Of Writing Muscles

I haven’t written a plot driven story, poem, limerick, or really anything since I graduated. And it’s already been a year and a half since that momentous event occurred.

Recently I discovered that while my ability to ramble has not faded, my fiction muscles were defiantly out of shape.

When I first sat down at my laptop I was ready to kick ass. After all, in the past I’ve written fantastic stories on two hours of sleep and within extreme time constraints. So obviously this was gonna go well:

Anchorman - Big Deal

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The first draft was nothing more than awkward, unnatural dialogue. No imagery, limited movement, and hardly even a purpose. It was deleted.

So I decided it was best to start over. Now that the initial creative process kinks were out-of-the-way it was just a matter of accomplishing the task at hand:

Anchorman - Fight

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The second draft was much better, but not improved enough to make me say, “Good job self.” Most of this version will be deleted.

Now I’m embarking on draft three. If all goes well, this draft will be on par with the stories I wrote when I had only an hour to throw together a 2-5 page exercise to discuss during class. At this phase it feels a bit chaotic. However, now I’m invested, and turning back to the la-de-da world of binge watching Netflix is no longer an option. Sadly, this draft will most likely also join the scrap heap:

Anchorman - Regret Decision

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By draft four, maybe just maybe, it might be good enough to share with the internet. Because if by the fourth draft I still haven’t got my writing muscles back into shape, that would be a true travesty:

Anchorman - Glass Cage

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I think what I need is a writing group to keep me accountable. Whether they be strangers via the online universe, or people I may or may not know who live nearby. I need someone to give me a deadline and a reason to stare a computer for hours a day. Initially I will hate them for making me enter the treacherous love/hate world of writing. But when I finally have a tangible (and awesome) story that I can hand to a group for discussion, all I’ll be able to say is:

Anchorman - Love You

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They say that, “You’re always your worst critic,” but I’ve always thought I was decently awesome. So if I say it sucks, trust me when I say it’s a shitfest that’s not ready to be viewed by anyone. However, when my writing is once again impressive …. I shall show it everyone:

Anchorman - Jump for Joy

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Of Writer’s Hesitation

Typewriter

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I want to write. I long to sit at my 1940’s desk with a quill in my hand and compose beautiful words. Sadly, I’m not writing. I haven’t written a complete story since I graduated a couple of months ago. It’s not that I don’t have ideas fluttering around my head, it’s just that I’m not writing. It’s a shame – I’m a pretty good storyteller.

So why am I not writing?

I can’t say that it’s because of writers block, as I already confessed to having ideas. It’s not that I don’t have enough time, I work a crappy part-time job and get maybe 20 hours a week – I have more than enough time.

When I picture myself writing everything is very romanticized. Sitting at my desk for hours every morning with a cup of coffee steaming beside me. But whenever I am about to start writing that’s when I freeze up.

I think that part of me is afraid of the process. Delving deeper into my subconscious may reveal things about myself that I’m not willing to confront or perhaps don’t want shared with the world. I’ve always said that fiction tells readers more about the author than non-fiction. Non-fiction is easy, it’s a glimpse into the author’s life, and they get to control how everyone is portrayed and what you witness. Fiction is the subconscious, what they are really thinking, and how they process the world around them – their soul masked by layers of characters and scenery.

So yeah, maybe I’m fearful. And for the first time in my writing career I’m completely on my own, no teacher to hand out assignments, or internship set a deadline. The only thing to motivate my fingers to tap away at the keyboard is me. Me. Me. Me. And I gotta say, I suck at self motivation. Give me a deadline and I’ll get the work done, and damn it the paper will be good. But when left to my own devices I shy away from the real writing and hide in work that is less deep, less personal, and less substantial.

I need to write.

Of Blurring the Line of Creative Non-Fiction

Harry Potter - I must not tell lies

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In the creative writing world the term creative non-fiction always starts an intense conversation.

There’s two sides:

  1. The side that insists that nothing can ever be fabricated, if there are people involved you need to get their permission and/or have them confirm the story as the way it happened, and there are very few liberties regarding details.
  2. The other side is a bit more lenient. They are in favor of the use of the creative license, they care more about the emotional truth than the factual truth, and in regards to details, if wall was yellow but it’s a more powerful scene if it’s black – let it be black.

Personally I fall into the second group.

Here’s how I see it. Unless you walk around with a video camera or notepad recording EVERYTHING that happened in your life EVER right down to the um’s, ah’s, and like’s used in daily conversation, then everything may as well be fiction. For no one wants to read a list of facts, it’s boring. That’s what textbooks are for. There’s a reason that very few people read textbooks for leisure purposes.

I just can’t grasp why people care so much, it’s not like creative non-fiction writers are writing the news. They are writing their story, most likely with the only source being their memory and maybe a friend or two.

The truth is about as stable as a ribbon hanging from a beam. Non-fiction on one side and fiction on the other. Sometimes it goes crazy, spinning and jumping all over the place. Other times it’s flipped up, stuck to the top of the roof – the line vanishes. And occasionally it hangs straight down – forming a clear definitive line of what’s the truth and what’s a lie.

The point is when I’m writing non-fiction I’m not lying, but that doesn’t mean I’m telling the truth. If I were to include a disclaimer this would mostly be what I put:

The following is true, it happened, this is how my brain remembers the event, story, people, weather, and so forth. I’m not lying to you, not that it matters. It really doesn’t matter, the events truth doesn’t matter, what matters is how I remembered it, how it influenced me, and how you as a reader connect to the story. Hopefully you’ll be entertained or possibly moved by the next few pages. This may as well be fiction because I didn’t bother to double-check the exact time or temperature ever when writing this. I repeat, the truth doesn’t matter …. but this is a true story, so you may as well believe me.

From that I’m guaranteed to have people freak out that I’m a liar, and others praise me for my honesty. Even though I hopefully clearly stated where I stand on the issue in a simple little paragraph. The point is there’s no winning these conversations, it’s a dead conversation that loops on repeat over and over. It never goes anywhere, no one ever sees the other’s point of view, no one suddenly jumps from team 1 to team 2 or vice-versa.

What we need is more terms to use for the genre. Like in the way that there’s 50 types of love in the world but the English language only has one word to use, so it’s all in how you say it. There’s 50 – and growing – types of creative non-fiction. But there’s only three terms you can use: creative non-fiction, memoir, and (auto)biography. They all basically mean the same thing and have the same debate regarding truth and lies.

I think people need to calm down and realize that no one is ever going to agree.

Of Lazy Writers

Once Upon a Time

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I’m too lazy for fiction.

Fiction requires thinking outside yourself. Or taking part of yourself: beliefs, issues, passions, opinions and magnifying that in a realm of people who are … well … not you.

I love writing.

I love reading.

But I hate starting.

Thus, I’m too lazy for fiction.

In the realm of non-fiction I essentially write about me, and I’ll be honest I enjoy talking about myself. And if you’re a creative writer and claim to not – I dub thee a liar. I take an experience that I think others will find entertaining or will touch their soul. I make that accessible and enjoyable through creative prose and metaphor. Sarcastic tone and action. Sincere emotion and simplicity.

Non-fiction is easy. And is typically what I write in my spare time. I can start my assignments two or three hours before they are due and no one would ever guess. No one ever does, nine times out of ten I get rave remarks and have my grammar corrected. Grammar that I didn’t have time to go through and thoroughly revise. Comma happy nazis have issues my work, I am not a comma heavy writer. They, can, get, over, it, let, it, go.

But fiction. Oye!

I’m excited but nervous for my fiction workshops. In this genre I don’t generally view myself as exceptionally talented. I struggle with plot and content. I fidget with characters. I fail at using proper dialogue tags. I spend hours on a few moments only to decide in the rewrite that I don’t actually want to keep that segment. It’s a love hate relationship. But when I do accomplish something that I like and other people respond positively to, I am overjoyed. The personal satisfaction I get from doing something great outside of my comfort zone is a superior feeling to staying where it is easy.

Even so, I’m too lazy for fiction.