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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Rambles

This weekend I went to DC to watch my sister receive her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland...yay Dr. Lizzie!

My weekend activities are of a decidedly less intellectual bent. I cannot wait to go to a barbecue this afternoon, and the next twenty-four hours should be full of much revelry/day-drinking in Prospect Park. 

And yes, yes, I'll get some writing in there too...The adult book proposal I'm working on is (shockingly) beginning to take shape, and I'm only three chapters away from finishing a second YA book! I'll use almost any excuse to celebrate; I think both are perfectly valid reasons. :)

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 18, 2009


Yesterday, a friend and fellow writer sent me a transcription of JK Rowling's commencement address at Harvard (delivered, I believe, in 2008). After a week of feeling discouraged, anxious, and depressed, I felt re-energized and inspired by Rowling's perspective. In other words, this text was exactly what I needed to see/read/here. Strange how every so often the universe seems to cut you a break!
I've included some of my favorite excerpts from the address, below:

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. 

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default. 

Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.  

And a longer passage, about the relationship of imagination to empathy and the importance of our imaginative faculties:

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know. 

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy. 

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing. 

 Sing it, JK!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


One of my favorite writers, the brilliant, incisive, and insightful E.L. Doctorow, with whom I studied at NYU's MFA program, once remarked that writing is essentially just a continuous process of problem-solving. I actually really like that view; it de-mystifies the process, and restores a writer's control. If writing is all about "inspiration," there's very little you can do as a writer other than twiddle your thumbs and hope that the muse didn't wake up too hungover to make it into her day job. If it's all about problem-solving, however, you can confront and untangle and move forward with the work, even when you're feeling blocked. It's kind of like solving a cross-word puzzle: even if you encounter an obstacle, a clue you don't understand or a word you don't know, you can attack the problem from the periphery. Eventually you will fill in a sufficient quantity of letters to make the solution to the original problem clear. 
That's how writing is, too. For weeks and weeks I've been struggling with a specific problem in a new proposal I'm working on, turning it over and over in my mind, hitting road-blocks every time I try to figure out a way to go forward. In the meantime I've been working on plot development and character arc and various other things, but this problem was significant enough to prevent me from making any major inroads into the story.
Okay, here comes the good news: yesterday as I was running, the solution just occurred to me. It was the most incredible feeling--suddenly it was like this big, messy fog had just lifted, leaving a perfectly clear view. Yay! A very big wall has come down and I can actually go full speed ahead, instead of creeping forward by inches and degrees, which is what it has felt like for close to a month.
Or at least, I'll go full speed ahead...until I hit that next wall. Then I'll start the creeping, crawling process of scraping my way above and around it, until the next open vista comes into view...etc etc etc. It's endless; but that's writing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Writing or Eggs?

The title of this post pretty much says it all. 
Sitting down to write every day is, for me, usually preceded by about two hours of mental tug-of-war, during which I try to think of every possible way to delay sitting down to write. Sometimes I even clean my room--voluntarily!--just to gain a few extra minutes.
It's not that I don't love writing. I do, I guess. It's more like I need to do it, the way that other people need to, I don't know, talk to their parents or be outside or sing in the shower or whatever it is that gives people meaning and joy. But I also love running, and it's still frigging hard to lace up my shoes every day...I know that once I start I'll be happy, and once I'm finished I'll be really happy, but taking those first few steps basically drains me of willpower.
So today: Eggs. Definitely eggs. Then writing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Oh, God. My first foray into blogging. Am I, like, stuck in 1998? I must be the only person in the modern world who has yet to venture into the wonderful world of publishable private thoughts...
Terrifying. It's terrifying, I tell you!

Content by Lauren Oliver - Copyright 2011. Blog designed by Ella Press Studio - 2011.

Author Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie - Copyright 2010. Original Font Idea by Erin Fitzsimmons - 2010.