“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard & you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, & that hard.”
– Neil Gaiman
I’ve been struggling with the WIP. I like where it started, I know where it has to end, but I also know that there hasn’t been enough movement for my main character. Too much observing, not enough emotional engagement. Potential, but no pizzaz.
It’s been bothering me all week, so I tried the usual fixes of ignoring it, taking naps, cleaning my office (which meant blowing it up first as I “re-organized” stuff. I even spent money I shouldn’t have on handy organizational gadgets. “If I just get organized enough, the story will fix itself!” she said, despairingly, before laughing ironically and sinking into another glass of scotch. (ye gods.)
So tonight, after another round of “writing,” I had managed to organize my chest of drawers, and had 17 new words. So, I took my plotbook (8″x11″ Moleskin hardcover, squared, black), my favorite pen (Pilot G-2 07 Bold), and sat down on the newly-cleaned loveseat (hand-me-down, plush, ugly shade of blue), and wrote it out.
And wrote. And wrote. Not the actual story, but what is the story? Where is the movement? What is the journey? Brain to hand to pen to paper. And there it is.
It’s not done, of course. There is still the writing, but for me, the journey is a little easier with a map to guide me. There are questions answered. And there is the final scene – so perfect, so exactly what the story is. It’s there, waiting for me to connect all the letters and words leading up to that point. It’s that moment that makes me love writing so very much.
What is it about the physical act of writing of writing with pen and paper that is different than keyboard and screen? They are just tools. But with pen and paper, there are no distractions. There are different connections firing in the brain. I used to know this, when I would write page after page of stories and sketches and doodles. And tonight, I remembered that.
And I am grateful for it.
I’m on vacation this week, with nothing more on my to-do list than get my office reorganized, get my desktop reorganized, and finish writing three stories so I can get them out into the world.
I’ve been unable to write much though, because I am so drawn into what is happening in Ferguson, MO. I am watching Twitter constantly, reading and searching for credible sources and articles, and trying not to get sucked into meaningless fights online, fights where people don’t want to have a dialogue, they just want to retreat into their comfortable white worlds where the police are always the good guys and the blacks always bring it on themselves.
I’ve just read that Amnesty International is sending human rights teams into the United States, that they want an investigation into the police actions in Ferguson. As I write, there are tweets from Ferguson, of tear gas and shots being fired as the protests cross into a second week. I don’t know what to do, knowing that even my helplessness is a matter of privilege, that I can be angry and frustrated in my safe home on my safe street and knowing that I do trust the police department here in my city. I’m white. I’ve never been given reason not to.
And so I go back to writing, and watching, and raging. There is nothing else for me to do.
I spent some time organizing the current WsIP and going through open submissions and realized I have four stories almost ready to go… and four potential markets for them. But they all have to be finished and polished and out in the next 25 days.
I did want to focus on finishing stories faster during the second half of the year. Hopefully I’ll have some good news for at least one of them by the time winter rolls around.
I am fascinated by how into the short story I am right now. This is so different than where I was two years ago. There are novel ideas on the backburner, and slow research happening, but the shorts are where my focus is. It’s such a delightful challenge to tell the story in such a compacted space.
So, August goal: finish and send out these four stories. Word count goal for the month: 20k.
(Good thing there’s a bottle of birthday bourbon still sitting in the living room. I think we’re going to need it before it’s all said and done.)