As I’m sure you know, most people who try to make a living by writing tend to have a day job on the side. The reality of living a creative life is that you often have to supplement your creative work with something more menial or mind-numbing. Some of us may be lucky enough to have a job that revolves around words in some way, even if it does not consist of us writing and publishing our own work. But still, we are often unable to devote the majority of our days to writing itself.

Personally, I do have a day job. There was a time in college when I thought I could make a living simply by writing. But it soon became apparent that that was not a realistic option if I ever wanted to leave my parents home. So I, like many of you, “sold out” and got myself a day job to pay the bills. All of my writing progress is made during the evening and on weekends.

As I said, having a day job is often thought of as “selling out.” Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Recently I saw a quote from comedian Sara Benincasa on a website called Write For Your Life, which put a different light on the “day job.” The quote said, “Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”

This was not an opinion that I heard of before. In general, I’ve always heard day jobs spoken of as annoyances that we have to go through because creative work doesn’t pay as much as we would like. If we didn’t have a day job, then we were thought of as “suffering” for our art rather than “selling out.” But, in this quote, Sara Benincasa makes having a day job necessary to the creative lifestyle. These jobs are a necessity to take us away from our art for a time so that, when we do return, we’re ready to create to our heart’s content.

I must say that I like this quote and this take on the whole idea of a “day job.” I may be biased because I have a day job myself, but this makes sense to me. Sometimes you need distance from the art you’re working on, you need to give your brain a rest, so that you can return fresh and ready to create again.

What do you think about this quote? Do you agree? Share your thoughts on the “day job” in the comments!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

In the past, I have discussed the process of outlining. I don’t think it’s any secret, then, that I enjoy outlining. Having an outline gives me a framework to work off as I write. It reminds me what needs to come next, where I’m headed in general, and the major plot points that I need to hit. In general, when I’m starting a writing project, I begin with an outline. Once I have a vague idea of what I want the story to be about, my first step is to write the outline so that I have that as I begin to actually write. But a different process has been brought to my attention recently, and it’s rather intriguing.

In the Writer Unboxed blog post entitled 10 Tips About Process, the author mentioned outlining in #8 on her list. She says, “Outline, but not too early. Then follow the outline: I don’t outline until I’m well into the first draft and certain I know my characters well enough to understand their motivations. If I outline too early, I become blocked.”

My first reaction to this was that I probably wouldn’t try this. To me, an outline is one of the first things that needs to be done in a writing project, so why put it off? But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it might be a good idea. There have been a few writing projects with which I’ve struggled, even with an outline in place. During these projects, I’ve written aimlessly — sometimes for about 10,000 words — just discovering who the characters were. Most of that early work can’t be used in the final draft because it’s aimless and was only for myself. Perhaps if I did this discovery writing first, then began an outline, that would be beneficial.

If you’re having trouble with something you’re working on at the moment, perhaps you should take a step back and do some discovery writing before outlining to see where your story stands. If you already have an outline that you’re working with, consider scrapping it and starting from scratch to get a new view of the project.

Where do you stand on outlining? When in the process of a writing project do you typically write your outline? Share in the comments!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Editor’s Notes: #142

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Editor's Notes

Good afternoon, blog readers. I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday so far! This week I bring you some exciting news: the launch of the next Jet Fuel Review issue is coming up!

That’s right, the Spring 2014 issue of the Review is now finished and it will be posted this week, on April 24th. If you’re reading this post and happen to be a Lewis University student, then you’re welcome to join us at the new issue launch on Thursday! If you’re not in the area, you can of course read the new issue when it’s posted on the 24th.

Now, onto the latest posts you’ve been seeing on this blog. A few weeks ago we posted a Writing Advice post about how the concept of spring cleaning might be applied to one’s writing. If you have some dusty, old projects that have been awaiting your attention, take them out now and work on them! The community discussion that week was all about getting to your character’s true desire. Do you think that’s the most important part of any writing project? Share your thoughts in the post! That week, we featured the poem Incipient by Elizabeth Bradfield.

We also had a great post from Jackie White, one of the Jet Fuel Review‘s faculty advisors, about her time on the Writing Process Blog Tour. Be sure to check it out! And, if you’re interested, be sure to check out Simone Muench’s blog post on the same topic.

This past week we had a Writing Advice post about first draft woes. Are you in the midst of a first draft of a writing project? Are you feeling tired and worn out by writing it or revising it? Come share your woe in the comments! On Monday we had some exciting news — Jet Fuel contributer, Virginia Smith Rice, published her first book of poetry. If you’re looking for a new collection of poetry to read, you can check out her book, When I Wake It Will Be Forever, which is being published by Sundress Publications. The discussion post this week discussed the subject of writing self-help books. Do you read them? Do you despise them? Share your thoughts! The featured poem this week was Entrance by William Greenway.

That’s all for this week, folks! I hope that you check out the launch of the Jet Fuel Review‘s new issue, and have a wonderful week!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Welcome, dear blog readers, to another installment of the “Pick-a-Poem” posts here on the Jet Fuel Review blog. Every Wednesday we feature a poem from a poet that you may not have heard of. These poems come courtesy of the very helpful website, Poetry Daily. If you’re looking for some new poetry to check out, try out their site! This week we feature a poem entitled Entrance, written by William Greenway.

According to his bio page on Poetry Daily, William Greenway has written two award-winning collections of poetry. Both Ascending Order (2003) and Everywhere at Once (2008), both published by the University of Akron Press, won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award in the year they were published. His work has also appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review,  Southern Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is professor of English at Youngstown State University.

Entrance, by William Greenway

Read the rest of this entry »

If you want to learn more about being a writer, or about the craft of writing, there are numerous resources out there for you to reference. There are books, there are websites, and there are blog posts like this one. There are books that will tell you how to write a specific genre and books that will tell you how to write for certain audiences. There are books that will tell you how to edit, revise, submit, and self-publish your own work.

My point, I believe, in listing all of these writing resources, is that you could easily read yourself silly and never get any writing done. I think I’ve written about my opinions regarding certain writing resources before on this blog. Generally, I think writing books that model themselves after self-help books are of no use. You can spend days reading those books, highlighting pertinent passages, and taking notes. But all of that time is time you could have spent writing.

Another good point is that writing books tend to present the craft of writing as very cut-and-dry. As Jael McHenry says, in her article on Writer Unboxed, “So many of these books are about formula: if only you follow the framework, they say, you’ll have a book that’s not only universally loved by critics, but also embraced by readers everywhere. One word: HA. Frameworks are all well and good, but creative work can never be paint-by-numbers.”

I echo Jael McHenry: Ha! Writing cannot be done according to a formula or framework. And she’s right, many of those books present writing in that way. Personally I think that’s a flawed representation and following it will not help you become a better writer. In her post, McHenry also says that those who produce writing books exist to sell those writing books. So the books may not have your best interest at heart, honestly.

Instead of reading about writing, I would suggesting reading to write. The difference is in the materials — rather than reading about the craft and about how you “should” practice it, read the works of the greats. Read what you enjoy the most. Read what you think writing should be. Seeing what other authors have done before you is far more beneficial than reading about a formula, framework, or step-by-step for writing.

What do you think? Do you disagree with me completely? How do you feel about books about writing? Share in the comments!

– Jet Fuel Blog Edtior, Mary Egan

Virginia Smith Rice publishes her first book, When I Wake It Will Be Forever.wheniwake

Virginia Smith Rice writes poetry and teaches art in Woodstock, Illinois.

She earned her MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University and is co-editor of Kettle Blue Review, an online poetry journal.

When I Wake It Will Be Forever, is now available from Sundress Publications. Some of her individually published poems can be found on the Poems page.

Virginia can be contacted through Kettle Blue Review.

“Both shimmering and seething, haunted and haunting, the complex, dazzling contours of When I Wake It Will Be Forever beckon the reader with the imperative of ‘listen’; and we do, because Rice’s poems vibrate with a ‘voice thorned and singing / but not human.’ Like her poetic parentage—Desnos, Szymborska, Tranströmer and Csoóri—there is a wisdom contained in this work that transcends a singular being’s experience; ultimately elegiac, yet ‘lit by inner, hidden suns,’ this book is a stellate network of memory, loss, longing, silence, and voice. Often serving as witness (to an aunt’s suicide, a stranger’s suicide, ‘the suicide in my voice’) Rice pays tribute to the manifold ghosts that clamor inside us. This is one of the most solidly exquisite and lingering first books I’ve had the honor of reading.”
-Simone Muench

“Virginia Smith Rice has created a tremblingly precise, intricate, bright-edged evocation of a world both ecstatic and ominous, grieving and vital, broken and mending, but rarely mended. Her poems are richly colored and intensely focused on the shapes and forms of the world and of inner life and relationships. They are crowded with living plants and creatures and intense feeling, and Rice can even describe the color of solitude. Her language is sensuously complex, her angle of vision is oblique and finds the memorable touch of reality off-cenvsmithter, at the edges, just this side of perceptibility. She has created a delicate yet vivid response to what she calls the ‘percussed absence’ that haunts human life. This is a marvelous first book.”
-Reginald Gibbons

“A Virginia Smith Rice poem is naked, like a bulb, although, unlike a bulb in the dark, it does not want to be seen dangling by and for itself, it does not want to be interpreted as the centre of its universe, even as a frame does not. Her poems say instead their warm color of incandescence to some still life hanging from a wall. When a Virginia Smith Rice poem says, ‘Autumn laps gently as a well-fed dog: each pale / branch remembers leaves as essential things, / and how easy it is to let things go,’ it at once frames a scene of plenty, of longing, and of regret. In this way, the poems in When I Wake It Will Be Forever are always pleasurable, colorful and sincere in and to every sense.”
-Rethabile Masilo, author of Things That Are Silent

Today, let’s talk about first drafts. In some ways, first drafts are the best. You get to discover your story as you’re writing, you get to branch off into imaginative areas, and you get to experience your story for the first time as you work your way through it. First drafts, however, can also be abysmal. They are, by definition, supposed to be not very good. I think we all know that intrinsically. But when it comes time to edit your first draft, you may be a bit down about what you produced over those months or years when you were working on it.

Personally, I am going through some first draft woes at the moment. Last November I began a project for National Novel Writing Month. Last month, I finished the first draft of that project. Ever since then I have been trying to embark on an editing journey, but it has been slow-going. Though I have written 7 different projects for 7 different National Novel Writing Months, I have not glanced back at those projects or tried to edit them since my first two years participating. Those projects were back when I was 16 and 17, so a lot has changed since then.

Now, as I’m beginning to revise and edit this new writing project, I’m starting to feel down on myself about the book’s organization and on how much needs to change. I know that the first draft was always meant to be horrible, but the editing process can still be painful and arduous. It’s definitely not as fun or as easy as writing that first draft.

I recently found an article on Writer Unboxed, 10 Tips about Process, which mentioned these first draft woes. The article’s author, Brunonia Barry, says “Write a mess of a first draft and never show it to anyone…If I thought I had to show those pages to anyone, I’d probably stop writing. I think first drafts should be messy, like finger painting. When I finally finish the book, I burn them.”

I suppose that’s some consolation. As bad as this first draft might be, no one ever needs to see it. The pages never need to see the light of day. For now all I have to do is gather up the courage to look through them myself and make them better wherever I can.

If you, too, are dealing with some first draft woes, just keep on working! Doing a little bit each day can slowly but surely chip away at that first draft. Before you know it, you’ll have a much neater and nicer second draft. Happy writing!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan