Keeping a blog is hard.
It’s hard enough creating a novel.
It’s intimidating to write like I know something, or anything, about anything at all. Writing about writing quickly becomes writing about life. I read other people’s tweets and blog posts and they sound like authorities. Sometimes I believe they are and sometimes I don’t. (In my life thus far, I can confidently say I am an authority on forgetting laundry in the dryer until it is so wrinkled my kids look like walking raisins.)
This is my current situation: my air conditioner is broken and my daughters are gleefully dancing around the kitchen to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, despite the heat. At the same time, I know a family dealing with an insufferable tragedy. I cried for them this week and couldn’t sleep.
My dog’s sleeping fine. Her current situation: she’s taking the best nap in the world, her fur moving in what must be the most soothing tickle beneath the ceiling fan. She is at peace.
I’m not. My heart is pained. It’s impossible to be sure of anything when everything keeps moving, seemingly out of control. You get the good and the bad and the in-between for every minute of every day. Wrinkled laundry is in-between, sleeping under a fan on high is pretty darn luxurious, children dancing around a kitchen table is pure joy, a broken a/c is super sucky, but grieving a death is the very, very worst. And it all can happen at once.
Life is so inconsistent and never fails to make me question whether I know a single answer to anything. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’ll never make sense when someone dies young, loses so much, and leaves behind broken loved ones.
Maybe I have learned a lot about how I want to live my life—I’m a grown-up now, I guess—but there’s also this murky cloud of confusion and self-doubt hanging around, too, and finding meaning in suffering isn’t easy. Everything morphs and changes. There are so many surprises. It’s like my creative process: Just when I feel like I’ve figured it out, suddenly I’m staring at a blank page wondering what the heck to do.
I guess it’s like parenting, too.
Currently, I’m parenting a WIP that I only sometimes love. I love my real children when they aren’t perfect or aren’t behaving. Perhaps I should give my writing the same unconditional love…which boils down to giving that to myself. Right? Because isn’t my writing pretty much me scribbled on paper? Weird.
But I don’t want to put myself on paper, even if it seems like it could help. There’s so much sadness and confusion welling up inside me and I could let it spill out. I used to love my journals and my secret poetry. These universal feelings of loss and bewilderment—I should use them, explore them, try to find answers. Why can’t I tap into it?
Because I guess I can’t bear to. I have no clue where to start digging. Maybe not yet.
So I tried something different. I signed up, on a whim, to do the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. It was either that or continue obsessively outlining a story that should simply be written. I have never written Flash Fiction, but I understood I’d have 48 hours to write a 1,000 word story using three prompts (the genre, a location, and an object). I was hoping for no sci fi. (I like sci fi, but other writers are the authorities on that. Not me.) I got sci fi.
Sci fi, a wine cellar, and perfume. The prompts arrived at 11:59 on Friday and the story was due at 11:59 on Sunday.
Members on the forum who’ve done the contest many times encouraged the newbies to use beta readers. I, for one, have no idea how they had time. I was starting my fourth attempt at a story on Sunday afternoon.
And then something incredible happened. It wrote itself.
I’m not saying it became some life-altering story or anything. But the pressure to complete the task (after all, I paid $50 to enter this thing) and not to embarrass myself in front of judges I’ll never meet meant that I had to get the thing done.
My typical themes popped up: mothers, love, self-sacrifice, empathy—or the sad lack thereof.
I am pretty predictable.
And it felt so good. Something fixed itself when it wrote itself.
Then I did something really risky: I posted it on the NYC Midnight forums without any other eyes having seen it. I knew my story was ambitious in all that it covered, so it might not make any sense whatsoever. I remembered that in the past I’ve given CPs my writing and had them return it to me saying they didn’t understand any of it. I posted it anyway.
The following three things were really helpful for me in the past couple weeks, and might be helpful for someone else having a bad time or feeling stuck:
1) I took a risk by trying something new, and forced myself to follow through.
2) I didn’t write about the most difficult things. My heart wasn’t ready. (Some of it seeped through my writing anyway, of course. Just enough. And now I’ve gone and written this blog post…and I had no idea where I was going with it when I started.)
3) I reached out to other people. In this case, it was strangers on the NYC Midnight forum, with whom I happen to have a whole lot in common. It has been reassuring to talk to nice writers.
Currently, at 12:25 p.m. on August 4th, I may be an authority on these suggestions.