Remedies for Harder Days

Just print the document to let yourself feel as though you’ve finished it. Don’t look at it! Don’t look at it!!!

Start a blog post; leave the room; start a new blog post.

Stare at a cat.

Achieve small victories: wash your sheets, kill a fruit fly.

Go to a coffee shop and pretend to write it.

Say you’re tired; say it’s the full moon.

Talk to the cat.

Yell out, “I’m bored!!!”

Do the other important thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life.

Stare at your phone; stare at the city; stare at the fridge.

Know too much about too many people via Facebook.

Write a different chapter.

Change the font.

Open old notebooks for advice.

Lie down so your face is next to the cat and ask him questions.

Achieve small victories: make your bed; find the source of the fruit flies.

Download the new John Mayer album! Dance and weep!


Reason that you’re tired, that it’s the full moon.

Do a blog post about all the awful things you did today.

Go back to writing.

Falling out and in


I read this on the bus this morning. I was supposed to be reading Harry Potter 2 (The Chamber of Secrets) as per a roommate Harry Potter reading challenge, but I had also brought along this book, On Becoming a Novelist. It’s my third time reading it. I’ve started developing a habit where I keep it next to me when I’m writing. I thought that maybe instead of looking at Facebook I could look at a book called On Becoming a Novelist.

 “If the promising writer keeps on writing – writes day after day, month after month – and if he reads very carefully, he will begin to “catch on.” Catching on is important in the arts, as in athletics. Practical sciences, including the verbal engineering of commercial fiction, can be taught and learned. The arts too can be taught, up to a point; but except for certain matters of technique, one does not learn the arts, one simply catches on.”

So this explains it: I’ve lately begun to feel that I’m catching on. The feeling came from writing every day for one hour. And one full hour! I could fold laundry or eat a snack in that hour if the temptation so struck me, but I would keep my mind immersed in my novel for that hour. Then Monday came along and I broke tradition. I wrote for forty-five minutes. On Tuesday I broke the hour into two halves. And I have since lost the feeling of catching on, and instead I’m catching up.

It’s weird that I’m writing a novel! What better, more regular things I could be doing with my time than trying to remember a secret world I have created and am trying to express to you through poorly turned phrases. And then I go back and I try to make the phrases turn nicer. And why should you even care, I made up this world! It is of no interest to anybody, including me. I have to force myself to live in the world for an hour a day, and still I fold laundry and I eat snacks! Shouldn’t I be spellbound by this magical world I have created?

I wonder how JK Rowling did it – I mean how she really did it. Yes, she thought up the story on a train, and yes, she planned the whole series of books out before beginning the first, but really: how could she have done it? How could Snape’s character and story line be so complete from the first book? How could clues and minor characters be introduced so early and then play such a large role later on? How the heck did she think up the Voldemort-Harry thing? Most importantly, how did she possibly invent things like a whomping willow or howlers? Did she not have Facebook? Did she write for more than an hour a day?



There was a time last Spring where I stood at my dad’s drafting desk with this repetitive playlist on and papers spread everywhere. And I loved it! I worked for four hours at a time.

I think I forget about what it is to catch on when I feel like I’m catching up. It’s like love: how could that possibly be a thing? It’s like childbirth; it’s like the Grouse Grind. You don’t remember how bad or good something is when it’s a completely immersive experience. It completely owns you and you are in it. I need to go write a novel!







Writing about Gatsby to be Relevant


I’m going to write a post about The Great Gatsby because I feel I am falling into irrelevance and infrequency here on my blog and I just want to write something that catches my own eye. I always try and read blogs or the news but it’s as though anything happening anywhere is still less interesting than something happening to me. So instead I read fiction or I sit here puzzled by life or I bury myself in work. That sounds horrible but I am becoming a teacher so that means I cut out coloured paper or plan how to explain something simple.

So the new Gatsby movie was so much better than the last Gatsby movie, which I stopped halfway through. There’s something so bad about a movie following a book so exactly, like someone lost their imagination and then decided to make a movie. Though this movie quotes the book at parts, it strives more to reinvent the mood of the book, which is really what the book is, a mood. I didn’t remember the end scene after the first time I read it; I just remembered how I felt when I read the book. I read it in high school but not for high school and was forever after puzzled about why other high school students had to read it for high school. I couldn’t find the academic merit in it. It was so light; it was so easy. It made me feel so much.


(photo from

I had a similar reaction when I read The Sun Also Rises, which I think but am never sure is my favourite book. Somebody wrote this ninety years ago? Somebody became a great American writer for writing this? These books are my twenties though they’re written in the twenties. They are about nothing more than him wanting her and all the seduction, passion, wit, nostalgia and pain that comes with that. They are about alcohol and money and glamour and everything that is misplaced and desirable in your twenties.

It was at some point long after I started writing it that I realized I am writing the book about my twenties. The whole thing seems to lose a little hope when I admit this because I have another six years to go and so then does the book. But I’m doing it whether I want to or not. Being in your twenties is about a certain self-absorption that couldn’t possibly be overcome in a first novel. I can’t write about the thirties until I’ve gotten me out of the way enough. I’m obsessed with me and everything around me and me interacting with it. It’s still sexy, it’s still young. I still want things. It’s why Gatsby is relevant: people have gotten stuck in their twenties.

Think of the good music that’s coming out now. Think of the people who are running big businesses like Twitter and Facebook. Think of who is driving revolutions, good and bad. Think of who are the people who are getting hit in the long run in this financial crisis. It’s us! It’s all about us! At least when we’re involved. To me, it’s all about us. You might have turned thirty.

Gatsby is about wanting love and about losing love and every kind of emotion that comes with that. It gives a mood to that gnawing anxiety we feel. It even makes it fun. This movie was able to sync two generations together: people in their twenties in the twenties and people in their twenties now. A final warning to please read the book first before seeing the movie, for fear you lose some capacity for imagination or maybe just some cachet. Reading is really in right now for people in their twenties.







Making Movies into Novels

I just figured out why I can’t sit through movies, or if I am able to, why I later cannot remember them. It’s because my brain works on novels. And so does yours!!

I am convinced of this because of how people are watching TV these days, i.e. not on a TV. We watch shows on PVRs, Netflix, online streams, illegal downloads and TV box sets. We don’t watch television on television. We’re too efficient. We have too much to do to watch commercials! We’re beginning to realize we like stories in a convenient format. We like to carry them around in our purses. Sort of like books.

I am happiest when I am in a novel, or a long New Yorker article, and I’m just waiting to find out more but I have to do something else with my time like work or sleep or maybe write. I keep the story at the back of my mind. It’s why I like reading more than one book (or New Yorker article) at once: they get to spend time together in my head, making my dreams more creative.

If I watch a movie by myself, I watch it in at least two parts. With Netflix now on my iPad, I watch movies in ten-minute  chunks, filling in the silent transitions of clothes-changes and teeth-brushes. I just figured out why I do it. My brain works on novels. I’m trying to make  movies into novels.

Charles Dickens’ novels came out in serialized format – one chapter a week in the newspaper. Why doesn’t that happen anymore? Wouldn’t newspapers be infinitely more interesting? Wouldn’t writers be infinitely more interesting? Our culture likes to see the ins and outs of the creative process: what if at each week, with the serialized portion of the novel, there was a quick post from the author on what it took to write this chapter this week? What if the audience became privileged to the inner workings of the novel, the way we can on DVD special features and episode commentary?


(photo from

We’re already used to following characters and stories on Twitter and Facebook. We are used to the novel – we’re constantly using the novel format – but we don’t realize it. In fact, we keep talking about how the novel is going out of fashion. People are scared for books now that they’re digital. But what a good thing for the art form that it made it through this digital revolution. What a good thing that it maybe even impacted it.

I would say the nature of the novel, as it first appeared in serialized format, is the inspiration for social media. To engage us as an audience, social media has latched on to our passion for being in the middle of something ongoing, where the characters are developing and interacting and where we learn information through a combination of inferences and exposition. We are consuming novels all over the place without even realizing it. It’s why I’m so excited right now. I fit in! I’m going to work!