So today’s Daily Writer entry is about mind stretching. The prompt isn’t to write, but to choose a topic you enjoy and spend a month learning as much as you can about that topic. While it’s interesting, I’ll likely not do it. What I HAVE been trying to learn more about is the practical elements for writing a novel.
This week I spent time with a novelist friend writing together in our favorite hangout. She shared a few resources from classes she has attended and taught, and walked me through how to use Scrivener — a software program/app that let’s you organize your story. I just dropped $115 on Microsoft Office so I’mma stick with that for now, but it was interesting to see her digital files of novel research, photographs, story parts, and outlines.
One of the things she helped me with was a relationship map. Since I wrote my novel in a hurry, one of the things I’m finding as I revise is that I need to do more relationship building between the characters and understand who they are to each other. I often struggle to write emotions into my stories and perhaps this is a first step into really understanding how my characters get along and how they feel about one another.
In related news, I shared a story with another friend today and asked for his feedback. One of the things he reported back was that he not only liked the story, but also that he could feel the intention between the two characters. He sensed the nuances in their relationship that I had written without even knowing it. Win!
I was nervous to open myself up to criticism, but moments like this really help me better understand how people read my writing. As my stories evolve, I’m hopeful having fellow creatives to give me feedback and some basic tools of the trade will help me become a stronger creative writer. I think it will take longer than a month to let it all sink in, but that’s fine by me.
Today’s Daily Writer assignment is to start a file of ideas; they suggest index cards, but that sounds like a mess, so I’ll maybe try a notebook or a folder on my computer. That doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post …
I took a couple days off from writing over the weekend and worked on revising a novel I’ve been working on rather lazily for the past several years. I wrote the first pass during NaNoWriMo November 2010. I got 50,000 words on the page in just over three weeks. It wasn’t quality, but I hit the quantity goal and was proud to finish.
Since then, my life has changed considerably. I have changed too. My child was diagnosed with brain cancer just three months after the contest ended. While living in the hospital for months, my writing focused on daily blog entries about her progress, hospital happenings, or just little things about the intense experience I didn’t want to forget. People loved reading my writing at the time Many people followed the blog closely until recently — about 6 months ago, when I stopped writing all together after several long periods of not posting anything.
I feel like I could fill an entire box with ideas for motivation just thinking about the time between the novel and now, I’m just not sure I want to. As I ready myself for another scan in a couple weeks, I find that while I was finally starting to open up and recognize my feelings of loneliness, fear, and even despair, I have once again begun carefully tucking them away — or maybe just jamming them into an already too full suitcase of repressed emotions.
My idea file might remain thin — or maybe it will never happen. At least I’m writing again. Even if my ideas aren’t so novel (pun intended), I’m writing, and sometimes just showing up is all that counts.
Today’s prompt was called “Active Listening”. It started with a quote from poet Anne Sexton about listening to your soul. While I like poetry, it’s an uncomfortable space for me and I often have a hard time finding the same meaning as everyone else. Still, after reading about Sexton and writing my assigned paragraph, it seemed a poem might be more appropriate. It’s probably not the right way to do it, but I ripped my prose at the seams, stacked in back together, and ran it through with a single stitch.
when it’s late and there’s nothing
out the window but street lights
and wind pushing through the trees,
I find myself conversing with the dark.
I know I should be sleeping,
but this time is like water in the desert,
quenching my un-ending thirst
for a different life.
I can be honest in the dark.
There is no one else at this oasis.
There is no one to see me doubled over
on my knees or hear me crying because
I no longer want this life.
There is only me,
hoping when I release my truths
their weight will drift away
with the swirling sand.
Good writing takes you beyond your place, time, and self. I can’t promise to take you to any of those places, but I want to explore how far I can take myself. My goal is to stay committed to daily writing. Ok, let’s be honest, maybe three times a week to start.
I’m starting with the book, “The Daily Writer: 366 meditations to cultivate a productive and meaningful writing life” by Fred White. The book is organized by dates, so that’s how I’ll title them for now. My first exercise is below. Thanks for going beyond with me.
Daily Writer — March 16, 2017
Most people look forward to coming home. For me, it means giving up the security and community of the hospital. When I think of coming home I miss little things like the smell of the antibac soap and never having a cold shower. I miss always having someone around to talk to, even if that person is just a nurse who’s a complete stranger. After living in the hospital so long, it feels like a home. Home is wherever I’m with you.
Sometimes I daydream about living in a big, drafty farmhouse outside town. I look across the yard and admire its charm despite chipping white paint and a few missing shingles. I feel the wind playfully pulling at my sun hat as I tend a vegetable patch on my knees in the warm, fragrant earth. A short while later, I’m setting a big basket of fresh vegetables on a butcherblock counter and wiping beads of fresh sweat off my brow as I squint past the flowing gauze curtains and out the screen door at a friend’s pickup arriving in a cloud of dust.
Throughout my childhood my parents would rent a cabin in Northern Minnesota. Once, my grandparents came with us. It was the year I turned 15. I remember because we were there for my birthday and I got my high school letter jacket. There was a bathroom smack in the middle of the cabin with no ceiling, just plumbing rising out of the single stall. Every time someone peed, we all chimed in, “I hear you!”