by Ann Caputo
As a writer, I realize the obnoxious phenomenon known as “writer’s block” is part of the craft, a peril of the trade. But why does it settle in at the most inconvenient time, like when I need to begin writing nearly anything? There is nothing so daunting as the blank page and a looming deadline. It took me awhile to realize that my pets hold more power in alleviating this condition then I first believed.
by Rachel Barton
While I was growing up, my mother made all of my Halloween costumes. Since she was a seamstress, she took this opportunity to go all out and produce works of art. For my first Halloween, I was a tiny bride with a complicated wedding dress. Throughout the years, I dressed as a Teletubby with a light up belly, Tom and Jerry in one costume, and a princess turned ninja. Each year, my mom would ask me what I wanted to be. When I was nine, I stumped her.
by Laura Kincaid
I watch cartoons. I’m not talking about Family Guy or Rick and Morty, but cartoons created for and targeted at children. I’m not alone. Shows like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and Avatar: The Last Airbender have garnered huge audiences from kids to teens to twenty-somethings and older. Countless blogs and video essays propose a pile of reasons why cartoons are suddenly “not just for kids anymore” like how they relieve stress, produce a sense of nostalgia, or provide life lessons useful to everyone. But when people ask me why I watch cartoons, I answer: “For the writing.”
by Mark Krupinski
“Anything and everything can be art!” is, I feel, a deceptively sinister phrase. You could substitute the rather generic “art” in this situation with your medium of choice, be it poetry, film, literature, or what have you, and the situation remains unchanged. It seems innocuous at first, even encouraging. Anything can be art; no matter how lost you may feel, no matter what vision you lack, your expression has merit. You exist and you are valid. As someone who has spent more time than perhaps he’d like to admit pacing fretfully to and fro, hyperventilating into a McDonald’s bag because the words don’t sound the way they’re supposed to, I understand. Writing is a painful, clumsy, often fruitless task, so positive affirmation is as valuable as it is rare. But there’s a danger in creating that sense of comfort, tossing standards by the wayside in favor of blind positivity and confidence. The idea that everything, every single careless, thoughtless, witless, messy, wishy-washy, meandering, pointless thing is art gives me pause.
by Joe Gramigna
Discipline is hard. I’ve tried many times to reinvent myself via practices that I planned to follow diligently. The first few weeks, everything’s peachy. The 5 a.m. gym sessions get my blood flowing. The kale and green concoctions don’t yet taste like bug spray and depression. The lavender incense lightly laps against my nostrils to center a newfound meditation routine.
Around the end of the month, when I’m about to rise from the ashes of my unenlightened self like a Phoenix emerging from Plato’s cave…
I give up. The distractions of daily living get to me. Then, I get even harder on myself for not living up to my goal and eventually try to replace the failed practice with a new one, fail again, and the cycle of personal crucifixion starts anew.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken to a new practice that has proven beneficial and seems like I might be able to implement daily for the long haul. I hope.
It’s called “Morning Pages” and comes from a manifesto on the creative process by writer Julia Cameron. It’s a simple idea with some complex outcomes: as soon as you wake up in the morning, you write three stream of consciousness pages longhand.
I’ve always been a big fan of new age, spiritual, or far-out practices, despite failing at meditation routines countless times. When I first heard Cameron talk in Jungian terms about “meeting your shadow and taking it out for a cup of coffee” or, in meditation terms, to write down “cloud thoughts,” I was intrigued. Writing has always come second-nature to me. Sitting on a floor with my legs crossed and spine erect while trying not to focus on the tortured thoughts that scroll across my mind… not as much. The idea of Morning Pages sounded like a good middle ground.
When writing these three pages each day, it’s important not to attempt to be artful or overthink the prose in anyway. They can be “whiny, petty, grumpy,” according to Cameron, used for putting negativity to the page. Or, they can be joyous. The important thing is to write whatever thoughts are flowing through the mind, taking them from the internal and thrusting them to the external.
Here’s an example from one of my negative passages: “My retainer might actually be messing up my teeth. When I open and close my mouth, my bottom teeth seem out of line, slightly to the right, as compared with my top teeth. I really don’t feel like going to the fucking orthodontist again, though.”
I awoke and felt my retainer askew in my mouth, so that was on my mind as I turned to open my notebook for the morning. It also got me thinking about my slightly crooked jaw, which plunged me headfirst into a morning soliloquy about my physical flaws, not wanting to go to the orthodontist, and other overly critical analyses of my being.
I know this sounds like a slippery slope to suicide by starting each morning like this, but I’ve found it to be mentally freeing. By writing down the swirls of activity, from worry to lust to elation, that echo through my mind each day, I can work towards the maintenance of a level-head and semi-clear mind throughout the rest of my day. Think of it as the writer’s form of meditation or kundalini yoga.
Other Morning Pages passages have been more neutral: “My 7th birthday. In the front living room. It was sunny outside. Some of my classmates were there. A magician performed. He took my grandmother’s ring, wrapped it into a napkin, set the napkin on fire, threw the flaming mass into the air, it poofed into smoke, and then he removed the ring from his inside pocket. Still don’t know how he did that.”
Whether it’s mystical memories or body-image problems, Morning Pages allow me to purge. As Cameron says, putting these thoughts on the page stops them from “eddying through your consciousness throughout the day.” It’s easy to let thoughts become our reality, but putting them down on paper works paradoxically to make them both more and less real. More, in the sense that they’re in a physical form that others can potentially come across. Less, in that they’ve been quantified and explained in intelligible (semi, hopefully) scrawls that are less daunting to confront than the mystifying babble of self-talk.
I think that’s what a lot of my best writing does: it exposes my inner darkness to the page, freeing it from the mine of my mind like the Chilean spelunkers. I can handle handwritten words—challenge their accuracy, continue writing until I uncover their source. I’m a writer. It’s my therapy.
If something as simple as three handwritten pages can ebb the tide and lessen the roar of background noise swirling in the depths of my skull, then count me and my bedside notebook in.
I’ve taught freshman composition courses for almost two years now, expecting my diverse body of students from multicultural backgrounds to all coalesce and perform to one standard above all others: White Vernacular English (WVE) or White American Vernacular English (WAVE). As writers, we pride ourselves on being open-minded yet authentic, and we hope our students do the same—as long as they adhere to what we consider valid style of writing. Why have the rigid, outdated principles the foundation of college composition was built on not shifted to accept other vernaculars?
by Rebecca Rodriguez
In high school, we are given our first copy of Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers, which we are commanded to worship. It’s not a bad book, by any means, and (if read for anything other than MLA citation instructions) specific information on sentence structure can be found within it. In fact, there is an entire section dedicated to taking wordy sentences and tightening them. ←Example→ There is a section on tightening wordy sentences.
Although fair warning is given that short sentences aren’t always concise, wordiness is considered ultimately taboo. Not only does it focus on eliminating redundancies, but it encourages us, the writers, to cut inflated phrases (e.g. change “At the present time…” into “Now...” or “Currently...”). We also must take every opportunity to reduce a clause into a phrases, or a phrase into a single word. Though we try not to worry about these rules outside of our research papers, it’s too late. Today’s generation of writers have already been brainwashed.
by Ashley Haden
Spending time on a college campus as finals near always leads to hearing familiar complaints in the air. These are complaints about the workload, upcoming exams, and, of course, writing papers. “I hate writing” is one of the most common complaints that I’ve noticed at a wide variety of grade levels. Students will often actively try to avoid writing if possible. Why is this?
by John Gross
Throughout time technology has changed how the writer crafts his novel. From pen and paper, to typewriters, to word processing—the tools of the trade are constantly evolving. In today’s world, the writer can craft a sentence and move it around to different places, supplementing paragraphs where he sees fit. This can be a powerful tool, that makes the revision process more fluid and dynamic. An author can be less committed to putting something on a page, where it can be easily reshaped, moved, and removed. While this technology has fundamentally changed how the novelist crafts his work, it hasn’t really changed how the reader consumes it. Sure, we are in a period of time that is showing the rise of e-readers and digital print, but ultimately the novel is being experienced in the same traditional way.
by Rachel Saltzman
It begins in middle school; writing skills are in a crucial stage of development, and so teachers are more focused on systematic writing such as essays, grammatical structures, and proper spelling. At this age, kids are taught what effective, tasteful writing incorporates, and which elementary techniques can be rushed to the curb for good. This is when ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and other cute phrases that are found in children’s books, are banished from any and all forms of writing.
We all know (supposedly) what a cliché is, what it looks and sounds like. But why are clichés considered bad for writing? The common argument is that clichés and common tropes are overused, to the point where most casual readers cringe at the sight of one. If the goal of any writer is to craft a story, essay, or narrative using a unique and well-developed voice, then of course clichés can only impede the process. If these banal phrases, expressions, and ideas have long been exhausted, then where and when were they first used?
thoughts on writing, art, & new media by glassworks editorial staFF