragons. My daughter had a dragon for a pen pal when she was younger. Inga would tell us all about her adventures with her dragon family – going to classes up in the mountains, meeting mermaids, learning to play an instrument (difficult for dragons what with those long claws and all).

      I love the combination of storyteller & flute player. Sounds somehow a bit Renaissance. 😉

      • Like a minstrel! I love it.
        I may need to steal the dragon pen pal bit..although since I write dragon novels and my daughter (19 months old) is already telling me about fairy friends perhaps a unicorn would be good to mix in.
        Did Inga learn the harp or a trombone maybe? Those sound like good instruments for a dragon to me.

  4. Hi Jamie, How can it be that I love reading and writing and hate Scrabble? I’m learning Schrivner, so thank you for the link. BTW – do you have recommendations for dialog? Thanks, Silent

    • Ha! I can’t remember the last time I played Scrabble and I refuse to start on “Words with Friends” on Facebook. (I hear it’s absolutely addicting!)

      On the other hand, I LOVE Scrivener & am always finding new ways to use it to organize my ideas and works in progress. I found it really helpful to go through the tutorial that exists within the software as a project.

      Dialog … something I need to work on, actually. I don’t have any specific resources, but I’ll keep my eye out.!

  5. Jamie if I haven’t left a comment before to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts but in particular your weekend edition then here it it I ❤ your posts! I know we often feel alone when we hit these "speed bumps" I've been hitting them a lot lately because I want to complete the novel I have been working on for the last 9 months or so (on and off) – frustration is building – but at the same time it's the work I do as a social media marketer that pays the bills. Yet it is like you say I am grateful I get to write everyday 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your note. I’m so glad you enjoy the posts and especially these weekend editions. Confession: these are my favorite ones to write. 😉

      Though I don’t want to think of anyone else suffering the angst of the speed bump, I’m also glad to know I’m not alone there. There’s a creative cycle at play, I’m sure. It can just be frustrating when we can’t get enough perspective to see it!
      Hang in and keep writing!

  6. I really like how you “explain” writing. I’m passionate about writing too and I also write since I’m a little girl so your text seemed to perfect to me!

    • I love hearing from writers who have “always” written. Seems like it is truly a passion that is in our blood. 🙂 Welcome!

  7. Pingback: Book Update + Writing, Feminism, Disability and Media Links | Natacha Guyot

  8. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Blissfully Immature plus Writing Tips and Good Reads | Live to Write - Write to Live

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