I Binge Listened to Books, Here’s What I Learned
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I feel like I’m grasping, but not at straws. Straws are tangible things, with a use. A tool.

While I’ve always viewed stories as tools, as a device, I can’t equate them to a tool you use with your hands.

I’m grasping for a feeling, the feeling that good books and stories give me. Like an awakening in my gut, a song in my head that I’ve never actually heard but can hum along to without thought.

Now, I can change this into a wistful look at what stories mean to me, and perhaps it will turn into that, I don’t know, as I really don’t know much about what I’m writing or where it will go until it does.

So, here’s a bit of background on me that I feel is necessary for you to understand what I will attempt to communicate in this article.

I was young when I first became infatuated with stories. It may have been in 2nd grade, or maybe earlier. I couldn’t tell you what it was, if there was a particular story that grounded me and lifted me up and beyond into a world I never knew existed but had always hoped did. There were significant stories that I could point to, Julie Andrews Edward’s The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles stands out. (Something I continuously read even in adulthood, and a common gift to friends with children.) But, to pick a moment, pin it with a thumbtack and say, “here, this is the moment I fell in love with stories,” is something I cannot do.

As for writing?

Our entire 4th grade class had spent a week learning about similes and metaphors, things that I have come to know as the tools of communication, but then had only come to know as things that people who wrote stuff did. The culmination of our week-long lesson was to show what we had learned, that we had, in fact, payed attention instead of playing with our silly putty erasers Sanrio had begun selling, of which the amount you had in your backpack dictated your level of cool among the other children, by writing a story. One. Single. Story.

And, so I did.

I wish I could tell you, over 15 years later that I was then discovered to be some kind of writing and narrative genius. But, as you can probably guess, that isn’t true.

But, for a 4th grader it wasn’t bad. In fact, my teacher did find something in me, whether it was my command of a metaphor, as she noted, or perhaps just a moment where she saw a fire in my eyes I couldn’t see because I was yet tall enough to stand in front of a mirror, and see it for myself. She had me work on binding my short story into a book while everyone else did review on the things they didn’t understand from the previous week.

This book sits in a wooden and glass shelf next to the TV in my parent’s house. All these years later, and they still have my first story. My first book, if you’d be so generous as to grant it such a title. Whatever you want to call it, it was the first.

As any of you who are writers and know that the term is the only thing that has indelibly been able to describe you probably understand: it begins with books.

Reading, in particular. All of us storytellers were brought up with books in our hands, whether from the library the max amount checked out and stowed in your plastic bin that Matilda’s red wagon could barely match up to (true story, I broke the handle trying to fit so many books into it), or you got them passed down to you, lovingly aged, but it’s magic transcendent over time, the same effect no matter how many eyes have glanced over every inked letter.

Well, that’s where it started for me, and maybe that’s where it’ll end, but along the way from then to now, it did not remain steadfast.

I went through 2 reading dry spells in my life, and during what was 2 years for the first and almost 4 for the second, I felt darkness in a way that was completely blinding, an oblivion, until I was pulled out of it by stories that captured me in unimaginable ways.

The first dry spell began in 6th grade and ended in 8th grade when I picked up The Hunger Games. I read it in a night, the first time I had ever done that, but not the last. Years later, as I try to sit down and tell you how much that book and that story meant to me in a time when I needed it most, I find that words fail me, and they seldom do. But, perhaps it is not the words that fail me, but I have succumbed to my own inability to find the correct ones. I’m sure they exist somewhere out there, but I cannot reach them.

I couldn’t sleep. I could not sleep. I remember, vividly, lying awake on the couch turned bed in the 30 ft. RV my parents bought when I was a preteen, thinking it could encompass adventure and be our vessel towards it. But, it was not. Not, for me.

I laid there, after having finished the book, reading in my sleeping bag by the light of my iPod, thinking. Just thinking. Suzanne Collins had created a world that felt so distant to the one that I knew as home—a world that was constantly changing and unraveling beneath me as I felt the impending doom of high school and what felt like the first whisper of adulthood. She had created a woman, a young woman, in an age I would soon be, who overcame what everyone else deemed impossible, and she rose and rose and rose and shot straight like the arrow she took down the odds stacked against her with.

She created a world I could run into, a world filled with mystical characters and events I didn’t feel I had the capacity to imagine. And, I never wanted it to end. A year later, when Mockingjay came out, I spent weeks reading the book, terrified at what the end of it would feel like, I sat on my bed turned into a couch, bumping along somewhere in California, when I read the final words of the books that meant more to me than even these words express. And even in the end, even when I closed the book, I felt I had just returned home, even though it was still far past the horizon on that highway, hours away.

So, maybe my parents were right. That RV would take me on an adventure, just not the one they had planned out in their maps from AAA.

There are many reasons The Hunger Games, Suzanne, and Katniss left a mark on me, and being the book to pull me out of what had been my first foray into depression, the first of several that would soon lead to my diagnosis of Panic Disorder, but I will not outline them here.

My second dry spell is a funny one, it began Freshman year of college, when I was suddenly grappling with what it meant to be on my own, have little to no money, and a choice to make that would define my future on a piece of paper 4 years down the line. I had classes on topics I didn’t care about but had to take and immediately forget as soon as the final was over. And, I had books. Books upon books upon books that I was meant to read.

As a Freshman English major, none of the books that were assigned to me mattered. They were stories forced upon me, not ones I chose, and that blocked me off from the lessons my professors had hoped I would find within.

But, I picked up one book for myself. Just one.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I can’t tell you where I bought it, or why I bought it, only that after reading the back cover and the first couple pages, after thumbing the golden cover with its raised letters, that I felt for the first time since 8th grade that I had stumbled upon a book that had the same golden sheen of adventure that The Hunger Games had once had for me.

I bought it. And began.

And, I didn’t stop reading until I had finished it. In the back of classrooms, while walking through the halls, even volunteering to be the “hallway lookout” during a weird hypnosis demonstration my psychology professor was holding. I wasn’t a good watch, because I wasn’t on the third floor of the Psychology building at California State University, Northridge, I was in the sands of Serra, in the halls of Blackcliff, and you would have had to pry me out of there.

When I finished the book, I felt a part of myself end with it, a story had just begun, I was a part of it, and then I had to return to my own, dull life. A life I wasn’t enjoying at the time. A life I would have gladly given up.

I wish I could say I was a “true fan”, someone who waited at bookstores, signed up for newsletters, and read the sequel the second it came out. But, that’s not true.

The sequel came out, I bought it, got it signed, felt so incredible lucky to be in the presence of someone who had a command on words and stories in a way I had not found in myself yet, even after having written 5 novels.

But, I hadn’t written not for quite some time.

I’d stopped writing. And like the stroke of the pen stopping to make its mark, I felt my story cease, even though I clearly continued to exist.

When A Torch Against The Night came out, I was deep into what would turn out to be 5 years of some of the worst pain I had ever felt. I wasn’t writing. If I wasn’t writing, and yet, I was a writer, then why did I exist? Why was I waking up in the morning if not to write?

I didn’t read it when it came out. And, even though I don’t know Sabaa, and had only remotely interacted with her on social media and seen her speak and read, I felt a sort of guilt from deep within me, for not continuing with Elias and Leia and with Sabaa herself. Because her book had meant so much to me, but I couldn’t mention it to anyone, because if they had asked if I had read the second, I’d have to say no. The third came out, and yet, I did not read it.

A fear of loss overcame me, just as it does any moment I go from writing to not. The dull taps of the keys stopping, the scratch of the pen ceasing. The thoughts leaving.

It’s a kind of fear of stopping and never being able to start again. A car whose engine has worn down, oil sputtering, left in a junkyard to rust, no matter how many adventures you’ve had in it, how many green toy soldiers jammed in the air ventilation from too tiny fingers and curious minds.

Even now, if I take too long a break from writing down this article — which admittedly seems more like a mini biography of my woes and hardships when it comes to words — I am overcome with a sense of dread that returning to the keys again will prove futile, and my words will no longer serve me, if they ever did.

In my final semester of college this year, I read exactly one book. Toni Morrison’s Sula. It took me all semester long to read this little thing, and the words in it would grow taller than the sunflowers leaning against the house next to Nel’s in the novel and would continue to grow until they had inspired me to write deeper and harder than I ever had before.

And even then, I only finished this masterpiece of narrative after I had walked in a black gown and received a diploma, and an email that the book was due soon. And, since I knew I wouldn’t be walking past the tall pillars of the library where I had spent so many hours reading text books, I finished Morrison’s novel. I couldn’t bear to leave a book unfinished.

It took me almost 4 years after first reading Sabaa’s gorgeous novel of sand and strength and fire in the night to finish the three available books. And I did it while sitting at my desk at my post-grad internship by listening to the audiobooks.

As someone in her early 20s who is trying to make her wildest dreams a reality, I have little to no time to sit down and read. And, even if I did, I fear I wouldn’t. Because now, as a writer in my own right, I feel sitting down to read a book is a waste of time. I mean that in the kindest sense possible. I mean that I do not have the time to escape to these worlds anymore, to go on these adventures and spend all this time with these fictional characters I’ve grown to love. It pains me, it really does, because every time I look at a spine of a shelf, I don’t see pages or time, but the opportunity of characters and lives I have yet to meet.

So, I listened. I listened to the first novel again, having not been a part of the story for so long, I felt my memory fail me. And, I listened. To every second and every word, rewinding on the words that caught me the most, scribbling down phrases on askew post-its at my desk when I never wanted those words to leave me again.

And, I finished.

4 years later, and I have all the segments, thus far, of Elias and Leia and Sabaa’s story within me.

So, what did I learn from doing this?

Well, you just read it.

Now, I’m on a hunt to find another gilded story, pages lined with inked tales of faraway places that will fill my head with the endless possibilities that only a story can deliver.

The great thing is, I’m finding a quite a few.

And, the world has opened again, and I am once more on that couch-turned-bed, hiding in my sleeping bag, falling with only trust in my heart and a fire in my eyes, because the greatest story ever told is the one that lays ahead.

Originally published on The Medium.

Karina SchinkComment
Bittersweet Honey

Its been almost over a year since I wrote anything for my own personal blog, and while almost every minute of not working on it, ever glance at the page whose archives seemed to shrink with time, was filled with a kind of bittersweet guilt, it was good.

It was the advice from my professor that made me stop everything. I was stuck. I was stuck worse than I had ever been before, and for the first time in my life I had no doubt in my mind that writer’s block was a real thing. I couldn’t simply “just write” because I felt as if I had nothing to say.

Writing is painful. Its a nihilistic approach to making life more explicable. Feeling called to write, feeling burdened and then unburdened simply from and by the stroke of a pen, but not being able to make a stroke at all, that is a pain far worse than I could imagine.

My professor told me to take a break from the story I was writing, the story I had told myself I was writing, when it was really just a painful, tear-filled rereading of words that didn’t feel like mine anymore.

I did take a break, and I wish I could say I did more with my break from writing than consuming television, films, and throwing myself head first into my work. But, I didn’t. I really didn’t read much, not for pleasure, at least. I watched shows I had seen a million times, but I watched things I had never seen, things I had never heard of.

And, I spent a lot of time working. I spent more time working than I did sleeping, and that was a first for me. My job has not required creative writing lately. It does sometimes, but not often.

I began to feel accustomed to the absence of words.

I began to think that the new creative environment I had found myself a part of could fulfill that nihilistic urge in my life. I began to forget that I am, in fact, a writer.

Perhaps, it would make me a better writer, and even then, a better person, to say that it was of my own accord that I pushed myself out of this rut, that I fought my way back to not only claiming my identity as a writer, but to actually want to write. But, it wasn’t me.

It was the combination of three things:

1. John Green published his first book in 7 years, and I read it.

2. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” came out, and I saw it on opening night.

3. I applied to MFA programs.

Turtles All The Way Down is John Green’s latest novel, which I feel safe to say has been anxiously awaited my people everywhere. While I, as many do, have opinions about it, I will not be sharing them in great details, as this is not a book review. I did, however, like it. It’s not my favorite John Green novel, but it changed my relationship with my own writing.

For the past 7 years I’ve been writing about mental illness, and I had never seen another YA book that was from the point of view of that person with mental illness. It made me feel less alone. It started to remind me what it’s all about. I started to remember why I started.

I feel confident saying that Star Wars was my first favorite story. I remember my dad showing me the original films when I was young. It was long for someone with such a short attention span, but the second it was over, I remember thinking that I had just experienced something phenomenal.

The latest resurgence of Star Wars and therefore the Star Wars craze, has awoken that love within me. I’ve always loved Star Wars, but in forgetting myself, I have forgotten things that defined who I was so long ago.

I went to go see the film on opening day, and went to Disneyland that same weekend. I kept bringing up the film to my roommate, who is virtually unaware of most things Star Wars. I was going into great detail about the hero’s journey and the power in a narrative of the hero being submerged under water and coming up newly baptized, in a way, as the hero. It was something I had used in one of my novels and was one of my favorite scenes to write.

Even with her limited knowledge of Star Wars, she said something to me which struck me in a way I didn’t expect. She said, “I know I don’t know much, but I honestly believe Star Wars is the most creative and original story I’ve ever heard of.”

She asked me my opinion, and my mind was reeling with all of the stories I had ever heard, and I wanted to disagree, because I was sure I had a better example. But, even though I tried to, I couldn’t.

Stories are built on stories. If you looked up the inspiration of any book you loved, it would send you down an endless rabbit hole of novels and film and poems and tales of years gone by. You would never stop, because storytellers create storytellers, and its one of the purest cycles I’ve ever experienced.

(I could say so much more about Star Wars, specifically about villainy, but that will be another post).

I decided a few months back that I would pursue storytelling as a career. I knew that I was still in my slump, but I would force myself out of it, because I knew I wanted to be a writer, a storyteller. My break had provided me with that insight, even if I hadn’t broken through the wall yet to sit down and write.

Deep in research for MFA programs and what to expect from them as well as researching how to write a Statement of Purpose, I read some advice from one graduate advisor who was detailing what candidates that school was looking for. “Write the story only you could write.” That was their sentence describing the kind of candidate they wanted.

Even though it was just meant to be a direction to how to apply, to aid you in your chances of getting in, to me it was deeply inspiring, empowering.

Each and every one of us, writer or not, have a unique story to tell, because we are all built off of our unique experiences. I’m not the only person in the world who grew up loving Star Wars, wielding a blue plastic light saber, but I am perhaps the only person who did that while also reading Captain Underpants and watching The Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup”.

We are each built up and around the stories that define us, whether they are the ones of the boy who lived, or the ones of our immigrant parents. There are thousands of stories within each and every one of us, and it is the desire to tell those combined stories in our own defined voice that makes some of us writers.

I realized that it is not the actual act of sitting down to write that makes me a writer, and therefore I didn’t give up what I felt defined me. I gave up the act to discover something deeper about myself that I didn’t realize, and maybe this will help you too.

Definitions are fluid. Rules are made to be broken. There is an exception to everything.

Writer, Actor, Artist, Doctor, Teacher. These are words we allow to define us. They are not solid, they are not the same from one to another. In a John Hughes, cheesy kind of way, we are all different within. It is these stories that help to define us. Not one word or one title, but hundreds of stories.

DUI

Car hits skin at the same velocity it would a wall. It makes no difference to the machine what causes it to stop. But, it makes all the difference to me. Car hits skin in an unforgivable way. It pounds and shreds, ripping life like a jagged nail from a board. Life creaks and resists, struggling to hang on to what it knows. It tries to stay there, steadfast. But, what was once built must also be brought down. Torn down. You were the thing that perched on my soul and sang, weeping words of wisdom and hope. It was a song I never thought would die out. But every swan must have its song. And foolishness will never die. It is not a song that is sung or a record that has been played too many times. It is infallible. And the stupidity of other people took you from us. Your morning job that was supposed to be a part of training for a marathon you never got to run. But, we ran. Together, we ran it for you. And, I don’t think anyone anywhere has ever been carried in so many footsteps within in so many hearts beating to the rhythm of one drum, unified and constant, reminding us what music felt like.

Pain is a funny thing. You can say jealousy and everyone knows the feeling. Anger. Happiness. Nervousness. But pain is too many things all at once. It is sharp and demanding. It forces you to succumb in a way you never imagined. Crippling you, weakening you at the knees. It is sharp, and it echoes.

You would think the world would stop turning. You would think that the death of someone you hold dear would make the earth stop because all of a sudden yours has. Babies keep crying. Children keep laughing. Chefs cook. Doctors save. And cars keep driving. Keep crashing and killing. Metal on skin until life is gone. And their world is gone. Yours has stopped. But the sun still sets. The moon waits for no man. And in all these sunrises and sunsets, one thing remains true: I still miss you.

In a soundless world you made me feel heard. And I can hear you in the way the wind travels through the Sycamore trees. I cherish the way it feels on my face. I can see you in the flowers that bloom in the garden outside where you used to live. I feel you smiling down on me how the sun lights the world. And all I can think is of those last three words that I knew you said.

Let.

It.

Shine.

 

Karina SchinkComment
Persistence

The world from my window looks the same. The cars that drive by could be the same as yesterday, and the day before that. The same headlights, same person behind the steering wheel. They make their way down the street in the same fashion as the car next to them. Nothing changes.

And yet, everything has.

I was sitting in my literature class. I love studying English literature. It was an unexpected joy that I found in high school, that soon became a passion, and something I wanted to pursue as a career. There was nothing greater than writing a book to me. That was the epitome of the great contribution to society that someone could make. I wanted to make that same contribution. And, I never hid in my books, though I wanted to. I studied them, I talked about them, wrote about them, tried to understand what they meant to me.

It felt like it mattered. Literature mattered.

And, then suddenly, it didn’t. Everything that was tangible and in front of me didn’t seem to matter at all. Everything seemed to fade away into destruction and into troubles and toils of an everyday life that I didn’t recognize. The way cream looked when it was poured into coffee, that looked so beautiful, didn’t matter. The way the waves crashed onto the shore didn’t matter. The low hanging fog that seemed to sweep across the morning didn’t matter. The stories I loved didn’t matter.

Words.

Words didn’t matter. The things that had been my hope perched on a branch, the thing with feathers, they didn’t matter. The letters that strung together to make incomparable sentences didn’t matter.

I was sitting in my literature class, discussing literature, and Betsy Devos had just been sworn in as secretary of education.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

I use words to understand. I’ve always done that. When I don’t understand something, I write about it until I do. It’s how I’ve written seven novels on things like depression and cancer and anxiety. I can’t explain those things to you, but I can to myself. In a way. But, always, words have helped me. Then, they stopped.

I was sitting in my literature class, and I felt like the world was crumbling around me. People were dying, people were crying trying to save what they never could. People were fighting. Things that were awful and awesome were happening, and there I was, seemingly miles away, sitting on a grey chair, in a grey room, studying literature.

It didn’t matter.

While I felt like it was a feeling that was entirely mine, my professor seemed to notice this in everyone, because he spoke up. He told us that he knew it seemed pointless to be doing what we were doing, sitting in literature class, but he told us that what we were doing was the most important.

What was happening in the world didn’t matter if there wasn’t someone there to frame the narrative, and that’s what we were doing. We would write and unite and tell the world what was happening, what was really happening, and give a voice to the moment.

To the movement.

Because this isn’t just a moment. This is a movement. People are angry, they’re upset. They’re fighting back.

With art.

With songs.

With music.

With voice.

With power.

With words.

And the coffee matters. Because it tastes good. The waves matter because they make my mom smile. The stories matter because even now, the boy with the lightining scar gives me hope.

And words matter.

Because they help me understand.

Because words are hope to me.

And it perches in the soul.

And sings the tune.

And it

Never

Stops.

Karina SchinkComment
Obsessions

Hey everyone.

It's been awhile. But, I'm back.

There are parts of being a writer that I love. I love the way people react when you tell them that you're working on a book. I love fantasizing about who would play my characters if it ever got turned into a movie. I love the haze of being in the zone when everything comes naturally, and finally you feel like you haven't just written a pile of shit.

But, on the other hand, there are a lot of things that I don't like about being a writer. I don't like the look I get when I tell people that yes, this is really what I want to do with the rest of my life. I also really hate the obsessing with how other people have accomplished writing their books.

I have a minimal amount of hope that I am not alone in this. Ever since I started writing in 3rd grade, I became interested in how authors not only achieved publication and success, but how they were able to actually write and complete a book.

I took classes in college, I went to events where authors spoke, I took notes and did all the things I was supposed to do, but as soon as I was in front of the computer or the yellow pad, it seemed like all of that studying had gone to waste.

I had characters, an idea, something that resembled a plot, and yet I was hitting road block after road block. I could complete a manuscript, but there were so many holes in it that it was about as useful as telling a story as a sieve was at holding water. 

Even now, as I'm preparing to write something new, I have a tab open already that says "writing process" because I want to know how other writers write.

It seems like a pointless question. Presumably, writers write by writing. And yet, I have felt myself drawn to a more visual representation of my story in hopes it will help the words flow.

But really, what this is, is procrastination. 

Please send help.

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Karina SchinkComment
Mistakes

In my years of writing and worrying that I'm not good enough, that I'll never get published, that everything will be difficult for me for forever, I've received a lot of advice.

A lot of it has been good, a lot of it has been mediocre. But, after all of these pieces of advice, some that I have taken to heart, like you don't have to write 12 books before getting one published, you have to write one book 12 times, and some that I've left aside like, write every single day, even if you have to force yourself, and all of these have left me realizing that there are really no rules.

I keep thinking that books are like our babies. As writers, we spend so much time working on our novels, crafting them, creating this world with these characters, and making them really real. The term "kill your babies" wasn't created for no reason. But, just like you can't really judge someone's parenting technique after seeing a mother and her child in a Trader Joes for two seconds, you can't judge someone for how they write a book.

I won't begin to say that I understand what other industries are like. I don't know much about the music industry or art, or really anything other than publishing and a bit on advertising. But, it seems to me that a lot of writers, usually unpublished, are obsessed with the magical equation that will get our novels published. We have to look at how long it took John Green to write The Fault in Our Stars to justify how long we have been working on our own books. Or, we have to see how Tommy Wallach got inspiration for We All Looked Up. But, really, we shouldn't do this.

And, I'm just as guilty as I'm sure most of you are. I include myself in this. I'll even admit that part of the reason I'm writing is this because this morning I've decided to take a break on the novel I've been writing for over a year.

I really don't take breaks. Every second I'm doing something that's not productive in my novel or career or education, I feel like I'm just a big blob that's wasting time. But, even now, I'm not really taking a break. I'm taking a break from one book to work on another.

And, that's a piece of advice I've heard a lot from authors published and not: Don't leave a project in the middle.

Today I decided that I have to be able to make up my own rules for writing. I have to have my own routine, my own space (both of which I have) but I also have to ignore the so-called rules of others. Advice is one thing, telling someone to do something is another.

As an artist, you shouldn't have to worry how you fit into the wide vast of people who are in the same field as you. If everyone did everything the same way, we wouldn't have art to begin with. What if Frida copied Diego? What if Lennon copied McCartney? We wouldn't have what we do.

So, go, be awesome. Be you. Make your own goddamn rules.

Karina SchinkComment
The Hazes

Sometimes being a writer feels a lot like walking through a thick fog. It's not that there isn't an amount of clarity involved within the actual act of writing, but its almost as if trying to find what you really want to say is like swimming through a sea of fog.

I'm not talking about actually swimming. Because when you're swimming, you're floating, but when you're walking through a sea of something, you're grounded. And, I find writing to be an incredibly grounding experience.

 

This morning when I got up, I was extremely tired. I often relate this type of waking up to trying to pull yourself out of tar. When you've just been in such a deep and wondrous sleep, it feels like being tugged out of it when that stupid charm goes off on your iPhone. That's how I felt this morning, but not because of any bad reason. I did sleep well, though I could have gone without the dream of my roommate and I being terrified of an intruder as we were house sitting my parents' home. But, I did sleep well.

But, I did not sleep lightly.

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of getting to hear Sarah J. Maas speak. If you don't know who she is, just google her. She's the New York Times bestselling author of several series, one of which I am half way through and another of which I have just begun.

She is an absolutely charming person, and though I really went to support a friend who wanted to go, I ended up having an incredible time. 

I love hearing authors speak. It's one of my favorite things to do when I actually find myself with some spare time, which, I reluctantly have to say isn't very often. I attend the LA Festival of Books every year and try to go and hear authors speak as frequently as I can. I find an enormous amount of inspiration in it.

Now, I'm a person who is perpetually tired. Whether this is because of my anxiety or because I just adore sleep way too much, I don't know. But, I got back to my amazing bed at 11:30 after finishing an episode of How To Get Away With Murder and finishing taking notes on the chapter of my Greek and Roman mythology text book. 

But, when I actually finally settled into my bed, annoying the large pile of clean laundry I had yet to fold and put away, I couldn't stop thinking about fantasy and how, for some reason, its not taken as seriously be critics as something like literary fiction.

I couldn't help but think about how the book that I had the most fun writing was my fantasy book. ( To learn about the books I've written, click here.) But, I gave up on it because no agents seemed to be interested in it at all. I cut my losses and started working on a new book.

But, I had never experienced pleasure like that. I wrote that book in 2 months, which for me is incredibly fast. I was basically like this the whole time:

But that was also combined with stuff like this:

I spent five hours a day writing. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, and I miss that. It's not that I never have moments like that anymore with my writing, I do, but that's just what they are: moments.

Maybe fantasy is what I should be writing, so why am I so scared?

Because I am completely obsessed with what my first published book is going to be. I have this idea that its going to be the defining moment of my novel writing career and no matter what other books I write, that will be the only one that mattered.

But, that's not true.

The Fault In Our Stars is by far John Green's most famous book, and it's not his first one. But, I can't help this terribly feeling of anxiety that comes over me when I think about which book of mine will be the first published. (Also, because I think of when's not if's).

All of this is a round about way of filling you in about the haze of fog that I felt like I was trying to wade through this morning. 

I wrote a new first sentence for my fantasy book last night at around 11:45 after over two and a half years of even writing a single word for that book. Then, when I woke up this morning I realized everything that I had to change in the book to make it work better than it ever did before. And making it work meant turning my favorite character into a villain and taking away this free spirit of the main character.

The combination of that realization with listening to Defying Gravity made me cry on my walk to work. But, it's not necessarily a sad cry, it's an incredible amount of feeling hitting me all at once: excitement, disappointment, fear, sadness.

As I tried to explain this to one of my coworkers who is also an artist but in a drawing facet, I realized that sometimes I feel like this is one of the moments that only writers experience. I might be wrong, and I by no way mean to undermine any other artist in any shape or form. They do things that I literally can only write about because I think that what they do is incredible, and I know I could never do it.

But, writers have this incredibly unique experience where we get to create worlds and characters that we have to embody in a way, and sometimes we have to write things we don't want to write. We have to take a step back because writing as a villain or as anything more horrible than a 16 year old school kid is hard. It might seem like fun to be vindictive in writing since we can't all be in life. It might seem like fun to take your anger out on your characters, but when you write and you REALLY write, you begin to love this story and this life you have created.

It's an entirely new feeling, and my realization this morning that I had to take away this character from the good side crushed me. But, the haze was there and I was wading through it, and anyone could have jumped out at me, and I wouldn't have noticed. And, that's one of the best feelings in the world, and I wouldn't trade anything for it.

Music and Writing

Music has always been a big part of my life, especially in my writing life. I love it. Everything from The Beatles to Catfish and the Bottlemen to the most obscure show tunes you can think of. And Glee. Lots of Glee.

 

I've sort of fallen into this routine of how I begin writing for the day. If I'm about to walk somewhere ( a lot of my schedule consists around walking places, to work, to class, home) then I play the playlist for the book I intend to work on.

Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it consists of me lying on my bed or my couch for the worse part of an hour listening to James Bay on repeat thinking about everything that's wrong in my book, and how I'm a failure at life.

But, as someone who has found herself in some deep, deep creative lulls, music has always been one of the most important things that pulled me out.

Well, in the past few weeks, its gotten better, and a big part of that is because of the music that I listen to. Spotify has this amazing, incredible new feature called discover weekly.

It's my favorite thing ever. It's the best.

It basically saves me from having to try and find music that I would like, and since I only use Spotify for my writing, every song on that playlist is heaven.

I've also developed a playlist for each of my books, and now, as I am rewriting the most recent one, I've made a new playlist.

This is what it looks like:

This is only about 2/3 of the playlist, and I add more to it every time I write. I am finding that if I listen to this playlist about a half hour before I intend to start writing, I'm in a mood where I just have to write.

Spotify is free! Also, there is a discount for students, so if you want it, you can use it! Happy musicing :D

Karina SchinkComment
Plagiarism Fears & Genre

As a writer who is serious about her work, I find plagiarism to be a constant fear in my mind. From the songs that I listen to when I write, to the authors and books that I admire, they are all bits and pieces that become a part of who I am, and therefore become a part of my book.

But, I am absolutely petrified that they will become a part of my book that isn't fair to the original creator. What if my character says something that is exactly a lyric from a song? Or maybe I'll use a very specific word that in the same way that John Green or Tommy Wallach did. The problem isn't even if someone would notice, it's that it terrifies me to mimic someone else, because I would hate it if someone did it to me.

And let's move past the elementary school kid response of imitation is the highest form of flattery, because let's face it, it's not. When you're a kid and you copy the person next to you, it's because they're next to you. Not every person who will ever sit next to you is going to be the smartest bulb in the bunch.

But, as a writer, it is a form of flattery, but its unconscious. 

I am always afraid.

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I find that it is a lot harder for me to come even remotely close to plagiarism if I am reading a book that is a completely different genre than the one I am writing.

For example, currently I am writing a literary fiction YA book. So, I am reading Mindy Kaling's book "Why Not Me?" These book have virtually nothing in common with one another. 

However, this habit of mine gets in my own way sometimes.

The problem is that I can be writing a book that I like. That's great. It's hard to like your own work. It really is, so when I do like my own work, it's remarkable. But, I will always (okay maybe not always)

Sorry, Snape.

I will probably, most-likely, for the foreseeable future think that whatever book I am reading or whatever type of writing I am consuming (newspaper, articles, magazines, screenwriting) is significantly better than whatever I am writing.

Take last night for example, I get home from a long day of work. I like my book, I really do, but I was watching Scandal. Don't worry, as always if there are spoilers they will be marked.

Anyways, as anyone who knows anything about popular TV Shows will know, they are usually very high-stakes. And there's no way my book about four high schoolers dealing with suicide and depression are going to have the high-stakes situations of those in the White House. There just isn't a way.

Then, I think about one of the best books I've read in a while, An Ember in the Ashes. There are some serious high stakes in there. It's great.

I want my books to have that amazing fantastical appeal to it. I do, I want that more than anything. But, it's just the same thing when I'm writing a fantasy and I read Literary Fiction. Then, I want my book to be like Eleanor and Park. It's a viscious cycle.

Sometimes, I just want to yell at myself to stay out of my own business.

I don't really have a solution for this. Because it's something that I face every time. But, I do have a tip, and maybe I'll have more sometime, but today my tip is this: Stick to one project. Just finish one, and then do the other. You can have your high stakes and your perfectly ordinary romance, just take your time.

Believe me, its a tip I'm trying to take myself.

International Women's Day

Today is March 8th. Which you probably knew by the little sideways infinity sign on your calendar app on your iPhone.

Not only is today March 8th, but it's also International Women's Day. Which, maybe you knew because of the Google Doodle.

Which is always awesome.

They're always on point.

Now why, you might ask yourself and me, would a writer's blog be writing about International Women's Day? Well, as a woman, I find a lot of inspiration within holidays like this. This is a holiday where we, as women, celebrate our history and our fight.

The Telegraph from the UK did a pretty great article summarizing a lot of the great things surrounding this day. Whether you're a woman or a man, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the dreams and hopes of women all around the world.

When I think about the art that was and is inspired by great women, my mind immediately goes to one of my favorite films, Yentl. 

It's that movie where Barbra Streisand becomes a man so that she can get an education. Archaic right?

Not so much. 

She's like the modern day Mulan, doing what she isn't supposed to, but really should. And I think that is an incredible source for inspiration as a writer.

Sure, it's a musical and sure it has a lot about love and things like that, but it's about a woman who just won't take no for an answer.

Not only is that an credible character to write, it's an incredible person to be.

It's the perfect day to start our conversation as woman fighting for equality. #OneDayIWill #OneDayWeWill

Inspiration at Home

What I find to be the common kryptonite of writers everywhere is the lack of inspiration. We watch movies and see the great actors that portray all the authors that we love so much. (Shout out to T Hiddy as my main man Fitzy D.) 

Anyways, inspiration is hard to come by. Sometimes we find ourselves in a bit of a rut and there isn't much that we can do to pull ourselves out of it. Often times a book can pull us out. I know Louisiana's Song by Kerry Madden pulled me out several times, it's spine already so tattered that I don't know how much longer it will survive.

What pulled me out the most was actually Barbra Streisand's speech in The Mirror Has Two Faces. I saw the movie for the first time in high school, and it only made my love affair with Streisand that much stronger. (Not to mention she directed it, wrote it, and starred in it with the incomparable Lauren Bacall).

Even though her speech isn't particularly about writing, though I'm sure we can all see how easy it is to get from this speech to our own writing, it's just something that has always inspired me. 

We all need that.

All the ragtag creative ones out there: the painters, the singers, the gymnasts, the writers, the creators. We all need a tool kit, if you will, to help us through those ugly, muddy, desperate days of un-inspiration. We all need that one story that we love, that one character or that one line that puts it all into perspective. Because Hemingway was right. Writing is sitting down at a typewriter and bleeding.

And that's what I have above my writing desk.

And that's what this is about.

You shouldn't have to fall into these slumps. It's not fair. All we want to do is create and breath new life into something unique and wonderful that we love as if it were a child of our own. More often than not, writers tend to not like their own work.

We are idiots.

We don't find pride within ourselves, but instead in other people's work. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but when you stop seeing the strength and the power within what YOU'VE created is when you fall into this pit of despair.

So, I'd like to take you through a tour of my inspiration spots of my home. 

The first thing that I see when I wake up (besides my phone obviously) is my writing corner. 

     

 

 

It has a lot of little bits, from the bumper sticker that used to be on my laptop before he died from too much writing. RIP Atticus. It's a bumper sticker that actually means a lot to me. You can't quite see in the photo, but it says, "Failure is not an option." That is a mantra I repeat to myself.

To the right I have a little bit of art from etsy.com that says Good Vibes Only. It's a little bit of art to remind myself that I shouldn't be to harsh on my writing. I have a photo of my dad, mom and me on my graduation day, as well as a group photo of the cast of A Very Potter Sequel, because that play means so much to me.

Then, there's the wall.

This is where I have some of my favorite books floating above my head, and I have John Green. I didn't intentionally buy this. It was through a charity that John and Hank Green host every year called Project for Awesome. I always donate and opt in for the random artwork. Two years ago, this is the piece that I got. Not only is it a beautiful piece of art that is my favorite author, but it is a medium that I can't do.

And that inspires me.

Then, there's the little post it to the bottom that says "Art Harder, Mother Fucker." I don't know why, but that has actually pushed me further and harder than a lot of so called motivational quotes.

But, I do have a favorite writing quote.

 

I love this.

This is so important to me. I think that it's something we can all take into our lives, whether its a bit of fiction or in our diaries or journals, we would all benefit just a bit from divulging a bit of what makes us hurt.

Then, I have the little area where I put the mail. It's the first thing I see as I begin my day outside of the apartment and the first thing I see when I return home.

I'm not good at writing poetry. I've never been good at writing poetry, but it has always something that I have wanted to be good at. It wasn't until I wrote a haiku about my dream: London. It was when I wrote this that a friend told me they loved it.

That's when I realized that I should try to love my own writing. It's difficult. There's that fine line of being conceded and being humble to a fault. But pride in the things that we have created.

This piece is important to me because not only is it a bit of poetry that I tried really hard on, but it's a photo that means a lot to me. London is my dream. Moving to a new country and working in publishing is my dream. I have this incredible feeling of belonging when I'm in London, and when I can't write, there is nothing more alienating.

So, having this little bit of a reminder that I have written something I like as well as a reminder to not feel lost when I have this goal that I am working towards.