Category: writing craft

Russell Edson and the Blue-Pencil of Consciousness

I was going through some boxes of my old writing and came across The Tunnel: Selected Poems by Russell Edson.  I had been searching off and on for the book. Like Charles Simic and Stevie Smith, Edson had and continues to have a huge influence on my poetry. I don’t  usually write prose poems, but I follow a strange Muse similar to the one that whispered in Edson’s ear. Here’s one of his poems, posted on his Poetry Foundation page:

The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.
But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.
Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.
If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.
If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep….That is, until another child picks up his house….

I love how Edson create his a little world in this poem, replete with its own logic. I’d like to think I do something similar in my poems. I also agree with what Edson says about the creative process:

My job as a writer is mainly to edit the creative rush. The dream brain is the creative engine… I sit down to write with a blank page and a blank mind. Wherever the organ of reality (the brain) wants to go I follow with the blue-pencil of consciousness.

Abso-freaking-lutely.

To end, here’s an odd little poem that came to yesterday while my children cavorted in the pool:

Creepy Peter Licks His Last Cloud

“Listen,” the cloud said, “we’ve all
had a meeting and decided the licking
has to stop. No hard feelings, okay?”

Creepy Peter shot out his sensitive,
nib of a tongue and muttered mea culpa,
but the cloud wasn’t having that.

“Okay, actually, we’re in the mood
for a sacrifice,” the cloud declared.
Behind it, the other clouds grinned.

Creepy Peter deflated himself and made
for the farthest coast—somewhere near
Purgatory—and licked lazy flies instead.

The Tale of the Lizard and the Egg

I began adding the word “poem” in parantheses at the end of blog post titles because I used to write short fiction with some frequency. I haven’t done so in a while, though I’m pondering writing another book. I still struggle with the art and craft of short fiction writing, and poetry comes more naturally. Since almost everything I post here has been and will continue to be poetry, I’m dropping the (poem) from the post. In the event I post fiction, I’ll note it.

The following poem made me laugh when I wrote it, but it also saddened me a bit, too. There’s strength in this lizard, foolish as he is. 

The Tale of the Lizard and the Egg

“It would be groovy if you were my friend,”
the lizard said, licking the air, blinking for fun.
He jazzed up his skin with another color: eggplant purple.

The egg, characteristically, said naught.

“Listen,” the lizard went on, “just give me a wobble, man.
Roll a little to the left, or jigger over to the right.
It’s just you and me, pal. The days and nights are long.”

The egg didn’t wobble. It didn’t roll or jigger.

“Fuck this scene, egg,” the lizard spat.
“And fuck you.” But he stayed on.
He wept profusely, but he fucking stayed on.

We Spin On (word vomit)

Since I ended my job as a middle-school English teacher (I would love to say never again, but I know better), writing has been sporadic. Actually, that’s not true–I show up at the page every day, but the quality has been sporadic. On the last day of my job, I had cleaned out my room but couldn’t leave until the principal gave me the all-clear, so I had plenty of time to write. What came out was garbage. Granted, it was a lot of garbag (nearly three thousand words), but there was nothing salvageable. 

Perhaps, as my wife says, my brain needed a break. It’s only been a week since school got out, and my writing is still mainly junk. What follows is an example. It isn’t so much poetry as it is word vomit. I’m sharing it to encourage other writers to get out on the page whatever needs to come out, even if you look at it and say, “By Jove, that’s a mess.” A mess is better than nothing.

That being said, there’s still hope (I know I make it all sound dire, like I’ll never write anything I’m happy with. EVER AGAIN). As an editor told me once:

I dig the weirdness in [your] poems, but weirdness would be a bit of an understatement. It’s as if you’re using this idea of weirdness/strangeness to explore irreparable longing – perhaps irreparable longing is the glue that holds today’s world together.   – Justin Karcher, Ghost City Review

These words mean the world to me because that’s what I try to do in my poetry. It burbles up from my subconcious, fueled by the Great Cosmic Signal, and I do my best to convey the feelings inside me. My work is often dark and sad, and I do feel a sense of irreparble longing; it’s part and parcel of the human condition. Two things alleviate some of that longing: writing poetry and writing music. 

So…here’s some word vomit.

We Spin On

The vampire flowers made her sad,
and I ate another plate of fear salad.
This isn’t helping anything, said the erstwhile
Martian as he clung to the last thread of life.
The boulders of Colorado made a rodeo.
Eggs beat in rhythm to the veins of ocean.
More likely, the face of autumn.
The fan blew on the mighty moon, and
the tail of escaping steam was moody.
We spin on, the stars murmured. We spin on.

2017 Writing Goals

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I do tend to set goals for myself when it comes to writing. My first published poems appeared on January 1, 2016, and I kept up a steady stream of submissions throughout the year that slowed somewhat when I began teaching middle school English (actually, a lot of things stopped then). I hope I’m on more solid footing now going into the second half of the year and that I’ll make time to write and submit. I can’t control the publishing aspect, of course, but I can put my poems out there and hope they find good homes.

I received an encouraging personal rejection email the other day from Boxcar Poetry Review that read, in part:

Please keep writing, keep sending work out there, keep finding ways to build empathy and connections with others. While we’re passing on these particular poems, somewhere out there in 2017, someone needs your voice and your poems.

I learned long ago to view personal rejections as incredibly encouraging. The editor of Boxcar didn’t have to take the time to send anything except the standard rejection, but he chose to type a few words to me. I take these words to heart, and I believe them. There is, in fact, someone who needs my voice and poems, the same as I need fellow voices and poems.

I submitted to three markets yesterday, and today I hope to submit to at least one more and make some time to write. There are always a few voices buzzing in my head that make it to paper (or screen) and a few of them go on this site, a few are filled away, and some take deep breaths and fling themselves into the world of submissions. It’s the way of the writer, and I plan to continue throughout 2017.

My goal for this year is simple: keep writing and submitting when I can. I’m going back to a system that worked well for me before, which consists of me writing throughout the week and then taking Saturday morning to look everything over and decided what to do with various poems. Keeping an eye on the market and certain journals, to say nothing of revision and final edits, is time-consuming but worth it.

I wish my fellow writers a prosperous New Year. Let’s get our words out there.

 

Hideous Beauty

This is a change from my normal posts, which are typically poems and the occasional story tidbit. This is an actual blog entry, which feels strange. This is about writing and my writing process, which is a bit unusual for me.

My poems are not…pretty. They’re just not, or so I feel. Don’t get me wrong–I love them, and I have no plans of changing the way I write or the dark themes of my poems. I don’t believe I could  change even if I wanted to. I sit down at the keyboard and out comes the work. I channel it. Some call it tapping into the unconscious, though I prefer to think of it as tapping into the Cosmic Signal. It’s just the truth that comes through the Cosmic Signal isn’t for everyone. Say, my mother. I think my poems would needlessly worry her. I have no clue what my father would think. My wife reads them and comments on them sometimes, though she confesses that many poems simply don’t make sense. That’s fair; sometimes they don’t make sense to me.

But I think truth and beauty can coexist and don’t fall under anyone’s specific guidelines. Truth isn’t often pretty, but it can still be beautiful. Death can be beautiful; a poem that renders the experience of human suffering can be beautiful.

I’m not sure why I’m trying to convince myself that it’s all right–more than all right, it’s perfectly fine and what I’m supposed to do–to write a poem about a man eating a blood-filled cake. Or a poem about a man contemplating suicide. Or a couple walking through a ruined marketplace, getting drunk, with the man telling the woman he’s deciding whether or not he should kill her. There’s terrible beauty in the words, and I feel comfortable saying that because I stand back when I finish writing (most days) and say something like, Fucking hell. That was unexpected…but BAM! Truth!

I write a lot about women dealing with depression and addiction and lost loves and abuse…why? I’m not sure, and delving into that might be rich territory for my therapist. Adopting the persona of a woman in my writing often feel natural. I usually play female characters in video games, too. The feminine side of my spirit is perhaps dialed a little higher than in some men, and that’s fine.

I suppose this entry serves as encouragement to keep writing truth as I receive it and then (the part I’m struggling with now) submitting to markets as I did last year. I have 130 poems at the ready…I just need to take the time to find good markets for them, send them out with love, and hope they find good homes.

With so much hate and anger in America right now, I guess I wonder if my poems (dark, twisted, often pain-filled) can combat the hate and anger. But maybe they’re not supposed to. Maybe my poems can serve as avenues for people to say, “I resonate with that.” Perhaps it’s the same as when I feel depressed (which, even though I take medication, is often) I listen to depressing music and feel a connection.

I fear this entry is terribly rambling, but I felt the need to share it. I also wanted to thank everyone who takes time to read my poems. We don’t know each other personally, but our spirits recognize each other.

Or so I believe.

Of Ghosts

This came to me during a freewriting session some time ago, and I just discovered it again. Spooky.

Somehow, the lights still flicker in that doomed place, though the power was cut decades ago and the rats and roaches are the only tenants—except for the ghosts.

The walls are riddled with them, scattered like bullet holes, but that only makes sense if you know something about ghosts, how they only take corporeal form when a person pokes his curious head around, intent on seeing beyond the ordinary, or when someone strains her ears to hear something from the past. Until then, they blend into the walls, dozing in a kind of sleep, dreaming of vanished life.

I only visited one time, which was enough. A damaged spirit (I suppose all of them are damaged) appeared to my right and begged for help on a frequency that my soul heard, heard and consequently ached to answer. But I could do nothing, and the spirit sank back into the wall.

I could not forget the experience, of course, and so I drive by sometimes and look at the lights in that ruined house, wondering if anyone will hazard those hallways again, and if they have what it takes to make a difference. -Barbara Needly, A Brief History of Ghosts and Haunted Places, 1958

Writing Prompt (fiction)

I think I wrote this last year using the book The Amazing Story Generatorthough I’ll have to check.  In any case, the story is funny…which is a nice change of pace. 

Prompt – The night before the wedding, an avid comic book collector grows an extra arm.

Suddenly, there it was, jutting out slightly below his right arm-pit. A rather pitiful limb, to be sure, but a limb nonetheless. A little arm with a little hand, which waved at Norman.

Norman closed his eyes, wishing the whole thing away, but the extra arm remained on his future brother-in-law, Harry, when he opened his eyes. There they were, a mere hour before the wedding, standing in a stuffy room in the back of the church with their tuxedos draped over chairs, and Harry had three arms. “Bloody hell,” Norman said. “Holly’s not going to go for that.”

Harry struggled to put his shirt back on, sighing. Thus covered, his torso looked bumpy, even with the small arm firmly pressed to his side. He certainly didn’t look normal, and Norman doubted that even a tuxedo would draw people’s attention away from the sight of Harry’s ungainly midsection. “I could tell people I have the gout,” Harry said.

“Gout affects your feet,” Norman pointed out. “It’s not known for causing one to sprout an extra limb. What exactly did you get into last night?”

“You were there,” Harry said crossly. “We shut down the bar and then tramped over to the park to howl at the moon. After that, I stumbled back to the hotel. When I woke up, I had another arm.” Tears came to Harry’s eyes, and he tried unsuccessfully to blink them back. “I’m not getting married today, am I?” he asked.

Mostly likely not, Norman thought, but he put on a brave face for Harry. He liked the man, after all, and thought he and Holly were a good fit…or as good as either would get in this lifetime. Holly bore a frightful resemblance to an ostrich, all wobbly neck and a beaky nose and a tendency to hide her head in the sand when life threw problems at her. Harry was a fat, terminally unemployed man who adored comic books; he could ramble on for hours about the blasted things if you let him. The two professed undying love toward one another scant weeks after they met, and Harry sought Holly’s hand in marriage from Norman and Holly’s father. That was a sight to behold–enormous, unshaven Harry hopping from foot to foot, sweating mightily, as he stuttered his way into asking for Eddie Turnbolt give his only daughter to Harry in marriage. Eddie had been drunk, as usual, and weaved his head back and forth, trying to focus on Harry.

“You want to marry Holly?” the old man had asked. “What the hell for?”

“Because…because I love her very much,” Harry replied haltingly.

Eddie shook his head, his massive jowells swinging back and forth like a bloodhound’s cheeks. “It’s a bad idea, I’ll have you know. That girl is naught but trouble and hasn’t more than a few pebbles rolling around in her brain pan. I swear her mother knocked the sense out of her one too many times when she was young. Me, I could never raise my hand to my kids, no matter how terrible they got. But their mother…sweet Mary, mother of Jesus. That woman had a punch.”

“Is th-that a yes…or a n-no?” Harry asked, sweating even more. The entire top half of his shirt was soaked; droplets of perspiration darkened the dingy carpet of the living room.

“What?” Eddie howled. “Oh, that. Yes, good for you two, be happy and blessed. Just make sure you wrap it up, son, because neither one of you have business siring any offspring. Now leave me the hell alone.”

Norman re-appraised the current situation, hoping some brilliant plan would spring to mind, a plan that somehow included his sister looking at Harry and saying, “Oh, that? Just an extra arm? That’s nothing. I love you for who you are inside, dear.” He supposed it was possible, since Harry’s exterior didn’t recommend much. Still, his mind turned up zeros when he wondered how to brooch the topic with his sister…and on her wedding day, nonetheless.

“Well,” Norman said, clearing his throat, “we’d best get about it. Come on.”

Harry clung to a chair in front of him. “I can’t leave. It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.”

“That’s your biggest concern? That seeing Holly is going to somehow going to cast a pall of darkness over your otherwise blessed day? You have no reservations whatsoever about your additional appendage?”

Harry hung his head. He looked very much like a boy rather than a man in his mid-forties, regardless of the number of his arms. “I don’t know what I’m going to say, Norm, or what I’m going to do if she rejects me. I mean, I couldn’t blame her, with me being a freak and all now.”

“Let me talk to her first,” Norman suggested. He turned to leave, and then asked, “Are you absolutely certain nothing out of the ordinary happened last night?”

“No, not at all. Now, if you’d asked me about yesterday morning….”

“What happened yesterday morning, then?”

“I got into a bit of a row with a gypsy.”

“A what? Did you say a gypsy?”

“Yeah.” Harry sunk into the chair, his large, sweaty back covering the front of the tuxedo and wrinkling in. “They don’t care for that term anymore, you know. They prefer to be called–”

“I don’t care what they want to be called. Are you saying you were cursed?”

“Looking at this,” Harry replied, sticking out his third arm from under his shirt and wiggling its fingers, “makes me wonder.”

“Good God. You said it was a row. What happened?”

“Well, the old woman asked me for some money, and I said I didn’t have any. It’s true, I don’t carry money with me, just my card. If I have money in my pocket, it’s going toward comic books, and I’m trying to cut down.”

Norman flashed to an image of Harry sitting in a room full of comic book addicts, all drinking awful coffee from styrofoam cups and muttering sympathetically to each other about the siren song of super-heroes they all found so hard to ignore. “And then what happened?”

“Well, then she spit at me–not the first time that’s happened, mind you–and babbled something in another language. Then she made some weird gestures with her hands and moved along.”

Norman’s face sank into his hands. “And this isn’t the first thing that sprang to your mind when you woke up with an extra arm?”

Harry looked out the small window. A few people had gathered outside to smoke in the chilly air. “You know, I’m only guessing the woman was a gypsy. I just know gypsies from shows and movies. She could have just been a crazy, homeless woman.”

“I think we have sufficient proof she was a gypsy.”

“So now what?”

“Well, if this was a show, we’d track down the gypsy woman and beg her to remove the curse, but that can’t happen today. You’re due to get married in less than an hour, depending.”

Harry groaned. “She’ll hate me! She’ll hate me and never want to see me again!”

“Okay, chuck the first idea of me talking to her first,” Norman said. “Come on.”

“Now?” Harry squealed.

“Now. And hide that damn thing as best you can.”

The two men wound their way through the church to where the bridesmaid were, most of them sneaking drinks from flasks and tittering to each other. One girl with frizzy black hair like a poodle said, “Hey, you can’t go in there! It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the big moment!”

“We have a rather pressing matter that can’t wait,” Norman snapped and opened the door where he presumed Holly was. And right he was: she and her maid of honor, some distant cousin from Leeds they’d scared up at the last minute and pressured into the job, were standing before a floor-length mirror. The cousin was carefully applying what seemed to be a third layer of makeup on Holly’s bone-thin face.

Holly’s eyes blinked rapidly when she saw her brother and Harry, and the cousin fussed around her cigarette, “Now I’ve got to do your bleeding eyes again. Christ on a crutch.”

“Harry, what’s wrong?” Holly sounded alarmed. “You not having second thoughts, are you?”

“No, of course not!” Harry protested. “It’s just…this.”

Harry unbuttoned his shirt, and Norman averted his gaze. With just two arms, a shirtless Harry wasn’t exactly a balm for the eyes. He, like his name suggested, was enormously hairy. Ape-like, Norman thought on more than one occasion, which prompted further speculation as to why he’d seen Harry without a shirt so many times. Certainly that wasn’t normal…then again, neither were gypsies cursing people with third arms.

“What?” Holly said. “Oh, dear, you’ve grown an extra arm.”

“I have, at that,” Harry said, looking down at his body.

“Bloody hell,” said the cousin as she lit another cigarette from her dying one.

“Those were my words,” Norman added. He studied his sister closely. She didn’t look as revolted as she did stunned. Stunned and curious, but possibly accepting.

“Well, that’s all right, then,” Holly said. “You got two arms for holding me and one for grabbing my titties or woo woo. That all works out.”

“It does?” Harry exclaimed in wonder.

“Sure it does. You’re kind of like a superhero now, aren’t you?”

Harry beamed. “Yes, I am,” he said. “Right. I’ll go slip into my tux and meet you later, you sassy thing.”

Holly winked. “Can’t wait to see what that hand gets up to tonight.”

“All right, that’ll do,” Norman said and ushered Harry out of the room. He turned and looked at his sister, ready to thank her, but she and the cousin were already back at the makeup game, staring intently at Holly’s reflection.

When he was out of eyesight of the drunk bridesmaids, Norman lifted his shirt to check if everything was squared away, making sure there were no burgeoning handlings pressing through his flesh. There were none.

And he was surprised to feel a slight pang of sadness at that fact.

Experimental Writer?

The writer Lydia Davis, with whom I’ve just become acquainted, said in a 2007 interview with the Boston Globe,

“I haven’t met a so-called experimental writer who likes the term. It must be people who aren’t experimental writers who call people experimental. It’s just the wrong word. ‘Experiment’ carries the suggestion that it may not work. I prefer the idea of being adventurous, exploring forms.”

Davis’ quote keeps ringing in my head and makes me wonder about the fiction I write. Is it experimental? Maybe. Most of my pieces aren’t “finished” in the traditional sense, and most of them flow from brain to fingers to keyboard. I write and then usually I have to go teach, or change the laundry, or make supper, or tend to one of my children. I rarely have hours stretched before me in which I can write. I would love to believe I’d fill that time with writing (now that I’m sober, I have a better shot at that), but I’m not sure if I would. 

I suppose Davis is right when she says that experiment may carry the idea that the piece may not work. Another way of looking at that “not work” is failure, and that’s not something I apply to my writing anymore. I like some pieces better than others, but none of them are failures. The only failure is when I don’t write. 

Shifting gears slightly, a colleague of mine asked recently what I wanted to be when I grow up. My truest answer is a full-time writer. Since I’m only 42, it’s an achievable goal. In the meantime, I’ll continue to teach, write poems…

and “experiment” with pieces like the following.

Dr. Bee and the Nurse

He couldn’t tell if there was going to be an end to the meal this time, but he knew if there wasn’t, his daughter would have something distracting to say about it. He supposed he was programmed for that, so he shouldn’t complain? Right? Like he was a yes-man to everything else in this god-forsaken world, so why not that? Why not when it came to his little deaths, his children? King Lear never had it so bad.

Now, why did he go and say something like that? For one thing, he had sons, not daughters so there was one huge difference between himself and King fucking Lear. There were others, he knew, but he couldn’t remember more than the gist of the play right now. That was happening more and more lately, his inability to recall poems, plot lines, entire plays he used to teach, year after year, to classes of mouth-breathing Philistines who wouldn’t know good literature if it reared up and took a money shot to their balls or wee little pussies, so pristine and good, pure stock from the Puritan passed down and watered through baptisms and Baptist fellowship chicken bakes, where fat fathers stuffed their sweating bodies into ill-made suits and Mamas bathed in cheap perfume because you never knew who was looking or smelling. One couldn’t be too careful, even the Holy Spirit picked up on whiffs of sin, and what better way to mask that than with oie de toilette and bacon fat?

Oh, to be forty again, he thought, moaning a little. Was he asleep or just comfortably reclined? Who the fuck knew? “Comfortably Numb,” his oldest son, Falcon, would say, trying his damnedest to sing. The old man didn’t care for the original, let alone his idiot son’s butchering of the song. Jesus Christ, he was thirsty! And not for water, which is all the headstrong and head-banded nurses, seriously suffering in the art of beside manner and tender ministrations, seemed to bring. What about some whiskey, for God’s sake?! Something with some fucking kick to it, not just water, and for the food! Jello which shook like some red lady’s pock-marked ass, and some kind of torture-gruel that looked unfit for prisoners-of-war.

What was that dream, where I was the hero? What fucking war was that? Korea? Vietnam? The Big One that left Owen in a wheelchair, covered in his own shit half the time until his cross-eyed whore of a wife thought to change him? Jesus, so much suffering, so much pain on this blasted rock, and most of it never documented in pages, just left to rot in the minds of rotting bodies in the rotting ground. None of it matters.

He was sure he was awake now. The lights were brighter, poppier, and noises had the acute taste of metal. A fine meal to satisfy this craving, he told himself, and then he said it aloud, his voice a rusty pipe banged on by a screwdriver.

“Say what, Dr. Bee?” asked the nurse absent-mindedly, hovering somewhere near him, her giant, pillow-like arms able to suffocate him in a snake’s split-second. Oh, he knew! He knew! How could he not know?

“Say what, Dr. Bee?” the nurse asked again, taking a moment to cough up something extreme and hideous, her chest vibrating and nearly exploding with juice, the kind that made the Good Doctor wonder what the hell was next. Some drugs, he dared hope. Anything to take the sting of this pitiful existence away.

Did he have daughters? He did not. “I do not,” he said.

The nurse craned her head, big as a child’s balloon about to pop, toward him. “I gotta change you now,” she said. “Time to get and see if them britches is clean or soiled.”

“If you come near me,” said The Teacher, clear as a newly forged, bronze bell–the kind that’s inscribed with philosophy, its tongue made of some kind of amazing metal that never fades nor loses its ability to coax dulcet tones from its outer shell–the lip, shall we call it?–and therefore, the peals would go on and vibrate into eternity–“I will cut your jugular and watch you bleed like a stuck hog.”

Well…that took care of absolutely nothing. The nurse changed him and out the door she went, muttering curses.

The (Tough) Art of Creating a Short Story

For some reason, I expect writing good short stories to be relatively easy. I don’t know why, at 41, I still think that since I’ve struggled with the short story form since I began cranking them out in my early teens. As I’ve said before, the entire process of poetry–the imagining, workshopping, revision–has been simple compared to writing short stories. Ideas pop into my head all the time, and those ideas usually find their way into my poems. Sometimes, though, characters and their voices show up, and I know to do them justice, I need to write prose.

Aside from my tendency to abandon stories after ten or so pages, I also acknowledge that my strength isn’t in description. I’m also not particularly good at pacing, either. I excel at dialogue, and I’ve heard as much from editors back when I was submitting stories for publication. I received personal rejection slips telling me that dialogue was spot on, but the rest of my writing was flabby. I took that as an encouraging sign, and I still do, despite the number of years that have passed between those rejection slips and now.

For help, I decided to buy the Gotham City Writer’s Workshop book on writing fiction. I like it so far, and while the first section seems geared more toward beginning writers, I still find it helpful. The exercises in the book have been useful thus far, too.

I’ve also returned to using Scrivener writing software, but not for a novel writing (though I’m also tempted to use Scrivener in conjunction with the beautiful word processing program Novlr), but for short stories. Scrivener helps me plan a story, much like I used it to plan my last novel. I realized over the weekend that I can’t continue treating short stories like poems. I need more time with stories, and some stories (like the one I’m currently working on) require research. Scrivener has a wonderful built-in feature to store research, and it allows you to visually plan scenes for a novel, story, or screenplay. Novlr is gorgeous and gets my fingers itchy to fill a blank page.

I can knock out at least one quality poem a day during my writing time, but the first draft of a story takes me at least a week if I tackle it every day. I have the time, and though it can be grueling, I’m willing to show up at the page and take the project on, even if I feel discouraged. Discouragment is just a feeling attached to a useless thought; it has nothing to do with my dedication to the craft or my ability as a writer. I think setting writing goals for myself is a good idea, too. One of many things that quitting drinking has taught me is that I’m a hell of a lot stronger and focused than I sometimes give myself credit for.

I’m also going to re-read Stephen King’s masterful On WritingIf you’re a writer and haven’t read it, I highly recommend you check it out. It transformed the way I wrote, and I’m sure I’ll glean more wisdom and encouragement this read-through.

For the curious, the story I’m working on came from a prompt in the Gotham City book. To paraphrase, it was something like: “Sam knew either it was a lucky sign or a sign of disaster when….” After some freewriting, that prompt led to a strange and touching story about a man who works with chimps, teaching them to sign, and in particular his relationship with a troubled chimp named Roscoe. I like where the story’s going…I just have to remind myself (several times a day) not to abandon it because the words aren’t lining up like obedient little children. They rarely do, anyway, and just because the writing is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Whew, this was a longer post than I intended. Thanks for taking time to read.