Monday, September 14, 2009

Write Away Seminar: Quiz Time

It's Finals Week!

For today's exam, get out your notebook and answer each question honestly in a complete sentence. Use one of the choices given, or write your own.

1. The power in your house goes out, and you are stuck with candles and nothing to do but think. How long could you entertain yourself just sitting?

~Ten seconds. I'd get out my cell phone and call a friend.

~Ten minutes. Then I'd fall asleep.

~Hours. I'd reconstruct my last conversation; think through a presentation I might give someday; imagine my life in ten years; remember my high school gym class.

2. You're writing and the phone rings. You:

~Answer it.

~Finish your sentence, then answer it.

~Let the answering machine get it.

3. The person calling is one of your dearest friends, who wants to get together for brunch and a good long chat about her ex. Unfortunately, this juicy brunch will take place during your scheduled writing time. You:

~Decide to go. You haven't heard the latest dirt on her evil ex in ages.

~Say you can't go, but sit on the phone dishing for another hour.

~Reschedule for a non-writing day.

4. You're at the restaurant with your friend when you have a fantastic idea for a novel. You:

~Hope you'll remember it—you have nothing to write with and nothing to write on.

~ Will manage. You use the waiter's pen and the back of your receipt.

~ Carry a special notebook, an organizer, or even a laptop with you everywhere—you're completely prepared.

5. You imagine yourself as a successful writer. What is the image that is clearest in your mind?

~The rounds of publishers' parties, autographings, and talk shows where you are lionized for your work of immortal literary genius?

~Your name on the spines of a shelf full of beautiful books?

~Your backside glued to the chair, your cramped fingers on the keyboard, and your blurred eyes on the monitor.

5. If money was no issue, what would you do with your spare time?

~Shop til you drop;

~Prepare for a maraton;

~Sit alone in a room full of books and type.

6. Do you have . . .

~An idea for the Great American Novel -- a certain best-seller,

~A few ideas for different stories,

~Background and development for a number of related books, a time-line, and a whole bunch of files.

7. You figure the biggest benefit of becoming a writer is:

~Money and fame;

~Flexible hours and being your own boss;

~The writing.

8. You read:

~The occasional newspaper, magazines at the hair salon, and headlines in the grocery store check-out line.

~In your free time if you don't have something better to do.

~You invented the term multi-tasking because reading IS your "something better to do". You usually have a book in hand no matter what else you're doing at the time.

9. You have some strong opinions about a political issue. You

~Yell at the car radio.

~Debate it with your bookclub.

~You write a letter to the editor.

10. You realize you have an experience that would benefit others. You

~Call around, and let people know you're anxious to talk with them;

~Ask if you could speak about your topic at a luncheon;

~Write an article and submit it for publication.


Writer Holly Lisle commented on some of the questions:

"That empty room with nothing going on was not a hypothetical situation. That's the writer's work day. You, a quiet room, and nothing happening except for what's going on between your ears. This is pretty much a make-or-break question: if you can't entertain yourself for at least a few hours a day with no source of entertainment but your thoughts, you're not going to have much fun writing for a living.

"Most of us live in a world where someone we love might, at some point, need us. So we don't have the option of seclusion. The self-control in screening out all but emergency calls with an answering machine becomes a real-world, practical answer to scheduling writing time. As a writer, writing needs to hold an important place in your life, but if you plan on having a life, it can't hold the number one spot.

"I always (yes, always) have my laptop with me. I could actually write a book on the spot, were I so inclined. You need to keep some tools with you all the time. Laptop, tape recorder, or just a little notepad and a pen—you need to have something to record great lines, bits of dialogue, or character or story ideas while you're out. You can't count on everyone to have napkins you can borrow.

"I have bad news. No one is going to hold a ticker tape parade in your honor because you wrote a book, or even a bunch of books. Aside from your spouse, your parents, and your eventual readers, no one cares that you're a writer. You won't be recognized in restaurants and hounded for your autograph. You won't even be recognized in bookstores unless you introduce yourself. And maybe not even then.

"The name-on-the-books thing is big. But you're looking for happiness a long way from its source. In almost all cases, it takes a minimum of about two years from the time you start writing a book until the time it sees print. That's best case, when you have a contract for the book. If you have to write the book and then sell it, you could be in for a very long haul.

"If you're very prolific, you could complete two or three first-drafts in a year. I usually do one, and I write for a living. I have friends and colleagues who do one book every three years or less. That's a long time to wait for the thrill.

"You have to be happy enough with what you're doing, to do it long enough to succeed. To be a career writer, you really ought to like to write. You ought to have fun sitting in your little corner of the kitchen or your office, if you're lucky enough to have one, coming up with neat stuff to do to your characters. If you can learn to get your joy from that, you can be happy nearly every day.

"An idea for one book is a good start, but except in the rarest of cases, one book does not make a career. If you are already giving some thought to what you're going to do for an encore, and for the encore after that, you're thinking like a pro.

"If you think the main benefit of being a writer is money and fame, think again. Most first books sell for around $5000 to $7500 dollars (and this is for something that may have taken years to write.) Most books disappear from shelves in weeks, never to be seen again, and most readers cannot tell you the names of the authors of most of the books they liked, much less recognize those authors by sight. Your chance at finding great wealth or public adulation in this business is vanishingly small.

"As for flexible hours . . . yes, they are flexible. When I was getting started as a pro, they flexed from the minute the kids left for school in the morning until they got home in the afternoon, and then from 9 p.m., after they went to bed, until I couldn't force my eyes open any longer, every day off. Since I worked 12-hour weekend nursing shifts, and had older children, I at least had long blocks of time to write. Before the kids started school, it was a lot harder to find time.

"As for taking days off —you can take off any day you want. You just don't get paid. I've had one long vacation since 1991, when I sold my first book. I don't work 10-hour days anymore, which is nice. I do work seven days a week most weeks. And I never have enough time to do everything I want. Rule of thumb for the self-employed: it's actually illegal for anyone to ask you to work as long or as hard as you'll be working for yourself.

"If your reward is the writing, though, even the long hours, the poor or nonexistent pay, and the anonymity will be no big deal.

"Writing in odd moments and in unlikely places serves as a clear sign of how deeply the writing bug has bitten you. Case in point—I'm writing this right now on the back-lit screen of my laptop, sitting on the floor in the middle of a neighborhood blackout, hanging out with my family. The presence of that unstoppable—sometime unbearable—urge to put words on a page is a good sign that you have a chance of outlasting the early-career hard times. If you can stay writing long enough to learn your craft, and still be hungry for the next word after years of next words, you're a writer." Adapted from an article by Holly Lisle.


Essay Question: Using the sentences you compiled as answers, think about your desire to be a writer. Do you have romanticized ideas of what being a writer is like? Do you want to write for yourself, or to be read by others? Is your goal to be a writer, or an author, and what's the difference? How will writing fit into the responsibilities of your life right now? What have you learned about yourself as a writer?

~Write an essay called "Am I Right for Writing?"

Write Away!

*School Days Final Exams are every day this week. I'll be out of town, unable to check your work until the weekend. Please leave a link to your exams in my teacher's box, because I love reading what you write! (Class reviews next week.)

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


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The Grandmother Here said...

Does spelling count?

diane said...

According to my quiz answers I have zero apptitude for writing. Talking and shopping are where my strengths lie.

Have a nice trip.

kenju said...

Anonymous is really annoying. I got his comments too.

I used to think I wanted to write the great American novel, but I'm no fool - I know that will never happen - so I am content to write my blog everyday, and that's enough for me.

Diane Linford said...

Have a wonderful time!

Here's my essay: here

crissy said...

Sure, I'm up past my bedtime, but at least I did my homework.

Hope you have fun and stay safe during your time out of town. :)

Tiffany said...

This was my favorite post. (And that's saying something!) Thank you so much for all of your insight and inspiration!

audrey said...

I would probably have failed this if we were really in school (I didn't follow some of the directions well - like answering in complete sentences), but I learned a lot about myself.


KJ said...

dalene said...

trying to get it all done before midnight (because i am an oldest child). will link back on the final post and e-mail you, too.