Graduations are bitter sweet. I loved my two years in the Masters of Fine Art program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I met many wonderful writers, both those that sat beside me in classes and those that taught us – but from all those creative individuals, I have learned a great deal.
It is sad to move on, leaving a fabulous cohort and regular residencies behind. Cambridge was a hub of creativity and vibrated with people and ideas. Yet, it’s the possibilities of the next horizon, so they say, which is wildly exciting.
I am an extremely planned person, so I know my next few steps, but at the same time the possibilities astound me. I’m open for whatever may come next. I’m thinking PhD, new writing assignments and my next memoir, which is already in the works.
I’m the kind of person that thrives on activity. I may not be working hard for university classes after this, but I’ll be putting that same determination into whatever is to come. And don’t worry – I’ll keep you posted!
Graduation speech given. Degree received. Now on to the next adventure!
Happy writing, my friends!
Happy Fourth of July to all of you American writers! I wish you all a great day of celebrating the country you love to live in. I love to travel to the United States and I really enjoyed my time going to Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts. Although I’m going to be finished school this year, I’m sure I’ll be back in the United States a lot in the future.
“Only in America can someone start with nothing and achieve the American Dream. That’s the greatness of this country.”
I hope inspiration comes your way this Fourth of July!
Here are ten quotes by great contemporary writers on topics regarding rejection, writers block, and not just the want, but the need to be writer. These words encourage me and I hope they do the same for you. These quotes will enlighten you to the fact that all of the most successful writers have dealt with and still deal with their fair share of rejection and writers block. However their love of writing never faltered and they never gave up. All successful writers learned the hard way that getting rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t talented.
Nobody chooses to be a writer because it’s easy! As long as you love the process and take every chance you can to improve, you have the ability to be a great writer.
“I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
“With a book I am the writer and I am also the director and I’m all of the actors and I’m the special effects guy and the lighting technician: I’m all of that. So if it’s good or bad, it’s all up to me.”
-George R. R. Martin
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.”
“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”
“I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90 percent of my first drafts … so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90 percent chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating. I also like to remind myself of something my dad said in [response] to writers’ block: ‘Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block.’”
“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
“As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says ‘you are nothing’, I will be a writer.”
-Hunter S Thomson
“When you’re a writer, you hear your internal critic, and that’s really hard to get over. And then sometimes you hear critiques from classmates and stuff. But when a book comes out, it’s just hundreds of opinions and you have to learn to separate out the ones you want to listen to or figure out many you want to listen to.”
“Don’t ever let the other stuff get in the way of your inherent skills as a kick-butt storyteller. Move the reader, make them happy and sad and excited and scared. Make them stare into space after they’ve put the book down, thinking about the tale that’s become a part of them.”
“It’s not easy. I got lots of rejections when I first started out. If you want to write, you have to believe in yourself and not give up. You have to do your best to practice and get better.”
I have been reading Edmonton Woman Magazine for years, so when they offered me a column in their glossy pages, I was honored to accept. My first article in my Alexis Marie Uncensored column was published in their May/June 2015 issue. The topic: Motherhood, just in time for Mother’s Day.
While I could write a book on my almost six years’ worth of practice being Mom, I chose to focus on what has changed and what has stayed the same over the years. In the end, moms are still crazy busy, they still put their kids first though take time for themselves and their careers, and moms still drink crazy potions their children mix together. Being a mom really is the best job.
The July/August 2015 issue is just around the corner. No spoiler alerts but I will share about my article here once it hits the newsstands.
As I diligently work away at some of my big writing projects, it’s always nice to pause and celebrate the smaller works that have made their way out into the world. Here are some of my publications from the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015:
- “The Quiet Rebuild” Portraits – Bellingham Review, Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA
- “Legacy of Love,” Perspectives Magazine, TSC Alliance
- “Her Opinion: Art and the Canadian Landscape,” Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada, Anthology
- “Her Threads: Spotlight on Current Artistic Practice,” Women’s Art Museum Society of Canada, Anthology
- “How to Honour a Bereaved Mother on Mother’s Day,” Today’s Parent Magazine
- “The Tiny Voice that Saved Me,” essay in the Three Minus One anthology, She Writes Press
- “NaNoWriMo: An Exciting Challenge for Writers,” Branchline Magazine, Canadian Author’s Association, Alberta Branch
What have you been working on lately?
Writers amongst other artists have the amazing ability to challenge, question, critique and explore our society.
– What do we believe as a people?
– Why do we believe this?
– Is there another way?
Many individuals have mixed feelings about writing about controversial topics and taboo subjects. There is a part of me that relates to that and wants to keep the peace, not rock the boat, and ensure everyone is happy. That’s the boring side of me though and she often takes backseat to the other part that’s BOLD and COURAGEOUS.
I want my work to matter and because of this I need to write about what matters to me first and foremost. My topics often seen unpopular or reflect a concealed part of accepted human behavior. For example, for the last two and a half years I have been writing about the death of my son, managing grief and finding healing. It never fails to amaze me how these topics make people uncomfortable – unless they have lived through them. People who have lost a loved one speak my language and I to them. Those are the people who I write for with this focus on bereavement.
The different topic I’m embarking on with my new writing at the moment is also somewhat taboo yet equally important I believe to bring into the open. That’s what I care about: opening up topics that should be talked about, breaking the silence. I ask myself all the time: Why are these things hidden? Should they be? What will happen if I talk about them? Will I tarnish my reputation? Spontaneously combust? Will my work be accepted? How can I change the world?
Here are four principles that provide internal navigation for me in writing about difficult subject matter:
– When you are just beginning to write, do not think about who will read your words. Write from the heart.
– Tell the truth. The truth is scary but needed in our day and age. Your work will matter and stand the test of time if it reflects the time it which was penned.
– If it matters to you, it will likely matter to other people. They are who you write for.
– If it crashes and burns, who cares? You only live once and might as well give it all you’ve got.
What helps you when you have a challenging topic on your mind? How do you get your thoughts down on paper and out into the world?
How do I feel finishing my first year as a creative writing MFA grad student? Thank you for asking.
- Ready for a vacation!
When I reflect on my first year at Lesley University, it’s apparent that I like to challenge myself. Oh the leisurely life of a slacker… that has never been me. In my first year I have experienced creative and craft breakthrough, honed my voice and forced myself to edit like a samurai. It has really has paid off. I have developed an awesome work ethic when it comes to my writing. It’s not always fun, but I sit my but in the chair (or stand at my make-shift standing desk) and get to work. I love being productive and that is a reward in itself many days.
My MFA program has not been all work and no play. I LOVE (love, love, love) my school residencies and count many of my peers dear friends. Sometimes I daydream about them, wonder what they are up to in their part of the world, hope that their writing is going fabulously and of course eagerly anticipate seeing them at the next residency.
Over the last year, as a writer I have learned:
- To never give up
- Following your passions involves sacrifice
- Sleep is often optional
- The harder you work the better you become
Over the last year, as a human being I have learned:
- To see the beauty in every person and hope for the best
- When busy with your passions, make every moment with loved ones quality time
- Regular, boring life can inspires greatness
- Family time is never optional
The craziest part of my exhaustion after the first year? I am already considering my PhD options. Go figure!
This coffee mug was given to me by my second semester mentor, Pam Petro. It’s become my, “I’m a writer” mug, and I love it.
First of all, welcome guests to my new writer & author website! It has been a serious labor of love getting this site off the ground and I am so thankful for my amazing husband who devoted countless hours to learning code and making this dream a reality. Thank you Aaron!
Now, onto exciting business! My friend and fellow writer, Sabrina Fedel, challenged me to the “My Writing Process” blog tour. Sabrina is a MFA in Creative Writing Alum from Lesley University, where I am currently a grad student. Was I up for the blog tour challenge? Absolutely!
1. What am I working on?
I am on the final leg of editing my memoir about my pregnancy following the death of my second child. Editing this book has been challenging because I must constantly place myself back in the midst of an emotionally devastating time of my life – but I’m almost done! I am also working on essays for multiple publications including my ongoing column in Flurt Magazine. I write a great deal every single day and in a wide range of topics from art, grief and healing, self-esteem, the writer’s life, social commentary and profiles on interesting people. Not to mention blogging: www.AlexisMarieArt.com, www.WantedChosenPlanned.com, www.AlexisMarieWrites.com, and soon www.AlexisMariePhoto.com – I blog a lot! I find all this writing exciting and the variety refreshing. Also in the mix, I am in the planning stages of my next book… but more on that in months to come.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is the single most important question that every writer must define for themselves in order to be a success.
Regarding my current memoir, I believe what sets my work apart is its raw authenticity and vulnerability. I show myself at my worst; the darkest moments where I struggle and fail as a human being as I mourn my child and wrestle with my marriage and faith. It is scary to imagine others reading my book because it exposes so much, but at the same time I believe that the honesty I portray will resonate with others who have also lost a child and those that have experienced any kind of trauma. In the end, I hope this vulnerability will inspire and help readers as they navigate their own path to healing.
In the other writing that I do, the articles, essays, reviews, interviews; I believe my work makes people stop and ponder and even just laugh at life. These things are essentially me and are traced along each letter of every piece of my work.
3. Why do I write what I do?
In many ways I believe my current writing on bereavement and art for healing chose me, not the other way around. When my son died, he gave me a voice, passion and something important to say. That’s why I write what I do, it’s a legacy for my son birthed from empathy for others and a desire to be an encouragement.
At the same time, I do not want my work to be solely defined by this one niche. There is a lot I have to say and these new directions can be seen in all the current writing I am doing. I will always write from the place of a healing individual, because that is who I am, but I also have a cheeky side to my new work that I am excited to develop.
4. How does my writing process work?
My process is simple, really. I have 24 hours a day, just like everyone else. I say to myself, “Let’s see how much I can get accomplished,” and make a game out of it. If I have six hours to work but eight hours worth of work to do, I push myself and see how productive I can be.
My working process is like a race; sometimes I sprint, sometimes I jog, every once in a while I walk. My bad days are a slow limp – but I am always moving. I never stop. This relentless determination is a trait I got from my Mom. There is literally no stopping me and I will never give up.
In a passion/business like writing, perseverance is key.
While challenging myself, I always strive to be positive and accept that I am doing the best I can. It’s not always easy to show myself grace and understanding. I’m a pretty strict boss and I get along quite well with the drill sergeant in me. She barks out orders because there are always a plethora of deadlines and this energy fuels me to push myself to the limit.
My office chair is always warm; I sit down and get to work. Each and every day. I don’t give myself time for procrastination. It’s this ‘focus and get it done’ work ethic that energizes me. I love the feeling I get when I’ve accomplished something and that reward is highly motivating.
That’s it! That’s my writing life in a nutshell.
So, how about you? Are you up for the challenge? What is your writing process?
(Comment below or post on your own site and then share the link here.)
Here are some of my friend’s writing processes:
I am just about to finish my second residency as a creative writing grad student. I loved being on campus with other writers and immersed in seminars that stimulate my art and hone my craft. It has been a fabulous break from working alone in my office (or alone in my art studio).
Once residency is over I know I will be headed back to work in the required isolation of my passion/profession. I’m already feeling a little lonely just thinking about it – but I have a plan!
Ideas for Writers to Annex the Isolation:
- Work in a place where people will surround you. A coffee shop. A library. On the train. There is a children’s play café I like to go to where my kids can do their thing and I can write. It’s a nice environment because we still get to interact frequently yet I somehow still manage to get a lot done there.
- Be a part of an online community of writers. I feel lucky to have multiple groups on Facebook where I can go and interact with other writers. These places are touchstones of virtual camaraderie.
- Be a part of a flesh-and-blood community of writers. This is a challenge for me since I have little kids and not as much flexibility to go out every night – but my resolution is to pencil in the events around my city and make a good effort to get out of the house. I am a part of the Canadian Authors’ Association and the Writers Guild of Alberta. These are my communities. What are yours?
- Make keeping in touch with others a part of your writerly discipline. I plan to write emails, text messages and cards (gotta love the hand written card) to my friends and fellow writers. It takes effort but is worth it. The goal should be to encourage, celebrate and commiserate together and to form friendships that will benefit both parties. Cheerleaders and honest critics are like gold.
- The most important point: Make peace with being alone by recognizing the difference between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is a gift. Being alone in your skin and comfortable there, solitude is the place where life’s noise can be hushed and true focus and even inspiration attained. Solitude recognizes that while physically separate from others we are never truly alone and that the love from those that care about us always remains close.
Are their any ideas that I missed? How do you stay sane as a writer (as any kind of creative person) during the hours of solitary work? Let’s brainstorm!