Little Bits of Paper

I treasure these little bits of paper. I hoard them now. I secretly squirrel them away in my
pocket. I’m careful not to lose them when I take coins or keys from my pocket. My
thoughts, my ideas, my inspiration, they’re scribbled on these little bits of
paper. I once carried a neatly folded sheet of paper in my pocket. I carried my
list. My to-do list. It was a never-ending list of tasks. Those are the old
days. My pocket is no longer a place for a to-do list. There is no inspiration longing
for a keyboard, in a to-do list. There is no subtext waiting for a conversation,
in a to-do list. There is no title without a story, in a to-do list. There is no
perfect line of dialogue searching for a story, in a to-do list. I carry my
scribbled notes of random, odd, and disconnected ideas. These scribbled things
are not to be forgotten. I’ll use them someday. Maybe not tomorrow or the next
day, but someday they’ll fill a gap. They’re my coins in a piggy bank, saved
for a rainy day. They’re my safety net. My life preserver. My emergency supply
kit. I treasure these little bits of paper.

Fly the Sexist Skies

I know this veers off the usual idea behind my blog, but please forgive me for this quick rant.

I read an article today about an airline passenger, most certainly male, who left a note behind after his flight that pretty much told the female captain that she should be at home raising kids. This supposedly had nothing to do with the quality of the flight, it was just an ignorant sexist commentary.

As a male, I took offense that this knuckle-dragging moron was representing my gender. Or humankind at all, for that matter. As somebody that has had grandmothers, a mother, sisters, a wife, a daughter, and countless female friends and business associates, I just can’t understand the idea behind this sexist position. I want the best pilot in control of my flight. Man or woman, I don’t care which, just the best. Why would we relegate women to only child rearing just because they happen to have a uterus? Does this caveman think that men can’t handle child rearing? Haven’t we been enlightened enough yet to know that these stereotypes are antiquated?

Even though I was born in the era of the Mad Men-type mentality, I’d thought it was now past tense. I had difficulty believing that this type of thinking would still be openly expressed. I’m not surprised that it still is present in the heads of some people, but I’d expect most of them to be in their twilight years and not worrying about setting back the clock by at least a few decades. I guess I was wrong.

I really hope that this whole thing was a hoax. I’d be less irritated by that. And my biggest hope is that my pre-teen daughter grows up in a world that sees this kind of thinking as abhorrent as I do.

Strange new writing experience

This is a bit odd, so bear with me while I explain this.

I’m working on my second fiction project for class this semester. The first draft isn’t due for about five or six weeks, and I just turned in the draft of my first project last week, so I have plenty of time. I’ve had the itch to get going on it. I did an outline, which is unnatural for me even though it’s a vital part of writing. (My outlines are usually half-assed random notes and ideas scribbled in four or five different notebooks.) After doing a real outline I’ve been doing extensive research. The story takes place about 1969 and in the American southwest. There’s a car that’s a big part of the story and it involves a road trip. I’ve reached out and found somebody with this classic car that is willing to help me out. I also tracked down a 1969 USA road atlas. I’m familiar with the time period, but I’m fact-checking, etc., all in the name of authenticity.

So what? Well all the research, note taking, and outlining have made me impatient to write it. So I sat down and started tonight. I just wanted to get something down. And oddly, this time I went to the computer instead of my normal handwriting method. The story starts out in the car with my four key characters having a conversation. I was about three pages in when I wrote an exchange that made my stomach flip-flop. This was strange for me. One of the characters said something that sent a shockwave through the car and I was writing the reactions and sudden discomfort of the other three people. I’ve gotten attached to characters in books or movies and felt a pang when either I thought something bad was going to happen, or something bad did happen to them. Never did I ever think that I would write something that would have that effect on me, because I’m writing it. And certainly not after a couple pages.

Hey writers, I know you’re out there reading this. Please tell me, has this ever happened to you?

Good day of writing

I’ve always wanted to write. As soon as I understood what writing was, I remember wanting to write. This came from a love of reading. But I never really understood what it meant to write. I never knew what I had to put into it. What kind of passion and perseverance it took. I misunderstood my wanting to write and how completely inadequate wanting is. Wanting isn’t enough. I need to have a need to write. That’s the thing. What I want doesn’t matter. Wants don’t matter. I’m not the kind of person that chases wants. I work for wants, steady as she goes. I’m patient for wants. But I need to need to write. Needs are something we don’t give up on. Needs aren’t put off for another day. I need to write. (If that all makes sense to you, I’m impressed. And please explain it to me.)

I had a great day writing. I wrote some really good stuff. Probably the best I’ve written in months. I read it aloud to myself. It sounded good, it felt right. It’s probably still crap, but it made my day. I’ve been rewriting a completed short story. It’s a story that I feel is lacking, it could be better, oh so much better. I’ve worked on it on and off for almost two years. It keeps nagging at me because it feels weak. Feels? Hell no, it is weak. People have read it, they were nice and said they liked it, but they always say nice things. Who wants to be my dream crusher? But it never felt whole to me. It feels like a car with only three wheels, no seats, and no windshield. I started another class two weeks ago, fiction writing. I have to write two complete stories for the semester, along with about ten weekly papers. I volunteered to be in the first group for work-shopping our stories. (Next week I’m going to volunteer to go play on the freeway!) I decided to use this same short that I keep meaning to fix. My problem is that in the current state, it didn’t meet the minimum length requirement. Which really isn’t a problem. It’s a much needed kick in the ass.

I now have a deadline, so I sat down today and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I doubled the length, with content that enhances the story. I know, doubling content doesn’t equate to improvement. But I got in touch with my characters. I felt their lives, their pain, and their desires. I finished for the day and went back and read what I had written. I was bursting with pride. I think it’s some of the best I have written. I know, it’s just my opinion, but I hate a lot of the crap I write. I have files and files of the crap that I write. I felt like spiking my laptop in the end zone. I read it, and I love it. That’s scary. The new stuff seems good, but the older stuff is, well, it’s crap. Time for a complete rewrite.

 

Creative Writing meta-fiction assignment

The coffee shop is full of small round tables. Most are vacant on the frigid sub-zero morning. Even the draw of fresh brewed steaming-hot coffee is not enough to pull many people out of their beds on this bitter morning. The comforting and invigorating smell of brewing coffee fills the air.

Two women sit at a table near the center of the seating area. They braved the cold to share each other’s company, something they look forward to each week. Their faces are painted with exhaustion. They’re emotionally drawn and quartered. Not that they ever complain, but they need this weekly break from husbands, children, work, and numerous responsibilities. A short respite from life as they know it.

When they are able to have time alone, they choose to spend the fleeting moments with each other. They share the time over a cup of coffee or tea, whichever strikes their mood. These meetings are their escape. They’re anonymous here. The endless demands stop for just a short time. The needs of other vaporize for a few minutes. Sometimes they chat, these friends of countless years. Sometimes they’re quiet, finding comfort in the mere presence of the other.

Without a word they can sense how the other feels, what they need at the moment, support, or simply quiet escape. They can read each other’s expressions, or flick of their hair, or the way a hand rests on the table, and know exactly what it means. It’s an unconscious sign language that’s evolved over a few decades of friendship.

Today they’ve been mostly silent, choosing to soak up the peace. The shop is quiet except for the slight murmur of two employees talking behind the counter. Their peace is broken when a balding middle-aged man approaches their table. He has papers in his hands and tentatively holds one out between the women. His discomfort is apparent as he explains that the paper is a project for his Creative Writing class. He explains that they have no obligation to read it, and that he’s not selling anything. They can use it as a coaster for their cups, or to dispose of a piece of gum, or crumple it up and use it as a cheap cat toy. Neither of them reach for it. He sets it down, thanks them for their time, and walks away. Their eyes meet, relieved that the uninvited guest has gone away.

I thank you for your time. I’m not selling anything, this is an obligation-free handout. This momentary diversion from your day is a meta-fiction writing project for my Creative Writing class final. Thanks again for spending your time reading my words.

Starbucks anti-student?

I have a class assignment for Creative Writing which requires me to “publish” a short piece based on one of the styles we have studied this semester. The requirement is to write something that involves the venue in which it is going to be published. I frequent a Starbucks in Burnsville, MN. It is connected to a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I thought this would be the perfect venue. I decided on meta-fiction and that I would hand it out to a few customers.

Saturday when I bought my drink I explained what I was doing. I’m in school, it’s a project, I’m not selling anything, it’s not profane or offensive. I was flatly turned down by a rather rude worker. (Maybe she hadn’t had her coffee yet?) I was disappointed to say the least. How can a corporation that relies on many students for their workforce be so callous and cold?

I sat down and had my tea and relied on my stealth to distribute a couple of sheets to some women I’d seen before. I also stashed a few and left them behind. But I didn’t get as much research as I wanted for this publishing exercise.

I think that next time I will just do what I want. I’ve heard it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I’m one of the dunces left in this world that still asks permission. That puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I had to get this off my chest and rant a little about Starbucks. Why doesn’t Starbucks support students?

I’ll post the assignment in my next post.

Small (writing) Victories

I write, and write, and write, but it doesn’t always feel like I get anywhere. Sometimes a little thing can feel like a victory though. It can feel like progress.

I do most of my writing with pen on paper. I like the tactile feedback of putting pen to paper. It feels more “real” to me. It feels like I’m creating instead of just typing. I know that’s silly, but it works for me. I imagine it to be parallel to the artist putting the brush to canvas. Pen on paper is my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite. I love my computer and all the wonderful programs that make life easier. But pen on paper is where I start.

So what is the point of all this babble? Well, every time my pen runs dry I feel like celebrating. Because it means I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s progress, I’m moving forward. Another empty pen, another productive day.