Friday, January 13, 2017

Anna's Thought Dump: Writing, Stealing, and Maggie Stiefvater

Hullo, my people.

I'm writing this blog post because I have some thoughts consuming me, and I must write them out, and I'd like to write them out for others to read.  I'll talk a little about that later.  Right now, you need to know that this post is about Maggie Stiefvater, and it's about me, and it's about writing.  Here are the topics I want to cover, written out neatly because that will make me feel good, and so I don't forget them.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers
2.) Stealing
3.) Probably some rant-type thing that brings everything above together

Before we move onto those topics, I need to lay the foundation for this post.  Every so often, I stalk people.  Not in an illegal way, of course.  It's just there are interesting people who post interesting things on the internet, and I like to read these things, especially if they're about writing, because I can't stop writing, but sometimes it seems like I should add poorly to that statement.  Anyhow, yesterday I went to the library, and since then I have finished five of the nine books I checked out.  As a result, my soul burned to research some of these authors and see when/if subsequent books would come out.  Even though none of these authors was Maggie Stiefvater, somehow I wandered my way over to her website, and then to her blog.  Maggie is the author of the quadrilogy, THE RAVEN CYCLE, which I enjoyed, but probably not enough to read again, and THE SCORPIO RACES, which I not only enjoyed, but adored.  She's also written other books that I haven't read.

Maggie is someone who not only writes, but thinks about writing in a way I've seen few authors do, and then she tells the world her thoughts; and for that I'm very grateful.  See, as you've probably seen in my blog posts, I also think a lot about writing, but so often I simply have to take these thoughts from me and my own writing.  However, as I discovered today, Maggie Stiefvater has a lot for me to think about, a lot to feed my brain.

So here are her thoughts, added to mine, mixed and digested thoroughly, and then spewed back out for all of y'all.

It's not as gross as it sounds.

1.) Writers vs. Storytellers

In this blog post, Maggie says that she is a storyteller, not a writer, and there is a difference.  She says that writers write for themselves; that even if they never got published, they would still keep writing, just the same as if they had crowds of people clamoring for their next work.  I believe that is true of me.  I know why I write, or at least why I started to write, and I'll explain that in my rant to come.

Storytellers, however, write for an audience, and to change others.  Maggie says if she couldn't write with words, she'd find another way to tell stories.  And often I believe this is also true of myself.  Not that writing is simply the most convenient way to tell stories for me, or something I stumbled into; no, I will always write.  I know this.  However, there are things that I want to tell the world, or at least a great many people, and even if I couldn't use my writing for that, I'd use something else.

So can someone be both a writer and a storyteller?  Or is it simply that at my age, I'm bombarded with options and possibilities, and by the time I'm an adult, I'll have settled into one or the other?

While it's fun to think about, and to wonder about, it's pointless to put stress or worrying into it.  No matter what I am, I figure I'll either find out later, or it'll stop mattering to me.  Here, have a poem I wrote once while feeling sad and overwhelmed.  (Thankfully, this poem was the first sign of that passing.)

It was once that I dreamed
Of what I might be.
Until my dreams were everything
That consumed me.
I woke to find I was nothing
But smoke and tears,
The result of a million
Wasted years.
In the end, I threw away
All my dreams.
And became what I was always
Meant to be.

(To paraphrase all that, quit stressing out about stuff, and often you'll find it works itself out in the end.  Of course, God is the Mastermind behind that.)

2.) Stealing

In this blog post, Maggie talks about writers (general term, not vs. storytellers) being artists and thieves.  Now Maggie, my sister, who is an artist herself and has a lovely cardmaking-and-other-stuff blog right here, has a book called STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, by Austin Kleon.  I'll confess, I haven't read the whole thing, but the general point is, artists don't create out of thin air.  We steal from what's around us.  Knowing how true that is of me and the stuff I write, I wasn't at all surprised to hear Maggie Stiefvater saying the same thing.  I highly recommend you read this blog post, because not only does she make some fabulous points, she also tells a funny story, and genuinely funny stories are awesome and hard to come by.

Now, something interesting she pointed out that I'd never consciously thought about, is the relationship between artist and thief.  I'd probably know this if I'd read STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST all the way through, but I didn't.  We (artists generally, writers specifically) don't just steal stuff and then use it as art.  If I see an interesting person, I don't just stick him into my interesting story and say, "Yep, there's beauty.  There's art."  But it's also not as simple as just finding some way to fit him into my story, or fit my story around him. 

I'll confess, I have a hard time putting this into words, because for me this has strayed from being a thought thing, and instead entered the realm of instinct.  I'll do my best, but pardon me for how disjointed and clunky this may sound.

As a writer, I steal all the time, from everything around me.  There are a lot of things that I notice, and so my brain always has far too much material to write about it all.  When God made me, though, he gave me an instinct that has served me extremely well as a writer.  Over time, it filters through all the stuff I take in, and spits out a story idea.  Sometimes it's several within a few hours, other times it may take me weeks just to get one.  I get the feeling author Sarah Prineas goes through much the same process, because she once told me she had to wait for her ideas to glom before she could write a story.

The point is, when stolen things go into my story, they've been processed, sometimes reshaped, molded, and kneaded, and fit together to form the story.

Now what is most intriguing about this is that all of those stolen pieces, that be reminded, didn't come from the author's mind, still reflect the author.  Because she* may not have created those things, but who stole them?  Chose them?  Who remade them, fit them together in a way she still thinks is beautiful?  I'm sure you've heard enough of the quotes by now to know that choices simultaneously make a person and reveal who she truly is.

Now here's the beautiful enigma: her choices don't just reveal who she has made herself to be, but who God has made her to be, and who and what He has used to shape her into who she is.  The truth is, it's not by her own cleverness or observational skills that she has these things.  God gives them to her.  And here's the sad part: if she doesn't give Him the glory, then she really is stealing, and she's stealing from God.

*I'm using she because I'm a she, and when I say she, I'm half talking about myself, so deal with it.

Well, I had no idea I was going to go there.  That's an example of "glommage," as Sarah would say.

3.) The Rant, or Conclusion, Where All of Our Ropes Meet in One Knot

Here is the story of my writing, including the part I don't often talk about.

Anyway, when I was six, I started reading chapter books.  I was either six or seven when I wrote down my first, albeit incomplete, story.  For me it was just fun, but it was also a natural response to how much I was reading.  I started a few stories between the ages of seven and ten.  Maybe four or five stories, and most of them didn't get far.  It wasn't something I really felt the need to do, but I liked feeling like I was making something.

When I was ten, I started a story called FIREBREATH, which was pretty much a blatant ripoff of ERAGON.  I also started a story called STORMY HURL, which I actually think there's still some merit to.  They didn't get far.  What's more important is that when I was ten, my Book Binder came into being.  As you can probably guess, it was a binder, and my original intention was that in it I would only put the stories that I eventually wanted to publish.  See, sometime around FIREBREATH's inception, I'd decided I wanted to be a famous author.  This was when I really started writing regularly, and I didn't go anywhere without taking my Book Binder.  I didn't write every day, by any means; that came later.  But I did have it in my head a lot.

When I was twelve, disaster struck, as it often does for twelve-year-olds.  I became an angsty brat, to put it nicely.  Not intentionally, but I was completely overwhelmed with all the new emotion that comes with puberty.  I was depressed and angry all the time.  And unfortunately, I turned violent.  I didn't know why at the time, and even know it's not really clear to me.  All I know is that for no reason at all, I'd be talking to a sibling of mine, and suddenly I'd want to attack them.  And sometimes I would.  Then I'd be ashamed and even more depressed, and I'd go off and cry where nobody could see me, and then a few days later I'd do it again.  And yes, that's as miserable as it sounds.  Anger issues hurt the person suffering from them just as much as the people around her.  I had a lot of stuff going on in my head, and a ton of fears that multiplied every day, and things just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

Some part of me knew, however, that I needed some way to get rid of all the excess energy that was pouring into my emotions, and influencing me to hurt other people.  That way ended up being Katie Bolsta.  Katie Bolsta was the first character I ever wrote who wasn't just a plot device.  Katie Bolsta was myself, as I wanted to be at the time.  She was fierce, and she was self-controlled, and she was in charge.  People respected her.

KATIE BOLSTA was also the first book that I wrote not for other people to read, for my future fans, but for myself.  It was also the first book partially inspired by a dream.  This is the first time I've been able to realize, looking back, that KATIE BOLSTA was the first book I ever wrote as an artist.  It was the first book that ever "glommed" for me, and I poured my life into it.

I've known, ever since then, why I write.  It's so I don't hurt others.  It's so I don't hurt myself, emotionally speaking.  It's so I stay steady and stable, and get rid of the baggage before it drags me down, and I thank God for it.

So I don't know what Maggie Stiefvater would call me.  But I do know that I write for myself and for God, and that the things I write for myself, I want to help other people; I think they can, too.

To this day, my main characters are the people I want to be.  And to this day, I'm careful to watch what I steal, because my choices reveal and make me who I am.

Man, that was a lot.  Please tell me your own thoughts on writers vs. storytellers, stealing, and any of the other topics that catch your attention.  You can stop reading now if you want, the other stuff is kind of extra-ish.

I know this was a long post, and went a lot of different places, but I hope it was beneficial to you!  I know it was to me. 

I'll spit out another post sometime.  I think the reason my posts often go on so long is because I do them so rarely, so if you have any writing-related things you want me to blog on, I'd be happy to, and in a succinter (don't judge) way.  I'm hoping to start posting more frequent and short posts.