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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

It’s been a week of retrospection, and I mean that in the most literal sense.

We spent most of our week going through old papers—letters, receipts, documents, and such—searching for the most important ones to put a fireproof box. This was our way of jump-starting the Big Adulting task of writing wills, issuing powers of attorney, and all the other things attendant to, well, to our inevitable death.

Naturally, as happens when rummaging through one’s past in this way, we come across a lot that was not what we were looking for, and I mean a shit-ton of it. But for every time I found a manual for an appliance we no longer have, purchased with a now-defunct credit card, issued by a bank that collapsed a decade ago, I also found a photo of my brother in Mali, a 1946 letter from my great-aunt, a receipt for baguettes from the boulangerie around the corner from our Paris walk-up, a love note from my dad to my mom, or a ticket stub from the night I took my girlfriend to the movies in Jerusalem. None of it will mean anything to my heirs (presuming I have any), but for me, each item carries incredible weight.

As I hold that old Oyster Card, I hear my panting breath as I climb the stairs to hear Big Ben strike the noon hour. Picking up that acorn, rattling in the bottom of the cardboard box, I’m hit with the unseasonable heat of Gettysburg in October, surrounded by the humid scent of wild onions as I walk beneath the oaks of Devil’s Den.

It was a long journey, this week, due to the many, many side trips we took while digging through banker’s boxes filled with, okay, filled with a lot of junk, but also a lot of our collective past. I found things I’d merely forgotten about, but I also found things I’d never seen, items turned over en masse by my folks or accreted from their estates; like my 3rd grade school photo, the one with me making a Calvinesque goofball face, the one that pissed off my mother something fierce, the one on the back of which my dad jotted a hidden note: “This is Kurt. He’s smart as a whip, and I have trouble keeping up with him.” When had he written this? And to whom? And why had he kept it so long? And why had he never expressed this thought to me?

These boxes seem filled only with musty paper, small trinkets, and fading photos, but in truth, they’re filled with love, joy, grief, anger, wonder, and history. Should the tragedy of fire strike our home, they’ll not survive—only birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, deeds, titles, and passports will have that honor—but even if I had a fireproof box the size of a two-car garage, I don’t know that I’d protect them there.

They are my history, sure, but like me, they are transitory, incapable of permanence beyond the time circumscribed by my birth and my death.

And perhaps, this is the way it should be.

we are
ephemeral
mayfly deities
standing at the verge
in sight of the distant shore
ready to leap

k

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Fingers deep in waking earth
  clearing ferns from wintry somnolence

Their feathered, spiked, serrate fronds
  release spores in ochre clouds

Raindrops drum my hat brim
  enthusiastic paradiddles of spring

Hands set blade to swordleaf
  trimming old stems and rusted detritus

From the center I lift accreted duff
  revealing curls, verdant and sleepy

Nestled in that fiddlehead crown
  is the confidence of rebirth

Hope is spring’s eternal gift
  a promise of life
    and all it contains

 

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The Princess Gang rolled into the cul-de-sac on the same day Mr. B’s plum tree decided to bloom.

That’s the first line from a story that started flowing yesterday. Remembering, of course, that (say it with me) all first drafts are crap, it’ll obviously go through some revisions, but the important thing is that it was followed by a thousand words of a quiet little story that’s been pinballing around my brain for over a year.

The reason I share this is because nothing like this has happened for a long, long time.

Yes, I’ve written some fiction in the past handful of years. Most of it has been in posts on this very blog—vignettes, word imagery, poems—all meant for immediate consumption. I’ve also been slugging my way through a championship bout with a new novel which, though reportedly of good quality (especially for a first draft), has been the most difficult fiction project of my life. But a short story, a for-real short story? It’s been years. The last one I wrote was “The Book of Solomon.” It’s good, and it found a home in The Timberline Review, but I wrote that story years ago, and there has been zip-a-dee-doo-dah since.

Then yesterday: Boom. My pen began to work. My brain began to conjure. It was like my voice suddenly returned after a decade of muted trauma.

Why? (more…)

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A number of years ago, my neighbor expressed an interest in my books. Being the  new-author-hungry-for-any-attention sort of guy, I gave her a copy of the first three books in my Fallen Cloud Saga. (No, I wasn’t being stingy; it’s all that had been published at the time.)

My neighbor never mentioned the books again—not a good sign—so, as per my usual practice, I never brought up the subject again.

Fast-forward a dozen years. (more…)

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This is what momentum looks like.

Despite work deadlines, two days down with a stomach bug, a major financial planning session, and getting a windshield replaced, I still managed to get another scene completed and entered. This was Scene 3 (begun last week), which ends Chapter/Day One, and it was the first time for a couple of things.

(more…)

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Writing on the novel continues, albeit slowly. In the middle of Scene 3, now.

In talking to my wife about my struggle, I mentioned that it felt like I’ve broken through a barrier, and that both my interest and enthusiasm had increased, to which she responded with a question: why is that?

I honestly hadn’t thought about why—I was just glad it was—but it engendered an interesting discussion.

Last week, I posted about how in this character-driven novel, I must engage in a lot more forethought. As I explained, writing about how a character reacts to action is a lot easier than writing about their motivation before that action is undertaken. That reality hasn’t changed, certainly not in the last week or so.

What has changed, though, is that I’m finally getting a handle on who my characters are.

This is a critical point, for me.

I’ve built and rebuilt my characters’ backstories close to a dozen times. I’ve changed family structure, occupations, names (lots and lots of names), affiliations, history, and well, damned near everything except their gender. I’ve also worked and reworked my outline, refining it, bringing in subplots, dropping subplots, chucking extraneous secondary characters, tightening it all up.

So, when I started writing, I had a pretty good handle on where my main characters had been and where they were headed.

All set, right?

Wrong.

(more…)

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Progress on my book has been slow—not stopped, just slow—but I choose to view this as a good thing.

After years of thrashing about and achieving zero forward movement, I’m finally getting words on paper (yes, literally; I’m a longhand writer). Last night I finished the second scene, and now that it’s all keyed in and backed up, I decided to reflect a bit and see if I could identify the reasons why I’m having such a tough time building momentum.

It didn’t take long to find several culprits, including a slew of bad habits that I’ve developed during the fallow years. While I certainly have to deal with those bad habits, they’re specific to me and my life, and thus irrelevant to writing, per se, so I’ll skip discussing them here. Two issues, however, I think are worth discussing, as other writers may experience something similar. (more…)

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