On Short Stories

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.

Someday.

Writing and Other Disasters

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.

I Need My Darcy Fix

For some reason, I am really needing a Darcy fix today. I blame The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. If you haven’t heard of them, prepare to fall in love.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Every week, on Mondays and Thursdays, a new 3-6 minute YouTube video is posted chronicling the life and adventures of “Lizzie Bennet”. I discovered it last year near its beginning, interestingly enough, while I was also taking an Austen course, and have been watching ever since. If you aren’t surprised at how much I love it, you should be. As many of you know, I am very particular when it comes to my Austen adaptations. I am particular because so many of them are so TERRIBLE. Like that one that I wanted so much to be good, Scents and Sensibility, because it had Ashley Williams, and I like her. Or that awful, not even worth mentioning LDS adaptation of P&P I watched with great excitement. So, you can understand why I would be wary of anything claiming to be a modern-day adaptation of P&P.

There is nothing worth worrying about with this beautiful adaptation. It is wonderful. The story is told from the perspective of dear Lizzie (mostly), with input from Charlotte, Jane, Lydia, and of course Darcy. There have also been a few spinoffs: The Lydia Bennet, Maria Lu, Collins and Collins, and the latest, Pemberley Digital (links to come).

The story is told chronologically, and slowly at a couple of short videos a week, which drives me insane, but keeps me coming back for more. The most surprising thing, and what keeps me watching, is how faithful they have been to the plot of the novel despite the modern, techy nature of the series.

So today, when I should have been working, I was thinking about how much I wanted to go home and watch these videos, and every other P&P/Austen Novel adaptation I own.

I just need a Darcy fix. I don’t know why I find this story so completely amazing. Maybe it is because of the “against all odds” romances, or the silent, hopeful men. Maybe it is just because Jane Austen was an amazing writer and no matter how you spin her works, you can’t walk away without falling in love with these timeless classics.

So tonight, when I get home, I will struggle to focus on boring Moby Dick, probably procrastinating it, so that I can watch some Austen and get my fix.

Technology Forgotten

I realized today that I sometimes I forget that I have the WordPress app on my iDevices. I waste so much time playing games and reading eBooks, that I forget I have a writing tool at my disposal at all times. I even carry my Bluetooth keyboard around everywhere I go, so I always have the ability and usually the opportunity to take time to write a blog post, or something.

I’m taking a creative writing class this semester. It is basically a fiction writing workshop, and it has been tough. I have to write two 12-15 page stories this semester, and when I started classes, I had absolutely no ideas. So, I tossed something together and it was terrible. I started over and came up with something that will work, but that I is still not pleasing.

Writing is hard. I want to write so badly, and all of the time. I want so much to be one of those people who wakes up at 5:00 AM ready to spend time writing before they start their day. I am not. I’m one of those people who is so tired of being on a computer all day long, that by the time I come home, I just want to forget that computers exist and watch TV or something equally mindless.

Technology is such a convenience that I take it for granted. I’m always complaining about how I don’t have time to do the things I want. I don’t have time to write, to blog, to focus on music. I was reminded this week that I have an amazing tool for making music at my disposal in my iDevices, yet I don’t use them. I have the ability to do any of these things at any time I want without much effort on my part, and yet I still get frustrated over a “lack of time.” Remembering that I have a way to make music helped me to remember that WordPress has an app, which means I can blog from anywhere, even if I don’t have WiFi. And, since I always have my phone, I always have Evernote, which is my writing tool of choice. So, I have to ask myself, what am I complaining about? I have everything I need to do all the things I want to do. Now, I just have to do them.

Schoolius Interruptus

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.

A Day Off

We didn’t do much cleaning today. Stan has been wanting to take a wandering drive, and so we did exactly that. It was fun, and we enjoyed just being out and about, but it has put us behind a little on our goals. Have I mentioned that this purging is a process? I had no idea exactly how much would be going into this, but it is just unbelievable the amount of little things you have that you need to find a home for, so to speak. We have found so many things that just take up room, but we can’t decide where to put them or whether they should be stored or tossed. At times, like earlier today, I just feel like I want to toss everything that I don’t use fairly often, but I know that would be ridiculous because I know that there are things I don’t use daily that we still need. For example, we have to keep the crockpot, because in the winter, Stan loves for me to cook Santa Fe soup. We have a blender that we keep because sometimes we like to make smoothies (well, Stan does).

Anyway, our day off was somewhat productive. First of all, I now have power in my writing nook. I’ve been searching for the perfect power solution, and we came across it today at Bed, Bath & Beyond after several visits to other stores who did not have the surge protector I wanted. I also found a couple of other useful items and got started on the search for the perfect desk chair. I found one I like, but I want to keep my options open.

While we didn’t do much cleaning/purging today, I think we did something far more important. We just took some time out for each other, and it was a good day. School will be starting for both of us in a week, and this semesters, our schedules are such that it seems like we may not see as much of one another as usual. So, I’m really glad that we took today to just have some fun together.

We still have so much to do, and I know that there are some things that just won’t get done as quickly as I’d like, so I’m trying to be patient. The most important thing is that we’re still working and still staying strong in our determination to declutter, and I think that will sustain us until we are finished.

Cleaning . . . Paused

After over a week of cleaning, we have come to a pause in the work. It is not a voluntary pause, but necessary. Stan has been working a little overtime this week, and so our cleaning time has been limited. I do a few things while he is at the office, but I have to admit that it is difficult to motivate myself when he isn’t here. It is so much easier to slip into my writing nook and write for a few minutes, than to actually make myself go into the kitchen and empty the dishwasher (which is exactly what I should be doing right now).

I am still excited about all that we have done, and I am finding that making one decision to get rid of something I’m keeping “just in case” is leading me to make decisions to get rid of things I may be keeping for other reasons. For instance, I have a coffee mug that I used when I was a kid. Now, of course, I didn’t drink coffee when I was little, but I used the mug for other things; cocoa, water, soda, whatever. So, I initially thought I might keep it for sentimental reasons, but as I thought about it, I realized that I’ll probably never drink out of it, and the sentiment is only partially important to me. Honestly, I don’t even remember using it that much, but I do remember it, so I had convinced myself that it was important. However, over the past few days, I’ve started to ask myself why I’m really keeping it. It isn’t like we don’t have many other coffee cups that I like to use. In fact, I much prefer my Oz Museum cup that we bought on our honeymoon, and it is currently beside me full of morning coffee. That is the cup I need to keep, because I love drinking from it, and it always makes me think of my honeymoon. So, the childhood cup is going, and the Oz cup is staying.

This experience has been an amazing learning experience for me. I’ve realized that by purging our home life physically, I am really anxious to start purging in other ways. We’ve started talking about changing the way we shop by only buying things we KNOW we will use, rather than buying things based on “maybes”. It has also made me ponder the things I might need to purge in my spiritual life. Having a room totally dedicated to writing and studying, makes me want to use it for more than just my school work. I want to use it to study the Word, to spend time with my Savior, to get back in the habit of daily bible study. Yes, this is a good experience. It has truly caused me to think a little differently about the “things” of life, and for that, I am truly grateful.

And we keep cleaning . . .

Kost Clean & Purge, day three . . . things are coming together. We’ve extended our goal of being finished from tonight to Friday night. It turns out that this is a much larger job than we originally thought. Both of our closets have been purged, and I can finally walk around in mine.

We’ve decided to donate all of our old stuff to a local ministry in town that our church supports. We just found out that they have a store, much like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and they use the proceeds to fund their ministry.

I’ve been thinking lately about a minimalist lifestyle, and while I don’t think I can go as minimalist as some have, I’d like to attempt to do it in certain areas of my life. We have found that we have so much stuff. Most of it is junk that we’ll never use, but we held on to it “just in case”. That is our philosophy no longer. No more “just in case” or “maybe I’ll use this for _____”. We are only keeping what we KNOW we’ll use. (This philosophy absolutely EXCLUDES books and art supplies of course. We have to keep those majors supported.)

Of course, we reserve the right to keep anything that we want for any reason that we want, but we are really trying to purge without sentimentality. We have a few “nostalgia” boxes that we plan to store in the garage, but we are ONLY keeping things that really mean something.

I advise everyone to do this, to take stock of the “things” in their life and see what they can do without. I’m finding out through this process that I feel so much freedom just from knowing that we are on our way to organization and minimalization. You can’t buy that kind of freedom, it is something you have do decide you want and then determine that you will have it.

Clean and Purge . . . and Clean Again

Stan and I have been working on a serious clean-up on our house. It has felt pretty good, especially when we see how neat and tidy things look after getting rid of several bags of clothes. So far, we have worked a little in every room of the house, and although there is still a pretty big mess, it is an organized mess. It has given us a sense of accomplishment to know that we have been able to part with so much.

During this process, Stan had the brilliant idea of turning the closet in our spare bedroom into a small writing space. From the moment he mentioned it, I went crazy for the idea and had a difficult time focusing on anything else other than getting my writing space in order! The original plan had been to rearrange the spare room to turn his large desk into a place I could do school work, but I much prefer this idea. It is small, but cozy. He hung my “Shakespeare Bookstore” picture and my BA Degree (since I have no office of my own). We also moved one of our bookshelves in here along with my grandmother’s desk. I LOVE IT! I want to sit in here all day and write. I have the bookshelf organized with my school books and my lesson books for youth. The only thing missing at this time is a power cord for charging my electronic devices, but that is something we have on the shopping list. Oh and a different chair, because the stool I am currently sitting on will not be comfortable for long. One of the great things about it is the potential for distraction free writing. If I try to write in the living room, there is always the TV, the movie rack, the Xbox, just sitting there . . . waiting . . . calling out to me. In here, there are books, and, um, books.

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In addition to the writing space, I’ve basically cleaned all of the clothes from my closet that I haven’t worn in over a year. Basically, anything that we have that we have either never or rarely used is gone. It is a great feeling.

Overall, I’m really glad we decided to do this. I’ve enjoyed purging. It has made me want to do this in all areas of my life. I’m sure there is a spiritual message in there somewhere.

Well, the laundry is calling . . .

Movie Review: Mirror, Mirror

This past weekend, I watched Mirror, Mirror. I was excited to see it because I am generally interested in any fairy tale/literary adaptation out there. While I’ll admit that it wasn’t the best adaptation of Snow White, there were some interesting variations on the story that made it worth watching.

I like it when writers take a story that has been told in a particular way for generations and revise it, tweak it, or just give the audience an entirely new perspective.

Mirror, Mirror is like this. It’s an interesting take, mostly because if you know the standard Snow White story, then this one will surprise you throughout. They took what you thought you knew about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and rearranged it, tweaked it, and in some places, completely changed it. Writers have been doing this a lot lately, and I don’t always like it, but I did in this film. Probably because I’m not really a huge fan of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It has never been my favorite fairy tale. I blame Walt Disney for that, because while I admire his courage in creating a full-lenght animated feature long before anyone had ever heard of Shrek, the woman who voiced Snow White had the most annoying voice ever.

However, in this film, the most annoying thing was Julia Roberts, and I can tolerate her much better than my husband. Nathan Lane is in the film, and he was a little disappointing. Not nearly as funny as he was in The Birdcage, but I suspect that is the writer’s fault and not Mr. Lane’s.

Overall, it was a good film, but not a great film. It certainly wasn’t epic, like I suspect a certain soon-to-be-released Peter Jackson film will be, but it was a little cute, a little funny, and interesting enough to be worth the time.

I give it four out of five stars.