Writing Unconstrained

I’m watching the sun set from my desk. I stare a little too long and I can’t see my screen anymore, just a big ball of orange light. Writing blind. I do that sometimes- write without looking at the page/screen. There’s something about writing freely without worrying about the grammar or punctuation—allowing sentences to trail off when an idea has broken or you’ve run out of page. Not to get philosophical, but life might be better if we lived like that once in a while. It’s cathartic to go a day, or even an hour or two, not worrying about what you’re wearing or how you are perceived by others. It’s exhausting to always be on, to always be correct. Sometimes it’s okay to let yourself trail off the page for a bit.


Letting It Fall Away

The school year is winding down and things are starting to fall into place around here. I’ve accepted a new day job where I think I will be much happier, my husband has finished his MFA in sculpture and accepted a teaching position for next year, and two out of my three children are spending the summer with grandparents.
I feel like I have spent the last two years balled up with anxiety, and now that our lives are getting back to normal I have the energy to sit down and truly write. I am so looking forward to my long weekends and quiet evenings where I can be still and let my mind fill with words that can spill out onto paper and into the hands of some interested reader. Until then, I will get my house in order—it’s always easier to write when my surroundings are clean and orderly.

Raise your glass—to writing.

Loneliness Begets Loneliness

I have always thought of myself as a social person. I was under the impression I made friends with ease, but the more I examine my life, the more I realize I have a problem. I see pictures on Facebook of women (friends) I went to high school with or spent a good majority of my childhood with, and I notice they all have one thing in common—none of those photos have me in them. All the wedding/baby shower/family bbq/concert photos feature many of these women as bridesmaids, holding someone’s baby, helping other’s toddlers down slides,  or selfies of three or four of them attending a concert or event together.  I never really kept in touch enough to warrant an invite to any of these events.

Everywhere I go I make friends, but most of these are surface friends. They are people I go out to dinner with, or meet for coffee. I invite them over for celebrations at my house, but I don’t tell them all my secrets. I don’t truly confide in any of them. I have as much connection to them as I do the characters in the books I read—probably less. It never really bothered me much before, but as I get older and see how few bonds I have made, I start to wonder what is wrong with me.

How is it that I have alienated or pushed away all those who could potentially be forever friends (to borrow a phrase from my daughter)? If I do the inner psychology thing, and try to dig into the deeper meaning of this, if feels so trivial. I grew up in a good home, with good parents, so how do I have a right to be so messed up?

When I reflect on this problem—the inability to form tight bonds with other women—I realize that the characters I write all seem to have this problem as well. Honestly, I write very few female characters. The ones I do write are damaged. Even my male characters are uncharacteristically broken.  They are almost always lonely. They say you write what you know, but that doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s time I write what I want.




Does a car make a sound as it runs a red light if no one is there to hear/see it?

The street lights were blinking as I drove home the other night. This rarely happens, as I am getting old and usually turn in much earlier than the city street lights. It was an odd sensation—driving down the deserted streets with no other cars around. It was difficult to not fully stop at all the corners, even though the yellow lights were telling me to do otherwise. The one blinking red light I encountered seemed to be out of sync with the rest of the city. Instead of the steady blink..blink..blink.. of the other lights, it had more of a blinkblinkblinkblink thing going on. These are the things that stick with me when I am writing about surroundings. I think I may have to use the blinking traffic lights in my next story.

True Life Fiction

I used the read the news every day. I had my local paper delivered and picked up a New York Times or USA Today. I would also follow the AP feeds online and check out other various news sites. Not only did I feel very informed, but I also got some story ideas from what I had read. As more and more distance is put between me and my journalism education, I tend to absorb less and less news—I don’t bathe in it like I used to. I feel I am still pretty up-to-date on current events, but some days, I have no desire to read anything related to what’s going on in the world. It’s too depressing. That says a lot coming from me, who writes about the soul-crushing parts of everyday life and kills off characters willy-nilly.

Drawing from real life in your writing can work for and against you. As a fiction writer, sometimes I have a hard time discerning if something I am writing is entirely made-up, or has some root in real life—from a story I read or something someone told me, or a conversation I overheard. There are times in my life, when situations arise that are so ridiculous they seem to be a work of fiction, or feel like something I may have read about at one time or another. When I read a story like that—one that hits home, or where I can imagine the scenarios as real events—I feel more connected to that piece of writing. Than again, sometimes all I want to do is escape the every day. This is when I am grateful for books and stories that offer a little bit of other-worldly magic or absurd hilarity. 

I watched the news today. I no longer have any desire to read any novels or short stories that have to do with government conspiracy, war, corruption, greed, murder, assault, death, lost love or anything remotely related to chicken farms. Is there anything left? If not, than perhaps I’ll have to write it myself. 

Social Media Fiction

I’m trying something new to light a fire under my creativity. I had dreamed up a short story about a guy in his mid-30s who finds himself jobless with no prospects. He turns to temp jobs to “find his way”. I decided to turn this into a fictional blog, written by the main character, that recants his experiences in different temp jobs. I’m hoping to allow it to be humorous, but also explore some of the darker side of humanity without being too depressing. I guess I’ll just have to see how it pans out.

In any case, you can find this flog (that just doesn’t work for faux blog, does it?), or fictional blog on Tumblr. My son tells me Tumblr is only for teenage girls, but I hope he’s wrong. I doubt many teenage girls will be interested in reading this. 

Want to follow along?: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/mantemp

Musical Medicine

If anyone were to actually read all the sticky notes that cover my desk, they might think I have lost my mind. At the very least, they would think I had a little too much to drink before coming to work. Yesterday’s note: Boy uses inhaler through harmonica.

This actually happened. A kid, ( I say kid, but only because in relation to my age, he’s a kid) probably 19 or 20, sitting in the waiting room yesterday pulled an harmonica from his pocket, put it to his mouth and then covered it with the end of his inhaler. He pushed on the inhaler, breathed in through the harmonica, and made a short note while getting his asthma medicine. 

I thought that was worth writing down.