• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
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  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Lisa Gornick Asks: Can Writing Make You a Better Person?

In the 31st in a series of posts on 2015 books entered for The Story Prize, Lisa Gornick, author of Louisa Meets Bear (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG), looks to take the high road.Disclaimer: Putting aside extremes—ax murderer, extortionist—anything we do with commitment and self-reflection can make us a better person. But writing is what I do these days, and here’s how it helps me.(A list because lists go down easy, seven because lore says it’s the sweet memory spot…)

  1. To write, I have to observe. I have to push myself to see: sky beyond generic dawn or dusk, drunk beyond scruffy and stumbling. To hear: the breathing of someone so angry he might punch a wall, trees before a hurricane hits. To smell garbage on the eighth day after an apocalypse, feel a sea slick with oil, taste chicken a hallucinating mother browned with shoe polish.
  2. To write, I have to tolerate being alone at my desk, without answering the phone or checking email or looking up Black Friday sales. An act of warfare against the multitasking-google-social media-hegemony.
  3. To write, I have to be honest with myself. I have to be able to say this is not good or new or worthwhile. I have to be able to accept that this sentence, this paragraph, this chapter is not working and has to be redone or done away with. I have to recognize when I am procrastinating, in a muddle, avoiding how much I don’t know. Or afraid of pursuing a scene because of what others might think or what it might make me think about myself. And sometimes, I have to say, just to myself, this is a leap for me. This is good.
  4. To write, I have to push myself to go deeper and into more dangerous territory, and to work harder and longer than I believe I can. I have to find the courage and concentration and persistence, and then do everything in my power to become a mental tri-athlete.
  5. To write, I have to be independent: to take my work as far as I can on my own, so it reaches into my unconscious and is work only I could write. No crowdsourcing, no groupthink. I have to trust myself that with patience I can find my way out of confusion and vagueness and cliché to something that is original and true.
  6. To write, I have to accept that I have blind spots and can’t always see the big picture or hear my verbal tics or identify the places where burrowing in or paring back will make the work more luminous. I have to find readers who give honest feedback—not those who primarily reassure or those who eviscerate, but a few people who are committed to helping me make my work its own best self. And then I have to listen carefully to what my readers say, never arguing, always responding with gratitude because it is an act of love for another person to put his or her mind to my work. And, if what is said rings true, I have to make the changes, even if it takes two months or two years. And if what is said feels like it takes the work in a direction different from my own vision, I have to simply say thank you.
  7. To write, I have to believe that the work and my development as a writer, not the metrics of sales and prizes and likes and shares, is what matters. I have to resist the statistics of the marketplace, beware of how they can damage the literary soul.   

Do I achieve all of these virtues every day? Never. Do I reach any of them in a week? Sometimes. But writing points me toward the high road—and that, I know, is the best direction.

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."
Vita Sackville-West

Random picks

  • This week on Vulpes Libris we have poets and revolutionaries, sex and betrayal, the past and the present.  Or, in the case of some posts, all of the above. On Monday, Jackie peers at The Wit in the Dungeon, Anthony Holden’s biography of Leigh Hunt. On Tuesday, Kirsty welcomes – with some reservations – Richard Gott’s Cuba: a New History. On Wednesday, the past is another world as Sam revisits Keep The Aspidistra Flying. On Thursday, Anne uncovers an interesting case of sex and fragility in Anita Shreve’s Testimony. On Friday, Nikki gets frustrated by Philippa...
  • Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics seeks a publisher, membership coordinator, and art, editorial, and publishing interns. See Work for Guernica blog post for specifics on each open position.
  • I’m currently working on a novel called Dreamer’s Wood, first installment in the Blackthorn & Grim series, and my deadline is getting uncomfortably close. Indeed, the story is so much in my head at present that I really had no choice but to write about it for this month’s post. Dreamer’s Wood, a historical fantasy/mystery for adult readers, is designed around contrasts in voice. Three major characters–Blackthorn, the disillusioned healer; Grim, her taciturn sidekick; Oran, the dreamer prince–take turns narrating chapters in first person. This framework allows emotional...
  • If you're writing about yourself--your memoirs, your autobiography, or your personal history--you owe it to yourself to tell those stories that don't always make you look good. It makes for better reading and will endear you to your audience.
  • Martutene is the eighth novel by Basque writer Ramon Saizarbitoria, a sociologist who has also published books of economics, perinatology, and poetry. The novel’s name refers to a neighborhood in San Sebastian, which once had “baserris, large apple orchards, rich kitchen gardens that were fertilized using waste material brought from the tobacco factory . . . and elegant Belle Epoque mansions with beautiful gardens.” Saizarbitoria creates, in his winding exploration of...

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Fast fact about writing

In some languages, as in English and French, the modern freezing of spelling has removed the writing more and more from pronunciation and has resulted in the need to teach spelling and the growth of fallacies like the "silent" letter (a letter is really either the symbol of a sound or it is unnecessary).