Time Stealer: A Novella [article]

Esther LoPresto, Maryland Shared Open Access Repository
The writing process is as unique as the writer. Often, writers, both professional and amateur, discuss their processes in an attempt to improve their craft and to advise other writers. Some people end up taking these tips as plain facts and think that a work of fiction can be written in only one way. However, people operate differently and not every writing tip can apply to every writer. People have different reasons for writing and different goals that they want to achieve through their
more » ... ity; therefore, claiming there is only "one way" to write is impossible. Especially with the barrage of content that social media provides, it is easier than ever for elitism to take over and writing tips to be seen as "rules" of creative writing. Personally, my creative process, including the process of writing "Time Stealer," continually fluctuates and, as a result, is difficult to explain. I find my process has been influenced by personal experience, observing social media, and, most importantly, faith. Writing is something that comes naturally to me without too much effort. It is an experience in my life that makes me say, "This is what I am meant to do." My grandmother taught me to read and write at age two and, as a result, I began to tell stories. She wrote them for me until I was able to do so myself. I never had a problem understanding the broad concepts of storytelling: that every story must have a beginning, middle, and end; that characters must be interesting; and that there must be a conflict of some sort. The intricate details came over time, of course. I started to consider myself a "serious writer," whatever that means, during my senior year of high school. I had already decided to major in accounting in college, and write on the side with the expectation of pursuing publication. As expected of life, that did not happen. order to keep my thoughts clear and concise. If there needs to be a change, it only makes sense to change it right away rather than assuming I will remember to go back to it. Editing, in this sense, becomes improving existing content rather than puzzling together inconsistent fragments. I often enjoy the editing process because I have this mindset, whereas, I have heard other writers dread it because it means trying to clean up the messes they have made. I enjoy editing my own work and helping others improve. This is also a good place to get the assistance of writer friends. In the case of "Time Stealer," I asked both writers and non-writers for feedback. We tend to be too close to our own work, so a new pair of eyes and a fresh perspective is always a big help. Social media has made it easier to connect with other writers on an individual or group basis. While I personally rarely use social media, I have seen the effects, both negative and positive. My main source of content comes from YouTube where I watch a handful of writers discuss their stories, writing processes, and thoughts on both traditional and independent publishing. As with every realm of life, there are positive and negative sides to this community of content creators. In her video, "Problems I Have With the Writing Community," Shaelin Bishop addresses some concerning attitudes and ideas she has seen in the community of writers on YouTube. She has noticed the idea that high productivity is equated with success: "It's this idea that your worth is your productivity... and if you don't produce constantly [and] consistently at a high output, you're not a serious writer" (Shaelin Writes). Viewers see only what the creator wants them to see, such as highlighting the productive and successful moments while eliminating the flubs, and this can create false expectations for viewers of what a writer's life is like. New or young writers might compare their own work to their favorite content creator who appears to be producing a lot of content and easily become discouraged. This adds undue pressure to something that is supposed to be a creative outlet. Bishop continues, Let the new writers, the children, the people with families, responsibilities, jobs, or whatever write as slowly or sporadically as they want... I can figure out how much I want to write for myself and so can anyone in this community. You are allowed to take your time and you're allowed to write at whatever pace you want. Emphasizing quantity over quality also creates false expectations. Just because a content creator advertises a high rate of production does not automatically mean the writing is high quality. For some reason, many viewers permit content creators to dictate this production standard just because the content creator is the one whose life is on display. There is a difference between taking inspiration from someone else's process and feeling pressured by it. Because writers each have their own process, it can be overwhelming to watch and listen to a variety of writers who take different approaches to the writing process. I agree with Bishop's comment, "The writing process is not clean, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be." Any creative endeavor is messy as the creative person finds the process that fits best as an individual. While it is helpful to listen to advice videos or try to imitate another writer's routine, it is not necessary to conform to another writer's standard. If there is an element of a writer's routine that the viewer thinks might be helpful to implement, by all means, try it to see if it helps. However, viewers who are seeking advice should not allow the content creator or the community to dictate what is and is not correct for their own processes. "We create because we enjoy it," Bishop adds, There are different ways to write a book and different ways to write a book well. I feel like it should be inherent that all advice should be taken critically and considered circumstantially... If you want to know if someone is someone that you should be taking advice from, critically listen to their advice and ask yourself if it resonates with you. Turning all writing advice on the internet into mandates discourages an ambitious writer and is not enjoyable or conducive to developing an individualized writing process. The concept of trying out other writers' writing routines has been popularized by Kate Cavanaugh and her "I Tried Writing Like" series. She researches a popular author, such as Steven King or Nora Roberts, or another YouTube writer, or polls her audience and applies elements of that routine to her own life. Cavanaugh's YouTube channel contains a variety of writing challenges. She has tried 24-hour writing challenges, a traditional nine-to-five workday, and her newest challenge is to write one million words in one year. She uses these challenges to evaluate her own writing process and encourage the audience to have fun with writing experiments. In different Q&A videos, Cavanaugh has explained that she would not have had the ideas for these challenges had she not started making videos ("authortube cliques"). She comes up with the ideas herself, takes suggestions from viewers, or finds similar ideas in non-writingrelated videos, then remakes them to be writing-related ("5-year plans"). Furthermore, she addresses the issue of feeling pressured by the viewers or other writers. Just as there might be pressure on viewers to imitate a content creator, the content creator may also feel pressured by viewers and other creators. Cavanaugh specifically says that she both does and does not feel this pressure to be more productive or to change anything about her writing process or publishing goals. She acknowledges that being on YouTube "can help feed into this perfectionistic side because now... it's not just maybe two pairs of eyes on the book and hoping that they'll buy it... but now it could potentially be like a hundred pairs of eyes." The progress of others is "mostly motivating" and in the occasional down moment, she reflects and learns, "it has zero to do with the other person and entirely to do with [me] and then I just kind of refocus my energy and that helps a lot" ("authortube cliques"). Therefore, she presents how there can also be pressure on writers who create content to meet the expectations of viewers, other creators, or themselves. Rather than becoming discouraged by those pressures, creators and viewers alike can turn them in a positive direction as motivation for continuing to write and being creative. Cavanaugh's videos show the full spectrum of the writing process and how it can be affected by a social media presence. This spectrum includes coming up with ideas, how to incorporate writing into a daily routine, drafting stories, editing, and publishing plans. She is also honest about areas where she feels she has failed, such as working for years on a project and deciding when to put it on the "back burner" and pause progress for the time being. "In essence, I did fail my initial goal: I did not get an agent," Cavanaugh explains about a five-book series she has been writing. She continues, So, I failed, and... that, I know, has been the hardest part to talk about on this sort of platform, to say 'I just wasn't ready to write that book' or 'I queried and didn't get an agent.' Or even seeing people who are doing self-publishing and... watching them make mistakes... You fail, you learn, you fail some more, you keep trying, and then you go from there ("public failure"). By reflecting on her own goals and sharing success as well as failure, viewers can understand the reality of the writing process with its ups and downs instead of succumbing to the aforementioned discouragement that comes from comparison, sharing only successful moments, or conflicting advice. While this is just a small sample of the content I personally consume, which is a miniscule fraction of all of the writers who create content on social media, it does show an overview of what can be found within the internet writing community at this time. Social media content in the writing realm can easily become something harmful and discouraging, or it can be an open forum of discussion and encouragement for writers of all calibers. A worldwide
doi:10.13016/m2vvxo-50vg fatcat:6ztlydyyezewxhfrwpxo3s7m64