Flash Fiction – July 24th – Essay

This week’s flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s Blog is an essay on why I write. . .what makes me a writer? What compels and drives me to do this? In contemplation of this I have come to understand something about myself hitherto unknown or at least unspoken. I am not a writer.

I am a storyteller.

Writing is one version of this but I also enjoy telling stories orally. My artwork tells a story . . .at least it does when it turns out right. That is what compels me, the need to tell stories. Though, I will admit, the “I can tell stories through interpretive dance” thought line was a bad idea from the get-go and I do apologize for that, it won’t happen again.

The reason why I write is that it is one way of telling stories and a way I can tell the stories to as many people as possible. So then, the question is not “why I write” for me but rather what drives me to tell stories? The answer to that is rather simplistic and straightforward. I tell stories because it makes me happy to tell stories.

The why’s and how-comes of that would keep a therapist in business for years trying to untangle. Was it a lack of attention when I was a child or a sense of narcissistic egotism that makes me feel that my stories are so important they must be told? I don’t know. One thing I have learned is that sometimes, it doesn’t matter why, it simply is what it is.

I write because I want to share my stories.

Where I get the stories is something I don’t know. My mind just works that way, it creates even when I don’t try and create. It fabricates from things I see ideas of what could be or what might be hidden right behind plain view. It just happens. It is just who I am. There is no poetics to it, just a simple fact of me. It is just how my mind works

So the final answer would be, I write because that is what I do. The why of it doesn’t matter except to my therapist. I do it because that is who I am.

Though I do feel in a strange way that I should now stand up and say, “Hi, my name is David. I’m a writer.” And wait for the twelve step crowd to welcome me. . .

Who am I writing for?

That is the question that has been bothering me for the past few days. . . just who am I writing for?

This is a question that has gotten into my mind the past few days because at 25k into my novel  I am reading it and realizing I may or may not continue reading on from that part. I might not even make it that far. While the story is good, the dialog witty. . .I am writing for someone else.

So I am left wondering if maybe I just have not found my voice yet. Pounding out more writing will help with that but I am also left with a nagging feeling that I have been writing for someone else. It reminds of something Neil Gaiman said in his speech (Which is really awesome and worth watching)  “Make Good Art”: The only projects he regrets are the ones he did for a reason other than really wanting to do them. That he writes things he wants to write so even if they fail, he still has the fulfillment of having written what he wanted to write.

So I am looking over what I have written and am left wondering if I am writing for me or for some idea of what some unnamed reader might like and buy.

So, lesson of the day, write for me. Combining that with the lesson before I am not going to restart, but from this point forward it will be what I dig. I will go back and renovate the rest later, redo it all if I have to. But from this point forward in my book, it will be shit I dig and how I dig it and fix the rest when I get done.

Still Kicking

Fear

It is a powerful motivator. . . or should that be de-motivator? Fear of the inevitable rejection that is part of being a writer. It happens and will happen and you can’t stop it. It is part of the writing process, not everything you write will be gold. Sometimes the things you think are best no one else ‘gets’ so they are rejected. Sometimes the things you are really, really unsure of hit the spot and people like them.

In most things there are benchmarks that if you strive for them you’ll fall within acceptable parameters. Things can be measured and calculated so that your efforts have a good certainty of success if you follow those guides. Ys, writing does have some rules but even if you follow them, it might still suck. Even if it doesn’t suck it might fall outside current trends or needs. Even if you hit the right time with the right idea inside the guidelines. . . sometimes the current trend is to color outside the lines. All of that uncertainty creates. . .you guessed it. . .

Fear

Then there is another kind of fear. It is a lack of faith. Sometimes you look at words you wrote the day before and though you were sure they were rock solid then, now you are not so sure. You second guess, worry, and that restricts further words. Lack of faith in your words is a huge fear.

Fear.

The worst fear though. . .at least for me. . .is being irrelevant. What if my best words at the best time about the best ideas are just. . . .nothing? That is the biggest and worst boogey-man in my writing closet. Irrelevance.

So I sent off several short stories to editors yesterday. They were sitting here and I had done nothing with them for over a year. I tweaked them and read them and I am pretty dang confident they were really good. I was also pretty confident that I am tired of fear. So if they are accepted, hooray for me in getting published. If they are not I will submit them someplace else and keep writing.

I am done letting fear guide my hand.

Ya. . .some stuff will suck but even if it does I will learn from it and move on. I used to tell students that the first hundred round-house kicks will be bad, the next thousand will be better but in the end, by the time they hit black belt they will have thrown an average of 25,000 roundhouse kicks. . . they’ll finally be doing good kicks. By the time they hit 4th dan and are a master they will have thrown over 100k and finally, they will be doing really good. If they ever hit 9th dan grand master, then they will be perfect. But each failure teaches a lesson. A slight modification of technique and timing that teaches us but only if we allow ourselves to throw them knowing they might fail. It is that willingness to be imperfect in our efforts that will guide us to achieving success.

So I threw a few kicks yesterday. I’ll throw some more today.

Some might hit.

Some might miss.

In the end. . .its ok either way.

Because at least I am still kicking.

Daily Progress

At 20,294 words now. Was up to 23k but deleted a bunch of stuff I really didn’t like. Finding it hard not to get lost into banter between the characters in the story. I periodically have to kick myself and remember “show, don’t tell” to get myself back on track. So I deleted about 4k worth of words and wrote back better stuff. Still fighting the urge to edit myself as I go along. . . but that section just went spiraling off into the “who gives a shit” area of playful banter. It had to go to get back to the meat of the story.

So back on track and moving forward.

The Archer

A long time ago when I learned martial arts my master used to use stories to teach me lessons. Some people might see it as sappy but, I loved them. More than that though, I remembered the lessons that each story was about. Years later when I taught martial arts I also told my students these stories. Now I will say that I most likely did not get them exactly, word for word the same and may have added a wee bit of flourish and my own style to them. The lessons though stayed the same.

So the other night I was going through and sorting some old documents on my system and I came across the lesson of the archer. It is a detailed account of all the work it takes to make a bow and then the work to make each arrow and fletch it. The point of it is to emphasize the amount of preparation so it is wordy and long and I will not rewrite it here so you don’t fall asleep on me. After all that preparation in making the bow and the arrows it talks about the process of shooting an arrow, the allowing the breath to escape as you aim until you are fully calm and steady and then you loose the arrow.  Then you don’t sit there and watch it go because there is nothing you can do once it is fired. You grab another arrow and shoot that or the enemy army will just run up and then you are kind of screwed cause, you know, you got a bow and not a sword.

The point was to teach students that once they throw a kick or a punch in a competition to not focus on it. If the kick sucked, it’s ok. If the punch failed, don’t worry about it, move on. The time you spend fussing over the botched kick or punch is the time that you should be continuing the fight and the time the opponent will use to beat your ass because you aren’t paying attention.

Then it hit me. This lesson that I was taught over 30 years ago and I had memorized to such a point that I was able to bore many sets of students with its retelling over and over, was a lesson I never thought to put outside the context of martial arts and yet, it is the exact lesson I needed to hear.

Sometimes when I write I get caught up in my own wordiness and try and get a turn of phrase just right or a description just perfect on the first draft. I can get bogged down on it and it just stops my flow of thought. That section consumes my thoughts and getting it perfect becomes more important than getting it down on paper. I need to let it go. I need to let the words fly and then grab the next handful of them and toss em at the screen and keep writing. Editing and second drafts are the times to fuss over exactness. First drafts are the fight, the kicks and punches you just keep throwing and striving to make the next better than the last. You get it done and worry about the clean up later.

It is humbling to realize that the solution was in my head and I never stood back far enough to see how it fit into other aspects of my life. I’ve known what I needed to do for over 30 years and I swear I could hear my master’s voice saying “duh” when I finally figured it out.

I can be kinda slow that way sometimes.

Morning Coffee

I was sitting outside today having a morning cup of coffee and I noticed something. It is the time of year when the spring eggs from the geckos and anoles and salamanders are hatching.  Most of the eggs look like tiny whitish-greenish balls stuck under leaves and blend in well (thanks Darwin). I happened to see one this morning just as the baby anole was starting to emerge. It was struggling, it’s egg tooth pushing and cutting and it was fighting with all its might to escape and be born.

You can’t help them. Even if you did have some technical way of actually providing assistance they would never understand and they’d just see this huge, overly hairy thing trying to mess with them and freak. So you just have to watch. You can only sit there and cheer them on, hope they make it, and witness it. That is all you can do.

Sometimes, when I am writing, I swear I see that same look from my girlfriend. That same pained “I wish I could help you through it but can’t” look I give the lizards. I know that at times when I am struggling with a passage or area or just with the writing in general she watches and wishes and hopes for me, but she can’t do anything. All she can do is witness it. That has to be hard to do for her. To watch someone she loves struggling and know that she can’t do anything to ease the struggle. The process is mine and I have to own it.

So I sat back and watched the lizard extricate itself in a long and arduous struggle and sipped my coffee. All the while I kept thinking, I bet she doesn’t know that I see those looks. . . that I don’t know she is watching, hoping, wishing she could help. Maybe I should find some way of telling her that I know.

The coffee, by the way, was Blue Mountain Blend from Fresh Market and was amazingly tasty today.

The Hemingway Fail

Write Drunk, edit sober

Those words always encompassed the true grit of masculine writing to me and of course were uttered by the immortal Ernest Hemingway. The idea that when slightly inebriated the ideas would flow easily, albeit rather sloppily and you could bang out large sections of text that you could then go back and edit when sober and clean up. I want this. I strive for this. I try again and again for this. . . .Unfortunately for me, there is a stumbling block of the modern age.

In a word. . . .Porn.

I get myself a buzz going on Angry Orchard hard cider and then sit down to write. I am feeling creative. I am feeling energized. I am feeling like I could write great stuff. I am expecting the alcohol to loosen my inhibitions and allow me to write in a gushing flow of ideas that, while grammatically challenged, tap into some deeper portion of me cut off by my sober mind. I open up word, prepared and resolved to write and create mind blowing story lines and in depth characters that pull at the very soul of the reader and then. . .

Porn happens.

It is not so much a conscious choice. It is not planned. It is not even anticipated really, it just happens. Somewhere between opening the word document and starting to write, I get distracted by sparkly things and wander off into a half drunk, gluttonous storm of porn. I lose track of ideas and think only in basic, primal urges I will not discuss here. . . but you get the basic idea.

I often wonder if Hemingway would have been able to hold fast to the efforts of writing had he had the internet and non-stop streaming porn of every flavor possible available at just a few clicks away. Would he have been able to resist the siren like lure and call of debauchery or would the world be starved of his brilliance due, at least in part, to Big Booty Latex Housewife Sluts parts 1-4?

It is a failing of mine but, once I reach a certain level of intoxication boobs are far more interesting than plot line development. I know. This is wrong but I also know, it is somewhat inevitable. The best intentions of banging out five thousand words while intoxicated becomes a point and click frenzy of clips, searching for the perfect one that fits my current mood.

I could be Hemingway . . . if it weren’t for “The Best of Big Boob Bangaroo”.

It just happens.

I swear to god I don’t even remember opening it half the time. .it just happens.

 

Flash Fiction: The Gift of the Nothing

Here is my entry to the flash fiction contest at Chuck Wendig’s Blog It comes in at 1000 words exactly including the title. . .hope you enjoy. Had some fun with it.

The Gift of the Nobody

Nadia stood her ground and tried to not be intimidated by the hulking, eight foot tall demon before her. His deep red skin covered with a viscous snot-like fluid that constantly oozed down him and dripped off in glops. It fell to the ground with a sizzle like it would dissolve the floor but it didn’t. In fact it was mostly cosmetic and for show. He felt it gave him that “hellish” appearance that people expected and it was all about first impressions and the big ‘wow’ factor.

“So, one more time. What exactly do you want?” The demon asked, sure he had misunderstood the girl.

“I want to be nobody. I want to be completely unnoticed by anyone unless I make contact with them and then when the contact is done, I want them to go back to not noticing me again.” Nadia said once more.

“Well, I have to say, this is a new one deary.” The demon said thinking about it.

“It’s what I want,” The girl assured him.

“But why? Such a beautiful creature such as yourself, why not revel in the attention? Bask in the adoration? Most people make deals to get that. . .  not . . .the other way around.” The demon scratched his chin in contemplation.

“If you can’t do it. . .” Nadia shrugged and turned to leave.

“Wait, I can do it, but why? Just tell me that. Why do you want this?” He asked.

Nadia sighed and resigned herself to telling him. “My parents were famous, really famous. The moment I was conceived I was famous because of them. When I was born I was famous. When I was a child I had hordes of people watching me all the time. When I was in school, everyone stared. When I go to get a burger, I have throngs of paparazzi taking pictures. Everywhere I go, everything I do, someone is watching. Always watching me. People I barely know give interviews like they are my best friends. I am always noticed. I am always, constantly, never endingly watched and always have been. I want it to stop.”

The demon thought about it and nodded. He didn’t really understand it but he almost never did. During his last performance review his supervisor had chastised him for trying to understand, making his dissatisfaction clear with a few well timed and poignant licks of hellfire and brimstone. So faced with a lack of understanding and the potential of losing the contract, the demon simply said, “I can do it.” It’s all about closing the deal. He plucked a contract from the air with one hand and a pen from the air with the other.

Nadia shook her head. “No way I sign anything till I know you can do it. Not till I know for sure that you can make absolutely everyone not notice me. Not till I know I am nobody.” She had spent a lifetime dealing with managers, talent scouts, lawyers and other nefarious types that made big promises. “You need to prove to me that you can do it.” She crossed her arms and gave him a distrusting look.

“I can do it.” He protested.

“Prove it.” She challenged.

The demon thought about it and then about his quota, and how far behind he was this month and finally sighed. “Ok, fine.” He had a bad feeling about this but he needed to close the deal to avoid the fires again. With a grand gesture he summoned up arcane powers, the circle around him flaring up like neon so that the room was bathed in a hellish green light. “Then you are nobody!” His voice booming the words into reality.

That being done he stopped and looked around. He was confused. What had he been doing? He looked at his hands, he had a contract and a pen, he must have been doing something important. He looked around the room and saw nobody. What was he doing here? He chewed on the end of the pen trying to remember why he was here. He began to tap his foot nervously and thought ‘oh no, not again’. The door to the room opened and closed but he saw nobody there. What was he doing here?

Outside the throng of photographers were likewise trying to figure out why they were standing around in the hot sun. They knew there must have been a reason they were here but nobody walked out the door and they had no idea who they were waiting for. A few began taking pictures of the other paparazzi in case that was who they had come to shoot but they were dubious that was the case. As far as they could remember there was nobody here worth shooting.

Inside the demon looked at the contract. It clearly stated it was with nobody. Why had he written a contract with Nobody? That didn’t make sense. He was slipping, losing his touch. He was going to be in such trouble, he was very far behind on his quota and to be standing here wasting his time with nobody. It was a safe bet that things were not going to go well when he got back. He briefly thought about trying to work the paparazzi outside but discarded the idea, most of them had sold their souls long ago. With a gesture the contract and pen turned to ash and fell away, vanishing before they hit the floor. He was so screwed. With a sigh he gave up figuring out what he was doing and vanished in a puff of smoke back to hell.

The reporters likewise gave up and began to disburse and go home, confused, mopey, and feeling very foolish. There was nobody here to see. Nobody walked right past them. Nobody walked down the street unnoticed. Nobody walked off into the sunset alone for the first time.

And Nobody lived happily ever after.

The Stories In My Head

So. . . I ripped down my old website and decided to redo it new, different. . . trying to change things up. I did this partially because I was tired of the old but also because I have had an epiphany. . .one that was rather strange and oddly disturbing to me. It was, none the less, a good thing even if I kind of felt stupid afterwards.

This epiphany began after reading things by three people and each of them played a part in the understanding of one of my major failings as a writer. . . or rather. . . a wanna be writer. Even though I have put out books of erotica and I think they were good and people have enjoyed them and all, they were not what I really want to write. They were not what I really dream of writing.

I was told once a piece of advice from a very learned person that I should write, whatever and whenever I could. Find a job that paid me to write and it did not matter what I wrote as long as I was writing. It would improve my craft and help me develop my own style of writing. This was sage advice but I took that advice and ran in circles with it. I didn’t build a jumping off point to write what I dreamed instead I wrote the same thing, over and over. Not that erotica is not fun to write and it is kind of a sexual thrill to know that my dirty thoughts can inspire other people’s dirty thoughts . . . intellectual exhibitionism, flashing my mind at people. So I was paid by websites to write erotica and I just kept on doing that, short stories that titillated people.

In my mind though I kept writing great novels, science fiction, horror, crime. . .all kinds of genres. I would work an idea into a story, into a novel idea and even, at times, into a whole series of novel ideas. Then I’d write more erotica because, it was easier and the feedback was much faster. All the while I kept thinking to myself (and also telling others as well but only in such a way as to sound cool and very intellectual) that I had 5 novels written in my head. . . .8 novels. . . .16 novels all written in my head. It actually made me feel good to think that all I had to do was write them down and I’d be an instant hit.

Then I started reading the blog of Chuck Wendig who actually does have that many books out and more and a TV show coming and game credits and a blog that is totally awesome. When I read his blog I read it with the voice of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket screaming at me for the most part because his blog and his writing books are all about the work of writing. About actually stopping whining and dreaming and shutting up and doing it. It inspired me to want to write my novels.

Then I began reading  a series of books by William Bernhardt, another person who is all about getting it done. As I read his Red Sneakers Writer series I began to realize, as much as I had ideas for novels in my mind and even snippets of scenes and an entire mental movie of what it was all about and cool scenes and wonderful sound bites of dialog in my head, I didn’t have any novels in there. I had ideas, concepts, and story lines but not novels. It is like having a big pile of boards, boxes of nails, and a hammer and thinking that means you have a house. I had pieces but they were just sitting there collecting dust. They were just raw materials and in no way the novels I had been telling myself and others that I had hidden in my mind. They were just pieces of stuff that could be better stuff but they weren’t because I never bothered assembling them. I never put the work in to them.

Then I happened to remember reading the book by Matt Paxton about hoarders. There is a kind of hoarder I call a Hallmark hoarder. They buy things with the thought of giving them to someone and they experience in their mind the emotional response of that act, just the idea of how happy the person will be with what they have gotten them makes them feel very good. Then, they can’t give it to the person. The reality of the person’s reaction might be less than the emotional feed they have already gotten by thinking about it so they can’t risk losing that feeling. Much like the Hallmark commercials every year where they show someone looking at some dancing Santa and imagining how everyone will laugh about seeing it. . . well that person is screwed cause more than likely people won’t respond that way so they will never share it and hide it away and just think about it and get that emotional high. Then the epiphany came to me. . .

I do that with my writing.

I hoard ideas.

I take the concepts and storylines for what be excellent books and I work on them in my head and then I lock them away. I hide them because the idea of how good the book will be. . .I got that emotional high. The reality might suck. Stories I can risk but the novels, the stuff that I really want to write, that stuff is scary as hell to let out. What if everyone hates it? What if it sucks? What if no one even notices it?

So I hoard my ideas in my head, I keep those raw materials hidden away. I hint at them and cover the highlights sometimes talking to people but, that is just the movie trailer. The work of writing that novel, the risk of writing that full story with all the connecting bits so that it is more than just an idea for a book but a full novel. . . that is scary, it is a risk.

So I hoard novels in my head. The same as any hoarder I resisted the fact, I justified, I deflected and I denied. I always had a reason not to do it. I always had a reason that the future was a better time. Time and time again I started and then distracted myself with writing some erotic bits that deflected me away from what I really dream of writing. Don’t get me wrong, like I said I do love writing erotica. But it is not my dream. So now, with the help of these three men I have never and most likely will never meet, I have forced myself to look in the mirror and see the truth. Now it is up to me and that is what this blog will be about. Some old stuff will pop up I am sure as I go along. But I have started on my first novel. It is going well so far but I have to periodically stop myself from diverting away from it. . . .I periodically have to replay the drill sergeant screaming at me “stop screwing around, bitching and moaning  and just write!”

Hi, my name is David. I’m a story hoarder. I am 14k words into my first novel and it is both wonderful and terrifying to put the words down. It is a risk to who I have viewed myself as but  I am going “to be” rather than “to dream”. I am going to be a writer.

Welcome to my blog.