I was going through some old drafts in WordPress and came across the unfinished post below:
Let’s dance today.
I wish I could write as freely as I dance. Dancing is easy for me. Just put on a good song, give me a little room, and you can’t stop me. I don’t have to prepare to dance. I just turn on the music and let loose. I don’t perfect when I’m dancing. If I miss a step, I just keep on moving.
I want to write that way. I just want to sit down and let loose. I want to write without editing, just keep my pen moving on the page until I run out of words.
I’ve tried to write like that, and sometimes I can do it. Most of the time, I’m too critical. I was critical just yesterday when I was taking notes. I had to get the words just perfect, even though no one except me was ever going to read those notes.
I wasn’t even writing my own words, but they had to be perfect.
If I’d been dancing, I would have just pretended that I meant to do that and kept going.
That’s how I should be writing right now. I can edit later. Editing doesn’t need to happen until the story is completed. I need to retrain my brain to treat writing like a dance. I just need to let loose and write.
Maybe I should dance first? Get the freedom flowing and see what comes out?
Now, I really feel like dancing.
I do not think like a short story writer. I’ve learned that this semester. I think like a novelist. I want to write short stories, because they don’t take as much time and they are less complex, but I am not a short story thinker. My stories are complex and have subplots within subplots within the plot. I may think I want this or that story to be short, or even novella length, but when I lay out the idea, it is always way too big for a small space, and sometimes, it is even too big for a large space.
This semester has been about thinking like a short story writer. It has been about changing my thinking to write stories that are character driven and not plot driven, but my stories are never really about characters. My stories are always about plot. I like to take a familiar idea, like time travel, and then turn it upside down and see what falls out.
But now, I’m writing short stories, and I find that I like the satisfaction of that. I like having a story finished and knowing that with only a few tweaks, it might actually be ready to submit for publication at some point. Still, in order to write short stories, I have to think like a short story writer, which means that I have to stop thinking about plot and let the characters decide the story. It is a kind of letting go; letting go of control, letting go of my ideas, letting go of me. It isn’t easy to reinvent my writing wheel, but I feel like it will be worth it.
I am taking a creative writing class this semester. It was supposed to inspire me, to make me want to write every day, to encourage me to really dig in to that novel I’ve been planning for two years.
I am not enjoying it.
My teacher is nice enough, although the phrase “overwhelmed with extra assignments that were not on the syllabus” comes to mind every time I think of her. My classmates are great, and we’ve had some excellent discussions about writing.
I am NOT enjoying it.
The problem is simple. I feel stifled. I feel limited. I feel like I can’t write what I want, but that I have to write what my teacher wants to hear. I have to write what it takes to make the grade.
I AM NOT enjoying it.
If I were honest with my teacher, and told her that I feel this way, she would reassure me that I needed to write what I enjoy, because I am at the place in my life where I know what kind of writer I am, and that is what I should write. But I feel like I am not free to write the stories and characters that I truly want to create.
For instance, I want to write time travel. I love time travel stories. I want to write stories about different types of time travel. Maybe one story uses a time machine of some sort, maybe the other is just an open portal in a random location. I want to write stories about fantastical places that only exist in my imagination. Stories that happen on other planets, or in a different dimension.
My first story of the semester was a time travel story. And my teacher tried to get me to take the time travel aspect out of it. That doesn’t exactly sound like someone who wants me to write the kind of stories I want to write, does it?
So, for my second story, I wrote something realistic, based on a story that happened to my grandmother when she was a child. And, honestly, I hate it. I love my grandmother’s stories, but I hate the story that I’ve written based on it. I feel boxed in, trapped by unspoken restrictions, and it is making me wish I’d never signed up for this class. I don’t like feeling that way. I want to take as much from this class as I can, but right now, I don’t even enjoy walking in the door.
This blog post is a long, roundabout way of saying that I have writer’s block at the worst possible time in the semester, and I completely blame myself for thinking a creative writing class would help to stir up my creativity. Writing prompts aren’t helping. Reading isn’t helping. Watching TV isn’t helping. Nothing is working, and I feel like a writing failure.
I AM NOT ENJOYING IT!
For what it’s worth, it has helped me to see that I am not a “realism” writer, but that I am definitely a fantasy writer. I also, typically, like my stories to be wrapped up with a nice little bow, which is something I’m trying to change. Stories need to be a little messy, and I’ve never been good with messy writing.
So, here I am, trying to revise a story that I don’t even like, to turn it into something that I do like, but that will also satisfy my teacher, and I have nothing. It’s like all of the creative juices in my brain are on vacation and they forgot to leave behind a substitute.
I’ll keep writing, of course. What else can I do?
The story has to be written and I am a writer.
For better or worse, I am a writer.
I keep telling myself that.
I am a writer.
I am a writer.
I AM a writer.
Classes started a few weeks ago, and I honestly feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. The reading this semester is more intense. Not only is there a lot of it, but I’m also trying to keep up with my comps reading, which is insane.
None of this was made easier by the fact that Stan and I were temporarily forced out of our home by a broken air conditioner. We were displaced for almost a week, during which time I felt like reading was the least of my worries.
We are now back home and it feels like our lives are still not really getting back to normal, and honestly, that is probably normal. I’m not complaining, necessarily, but there are so many things I want to do that I don’t feel like I have the time to do. For instance, I really want to archive every blog post I’ve ever written just in case I ever take this blog down completely. I want to get my personal files organized in such a way that I can easily find every single thing I have ever written either academically or creatively. I want to finish the clean and purge of our house that we started so many weeks ago, but weren’t able to finish because of the air conditioner disruption. I want to have at least one single day where the only dirty clothes in the house are the ones I am wearing (before we have any children and that becomes impossible). I want to get our lives organized and clutter free, and that is not easy right now.
So, in the meantime, I am, of course, wasting valuable studying/organizing/cleaning time by blogging. This is probably the reason I don’t get anything done, by the way, and honestly I don’t mind. Yes, I should be reading. Yes, there is laundry in the wash that needs to go on hangers. Yes, the living room needs to be picked up.
But I wrote a blog post today, and I’m really glad I took the time. It isn’t a story, or a poem, but it is something.
Maybe I’ll succeed in this writing journey after all.
I started this blog just over a year ago with the intent to begin a habit of writing every day. I lasted approximately six months. I really didn’t even last that long, if we’re being truthful. The problem is discipline. I want to write. At any given time, I have about a hundred stories running around in my head. I constantly have new ideas, new thoughts, and a new inspiration for a completely new thing. However, I have a life. I’m a wife. I’m a teacher. I’m a student. I’m a daughter and an aunt. I have responsibilities. So, writing ends up at the bottom of my list of things to do each day.
In a perfect world, I would wake up every morning at 6:00 AM ready to start my day. I would spend an hour each morning writing. I would be productive at work, and come home energetic and not just sit in front of the TV or Xbox until I fall asleep. But, this isn’t a perfect world, and I’m not a perfect person. I’m just a person. A person who gets tired of looking at a computer screen all day and wants to come home and veg out. A person who likes playing video games. A person who loves to read “literary junk food” that I don’t have to analyze or write a paper about.
Will I try to start again? I don’t know. I’m keeping this blog, that’s for sure. I may not update it for another six months, but I’m holding this place. Because someday, when school is finished, or when I become a college professor who needs to get published, I’m going to pick this thing up and really make something out of it, but for now it is just here as a place for me to talk to myself.
I don’t like criticism. I don’t care how “constructively” it may be intended, it is still difficult to be criticized. It isn’t because I believe I’m perfect. I know I’m far from it. The reason I hate criticism is because I KNOW that I am not perfect, and I really hate for other people to point out that fact.
For writers, criticism is a given. Nothing written will ever be received joyfully by every person. The urge to criticize is part of human nature. When we don’t like something, we criticize it. Most of the time, we are merciless. We criticize without thinking about the other person’s feelings. We criticize without considering the motive behind what’s written. We criticize without taking the time to really hear what the writer is trying to say.
A good critic should know how to criticize without belittling the one being criticized. I remember my senior year of high school, having a teacher who said that my writing had to have been plagiarized because someone my age couldn’t possibly understand the real meaning of the “big” words I used. She was wrong. Her criticism hurt because she made an assumption about me that wasn’t true. I was offended as a writer and as an intelligent young person who had always used “big” words. To assume that I couldn’t understand all of those “big” words was an insult to me and my parents who had taught me many of those “big” words. Her narrow-minded ideas were hurtful and just plain stupid. As an adult, I see that it was her narrow-mindedness that deserved the criticism, and not my ability to use words to my advantage.
Disliking criticism is common among writers, I think. For myself, I know that I don’t always love what I’ve written, but I do want other people to like it. There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a written work and feeling good that you not only finished it, but you put the best of yourself into it. When someone comes along and criticizes that, it feels a bit like a slap in the face.
The journey to accept criticism isn’t just about accepting criticism with grace. I think it is also about making yourself understand that criticism isn’t always telling you that they your writing stinks. Sometimes, criticism comes from people who see potential you have as a writer and they want to do their part to make you better. Criticism isn’t always personal. Sometimes, it is, there is not doubt about that, but sometimes criticism can lead you into an understanding about the way you write and give you a motivation to do better the next time.
Like everything on this blog, accepting criticism is just another part of the writer’s journey. Like everything in life, accepting criticism isn’t about what is said, but it is about how you react to it. If you react professionally, despite the level of professionalism of your critic, then you will find that even the most spiteful criticism can be used to your advantage. And that is what will make you a better writer. Your reactions will be a determiner of your success. No critic, no reviewer, no teacher, can ever take your words away from you. You just have to decide how to use them to your advantage.
I read an article last night from the New York Times. It was about the recent disaster in Joplin, and it was one of the most beautifully written articles I’ve read in a long time. It was not just beautiful because it was written about a city that I have loved for as long as I can remember, but it was beautiful because it was written in a way that stirred something in me as a writer. I began reading the article to myself and was halfway through it when I realized that it was the kind of writing that could not be read only in one’s head, it must be read out loud. The words, the phrases, the beautiful expressions, they had to be given a voice. As I was reading it, I started to feel some longing deep in my soul. This morning, I figured out that it was because that is the kind of writer I want to be. I want to be the kind of writer whose words are so well written and beautifully used that the article must be read out loud. I want to be the kind of writer who writes with the purpose of stirring something in the hearts of the people reading my words.
I’m not that kind of writer yet, but I feel like I can become that kind of writer. It is part of the journey, improving as a writer. To some, it is a natural talent, but to others it is a practiced art. I suppose that it doesn’t matter how I get there, so long as I do. I believe that I can get there. Maybe I will never be as great or funny as Jasper Fforde, and maybe I will never leave a legacy behind that compares to Jane Austen, but I do believe that I can be an amazing writer. I want to be better than I am. I want to be funny and witty. I want my words to enlighten and inspire.
The journey to improvement is one of the harder parts of the journey, because it means admitting that you probably really aren’t that great of a writer. It means accepting the fact that, for now, no one is the least bit interested in what you have to say. It means that, most of the time, what you write will not inspire or make anyone laugh or beg to be read alout. The journey to improvement requires discipline and hard work, and a serious commitment to writing every day, not just the days YOU feel inspired. I haven’t mastered any of those yet. I’m working on them, but I struggle with the commitment. I want to write every day, but if I have nothing to say, I don’t write. That wasn’t part of the plan. I started this blog as a commitment to write every day, no matter what, even if the words I write are terrible. So, I’m trying again, to just write, without worrying if it is good yet, or if it inspires, but just to practice writing so that I can begin walking down the road to improvement.
May was not the best month of my life. To say that one month out of my life was not the best is an odd thing to consider. I am old enough to have had many months to complain about, but it is difficult to single out a particular month of a particular year as just a bad month. However, this year, May brought a lot of heartache with it.
As a child, I was taught that March “comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb” and that “April showers bring May flowers.” These sayings gave me the impression that May was a gentle month, full of flowers and sunshine. But May, this last, most recent May, was not gentle. It was not gentle in the literal sense, nor in the metaphorical sense. May was cruel. May was angry. May was rough.
In May, dear friends passed into the next life before I was ready to say goodbye. In May, people’s homes were destroyed. In May, a city I love was changed forever.
As a writer, when bad things happen my first response is to pick up my pen and pour my heart out onto a blank page.
In May, I didn’t have the words. Expressing myself on paper was foreign to me. I thought writing would be cathartic, a balm to my weary heart. But writing was the enemy. When I tried to put down what I was feeling, my mind went blank and the white space taunted me. I couldn’t write.
Now, May is over and a new month begins. I hope it will be better. I know that writing through grief can produce amazing results, but my heart needs a break from the hurting. So, here’s to June. May it be a month of moving on and continuing along life’s journeys.