Pages of Awesome

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Importance of Not Writing

I spend way too much time coming up with creative titles. I also spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to find awesome pictures to go along with those titles.

But I digress.

Today I pulled out my single printed copy of the first ten chapters of The Chains of Hethra. Between and during classes I found myself engrossed in a story I hardly remembered being this good.

It was a real morale booster.

A lot of you probably know, or have noticed, that I've done very little writing on TCOH lately. I'd been very discouraged about the story already and after my marching band season started I was far too swamped to convince myself that I was writing something worth reading and that I should keep at it.

So I didn't write. Not a word.

For months.

On one hand this was really awful. I'd planned to finish my first draft before summer was over. The idea was to edit all throughout the school year. Pretty good plan right? Finish the bulk of the intensive stuff and edit, which doesn't take nearly as much time per session, while I was in the busiest part of the year.

But I didn't.

So I got very far behind.

However, as I've been reading through my own novel I've realized that this long break from writing has helped in ways I couldn't have known before. I have a fresh take on the story (even though I still have future plot problems) and it actually looks good.

Don't know how many of you have tried writing a book. But after a while, you've written so much into it that it all just looks like garbage to you.

This break helped me see it with better eyes. And so I'm excited to write the rest of it.

So I'm going to be a major proponent of taking breaks, if anything from the project you're working on. Some people say to write everyday. That's cool, I don't do it, but at least trade off what projects you're working on. I myself find it very hard to simply plow through a manuscript--maybe I'm the only one.

Pros of Taking Breaks
  • Encouragement/Motivation - When I read back through it, I was encouraged that this was a good story. And that gave me motivation to keep at it, which I don't get from many other places.
  • Fresh Take on Characters and Plot - If you're having issues with the storyline (like I was) taking a break seems to help a lot. It frees your mind of all the useless fog and opens it up to the actual story. You see it from new eyes and can often make better guesses as to what will fit the story. Same goes for characters.
  • Time to Live Life - Yeah, I needed some time away from the computer :-)
  • Batteries are Now Ready to Go - Breaks are a major energy re-filler. Knock out another chunk while it lasts!
So this is why I feel it's important to take breaks from writing in general. But for some, simply from their main project.


To the end,

PS: I just started using Gimp. It's AWESOME!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And So it Begins...

Summer, I regret to inform you all, is officially over.

Cue wailing.

Sadly, it's true. Today was my first day of my sophomore year. Pretty crazy. Summer has ended and another year has begun. Where did the time go? ::dramatic sigh::

But! Don't let the summer party end! Let's celebrate our summers!

My summer was pretty jammed packed. My highlight was the camp I went to with my church called Crossings at Johnathan's Creek. If you've ever been to a Crossings camp, or any Church camp for that matter, you know how crazy and awesome it is.

This year, was pretty special.

My parents, as some of you know, are in the ministry (and by extension so am I). We've been at this church for several months and this was the first major event. We hopped into our sweet newly air-conditioned van and drove down to south western Kentucky.

The ride was pretty fun. Lots of music, chatting, interesting stops at restaurants. Took several hours but it was so worth it. Eventually we reached the camp.

We were met by a crazy staff waving around swimming noodles. They motioned us to halt and ripped our doors open. After some more craziness, they bowed their heads to pray with and for us. It was then I knew: it'd be a great week.

They staffers shot some hilarious video of us then shot us off to our cabins. All in all, I couldn't have thought of a better way to start the week.

The rest of the week consisted of awesome worship experiences led by a great up-and-coming artist named Bo Harris (aka Smooth Java). Seriously, check this guy out. He's going places.

The preaching was fiery and filled with God's power and passion. Rob Turner is quite possibly the best preacher I have ever heard. He doesn't hold back any punches and stands firmly on the truth of God's Word, and all of its grit. We had some extremely hilarious and silly mornings followed by intense and enjoyable POIs (Points of interest, basically....the fun activities). They ranged from ziplining to rock climbing, to biking to tubing.

The theme of the week was Adopted. Four days: We are Orphans, A Father adopts us, He takes us into a family, We become heirs, and we have a future (if filled with suffering). The central foundations of the Gospel presented in heart stopping and sword-raising ways.

At the end of every worship time our church got together into a time of close revelation and reflection. We talked about the sermon and how God was working in our lives. Tears, laughter, and Holy Spirit beyond comprehension. These were the highlights of the week.

Several in our group met Christ for the first time and we all felt a sense of refreshment and revival. The camp "high" is still running with most of us weeks after the event and just in time.

Bring on school.

Today was my first day. Time to change the world.

"Faith without works is dead."

"How can they hear without a preacher?"
Who's with me?

Oh right....and how was your summer?

And a random pic. Who can guess what it is?

To the end,

Monday, August 2, 2010

School Chat - Required Reading

So as you've all noticed I have slacked in updating my blog. Not to worry, I've been busy with all sorts of important things. Church stuff, family stuff, band camp, and of course....the ever enjoyable summer reading project.

I find myself asking all the time: how on earth do such horrible books end up becoming required reading?

I'm sure the majority of the reading population would disagree with me but writers such as Charles Dickens, Tim O'Brien, Alcott, Gail Giles, etc aren't very good . Dickens was good for his time, but let's face's no longer the 18th century. O'Brien wrote the most ridiculous piece of garbage I've ever read, shamming all kinds of moral standards. And Gail Giles, while succeeding in writing a good story, is nowhere near the heights of what I would consider "good writing".

So here we go, I'm going to rant.

Why does the educational system require its students of the English language to read books that are counter productive to much of the modern world? Weird phrasing, I know, but let me simplify it.

What is the purpose of a Language Arts class? (Not a literature class)

Is it to teach students how to write? Is it to help them understand writing? Is it to help them understand the uses of language?

Classic works, such as Dickens and Alcott, are written in a way that would be puked up by nearly every publisher in today's world. The writing is boring, the description is unneeded, POVs are insanely out of whack, and the writing breaks nearly every rule a young writer needs to understand. If the purpose of Language Arts classes is to learn to write....why are we forced to read books with horrible writing?

Or maybe we don't want our students to learn to write, we just want them to understand how they wrote hundreds of years ago. Fine. But why do we read more classics than modern good writing?

Semi-Modern works, such as O'Brien, are written in better ways (though O'Brien is FAR from the best. His style is just as bad as Dickens in my view) but at times teach such drastically immoral things that I get sick. Not only that, but again we have the example of the horrid writing. Are we teaching our students to write or to read? And if it's to read...why are we reading books written as if from a thousand years ago? Are we inspiring our students? Because the message I get from O'Brien is that we might as well all die in a hole. Sure, he explores some good topics. But there are other books that do just the same and use better writing.

And the selection of modern works, Giles and Myers for example, couldn't be any worse. Why do we read books with: Horrible writing and awful messages?

It doesn't make sense to me.

If you want your students to write, first you need to teach them, then you need to show them good examples. In language arts classes, I see very little of any of this.

If you want your students to understand all forms of language use, introduce them to ALL forms. Instead of feeding them classic garbage nonstop, balance it out. And when you select modern works....find something good.

The projects that go along with these readings are always well thought out. They accomplish the goals of reading and writing. But I personally believe much more could be accomplished if better writing was chosen to analyze.

What are your thoughts? Have I missed the point? Am I totally wrong? Let's chat.

One day, I'm going to write a book that will be required reading. If terrible books end up on the list....why can't my books? :-) lol

EDIT Aug. 3rd 2010:
As this has come up in the comments, let it be known that I do very much enjoy many classics. I am arguing against their writing, not the stories.
"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."