This is harder than it looks.
The new book I’ve been working the last few weeks seems to be moving relatively well. Most of the plot is mapped out in my head, some character sketches are forming into people who I hope are believable and the words haven’t frozen up on me (not yet anyway). Every morning before I start really diving into writing, I check my email, Facebook, and some favorite music, news and literary blogs for inspiration.
Fighting with voices. In her head.
They’ve been around for a while, but I’ve never taken the leap to actually participate in some of the writing challenges that are out there. Entire websites and contests dedicated to “Flash Fiction”. Which is just a catchy title for super short stories like a 55-word story or a 10-word story. Not a novel or even a Haiku.
Nothing good comes easy. Does it?
Inspired by the Six Word Story Every Day website (http://sixwordstoryeveryday.com/) I decided to challenge myself. I wanted to come up with some 6-word stories. Not simply placing 6-words in a row, but putting words and punctuation together that resonate. Words that create a mood and send my mind on a journey.
That night, he opened his eyes.
I started writing. And writing. Truthfully, the majority of them were shit. But I kept writing. The great Ray Bradbury said, “If you want to be a writer, you should write a short story every day. By the end of the year you’ll have 365 short stories. Three or four of them will be pretty good because you can’t write 365 bad stories.” So I wrote more.
Other people listening, she sang anyway.
Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball players of all time hit 714 home runs. He also struck out 1,330 times. He struck out almost twice as many times and he never stopped swinging. He never succumbed to the fear of failure. If we never fail, how will we know when we succeed?
His brain ignored. The bullet remembered.
I worked very hard in music. I practiced for hours and hours every day. Just ask my sister. (Sorry Jodi!) I went to a performing arts high school and majored in music at a prestigious university. Then I gigged and recorded and auditioned and toured and schmoozed and never got that one big break. I never gave up trying though. I still make music when I can.
Thirteen stiches. What an unlucky number.
In addition to being a music freak, my entire life I’ve been an avid reader. At any given time I’ll have three or five books going. For years I’ve written down ideas in notebooks or on computers. I never tried to finish anything because I was afraid it was any good. Then one day I felt brave and sent some ideas out to be read. Now my book’s almost ready to be published. My Mind = Blown.
That one summer, we grew up.
Of course, since I typed the words “The End” on to the screen, it’s been anything but. Editing and website ideas and artwork and publicity and marketing…Oh My! The real work really starts now. Now I have to get the book out there and get people reading it. Fortunately I have a great team of people helping me at (the amazing!) Booktrope so I don’t have to swim in these unfamiliar waters all by my lonesome.
Look Ma. ‘Aint got no hands!
Speaking of being alone, I immediately started work on more ideas for writing more books. Why? Because it felt so damn good to finish. Very similar to the way I felt when a gig or a recording session finished. Take a tumbler relief and a shot of joy, muddle in some elation and blend in fear. Then pour over ice and serve with a fancy umbrella. It’s a twirling drunkenness that can never be replaced by alcohol or drugs. The closest high I’ve felt next to love.
Here I’ll always think, of you.
I’m not a big risk taker. I don’t play poker or go to casinos. I’ll never bungee jump and for the life of me I see no reason whatsoever to leap out of a perfectly good airplane. But I do love the adrenaline rush of a good challenge. That’s why I loved playing jazz so much. Flying by the seat of our pants, never knowing what we were going to play next. Sometimes we’d fizzle and blister. But there were always moments, those shining glorious flashes when we climbed out of our bodies. Watching from above, dancing in the ether.
A sharper knife might have helped.
It feels almost the same when I get lost in the words. In the beginning I’m simply moving the muscles of my fingers to coordinate the thoughts and impulses shooting down from my brain. It can be very mechanical, and most of that writing never see’s the light of day. After a period of time that can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a few weeks, the feeling will come. I am warm and empty. I am nothing. I only exist as the letters forming, becoming more than their parts. Thinking stops. I hear voices and see events unfolding through someone else’s eyes. I feel love or pain or fear or joy. My heart pounds being chased by an invisible enemy. My arm hurts where the blade enters in through the skin. Then the phone rings and I tumble back into myself. Sometimes it lasts three or four pages. Sometimes it’s only one paragraph. If I try to think about what I’m doing while it’s happening it stops.
Quietly terrified of what she’ll say.
To bring that experience to life for myself in a 6-word story is the challenge. It’s a 4-bar drum solo. It’s a walk around the block to clear my head. It’s a 2 day weekend for a 5 day work week. Definitely not easy, but fun anyway.
Do you like what you see?