April 28, 2014

Writing--When should we just give up?    At the Writers' Desk.


Ha. The answer is never. Never. Ever, ever give up.  Sometimes, though, that's how we feel. Have you ever caught yourself saying, "My work sucks anyway and nobody really cares," or "Maybe I'm not good enough," or "Maybe I'm not cut out to be a writer." Or maybe you're thinking we're just working along until we die, chasing the brass ring, running on the hamster wheel and maybe there is not enough creative mojo for the muse to grace us all. Feelings of scarcity are the worst motivator of creativity. They are in fact demotivating.  


When I tripped and tumbled down the stairs while walking last year, l noticed something: my muscles began to guard and tense up around the injury.  The same is true of the creative mind. Just like the physical body, when you face the trauma of everyday living, of hustling to make ends meet, it's easy to want to shut down. But that's when you need your creativity the most! 


When you see other people's successes, you can easily feel like, why not me? Ever hear the saying, it took me 10 years of sweat and hard work to become an overnight success? What is success really?


Writers are the only artists I know who work in such isolation.  It's impossible to learn and create in a vacuum. As a creative, you have to develop nerves of steel in order to guard against feelings of self-doubt and you have to continuously craft your work while coming up with new ideas at the same time. If you fell off the horse, get back up again.  We have all been there. 


What better way to do that but in a group? Musicians always practice in groups. Do you know of an actor who just does monologues? It takes hundreds of people to make one feature film. Dancers train together. What is it about writers that we feel we have to toil in isolation? That's no way to live or enjoy being alive.


I'm not a real writer, or am I? 


This is a question I see writers asking themselves all the time. A few years ago, I used to introduce myself as a teacher. I never brought up that I was a writer because I didn't give myself permission. Now, it's the first thing I bring up. Yet, at the same time, when a writer is starting out in the several formative years before emerging, because of economic realities, they all have day jobs. As a writer, it's a delicate balance between figuring out what part of your life you need to use to make money, fulfill family obligations and what part of your life you can allot to making art. Then there's eating and sleeping.


Train like an Olympian


I took a writing workshop once and the instructor told us, "If you want to write, you have to train like an Olympian." He's right.  Just as professional dancers take classes here and there for fine-tuning, so do writers. The only times an expert will be entirely devoted to your work and talk about it is when working with a teacher or an editor. In writing workshops the instructor is (ideally) also a creative master of the subject. But, she/he puts her/his work aside and holds the space open for the work to creatively blossom and makes suggestions about your own works-in-progress. The same thing is true with editors. Some editors are not writers, but they are expert readers.  The point is. If you want to train, find a training ground. If you want to write, finding a teacher or an editor is ideal, but also find a group, a friend, a meetup, sign up at an open-mic night, go to readings. Don't stay in the underground.


Writing is a long, difficult road. It should have joy. It should have friendship. It should have the Greek concept of parea--togetherness. It needs that in order to be sustainable for you as the artist.


Communication with the Other


This is because writing is all about communication with the other. You have to practice on small audiences because reading your work to small audiences (in a classroom or a workshop, or at a reading) and measuring their feedback based on facial expression, what they told you they liked and how it sounds in a room full of people will guide you toward refinement. It will prepare you for the moment or moments when you are alone and when the audience is invisible-out there into the world, behind their computer screens or holding your words in books, and you will not get a chance to view their response.  Hopefully, your work will reach them. But, part of crafting your art is wielding your words and manipulating them to fit with an audience.


If you are a writer, writing a book may seem like the ultimate goal. But, do you know any guitarists who don't pick up a guitar and jam when their friends are there and are saving themselves for a performance at Carnegie Hall? Do you know any actors who will only act in a feature film opposite Robert Deniro? Or painters who will only paint if they know they are going to hang that particular piece in a museum? Or dancers who refuse to dance when the music is going and the night is young? My point is: If writing is your passion, you must write. And if you are feeling low, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. Let somebody hold you accountable. We all need this reminder and we all need a pep talk from an editor or a teacher. Let this be yours. You are a writer for life.  Taking breaks is normal.  Now get back to work.



� Alexandra Kostoulas

Writer and Instructor

Jack Grapes METHOD WRITING Program in SF


Learn More


Jack Grapes Method Writing Program in San Francisco

Spring Session starts this week, 
April 29 & April 30, 2014, and runs for 8 consecutive weeks.  Cost is $395.

Tuesday Night Class:April 29-June 17, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm 
@80 Fresno Street, Emerald Tablet, in North Beach. 
Sign up here  
Wednesday Night Class:April 30-June 18, 2014 6:30-9:30 pm 
 @25 Taylor Street in the Wework Building. Sign up here.
We will also have a final reading at the Emerald Tablet on a Sunday afternoon in late June.



Good Writing & Arts News from 






*Zoe Inman published her book called Let God Love You Up. Congratulations Zoe!



*Liz Melchor got accepted into five MFA Programs this spring. She chose Bennington College's Low-Residency MFA Program in Vermont. Congratulations, Liz! Bennington is a well regarded MFA program with alumni such as Donna Tartt--2014 Pulitzer prize winning author of The Goldfinch.


*Liz Peters has been a featured poet and member at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York.  She also produces an event called the Poet in New York. For more info: 


headshot of sara shelton mann


*Sara Shelton Mann has directed and choreographed The Eye oHorus, a dance piece at Jessie Square in downtown San Francis

co at lunchtime April 24, 26, 28, 30 and May 3, 2014. 12:30 PM (all shows). 736 Mission St. (bet. 3rd and 4th) Free.  Onward, Sara!   





*Flavia Stefani is publishing work in both English and Portuguese in Confeitaria Magazine out of Brazil. Bravo, Flavia!


*Brittany Vargas published some key feature stories on the changing neighborhoods of San Francisco in the Castro Courier Newspaper. Congratulations, Brittany!



*METHOD WRITING SF was featured in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In the April 8 CAREERS + ED ISSUE: Six courses to expand your artistic horizons


Here's what they wrote:



Be the Brando of poets, as Alexandra Kostoulas - student of famed Method Writing sage Jack Grapes - "strips away the artifice of writing, the baggage that keeps us from the most essential building block of any writing: the Deep Voice." The class is based on journal entries which are transformed using Method Writing techniques into stories and poems. Help your writing to leap from the page and roar with fire! Or at least try something passionate and different.

April 29-June 17, Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30pm, $395. Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno, SF. Also April 30-June 18, Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30, $395. Wework Building, 25 Taylor, SF.



Do you have any good writing/arts news that you want to share? Please send it to me.

Flavia Sefani 

Featured writer from METHOD WRITING SF


From Confeitaria Magazine-

 (It started as a freewrite in our workshop)


At first, we look shy and intimidated. We're eleven people sitting around a big square table that takes up most of the space. The room is warmer than I would like it to be, the blue carpet is worn and smells like a wet dog on a rainy day. People come in and sit down without saying "hello." Everyone has an iPhone; no one has a BlackBerry, not even the economist to my right, but then I wouldn't know: I'm busy acting like I've just received the most important e-mail of my life so the other students won't notice I'm nervous. I put my phone down on the table and sit on my hands to keep them from shaking. Some cookies have been laid out on a tray by the door. I wonder how loud my footsteps would sound if I were to walk all the way to them, but I don't entertain that thought for long; the last thing I want is to bring attention to myself. More people come in, and finally the teacher, who looks exactly like the photo on the website. She says we'll start in five minutes. I take a deep breath. Five minutes until I run out of excuses. Five minutes, and everyone will know exactly what kind of writer I am.


You can read more of Flavia's work here:



Our Final End of Class Reading at Emerald Tablet
last month was a success! Thank you for joining us and from reading your hearts out. Please join us for our next one on a Sunday in June with a special guest/ featured author TBA soon!      
Rafael Ambrosio Gonzales reads his work.
Rafael Ambrosio Gonzales reads new works-in-progress 
Local Literary and Arts Events

Check out Litseen

They have 3 or 4 Bay Area literary arts events per day.


*Did you know that The Emerald Tablet Art Gallery and Creativity Salon has cool arts and literary events happening all the time? Check out some of Emerald Tablet's upcoming events here.


"Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work are involved." - Paris Review 1981. --Gabriel Garcia Marquez





"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -- Ray Bradbury




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