Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Lasting Legacy of Gabriel García Márquez

I've been thinking about Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez quite a bit since hearing about his passing on April 17th.

My first exposure to Márquez's work was when I read his short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." It's a beautiful story about religion, greed, and humanity (or lack thereof). The story establishes a wonderful social commentary while also utilizing one key element: magical realism. Márquez often utilized magical realism which meant his stories contained magical elements but these components were treated as normal parts of the world we live in. He is not alone in this genre (Rudolfo Anaya is another great author who utilizes this), but his work is eye opening for those willing to take the time to experience it. As a writer of fantasy, exploring magical realism is an interesting and educational way to look at utilizing fantastical elements within a story.  

With his passing, Márquez leaves behind many famous novels such as "Love in the Time of Cholera," and "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Unfortunately, as time fills up with other things, we don't always sit down and spend the time enjoying great literature. It's sad that only when someone has passed on that we consider reading their work. Well, maybe it's more bittersweet than sad; his passing is a reminder that his legacy remains, that his books are still here to show us interesting ways to explore magic in our lives and our own stories. 

If you've got 15 minutes that you can dedicate to reading something by this wonderful author, perhaps a way to commemorate the man, check out his short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" at the link below:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Experience With Memoirs And Creative Non-fiction

During my undergrad degree I had to take a range of English courses. One class I took was titled “creative non-fiction.” The professor of this course ran us through a series of exercises, gave us examples to read, and gave us assignments for writing. I continually failed miserably at the assignments. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what she was asking for. I got my lowest grade in an English course in that class because it just didn’t click.

Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I had to take another creative non-fiction class. This time things started to make a bit more sense, and I wrote at least one piece that I can say I’m proud of. So what happened between one class and the other? Was it a different teacher, a different approach, personal growth? Looking back, I think it had a lot to do with where I was at as a writer and as a person.

Growing up I was shy, I was reserved, and I didn’t really want to tell people about my life and the troubles I had endured. When I was 20, sitting in that first creative non-fiction class, I was still shy and reserved and was not ready to share my personal story with the world. I was still writing childish things, and my creative non-fiction felt extremely childish. It also felt fake because I wasn’t truly opening up. I wasn’t imbuing my thoughts and feelings into the work. I was hiding behind poorly written prose and silly attempts to make my creative non-fiction funny instead of honest.

By the time I was pursuing my second degree, I was more open and more honest. I wrote a short piece about my relationship with my father and it actually touched some people. I gave it the emotion it deserved and didn’t hide the truth behind humor.

Recently, I’ve been writing more and more non-fiction from my own life. It feels like this is the right time to finally open up. The beauty of non-fiction is that it can be relatable to readers, and it can touch them through a variety of emotions.

I think creative non-fiction is a wonderful genre that every writer should explore. Just remember though, that if you’re going to start telling your own story you have to be ready to be honest, and to be open. If you’re not ready to tell your own story with all the truth and emotion it requires, give it a few years until it feels right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Year of Yes

I’m sure most of you are familiar with this sort of “experiment.” Taking a certain amount of time and dedicating it to being open, to turning away from automatic “no’s,” and saying “yes” as often as possible. It’s not a new concept but it’s still a good one if you, like me, shy away from opportunities out of fear.

Now I’m not knocking fear, it has its purposes, but it can also easily take over your life. As writers, we can become very exclusionary. We spend time alone, we don’t like to break our habits, and we will take small guaranteed successes over risking any success at the chance of an epic win. There’s also a lot of fear or rejection that runs deep in writers. That fear keeps us from sharing work, from putting our stuff out there, and from putting ourselves out there.

You, like me, might get to a point where you say “enough is enough you stupid fear monster, leave me alone!”(Or something to that effect.) And you want to change things about yourself, and your feelings, and your life. But where do you start? How do you get out of the fear cycle? You start by saying “yes.”

Don’t let those what-ifs trip you up. Think about the end game. You want to live a fuller life; you don’t want the fear monster eating your dreams. You want to seize the day and find greater success in all aspects of your life including your writing. While you still need a level of consideration when offered opportunities (don’t go jumping off bridges), you also need to say yes to as many things you say no to, if not more.

While this idea can be applied to all facets of our lives, when considering the writing experience think about the things you’ve said no to. Are there publications you’ve avoided submitting to? Is there a story you want to write but keeping yourself you can’t do it? Are there readings you’ve considered participating in but are afraid to get up on the stage? Don’t let the fear monster take these experiences away from you. While fear is always a formidable foe, finding success in the ways you want to is always worth fighting your demons. You are in charge of your destiny, of your success, of your writing. Look at the things you’ve been saying no to. Consider if that pesky no is holding you back and keeping you from attaining your dreams. Then go out, brave the world, and start saying yes.