Writers Musing

The aspiring writers who follow my blah-g often ask what I’m inspired by. The answer? A lot. Inspiration comes in any number of forms and if you pay close enough attention, most mundane aspects of life can spark the idea for a new character or a dramatic scene. But looking around with intention takes some effort and isn’t always a quick fix for when you need to feel inspired fast. The most fool-proof method in finding that creative spark when you need it is to simply pick up a book and read. Read everything: fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Read interesting blog posts and the inside of book jackets; read technical descriptions on boxes and definitions of scientific words. It will all inform you and may lead to something valuable in the next piece you’re working on. When I need that extra oomph on a particularly dry creative day, I turn to my journal where I store quotes by writers I respect. This always does the trick. And more often than not, these quotes are just as much about life itself than the act of writing alone. I’m sharing 25 ah-mazing quotes on writing, creativity and life by writers I love in the hope some of these words will help you the next time you sit down to create.

 

1. Anne Lamott from her book Bird by Bird

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

 2. Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth

“Try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.”

3. Donna Tartt, Pullitzer Prize winner and author of The Goldfinch

“Storytelling and elegant style don’t always go hand in hand.”

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, acclaimed novelist, short story writer and speaker

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

5. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things 

“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.”

6. Tina Fey, comedy writer and author of Bossy Pants

fey

7. Kurt Vonnegut, author of Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five

Vonnegut

“To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

8. Diane Ackerman, author and poet

ackerman

9. Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

10. Joan Didion, author and essayist

didion

11. Amy Poehler, comedy writer and author of Yes Please

Poehler

12. Anne Lamott from her book Bird by Bird

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

13. Nora Ephron, journalist, essayist, playwright, novelist, all around ah-mazing creative force 

Ephron

14. Jim Thompson, author and screenwriter 

“There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.”

15. James Baldwin, author of Giavanni’s Room

baldwin

16. Joan Didion from her book Slouching Towards Bethlehem 

“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.”

17. Ray Bradbury, American science-fiction author 

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”

18. Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 

munro

19. Raymond Carver, poet and novelist, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

“You’ve got to work with your mistakes until they look intended.”

20. Mark Twain, American humorist and writer 

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Ha!

21. Margaret Atwood, acclaimed novelist, poet, essayist and environmental activist 

atwood

Atwood

22. Zadie Smith

“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”

23. Jeanette Winterson, author of Written on the Body and Gut Symmetries 

“If you continually write and read yourself as a fiction, you can change what’s crushing you.”

24. Ray Bradbury

“To sum it all up, if you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that god ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish for you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

25. Nora Ephron, Wellesley College Commencement Address, 1996

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find som away to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”

The last two may have left me with a tear in one eye. Leave me with some of your favorite quotes on writing and life below in the comments.

 

TTYW,

Lisi

Anti Advice

I get messages every day from fans asking for my advice and I try my best to answer as many questions as possible here on the blah-g. Most of my responses stem from personal experience, but I also tend to search around online for any additional pieces of wisdom that might help you. In doing so, I’ve come across a LOAD of terrible advice out there, especially when it comes to relationships. So terrible in fact, I shudder thinking one of you might someday stumble upon said harmful adages and mistake them for genuinely helpful answers. Below are the top three worst pieces of advice I’m come across so far.

1) “Play hard to get.”

Having a little mystery or intrigue about yourself is great, but rejecting someone’s advances for the sheer sake of playing hard to get? That’s a tricky game. If you get a phone call or text, don’t drop everything to get back to that person, but do reply when you get the chance. You don’t have to change your life around at the drop of a dime to accommodate someone who’s pursuing you, but you also shouldn’t wait three days to return a text in the hope your aloofness will make you seem more attractive. If you’re interested in getting to know someone, show it.

2) “Love means never having to say I’m sorry.”

Whoever believes apologies don’t exist once you’re in love has never been in love before. Being mindful of your partner’s feelings and accountable for the times when you leave them feeling less than great is a part of being in a relationship. We should of course apologize for any words or careless actions, even if we weren’t intentionally trying to be hurtful. If you’re a human reading this, then you are absolutely going to make mistakes and–intentionally or unintentionally–will do things you’ll need to apologize for at one time or another.

3) “Women hold all the power in relationships because they are the sexual gatekeepers.”

Okay, I get why this adage exists, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sound statement. Girls should of course only do what they are comfortable doing with their partner and reserve the right to make that choice when it’s appropriate. But no one should hold more power than the other in a relationship based on which genitals they have. Relationships are about teamwork and building one another up, not exercising control over the other person by leveraging, say, a make out sesh for power.

Don’t. Follow. ANY of the above.

What do you think? What anti advice did I miss? Let me know in the comments section.

 

TTYW,

Lisi

Love/Hate Relationships

Hi friends. I’ve replied to a number of your comments and Facebook messages here on the blah-g lately and many of you have asked me crush questions. Namely, how to get into a relationship with a guy you like or how to know if a crush likes you back. But what if you’ve got the guy, you’re in the relationship, and you’re still not happy? I received a message from a reader over the weekend–we’ll call her Rebecca–who doesn’t need to get into a relationship, but instead needs out of the one she’s in. Here’s what she said:

Hi Lisi! My question is more of a situation I’m in that I’m not sure I know how to get out of or even that I 100% want to leave? I have been dating a guy I’m in love with for around 7 months. This is my first real relationship. We both had an attraction to each other all through 8th and 9th grade and are finally dating so this was pretty much a dream come true. He’s always been cooler, more liked and popular and funner than me and I feel really lucky to be dating such a catch. The problem is around our three month anniversary I realized I wasn’t happy. We didn’t do anything to celebrate the 3 month mark but I don’t like complaining so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t hear from him on my birthday but didn’t want to nag although that really hurt me. He did call the day after to apologize and wish me a happy birthday and everything was good after. Since then I’ve noticed that whatever I expected to happen in a relationship isn’t really happening. It doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten closer and have become better friends or anything and he actually tends to criticize me a lot (he calls it teasing), but for valid reasons most of the time. Stuff like me running late a lot or taking a long time to get ready which are both true. He also says I either get way too chatty when it’s just me and him but then go totally mute and weird in social situations and that’s also true. I know saying all this sounds kinda bad and it doesn’t feel great to hear, but it isn’t as terrible as a lot of relationships I see on tv. I’ve wanted to be with this guy for so long and it’s crazy he chose me out of every other girl. But we generally just do what he wants and I’ve made a lot of changes to try to make him happy. i’m not sure how to get him to start appreciating me more and treating me a little better so it feels good to be with him. I don’t know what to do at all and don’t want to go to my friends because I know what they’ll say. Any advice? PS. Please make another Clique movie!! Xx

 

Hi Rebecca. You have a lot to say here and I don’t blame you for a second. I’m not sure I am going to say something different than what your friends might tell you, but know that any advice I’ve got comes from a place of honest care for you to be in the kind of relationship you deserve–even if that means only being in a solid relationship with yourself for a while. Read below for a few tips on how to look at your situation from a new perspective.

1) Don’t Blame Yourself

It’s easier to preach than to put into practice but I gather from the way you phrased some things in your message to me that you feel your boyfriend’s criticism of you is just. You mentioned that a lot of what he negatively comments on, albeit hurtful, is true. Therefore you must deserve the harsh speech. I want you to know that not for a second do you deserve to feel criticized and judged in your relationship. That being in love and loving another person is a wonderful experience, but it means being gentle and kind with one another, being compassionate and non-judgmental and not making snide remarks on the other’s behalf, even if they are technically coming from a true place. It’s not a way to build your relationship but instead will break it down, which is what you’re experiencing now. There are ways to resolve conflict with your significant other that don’t involve harming their self-esteem. Do not blame yourself for how your boyfriend treats you. It isn’t a reflection of you and truly is his own issue. I wish him luck with that. As I mentioned in a previous post about standing up to BFF bullies, it isn’t your fault when someone treats you badly, but it’s 100% your responsibility to stand up for yourself and protect your self-respect when a relationship dynamic becomes abusive, controlling and imbalanced.

2) Ever Heard of the”Gaslight” Tactic?

Rookie Mag defines this term expertly so I’ll leave them to it:

“Gaslighting, the tactic, is named after Gaslight, the 1944 movie, which is about a guy who tries to get his wife diagnosed as incurably insane by doing this. It’s not always fully intentional, and it’s not always done primarily to harm you—alcoholics, for example, are almost invariably gaslighters, because that’s how they get people to enable or overlook their drinking—but it causes real and profound damage. It erodes your sense of reality, destroys your self-esteem, and reduces you to a depressed, fearful, self-loathing, hysterical person. At which point, the gaslighter tells you that they treat you badly because you’re hysterical!” – Rookie Mag

Learn this term and try to be aware of situations where you’re being “gaslighted” by significant others, friends, and family members. It’s a huge red flag that’s hard to notice at first, so your best defense against it is to get prepared  by spotting the signs. I don’t know all of the details of your situation, but mentioning that you believe you have always essentially been inferior to your boyfriend is a little alarming to read. It’s possible you’re being gaslighted and don’t yet know it.

3) Get Off the Roller Coaster

At this point consider yourself lucky not that this boy “chose” you of all the other girls, but that it has only taken you seven months to realize this relationship may not be right for you. For a lot of people, it takes years to see their significant other’s true colors—the cliché “love is blind” exists for a reason. I’m not saying to avoid conflicts that can be resolved in a healthy way, and of course all relationships ebb and flow. But my best advice to you is to exit any relationship that does not consistently lift you up or leave you feeling like your best self. You should feel confident, beautiful, strong and capable with your S.O. You cannot make your guy treat you fairly and you will likely waste a lot of time and go through several heartbreaks trying. And believe it or not, you WILL find a boy who can appreciate the ah-mazingness that is you. Give your time and energy to someone who sees your worth and values you endlessly for the imperfect human that you are. Or simply give it to yourself and be your own best friend right now.

4) Get Your Girls Around You

You need every bit of support you can get right now. Get your girlfriends around you and don’t be afraid to let them know you might need a little more girl time than usual. Have some girls nights out or stay in and reconnect. And if your girls just aren’t enough right now and you need extra help, I’m always in support of reaching out to a counselor or therapist to hash out the issues you might feel are too personal to share with friends. And remember, if you need a place to vent on the fly my Facebook inbox forever welcomes you.

 

Hope that helps. I’m sending a virtual blah-g-o-sphere hug out to you today, Rebecca. To all other readers, keep the questions coming!

 

TTYW,

Lisi

 

Feeling Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I’m thankful for so much this year…

Thanksgiving 2014

What are you thankful for?

xo

 

TTYW,

Lisi

BFF or Bully?

BFF or Bully - Mean Girls GIF
Hi friends. I recently got a message from a fan that tugged at my heartstrings. She asked to remain anonymous and as I promise all those who send me confessions, I will happily grant her anonymity on today’s blah-g post.

But here’s the gist: Picture a clique at your school. One girl is the constant target, the one who the others relentlessly pick on. Maybe there’s an alpha girl in the group–the target’s BFF–who’s slinging all the insults and mean-spirited jokes. The target says she’s allowing it to happen because she sympathizes with the alpha girl and knows she is actually deeply insecure and these insults are a way for her to feel better about herself. But it’s gone on for too long, things have gone way too far, and the target can’t pretend she’s okay with their friendship dynamic any longer without suffering serious self esteem issues.

The target wants to make a change, but she doesn’t want to be mean or start a fight. She doesn’t want to offend the alpha by confronting her in the wrong way about this situation, but things have gotten hurtful and something has to be done. What if this girl was your friend, what would you advise her to do?

Dear Anon,

I can tell you’re a selfless person. What gave it away, you ask? You’ve been too nice to this girl. In this case, it might be that your good heart has allowed you to be taken advantage of by, as you wisely noted, a very insecure person who has chosen to take her insecurities out on you. It isn’t fair, but it’s a high school reality, and sadly the clique mentality can last throughout most people’s lives. It’s your job to stand up for yourself and demand the respect you deserve from friends–the same respect you are giving them. What’s not your job? Taking on the responsibility for your friend’s insecurities and suffering through emotional pain in order for her to feel better about herself. You have a great deal of compassion and understanding for your friend, and your intentions in allowing her to make you the target were coming from a good place, but BFFs don’t try to make each other feel badly, no matter the reason. This girl isn’t your BFF, she’s a bully.

It isn’t your fault she’s made you the target, but it’s your responsibility to show the people around you how you deserve to be treated. I hope you can find the nerve to stand up to this mean girl and know that there are ways you can do this without being mean yourself. You don’t need to play her game by throwing insults back her way, and you don’t need to stick your head in the sand hoping she’ll eventually stop and move onto bullying someone else in your group. At this point, she knows she can get away with it so you need to communicate that the behavior needs to end.

You can’t avoid having “the talk” with your friend. Keep it private, in person, and come from a calm place. Don’t yell or make underhanded remarks or else this mean girl will likely become defensive and this talk may escalate into a verbal fight. Adrenaline will be high at this point, but try to stay poised. Let your BFF know how much her comments and teasing have hurt you and that they need to stop. If you still care about saving the friendship, simply let her know that, adding you won’t be able to have the same friendship until she adjusts her behavior towards you. Do not let her make you feel like you’re making too big of a deal out of her teasing. Remember that BFFs do not make each other feel badly, no matter the reason.

If all goes well and your BFF is receptive, she will rightly apologize and make changes in how she treats you. If she doesn’t? You will have to find ways of separating yourself from her and sticking with the girls who truly have your back and care about your feelings. This can be tricky in a high school setting, but not impossible.

Anon, my heart goes out to you and I hope you decide to confront your friend about this issue. There is no reason you can’t have the friendships in your life that boost you up instead of tear you down, but it’s your responsibility to make that happen. You can do it. Good luck.

TTYW,

Lisi

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