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Writing Is Hard – Part 2: In Flight

And so here we are again… meaning here I am again. Writing fiction. OK, not right here, exactly; this is more of a reflective semi-public journal. But I’m at it again, the fiction, these days.

It’s been a long time, I have to admit, since I have written fiction in any meaningful way. I’ve abandoned two manuscripts in the past two years, and it was painful to do so, but there came those points at which I had to accept that the sunk money fallacy was at play and simply stop spending my time and effort on stories and characters in which I found no passion. The reader would have seen right through it. Actually, the reader might simply have stopped reading. As I recently looked over some the pages I’d written over those years, I found plenty of fine paragraphs, some engaging dialogue, and even a few sentences and phrases that were just gems. But overall, there was something missing, something akin to what Stephen Pirsig was searching for in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Or rather what the late Pirsig was looking for in life: quality. When it’s there, you can feel it. Ditto the dearth.

And maybe I’m in the forest and only seeing trees, sure, but right now, the work I’m doing feels, finally, after many years, not like work at all. It’s a pleasure again. And I think that might damn well mean there’s quality. Averaging 900 to 1,000 words a session, and I’m writing at least five nights a week. It’s like old times, I’m glad to say.

What changed? What is it that helps a writer finally get his or her hands out from under his or her ass and get them back on the keys (or wrapped around a pen, if freehand is your thing)? For me, it involved a lot of changes and progress in life, sure, but also the removal of excuses (AKA bullshit) and a concerted plan. First I read a book and plenty of articles and essays about writing. Read more

A Few Places You Can Find My Writing

In case you were interested in something(s) like camping, hiking, the history of nuclear proliferation, terrifying sea creatures, homemade hot sauce, or the true meaning of April Fools’ Day, you can check out my articles on some of the websites to which I am a regular contributor.

I recommend starting with these two; may the general interest rabbit hole consume your lunch hour and beyond:

https://www.themanual.com/users/steven-john/

http://www.theclever.com/author/steven_john/

 

Writing Is Hard – Part 1: Re-Ignition

Truth be told, writing comes rather easily to me. That’s true at least inasmuch as I seldom struggle with the mechanics of a sentence or to express an idea with relative clarity. I credit this to myriad sources, including a family adept at using the English language, a series of fine teachers in elementary and high school, and to the fact that I was all but constantly reading books between the ages of eleven and fourteen or fifteen; after that I still read heavily enough, but also did the other things teenagers do. Like whittling and leather tanning and such. And also, sure, there’s aptitude. We all have our strengths and stretches. Expressing ideas in writing is easier for me than for many; completing simple mathematical equations is, on the other hand, impossible.

So why do I say that writing is hard? Because when it comes to the type of writing in question, which is, FYI, narrative prose, the simple fact is that writing is hard. Especially when one has — like I have — spent too much time away from it. Read more

A Short Story Based Off a Short Moment

This basically happened. I didn’t catch all of it verbatim, no, but the awkward little moment is essentially rendered as-is. Or as-was, rather. We’ve all had these moments, and usually we let go of them, as we should. But this one stuck around in my mind, so finally I went ahead and let it sear its place even deeper by writing it out.

 

An Old Dog

                  You want to talk about Left Field? About something coming right the hell out of Left Field? Get this: so I’m in a pharmacy the other day, drugstore/convenience store kind of place, not like a medicine-only kind of place (who goes to those, anyway?), and I’m buying, Christ, what was it, even, it was something so goddamn insipid, like literally tissues I think. Anyway, and I’m walking toward the counter, and on the ground is one of those long plastic mats with the outline of feet on it every eighteen inches or so and then a curve at one end with an arrow pointing toward the cashiers and the words WAIT HERE above a red line, this all with the intention that blisteringly stupid people will look down and think: “Ah, I’m supposed to form a line and then go up to the cashier(s) after the people in front of me have gone up to the cashier(s).”

Anyway. So I’m walking down this little strip of foot outline-demarcated PVC toward the WAIT HERE line to wait my turn, standup citizen that I am, and from one of the aisles—let’s call it the Hallmark Cards aisle, because it was, I think—this seriously old man comes bearing down on that WAIT HERE line at a pace that says Fuck That, and he’s pushing a shopping cart, which is always weird in this place, because it’s not a grocery store, and usually you forget they even have carts, but anyway, so this guy blasts past WAIT HERE and instead he waits where he wants to (THERE, I guess) inches behind a woman who was already at the cashier counter.

Now, me? I’m more than patient enough to WAIT HERE even when some old guy cuts me off. In fact, even if it had been a young guy, I probably would have mumbled to myself “Pick your battles” and convinced myself that was righteousness, right there, but this guy was old as a motherfucker so case closed. The woman who had already waited her turn and made it up to the main event — paying — was paying with cash which she had not thought to maybe get out of her wallet which she had not thought to maybe get out of her purse and so on down the line; long story short it was taking a while. Read more