What you write

What you need to write for yourself.

What you ought to write for others.

What you enjoy writing.

What you enjoy having written.

What they tell you they want you to write.

What they secretly want you to write.

What they don’t know they want you to write.

What they will actually take the time to read.

What they will be better for having read.

What will catch their attention.

What will earn you a living.

What represents who you are.

What you realize you could have written.

What it takes for you to start with a blank page.

Recommended podcast episode: How your personality type drives your creative process

art_stuff_podcastLauren Sapala never liked planning her writing projects. Then she learned about personality theory and began to understand why. Now she’s a writing coach. Now she’s on Episode 7 of the “Art Stuff” podcast, “Creativity For Introverts & Empaths INFJ & INFP Personality Types,” interviewed by Jessica Johannesen.


INFJs tend to make clear, firm decisions based on other people’s feelings and then are able to move on. They have single-minded focus on a project they want to pursue intensely.

By contrast, INFPs may take extra time to make decisions based on their own feelings and, after deciding, may need to “backpedal” based on how they feel about the decision “in their body.” They need to spread their creative attention between multiple simultaneous projects. Because of this, they may have more difficulty serving a linearly product-driven model in a corporate environment.

Both processes are valid. It’s also normal to need unstructured time to allow unexpected ideas to surface and to feel grief when a creative project ends.

Whether we are content with our own processes may depend on whether we have a deep-seated belief about the need to hide the way we really think and to change ourselves to fit a different model. Self-doubt will always come in waves, like all other emotions, but, if you’re familiar and comfortable with your personality type and creative style, you may be better able to predict and handle your moments of self-doubt.

Listen to this podcast; it’s an enlightening conversation!

Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, a guide for sensitive intuitive writers, and Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers. www.laurensapala.com

Among my favorite poems read in 2019

After spending 2018 with poems of grief (as previously posted on this blog: Part 1: Immediacy, Part 2: Identity, Part 3: What Happens Next), I continued to read more poems. Here’s what I stumbled across during the first eight months of 2019. Because I felt differently in 2019, poems began to feel differently to me.

Frank O’Hara, “My Heart”
Mary Jo Bang, “Consider This Corruption”
Rainer Maria Rilke, [i’m not sure yet when]
Gerald Stern, “Song”
Lucille Clifton, [i am accused of tending to the past], “mother-tongue: to the child just born”
Yusef Komunyakaa, “Kindness”
Mary Oliver, “Spring”
Li-Young Lee, “One Heart”
Carl Phillips, “To Be Worn Openly at the Wrist, or at the Chest and Hidden,” “White Dog”
Dorianne Laux, “Dust”
Keegan Lester, [“to all of this which does not just seem, but is extraordinary…”]
Franz Wright, [“Kneeling…”]
Anna Akhmatova. “A land not mine…,” “[Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold]”
W. S. Merwin, “The Room,” “Elegy”
D.H. Lawrence, [“What is the knocking?”]
Chelsea Dingman, “It’s Possible a Mother’s Body is Elegy,” “Winter Solstice”
Kathy Fagan, “Perpendicular”
Vladimír Holan, “Snow”
Czeslaw Milosz, “In Common”
Noor Ibn Najam, “Revised Surah”
Tess Gallagher, “Trace, in Unison”
Wislawa Szymborska, “An Unexpected Meeting” [trans. Stanislaw Barańczak & Clare Cavanagh]
Catherine Barnett, “Uncertainty Principle at Dawn”
Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, “How to Break a Curse”
Marie Howe, “Without Music”
Blythe Baird, “An invitation”
Laura Fargas, “Winter, Leper of the World”
Diane Wakoski, “3 of Swords,” in Inside the Blood Factory
Phillip B. Williams, “Bound,” in Thief in the Interior
Elizabeth Bishop, “Casabianca”
Nazim Hikmet, “Occupation”
Nicole Sealey, “Object Permanence”
Agha Shahid Ali, “After You”
Dean Young, “Cotton in a Pill Bottle”
Donika Kelly, “Love Poem: Mermaid”
Joanna Klink, “Pericardium,” “Winter Field”
Maxine Kumin, “After Love”
Amy Meng, “Recovery,” in Bridled
Ahmad Shamlu, “Nocturnal”
Galway Kinnell, “On Frozen Fields”
Chase Berggrun, R E D
Ruth Awad, “In the gloaming, in the roiling night”
Tomás Q. Morín, “Circus Pony”
Jericho Brown, “Correspondence,” The Tradition
Rick Barot, “The Wooden Overcoat”
A. R. Ammons, “Gravelly Run”
Gwendolyn Brooks “Paul Robeson” Family Pictures
Lucia Perillo, “Given Unlimited Space, the Dead Expand Limitlessly” in Luck is Luck
Kelli Russell Agodon, “What I Call Erosion”
Jenny George, “The Drowning”
Tomas Tranströmer, “Black Postcards” [trans. Joanna Bankier]
Jean Valentine, “my words to you”
Danez Smith, “a note on the body”
Sneha Subramanian Kanta, “Post-Elegy”
Geffrey Davis, “What Make a Man”
Victorian Chang, “Mostly Ocean”
Carmen Giménez Smith, “Origins” in Be Recorder
C. T. Salazar, “Poem About Changing My Name + An Elegy”
Shannon Sankey, “Grave”
Maire Ponsot, “Bliss and Grief”
César Vallejo, “There Are Days, There Comes to Me an Exhuberant, Political Hunger” [trans. Clayton Eshleman]
Keith S. Wilson, “I Find Myself Defending Pigeons”
Seamus Heaney, “Postscript”
Sasha Fletcher, “abide with me”
Mark Strand, “The Coming of Light”
Lora Rivera, “[What are the limits of empathy?]”
Richard Hugo, “The Hilltop”
Kathryn Nuernberger, “Rag and Bone Man”
George Kovalenko, “Spooky Action at a Distance”
Chen Chen, “I’m not a religious person but”
Alice Branco, “Water on Stone” [trans. Alexis Levitin]
Heather Christle, “Religious Practice,” “Suggested Donation”
Amorak Huey, “Portrait of My Brother as Indiana Jones” in Boom Box; “The River Beyond the Pasture”
Alison C. Rollins, “To Whoever Is Reading Me”
Justin Phillip Reed, “On Being a Grid One Might Go Off Of” in Indecency
Aracelis Girmay, “Ode to the Brain,” in Teeth
Stephen Dunn, “After Making Love”
Michele Bombardier, “What We Do”
Alberto Ríos, “Sudden Smells, Sad Songs”
Elizabeth Lyons, “Death Roll”
Ansel Elkins, “Coffin Bone”
Desirée Alvarez, “‘Un Tintero,’ Inkwell”
Reginald Dwayne Betts, “I’m Learning Nothing This Night”
Gretchen Marquette, “Macrocosm/Microcosm,” in May Day
Leila Chatti, “The Rules,” “Postcard from Gone”
Bob Hicok, “Amen,” “Confessions of a Nature Lover”
Daniel Simko, “Coda”
Richard Siken, “Landscape with a Blur of Conquerors”, “Landscape with Black Coats in Snow”
Linda Gregg, “Grinding the Lens”,  “Christ Loved Being Housed,” “Heavy with Things and Flesh”
Louise Glück, “Matins,” “Sunset,” “October,” “The Night Migrations” 
Adrienne Rich, “My heart is moved by all I cannot save—” “The Dream of a Common Language,” “IX”
Stanley Plumly, “Infidelity,” “Fifth and 94th,” “At Night”
Audre Lorde, “Sister Outsider”
Ada Limón, “The Millionth Dream of Your Return,” “In a Mexican Restaurant I Recall How Much You Upset Me”
Jessica Abughattas, “Dinner Party”
Larry Levis, “Though His Name Is Infinite, My Father Is Asleep”
Rosa Alice Branco, “No Complaint Book” (translated by Alexis Levitin)
Wanda Coleman, “In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever”
Shannon K. Winston, “Shame Is a Bull”
Joy Harjo, “Remember,” “Speaking Tree,” “For Keeps”
John Ashbery, “Loving Mad Tom,” “Feverfew”
Carolyn Forché, The Country Between Us
Marianne Boruch, “He was touched or he touched or,” in The Book of Hours
Hala Alyan, “You’re not a girl in a movie”
T’ai Freedom Ford, “namesake”
Maggie Smith, “Good Bones,” “December 18, 2008”
Carolina Ebeid, “Dead Dead Darlings”
George Oppen, “The Gesture”
Carrie Fountain, “Will You?”
Kaylin Haught, “God Says Yes to Me”
Amy Gerstler, “Poof”
Galway Kinnell, “Crying”
Julia Beach, “sudden the homecoming”
Rosemary Tonks, “On the advantage of being ill-treated by the World”
Luisa Muradyan, “Clams”
Tess Gallagher, “Kiss Without a Body”
Jane Hirshfield, “A Person Protests to Fate”
Jane Hirshfield, “Falcon”
Tiana Clark, “Conversation with Phillis Wheatley #1,” from I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood
Keetje Kuipers, “Native Species”
Denis Johnson, “Looking Out the Window Poem”
Rita Dove, “Pithos”
Claudia Emerson, “Metaphor”
Todd Smith, “In This Kingdom,” “The Past”
Mary Jean Chan, “The Window,” Flèche
Alicia Mountain, “A Deer Mistaken for a Statue of a Deer”
Lonely Christopher, “For Light”
Mary Ruefle, “Errand,” “Kiss of the Sun”
Shara McCallum, “A storm / is an opportunity for all to to be given / form.”
Lee Potts, “Traces”
Matthew Zapruder, “Scarecrow,” American Linden
Franz Wright, “Promise,” “Request”
Jason Shinder, “Morning”
Lauren Clark, “Carmina 101”
Rimbaud, “The Visionary”
Louise Glück, “Landscape”
Morgan Parker, “We Are the House That Holds the Table at Which Yes We Will Happily Take a Goddamn Seat”
Lisel Mueller, “Joy”

Nifty non-fic about novels with eunuch villains…free for Kindle! (limited time)

For a few days only, Painting Dragons is a free download for Kindle! Now through Monday 27 May 2019 (through midnight Pacific). If you haven’t heard of this book, learn more, or just go ahead and download it — you’ve got nothing to lose!

Painting Dragons book cover image
“Painting Dragons: What Storytellers Need to Know About Writing Eunuch Villains” by Tucker Lieberman

A ‘retcon’ overwrites the past; a ‘procon’ overwrites the future

Power Corrupts: Election Rigging. Launches May 2, 2019.

“Retroactive continuity, or retcon for short,” to use Wikipedia’s definition, “is a literary device in which established facts in a fictional work are adjusted, ignored, or contradicted by a subsequently published work which breaks continuity with the former.” If the hero’s sidekick dies in Book 6, leaving fans disappointed with Book 7, and is resurrected in Book 8 (with or without explanation), that’s a retcon. Retcons can also be more subtle, as when the fictional world undergirds itself with a revised history.

Does it ever happen the other way around? Can the contradictory or problematic detail happen first, while the authoritative detail appears in a subsequently published work? Would that be a “proactive continuity,” let’s say a “procon” for short?

Rodin's statue of "The Thinker" with a thought bubble that says "Hmmm."

It seems that this is impossible. At least in fiction, the detail that happens first has to be the authoritative detail until further notice; there can’t be any contradiction until the subject is dealt with twice. Right?

Election-rigging in Azerbaijan: A chronological failure in the narrative

Ah, but let’s consider Azerbaijan’s 2013 election! This is not fiction; this is a thing that really happened. When President Ilham Aliyev ran for re-election under a dark cloud of suspicion, the Azerbaijani election board released an iPhone app to display the vote tally so the public could feel confident that the election was legitimate. The app release did not go as planned. It displayed the election results one day before anyone had cast a ballot.

This incident is described on the first episode of Power Corrupts, a new podcast written and narrated by Brian Klaas that launches today, May 2, 2019, on iTunes, Spotify, RadioPublic, and Stitcher.

power_corrupts“I mean, for the guy who accidentally pressed that button—you had one job, right?” Klaas says. Though Aliyev retained his presidency, he lost what little pretense to integrity he still had. “Pro tip for all the dictators listening out there: if you’re going to just make up election results, try not to release them until at least some people have voted.”

Lesson for writers

When election results are released the day before the election, they contradict the world of which they are a part. They cannot be true. They attempt to influence an uncertain future whose possible outcomes someone already rejects. They attempt to control the future proactively. As I see it, this election-rigging incident is a real-life example of proactive continuity. (I made up that term. Let me know in the comments whether you think it works.)

People do try to change facts both before and after they happen. People want to control the future sometimes more than they want to erase the past.

I imagine it can be done in fiction, too. It may be part of what we mean when we identify an “unreliable narrator.” A novelist often deliberately embeds implausibilities and contradictions; they are part of the character development. Such unreliability can confuse or distract readers who are unforgiving or otherwise not along for the ride.

Leaving aside arts and entertainment and again considering real life, it’s important to remember that, when real people are deliberately unreliable—for example, by reporting results of an election that wasn’t held—they’re gaslighting, and that’s a tool of dictators.