A Good Place to Start: Writing and the Internet

My first blog that paved the way to my writing life.

“The internet is a dark road to infinity potholed with links” – Rex Pickett, Sideways

I read this quote in Rex Pickett’s novel Sideways and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Aside from the fact that it’s a brilliant metaphor, it made me stop and think about technology today – technology and its relationship to writing.

A character in this story believed that a true writer does not publish on the internet – he seemed to think he would be labelled a failure by doing so. That may have been the case in the early days when traditional publishing seemed like the only option to share our work, but the world of publishing has changed – just look at Kindle.

Earlier this year I purchased a Kindle. I did so out of pure convenience. I’m on the road a lot and rather than pack a bunch of books, I bring my sleek little Kindle – a small compact unit that holds multiple books. I love the feel, the scent, the texture, and the sound of turning pages from a real book, but the Kindle has quickly become my little technological wonder that brings my books, my research and my stories everywhere, without the extra cost of overweight luggage.

We all covet that book deal with a publisher that puts a hard copy of our book in our hands, but today we have so many other options. It’s rare that we’ll get a book deal out of our blogging or internet writing, (there are a lucky few), but we will gain experience, improve our craft, connect to community, find an audience and grow as writers.

Yes, the internet can be our biggest distraction, but only if we allow it. Many things can be a distraction to the writer – family, housework, friends and pets. It’s up to us to set the boundaries and avoid them as best we can – close the door, turn on off the phone, turn off the WiFi, tell friends and family we are not available for the next hour (unless it’s an emergency), and make sure our pets are fed, comfy and happy before we settle in at the desk.

The internet has given us a place to share our stories and create a space for our work. When once it was the lowliest place for a writer to go, it’s now a new world of opportunity. It gave us the blog and the blog gave us license to write, stretch our legs, and promote our art.

The internet doesn’t have to be “a dark road potholed with links”. It’s no longer the last resort – now it’s a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

The Writer’s Studio

The Writers Studio Class 2019. Photo: Creative Writing Program Simon Fraser University

It took three months, an essay, an application, a resume and 20 pages of my own work, published or not, finished or unfinished, and works in progress. A month after the deadline, I got the email I hoped for:

I am very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into The Writer’s Studio Vancouver at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies for the 2019 year. Welcome and congratulations on submitting a successful application!

There was a large and talented pool of applicants this year and each of our mentors read all the applications to select who they were most drawn to work with in the coming year. You were accepted in the first round.”

This was a program I’d been eyeing for a few years – a year-long curriculum tailored for writers and working people to allow them to complete and receive a university credited creative writing certificate, and work with a mentor to guide them through their projects and/or writing life. It’s an exceptional program in that it not only focuses on structure, grammar, and genre but incorporates bi-weekly workshops that force us to write on a deadline for submission and have our work reviewed and critiqued by our peers. While there’s always something to learn in the obligatory classes, it’s in the workshop setting where I will face my deepest fears, find my audience, discover how to shape my work and grow as a writer.

I don’t believe that college or university is required to be a writer – after all, I’ve written and published the last six years without the coveted university degree, but I sometimes find being a student very inspiring. Over the years I’ve taken individual classes and writing workshops, and I always came away from them with new ideas and fresh motivation.

Writing is often thought of as a very solitary occupation, but I don’t believe that. I think we need a writing community, whether it’s through school or joining a local writing group. I think we need to be able to share our work, play with ideas, talk things out, discover new friends and resources that will help us become better writers. A scholastic setting is just one of many ways to connect with my community.

The Writer’s Studio promises to be a stimulating and exciting component of my writing journey. I look forward to uncovering what the year will bring and sharing my insights along the way.

Until next time, happy writing everyone.

Far and Away: A Writers Dream

J.G. Chayko on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

There’s something romantic about stories of writers who have the means to travel to other places, live there for a few months and write. This is the dream we all have as writers. We imagine a cabin in the woods, a quiet desk at the window with a view, wildlife roaming freely through a lush forest; we long for a patio on a cliff hanging over the ocean, waking each morning to the whisper of waves breaking on the shore or a vibrant sunset kissing the whitecaps at twilight, perhaps a glass of wine at our side. We envision an elegant apartment in New York overlooking Central Park, and we bow to the illusion that if we could be in any of these places, we will finish the great novel, that bestseller we’ve been working on for months, maybe even years.

This is the fairy-tale we tell ourselves. It’s a lovely fantasy to think we can pack up for six months out of the year and burrow away in a cottage on the beach, but the truth is there’s no guarantee we will be any more productive in that space than in our parents’ basement. It’s a form of procrastination. We’re tricking ourselves into an idealized version of a what a writer should be and do.

We may not have the resources to travel to New York, Greece, Italy or any other exotic city to complete our novel, but we do have the power to garner inspiration from the outside world in the place we call home. There are glorious sunsets to be seen in our own backyard, serene parks with their own fertile beauty, lakes and shorelines that rejuvenate and inspire. We can make our own writing space as comfortable and inviting as possible. We can put up posters, hang pictures, rearrange furniture, paint, listen to music, infuse the air with soft aromas, construct our own Feng Shui to sit down get the job done.

We shouldn’t have to travel anywhere beyond our own imagination. We have the distinct power to design our own inspiring location within the stories begging to be told. The work itself should be enough to transport us far and away. Fire up the computer, turn on the music, sit down and start writing. You’ll be amazed at the places you find yourself.

A Summer of Reading

Write every day. That’s the advice we are given when we start writing – to make it a habit, to incorporate it into our daily schedule, to just write. And for the most part, I do. But during the summer, my writing work slows down. Most of my deadlines have passed, the days are warmer and longer, and the call to spend time outdoors is more powerful than hiding out in my writing room soaking up rays from my computer screen. Summer is the time to catch up with friends and family, swim, hike, walk along the beach, go on road trips, attend BBQ’s, relax on a patio with glass of wine, and soak up life and ideas. Summer is also a time for me to indulge in the writer’s most valuable ally – reading.

I love to read, and I read everything – well, almost everything. The romance genre has yet to peak my interest, but I’ll give anything a chance at least once. I started this summer reading a book by one of my favorite authors – Secret Windows, by Stephen King, a book of essays on writing, and as it turned out, it was the perfect book to build my summer reading list. As King ruminates on certain writers, books and stories, it stirred in me an inexorable desire to read those stories, and, as fate would have it, I have most of those books on my shelf – The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury – just a few of the classic stories I am devouring this summer.

My summer of reading is just as vital to me as my writing time. Reading inspires, entertains, and recharges my battery, so when the seasons change, I can return to my writing room, turn on my music, snuggle up to my fireplace and get back to work while the raindrops pelt against the window and the wind howls through the trees.

When the writing slows down, when we hit those blocks or just need a break, pick up a book, get lost in a story and remember why you wanted to write in the first place.

Happy New Year 2017

It seems like New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken – at least that’s what it feels like for me. Every year I envisioned these grand sweeping dreams and every year those dreams floated away from my reach, bursting like delicate soap bubbles.

Lost in the shadow of my grand promises, however, I somehow achieved a cluster of small goals I failed to recognize as accomplishment. In fact, as it turned out, many of my finest moments and triumphs in the last year were due to the surprising result of broken resolutions.”  – J.G. Chayko, The Old Lady in My Bones.

Sometimes we accomplish more in a year than we realize. I hope that everyone can take a moment to celebrate the small victories hidden in the pages of our lives. No matter how big or small, every achievement should be celebrated. I look forward to picking up my pen, gathering my notebooks, opening a new word document and rediscovering the triumphs waiting in another year of broken resolutions – one day at a time, one word at a time, one story at a time.

Cheers to all for a very happy, healthy and creative New Year in 2017. dsc_1495-2-3

 

I Write, Therefore I Am…

20160811_164147When do you call yourself a writer? This seems to be a complicated dilemma for many. Some people feel they can’t truly call themselves a writer until they’ve received some sort of exceptional endorsement for their work. I disagree.

There is no test, no exam, no screening method, no extraordinary circumstance that suddenly makes one “a writer.” When people ask me when I called myself a writer, I tell them I called myself a writer the first moment I picked up a pen. Before my first publication, before my first meager payment for a short story, I was a writer. A publication or a payment should never define you as such – short stories, poetry, memoir, novels, essays or blog posts – quite simply, if you write you are a writer. All you need to do is do it.

 

 

Vacancy

Aviary Photo_131047800285478307The blank page is the writers’ canvas. Don’t be intimidated by its stark whiteness, its vacant stare, its arrogant lines undulating across the page – know it is there to fuel your imagination and give you permission to write anything you desire. It is not there to restrict or impose rules but to inspire, to animate and excite. The blank page is the window to new worlds, new characters, new places, new happenings – it invites you to write down every emotion, memory, secret or vision. It is our friend, our rival, our therapist, our lover, and our companion. It plays devil’s advocate driving us to reveal our most intimate thoughts – and out of the jumble that gushes onto the page, we will unearth the stories we are destined to cultivate.