December Writing Cave – Day 14

Well, hello there!

No, I have not written another short story yet. BUT I have laid out the general idea and titles (except for 4 pieces) of the short stories I want to include in Book 2!

Right now, there are fifteen stories I want to include in this book. A couple of them have first drafts completed, some of them are almost fully fleshed out ideas, and some are just ideas. For instance, one of my notecards just says “friendship → breakup, reconnection, loss” and that’s it.

I have no idea where I’m going with that one yet.

Speaking of notecards, I decided to write my story ideas on individual notecards and organize them by color and symbol. Like this:

ORANGE – realistic
YELLOW – a little magical realism
GREEN – fantastical

* – basic story idea only, needs a lot of ideation
O (pretend that circle is filled in) – story idea but no title
♥ – complete story idea and title

The notecards are small enough for me to carry around and I can draft stories on my phone as needed—that’s how I drafted the story on the 1st (even though my laptop was within five feet of where I was sitting).

It feels good to just allow these ideas to flow. I’ve felt very stunted the last few months. Creating the space this month to write has been incredibly helpful. Also, I grabbed my Moleskine off the shelf and found some pretty good lines from 2009 (yes, thirteen years ago) and 2018 that inspired a few of the stories I’m writing for this next book.

Reading those lines from years ago made me realize… just because you write something today, doesn’t mean it has to produce today. You may be laying the foundation for a better you (more experienced, more confident, has gone through some things, etc.) to build upon.

One paragraph in particular—something I wrote in 2009—was the 100% exact description of an experience I had last year. Reading it struck me so hard. There was flashback, but there was also vision for what I could do with it… the story I could tell with it. I wouldn’t have had that vision when I wrote it in 2009, though. I was just completing a scenery exercise for a creative writing class I was taking in college. Now, though, it’s ready to become something. I’ve grown as a woman and a writer, but I’ve also experienced hard things that I can pull from to craft this story into one that makes other people feel things.

That’s always my goal—to make people feel things when they read my stories.

And to encourage people to explore their feelings through journaling.

So, that’s another thing I’ve been working on that came up this month. I’d had the idea for a set of journals before, but it wasn’t the right time. It felt uncomfortable and extremely difficult—which is how I know it wasn’t the right time. Now, though, I have a good grasp on it.

I think.

I want to make sure that what is in my head gets into my hands in a way that I can share. So, I’m creating something and if I love it, then I will make it available to you. If I love it, I’ll make it available to everyone.

Goodness, I am so proud of myself. If you know me, you know that’s a difficult thing for me to say, especially out loud and in public. I have always had an “other people have it worse than you” mentality coupled with an “other people are doing better than you” mentality. Somehow, it was shaped in me. Well, not somehow, I know how. It’s still a weird intersection to live at.

The things I have accomplished this year… the things I have overcome this year… we’ll talk about it later. I’m in no mood to start crying.

Thanks for being here. I can’t wait to get these things out to you! I mean, I can because I still have to create them, but you know what I’m saying.

December Writing Cave – Day 1

I wrote a short story today. I know, right, my “writer’s cave month” just started, and now I’m here writing to you as well.

When I was thinking about what today would look like, I figured I’d scribble some keywords/topics/ideas into my writing notebook as my way of brainstorming and then end up reading the entire day because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. But and however, that’s not what happened.

I did start out scribbling keywords in my notebook, but then I wrote a statement:

I’m trying to heal myself through writing this book.

Then I wrote a question:

Where do I need healing?

Then I wrote down the first thing that came to mind—the first wound I still need to heal—and the parts of that wound still needing healing. Next, I wrote down a thought about never being allowed to feel like it was okay to make other people mad even if it was in effort to protect myself and my values.

Finally, a sentence came to mind. I didn’t write it in my notebook. I tried to ignore it, but it kept pestering me. I started writing it as a note in my phone so I could email it to myself later without having to retype it, but I couldn’t stop at the one sentence. I kept writing. Two hours later, I forced myself to stop for lunch, then copy/pasted it into a word doc on my phone and spent another hour and a half finishing it up.

It was one of the most intense things I’ve done in a long time. The story itself is intense, even in its first draft, and I had to sit a while and focus my brain on something light (changing my dry erase calendar from November to December) in order to slow the beating of my heart.

I haven’t felt very writerly lately. I haven’t made time or created the mental space for it, and I was beginning to feel like I had lost my way again. The ache in my stomach that led to me choosing this month to focus on writing, and the way today went, both confirm for me that I haven’t lost anything. Writing that story today was confirmation that taking this month is exactly what I needed to do.

I don’t expect to have such an incredible writing day every morning when I resume my brainstorming. It would be incredible if I could write a new story I feel good about every day, but I’m not going to put that pressure on myself.

I will offer a word of encouragement, however. If you feel an ache to do something, do it. You never know what needs to be created from that space (even when you think you know).

Not Writing Becomes the Reward of Not Writing

…behavior that gets rewarded tends to get repeated. If you stop writing then you’re kind of rewarding yourself with not writing.

-Octavia E. Butler

I was half-listening to an old Octavia Butler interview on YouTube when she said the above quote. I had to pause what I was doing and rewind the video to hear what she was saying more intentionally. It hit me that, in a way, I have been kind of rewarding myself with not writing for a long time now.

I’ve been delaying making the final edits to my book because I don’t yet know which self-publishing route to go. I’m at the point of going the cheapest, quickest route just to get it done and over with. It’s not fun anymore. Other than working on the book, and that one (published) short story that I’m still geeked about, I haven’t done much writing over the past year. Now, it seems, not writing has sort of become a habit.

Thankfully, I haven’t given it all up yet (I’m still here at least). I keep talking about forming new writing habits and indulging in online writing courses, but I have yet to do any of that. I’m not quite sure where I’m blocked, or what internal (or external) thing is keeping me from diggin in.

I remember when I started writing my first novel (yet to be completed). Granted, I wasn’t working at the time, but I was writing for at least two hours every day. I’d built up the habit because I was enjoying the story. Once the story I thought I was telling got jumbled and lost, I stopped enjoying it, and stopped writing that book. The thing is, I know I have more stories to tell. I even have notes for essays that I want to include in a second collection after I finally publish this first one I’m working on.

To put it simply, I’ve rewarded myself with not writing for so long that I’m not sure how to get it back. Another thing Butler said in that interview was, “If you’re a writer you can’t stop writing.” And I feel that. On one hand, she’s saying if you’re a writer you can’t help but to write, you have to write or it’ll drive you nuts; on the other hand, she’s saying if you’re a writer you can’t stop writing or else you’ll lose your skill… craft… self. One is a personality thing, and the other is instruction. I feel it both ways.

I keep coming back to these two blogs, I journal, I make lists (and more lists), and I take notes because I can’t not write. But it feels sort of washed in comparison to the loudly colored short stories I enjoy creating. I know that once I get back into the groove of writing again (because I will) I can’t allow myself to stop writing because I won’t want to feel this kind of emptiness again. I don’t want not writing to be my reward. I want my writing to become a habit that gets rewarded by better and better stories so that the writing doesn’t stop.

I’m curious…what are you rewarding yourself with? How do you build back up the habit of writing when you’ve been removed from it for a while? I’m going to start be looking for a writing challenge right now!

Until next time…

Happy Writing!