The Wordsmith and The Raven

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171 years ago today, The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe was first published. The perceptive among you have most likely already come to the conclusion that the name of this blog is in tribute to that poem; quoth the raven, quoth the wordsmith.

This has always been one of my favorite pieces from Poe. The rhythm is pure perfection with the words fitting snugly together without any jagged edges or awkward pauses. Even if you aren’t a fan of the meaning, you can appreciate the pure artistry that went into crafting this masterpiece.

The first line, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” is the writing equivalent of a master-crafted sword. The rhyme and rhythm lend themselves to an effortless pace, letting the reader recite the prose the way it should be without having to try. It makes even the most stilted and awkward reader sound like a bard of old.

And it’s all because Poe pieced the words together in such a way that they read beautifully no matter how you say them. I can’t even imagine how long it took to write the entire poem, since there are so many lines like it within the full work. The vocabulary it would take to write something like this is baffling alone, especially seeing as it was made during a time when you couldn’t just Google “what rhymes with Lenore”.

As a writing exercise, as well as a small tribute to the man who sparked my penchant for prose, I decided to challenge myself to rewrite a small part of the poem:

Once upon an “edits day” dreary, while I right-clicked, weak and weary,
Over many a dull and lifeless lines of Calibri; page 90 of 324—
   While I backspaced, nearly crying, suddenly there came a sighing,
As of a laptop gently dying, dying without a save, I’m sure.
“It will recover,” I muttered, “feeling anxious to the core—
          I think I remember it has before.”

   Then this soft and distant voice reminded me I’ll have no choice,
But to edit it all again if it doesn’t back-up or restore,
   “Quiet, self!” I did decree, “Surely it’s just a myth,
you’re computer skills certainly aren’t that poor!
Tell me I’ll learn this time for sure?!”
         Quoth the Wordsmith, “It’s your not ‘you’re’.”

I thought this would take a few minutes, but it took me nearly an hour. If you’re a fan of Poe, I encourage you to join me in celebrating The Raven‘s publishing anniversary by leaving a few lines of your own.

Here’s to Poe, and all those who inspire us. May your words live forever!

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

The Reality of Writing

The Reality of WritingOne of the most overwhelming and intimidating aspects of writing a book is that you are generally expected to complete it before you even send it out for consideration. On your own, with no real guidance, you are expected to put in hours and hours of your being into something that may or may not make it out of the slush pile.

That’s frightening. It’s daunting. It’s discouraging. Isn’t it?

To me, that is the hardest part of writing. It’s not the technicality of it, it isn’t whether or not I think I have what it takes, it’s that I could end up pouring my heart and soul into something that never grows bigger than a dated manuscript left forgotten in a box in the spare room.

It isn’t enough to have talent even. Look at how many authors were rejected before their manuscripts were finally picked up. Some of them have been ridiculously successful, too. We can assume that those who rejected them now regret it, but what if that was the last place the manuscript had been submitted to? How many stories have we missed out on because they didn’t make it through acquisitions?

The act of writing is often romanticized into this starving artist dream. Real writers don’t write for money, they write because they are bursting with words. They write for the art itself, not for the reward. Right? But then they still need to live. They still need roofs over their heads and food in their bellies. So then, what are we left to do?

The forgotten reality of being a writer is that if you want to write professionally, chances are you are going to have to write things that you don’t want to about topics that you don’t care for. Writing requires that you separate your goals into segments if you want to succeed. The likelihood of you finding a job right out of high school writing fantasy stories that pays you enough to support yourself and your future is low.

And the chances of you having the money and time to write the perfect book before the age of 25 and having it become successful beyond your wildest dreams is also quite low.

What most writers and even authors won’t tell you is that writing requires sacrifice. In time, in money, and sometimes in self-confidence. It’s a hard path that breeds a lot more uncertainty than other professions. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s not like a painting where people can take one glance and decide if it is he next masterpiece. Writing requires significant investments from readers and critics before they can decide whether or not it is worthy.

But for all its hardships and all its uncertainty, writing attracts a certain breed. Us writers, the ones who continue to trudge through the muck and the mud, are like crusaders in search of the Holy Grail. Though, I’d like to think that we have a better chance of finding what we seek than those who sought the bejeweled chalice.

We are the ones who deflect assuming questions about being writers and sidestep the voice in our heads that tells us how terrible our writing is. We are the ones who, like Frodo and Sam, drag ourselves up that sweltering, steep path over jagged rocks, and with our last bit of strength, toss our manuscripts and stories and articles at publishers in the hopes that they will forge our work into something great instead of consuming it in flames.

So when writing gets you down, when you are ready to beg for mercy at its feet, remember that every other writer who is working towards something has been where you are now. Remember that we have all whimpered in acquiescence of its might. But we have also stood back up, time and time again, only to force it into a harness, if even only for a short while.

What was an unexpected reality of writing when you first started? What do you think is the hardest part? What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Music That Inspires Writing

Music That Inspires WritingI’m not one of those people who have to have music playing, and I’m definitely not someone who pays much attention to lyrics. I prefer instrumental soundtracks and the like to keep me inspired and on track when I am writing so that the words in the music don’t distract me from the ones in my head.

I know a lot of writers that are on either side of the spectrum—they prefer complete silence or they can’t write without the sounds of their favourite artist saturating the air. Each to their own, as I always say.

But for those who are in-between like I am, I thought I would make up a short list of the music I like to listen to when I am writing anything from an informational article to a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Some of these are from movies, video games, or TV shows that I enjoy, others I just happened to happily stumble across in my many searches. Let us begin!

Assassin’s Creed 2 Official Soundtrack, composed by Jesper Kyd. I first discovered Jesper Kyd while I was playing Assassin’s Creed (the Ezio trilogy being the best part of the series, of course). The music is at times both soothing and soft as well as desperate and fast-paced. This one has been on my playlist for a few years at the least and I don’t plan to remove it any time soon.

The Lord of the Rings Symphony Soundtrack, composed by Howard Shore and Johan De Meji. Most of you know that I am a huge fan of anything by Tolkien, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that something from The Lord of The Rings made it onto this list. My absolute favourite song on this soundtrack actually has lyrics—”Into The West“. I also enjoy the separate albums from the movies that include music from Enya, such as “May it Be“.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Hyrule Symphony, composed by Koji Kondo. Ok, so if I am being honest, this music harbours an abundance of nostalgia for me. This was the first video game that I really fell for, and it is what helped to set me on the path of a true fantasy lover. But, more than that, it’s actually a great soundtrack. For the most part, it’s soft, calm, and non-invasive, which is perfect when I need to focus on a particularly tough piece of writing. It helps to keep frustration down and patience high.

Outlander Soundtrack, composed by Bear McCreary. I tried reading Outlander many years ago, and it didn’t stick. When the TV show first aired, I decided to give it a try. It’s a decent show to watch, but the soundtrack is what really got me. I had already heard music from McCreary before, and this soundtrack certainly didn’t disappoint. Bagpipes, violins, and otherworldly vocals make for music that both sets the blood on fire and then cools it with gentle rain from the highlands.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Soundtrack, composed by Marcin Przybyłowicz, Mikołaj Stroiński, and Percival. If you are even slightly interested in video games, you have likely heard of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. The game has won a ridiculous number of awards and it deserves every one of them. This soundtrack is guttural, though at times it can be soothing and quiet, at others it is reminiscent of Viking rituals and clashing swords. If you need something to get you through that tired period in the afternoon, give this a try. And if you need a new game to play, I would highly suggest playing this.

As you can see, most of the music that I listen to is inspired by books. In fact, The Witcher, Outlander, and LOTR were all books before they were anything else. There is even a paperback series about the events in the Assassin’s Creed video games. I think it’s safe to say that I love much more than the pages of books, I love the popular culture that surrounds them, from music to movies and TV shows, I can never get enough.

What do you listen to when you write? Does it depend on your mood? How do you feel about lyrics when writing? Feel free to share your favourite piece in the comments!

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.