Stepping Back from the Process

Submitted two short stories to an anthology of local writers, and hoping at least one of them gets accepted. The attention I’ve applied to those tales the past week has left me a little drained, so I’m skipping Friday Fictioneers this time, and will instead reblog an interesting and entertaining post from Andra Watkins on The Process of Writing a Book.

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One Photo, Many Stories

As a frequent participant in Friday Fictioneers, I thought it was time for me to show the variety of stories that come out of these contests. Below are ten randomly-selected entries for this week’s contest, for which I had submitted Artistic Vision:

  • In Birthday Party, Iain Kelly adds an unwelcome visitor to the scene
  • Neel Anil Panicker provides a similar dark twist in The Lure
  • A Dangerous Game by Colline Kook-Chun uses the children’s game as a parable of innocence
  • The party ends abruptly in Granonine’s Game Over!
  • Many stories had the donkey coming to life, but Reena Saxena’s I believe in you provides a literary twist to the device
  • It’s hard to make a political statement in 100 words or less, but Speedway Randy gives it a shot in Figures
  • Rowena provides a surprise ending in “Ma-Ma!”
  • Childhood, by Dale, recalls a day when children could play with less direct supervision
  • Alicia Jamtaas used an approach very similar to my own in Taking Advantage
  • Cheaters may never win, but Marlicia Fernandez shows they can have fun in Consolation Prize

Those were just some of the entries for this week. Rochelle’s next photo this coming Friday should inspire similar creative efforts.

Old School Animation

Always satisfying to discover a blog that’s other than text-centric. Nicholas Friesen is a cartoonist and animator who uses actual pencils, ink, and paper. He creates the videos for indie singer/songwriter Olivia Sea, including a pleasant tribute to “High Fidelity” and other John Cusack films, and also provides the visuals for one of Andy Cole’s “Calls From My Cat” skits. Computers do such fantastic work with animation that it makes manual efforts such as Friesen’s all the more noteworthy.

Un-promptu

Wasn’t inspired by this week’s photo prompt on Friday Fictioneers — it happens — and I’ve obviously been away from The Daily Post for too long, as I discovered just now they no longer offer daily prompts. Don’t have the energy tonight to evaluate the hundreds of other prompt sites available, so I’m going with an impromptu admission of failure — call it my un-promptu.

HJD Poetry

I have an odd fascination for dark poetry, especially written by women (I would tell this to my therapist, but some truths lose their significance once diagnosed), and today I came across an interesting essay/lyrical meandering from HJD. I especially enjoyed the insight on “things they only speak of in hell or lower elementary school.”

Letting Go

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’re probably familiar with the fiction I’ve occassionally posted. You may also have noticed that, aside from entries for Friday Fictioneers and similar contests, I haven’t posted any new stories for a while.

I’m finally getting around to explaining why.

Some of the stories I’ve drafted here have some potential, I believe. All of them are rough, but if I may use a familiar metaphor that has lost none of its power from overuse, each contains the seed of a story which, with a properly nurturing revision strategy, could bloom into an arresting flower. I’ve chosen six, and a seventh that I drafted this past year entirely outside this blog. My goal for this year is to revise all seven, and by year’s end begin submitting them to literary journals, genre magazines, fiction contests, online collections — any place that will get my name out there, or at least send a rejection to add to my collection. Party at my place when I reach 100!

This ambition comes at a bit of price, however. Every writer I’ve heard speak, every editor I’ve spoken with, every submission guideline I’ve read, have been consistent in one message: no story will be published if it exists in a previous version available anywhere, including a rough draft on a blog. Those half-dozen stories I feel have promise? They’re no longer available on The Diligent Dilettante. And going forward, I’ll only be posting flash fiction, and stories I have no intention of publishing elsewhere.

While this action obviously needed to happen, I didn’t enjoy letting go of these stories. I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you, and have learned from your comments. Taking the stories down sounds similar to preparing a good dinner for my friends, and taking the food away before they can finish. Sure, I’m investing far too much significance to taking these stories down — but I’m gonna channel my inner Lesley Gore, and proclaim, it’s my blog space, and I’ll moan if I want to.

But here’s the good news: you’re going to see these stories again, as soon as I have the URL that points to its online publication location.

Reasons for Rising

Writing in the Pointed North blog, Brittany offers some “un-advice” for becoming more of a morning person. Being nocturnal myself, I easily took to waking up when the sun gets warm soon after changing careers last year. Some time around December, I became dissatisfied with my lack of productive writing, and decided to explore whether there was value to be had in getting my ass out of bed earlier. Since then, I have been writing more, and I don’t think that’s an accident.

Yet seeing the benefits of getting up in the dark hasn’t made any one morning any easier. This will always be a struggle, and I’ve had to rely on a few coping mechanisms. For what it’s worth, here’s my list of bromides for getting up early:

You must have a raison pour se réveiller

I don’t know how to pronounce it, but that’s French for “reason for waking,” at least according to my online translator. I’ve found it far easier to get up early when I have an appointment, a task, some commitment that I don’t want to avoid. This needs to be as specific as possible, nothing fungible like “I need to start on chapter 2,” or “I’ll feel better if I get on the exercise bike for 30 minutes.” If you have a gym membership, sign up for a class, preferably one that charges a nominal fee if you skip without cancelling within 24 hours. If you have a favorite place to write, challenge yourself to get there when they open, and reward yourself for making it happen. If you meet with someone regularly, schedule an appointment for breakfast. Make getting up early not something you’d like to do, but something you have to do.

Don’t be afraid of being tired

This was a big hurdle for me, feeling I had to be fully rested in order to be productive. It might be true that my best productivity comes when I’m at my energy peak, but it’s also true that those moments are rare. The math I’m going to perform is probably going to be off, but six hours of 70% productivity beats 3 hours at 95%. (Somebody tell me I didn’t royally eff that one up.) I’m not at my best when I get up early, but I’m getting a lot more done than I would while sleeping.

Treat yourself

“You have to get up every day” is common advice given to night owls seeking to change their ways. For me, though, knowing there’s one day a week where I can indulge myself and get up whenever I damn well feel like it helps me get through the tough mornings in the days before. It will likely screw up my schedule for the following day, but the energy I get from turning off my phone, shutting off the alarm, and telling the family that whatever happens tomorrow morning will just have to wait is enough to carry me through a week of rough days.

I’ve been getting up earlier for four months now, and like I said, it remains a struggle. But what is worthwhile without effort?

Dumbphone

[Instead of my usual “oh gosh that’s cool” appreciation of Sarah Doughty’s latest epigrammatic poem, I thought it would be neat to write a response.]

I have trained the ear of my soul
to not be distracted by the rumoring whispers of untrustworthy shades

You are my beacon,
steady through my mind’s fiercest storms,
and without your love I am dumb,
a phone with no signal.

Let us dispense with the mourning of broken memories,
and revel in the anxious joy of a new day’s discoveries.

Wagon Tales

Every winter, I like to abstain from alcohol for a brief period, 10 days or so. It’s a way to break the momentum of consumption that begins over the holidays, gathers momentum over my tropical vacation (have I mentioned lately how fortunate I am?), and turns into a runaway train as my favorite professional football team marches towards the championship game. A bit of sobriety around this time helps keep me from going off the rails.

In an instance of literary karma, in my second day back on the wagon I stumbled across an intriguing personal essay on sobriety. Thomas Cochran writes with integrity about himself and his year-long break from alcohol. His self-deprecating wit prevents him from either pitying or congratulating himself, and he relates the discoveries he’s made without being preachy. His voice is of a man you can’t help but root for.

I can’t see myself riding this wagon for a whole year, but having my head clear for a couple of weeks lets me reassess why I choose to use. And that type of self-assessment is never a bad thing.