A Story in so Many Words: Guilt

The village was attacked in the darkest hour before dawn. It happened quickly—the shadows merged together with the night, silent and unimposing. The little girl knew not to move; she stayed, hidden, as they took her mother and brothers away. She would remember their screams all of her life.

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I Guess That Makes Me Honest, Then

“I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth for the interest of the listener as well as the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar—if he is financially fortunate.”

From John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

“Craft”

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They don’t understand

Why he insists on

Isolating himself

And jotting down wisps

Of ideas by light

Of the moon. He tells

Them that he has no

Choice, that he must

Transcribe someone else’s

Plans and make them

His craft

They don’t believe him

Of course. Instead,

They discard the yellowed

Pages of his journals,

Pages with curled corners

And curious scents. They wait

Until he is six feet under

Before they read his careful

Letters. And there, beneath the

Glow of a waning moon

They finally understand

Change Starts Small

Going for yet another new look, as part of the DP’s Zero to Hero January challenge list! I know I’m a bit late but it was kind of hard parting with my other theme, which was fairly new. This time I thought I’d try a more minimalist, writing-centered look. Change starts small!

30 Days to a Better Blog: Challenge #1

I originally started a blog because I wanted to get my feet wet, regarding the whole self-publishing experience. I wanted to dabble in the blogging community and get to know people who shared similar interests, hoping to open my own doorways of opportunity. Now, nearly seven months later, I’ve managed to publish over a hundred posts, and with each update I’ve felt the same sense of pride and joy. It’s no small feat to put your work out there for the world to see, to let the mouse hover over the publish button while asking yourself the same questions every time. Should I re-read it again? Is there a better way to word that? What am I doing? This sounds stupid.

But no matter how much time you spend going over a draft, no matter how much you hesitate, you always find the courage to do it. I’m glad that I made what has turned out to be a very important decision. As an aspiring writer, it’s a vital first step for me to be able to introduce my writing and myself in any way that I can. In today’s communication age, there are many outlets for writers that did not exist a decade ago. We need to take initiative and “sell ourselves,” because no one is going to hold our hand through the process. That’s why I’m grateful for having such a widespread outlet as this, to be able to share my work and enjoy others’ work as well.

T.G.I.F

Ahhhh, Fridays. 

I don’t know what it is about Fridays, but I almost always find myself extra motivated and inspired right before the weekend. And then, of course, the weekend actually comes and all that motivation goes to waste because, really, it’s just so easy to get distracted. I haven’t watched Modern Family in a while, I’ll just catch up and then I can do something useful. Oh my God I haven’t had homemade pancakes in so long! I’m totally making some. Hey, you guys wanna watch a movie? 

I don’t always have the attention span of a hyper dog, but there’s an endless supply of things around us that keep us from doing what we set out to do. I’ll sit at my desk, intent on getting another chapter done, and I’ll remember that I didn’t check Poets and Writers for updates, or researched the best MFA programs in the country. It’s always something. Of course, there are days when an idea formulates in my mind and I’ll sit down, fingers flying over the keyboard until I finally look up and realize that the sun has set. But those days are few and far between. Most of the time I have to beg the wheels in my brain to churn away so that they can spurt something out. Preferably something of value. 

So, Fridays. I like to think that they carry a kind of sacred importance for me, as far as incentive goes. Which reminds me, I should probably stop blogging and work on my story… 

“Another year, gone” (to quote Albus Dumbledore)

Time doesn’t measure itself. We turn for the breadth of a second and suddenly a new year is around the corner, our resolutions once again overlooked, our skeletons still in the proverbial closet. It’s hard to believe that winter is already rolling in fast, and we have scarecely had a chance to experience fall. I’m willing to guess that even the trees (which should be used to nature’s clockwork by now) have been taken by surprise. The gold and red and yellow tints of their leaves have faded to a depressing brown, and the squirrels are busy darting from tree to tree, collecting their acorn stash.

We can’t do anything to stop time, no matter how often we “turn back the clock” during Daylight Savings. Time is the elephant in the room everyone goes out of their way to avoid, in an effort to try and sneak out the door without waking the beast. Time is the factor than no one dares to factor in, the element working against us even when it seems as though it’s on our side. The catch, of course, is that there’s nothing we can do to outrun it. It’s constantly there, standing over our shoulders and breathing its seconds and minutes and hours down our necks. Mastering time means finding that thing, that one thing, that makes it worth the effort. If we find what it is that makes us happy, that puts us in our element, then time becomes an aspect of our lives that we forget—just as we forget about the nights of our childhood when we insisted that our mother stay with us until we fell asleep, or the way we used to sit with our grandfather and watch the sun set over the river, witnessing the melting of colors in a pool of translucent reflections.

Forgetting that time lingers forever over life’s shoulder doesn’t guarantee that we will put our best efforts into our work. In order to create the best possible version of our stories, our paintings, our sculptures, our research—whatever it may be that makes us feel like we have a purpose in this world—we need to follow in the footsteps of perseverance. No task is more difficult than convincing ourselves that we must keep pushing, keep writing, keep painting. Or, as Ron Carlson put it, in the case of the writer: “You have to stay in the room.” Leaving the keyboard, telling yourself that you’re just going to get another cup of coffee and be right back, is the easy (the coward’s) way out. Staying in front of that screen, typing away even when your fingers feel like they’re going to fall off–that takes discipline. Unconsciously, we feel that we’re fighting against a silent enemy, a formidable element that will try to crush our efforts. Without giving it a name, (because that would mean addressing its presence) we know that time is there, so we push through, and we write, and we paint, and we sculpt, and we research, not paying any attention to the clocks that read things like 3 am because time, after all, is irrelevant.

The Downer

It’s unfortunately inevitable. Those days when we sit down and begin, subconsciously, to question our motives, our skills, our aim. We read successful authors and attend their readings and visit their sites and we wonder, Can I really do that? Should I even bother? 

Thankfully, that depressing downer that is a part of all of us is dormant most of the time, but when he chooses to speak up, it’s hard not to listen to him, the little devil. Recently I’ve had my fair share of depressing thoughts and reluctant acknowledgement of the notion that I might not be as brilliant as I make myself out to be. Sometimes, all we need is a humbling experience to bring us out of the dark, and I had one.

I was fortunate enough to attend a reading featuring  Chitra Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl. Her humorous and intellectual talk opened my eyes to the possibilities that are waiting for me to grasp them. I want to do this, I thought, as I sat in my seat and took vigorous notes on how to avoid writers’ block and Who Not To Read. I want to stand in front of an audience some day, and read my work to them. I realized that, just as Chitra was obviously proud of her work and accomplishments, I should be proud of mine. Every word that my mind churns out onto paper, every story, every poem. They’re products of my creative drive, and I have every reason to take pride in that effort.

Regardless of whether it’s “good” or not, whether I’m ever going to get published, (please God yes!) I need to be able to read my own words without feeling ashamed, or inferior. There’s no scale for great writing, no matter what editors and publishers say. There’s a technical scale, sure, but a scale of quality is up to the author to discern. We can’t measure writing by Faulkner’s standards, or Hemingway’s, or Carver’s, or King’s. Instead, we need to write what we are passionate about, and the quality will be worthy of any New York publishing house. The trick is to write because you can’t see yourself doing anything else, not because your sole aim is getting published. Publishing’s just a nice plus. 

“It’s better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self”