She Wrote – Week 1

Having spent many a weekend or summer day as an adolescent, pecking away on my grandparents old typewriter, writing just for the hell of it, I expected this challenge to be a breeze.  And, it was, initially.  David and I each drew a card and after a pause, the sparks of ideas began to take flight in my mind.  The resulting story was a product of the first concept that popped into my head.  Looking back, I chose what now seems like the obvious route; much more inventive and imaginative concepts came to me a day or two later. By then, I had already started on The Road to Ordinary and though I didn’t quite have the ending nailed down, I didn’t want to scrap the idea and start over.  Time was of the essence!  Seven days to write a short story is not nearly as luxurious as it seems.  Besides, there’s no rule that I can’t write those other stories at some point.

I learned, through this week’s challenge, that I feel constrained with too much structure.  When writing, as in my life, I prefer having either a starting or an end point.  I’ll fill in the blanks.   So, when the instructions with the Storymatic suggested the selection of two character cards and two suggestions for plot, I rebelled.  I felt that was too restrictive, too many boundaries. So, after a pout and a firm announcement of “I’m not doing that” to David, he agreed that we would start our challenge with just one of each card.  Thank you, dear!

David pointed out to me that I lack structure in my approach to writing, too.  Whereas an outline, or at a minimum, bulleted main points, are the foundation for copy on a proposal or other professional piece drafted for my day job, when writing creative fiction, I prefer to just sit and write.  Once I have a concept, I can “see” the storyline in my mind.  I can visualize the characters, their actions and even began to imagine some of the dialogue. So, long as I have that initial concept, I can tell the story on paper or on keyboard and screen, as the case may be.

However, there are times when I don’t have it all figured out.  Such was the case with this week’s challenge.  I had the beginning and the middle of the story conceptualized and I had a setting for the ending, but I didn’t have a conclusion.  In fact, I didn’t have an ending until late Saturday night.  So, writing Saturday was painful.  I had hit the proverbial “block”.  After an hour, I had slogged through just two paragraphs.  It was like walking through the red clay of Tennessee after a week of hard rains – Not fun!  So, I closed my laptop  and quit for the evening.  I’ve learned that the more I focus on forcing a solution to a problem, the more evasive that solution tends to become.  By walking away, letting my mind wander to other things, up wafted the ending, the resolution that I’d been searching for, wrapped up in a tidy, unexpected twist.  WooHoo!

On the flip side, when the story was flowing, time flew!  I had drafted the first few paragraphs shortly after we selected the prompts on the first day, spending probably an hour to an hour and a half.  Then, with work, dogs, life, I really wasn’t able to get back to work on the story until the following weekend.  My attempts on Saturday were nominal, so most of the resulting story was written over the course of Sunday afternoon and evening.  Talk about a “just in time” performance!  And, there’s nothing like having someone who’s story was published hours earlier and was subsequently enjoying “Dexter” reminding you that you only had until midnight to finish.  Oh, and did I mention I cooked dinner Sunday night, too?!

In closing, I am a firm believer in creativity begetting creativity.  I believe that the more ways we challenge ourselves to stretch and grow creatively, even if it’s just in one area like writing, that creativity will work it’s magic in other areas, as well.  I know in my younger years, before work, life and other excuses got in the way, I made more time for creative endeavors – writing, baking, crafts and music.  The more I practiced in those areas, the more inspired I was to experiment and create new, original ideas.  Mind you, this was in the dark days before the Pinterest, before the Internet even!  New ideas did not go “viral” for instant inspiration.  Even after dusting off my keyboard for just this first writing challenge, I’ve already enjoyed the rush of inspiration for a professional project I’d been struggling with.  As I get ready to draft my short story for Week #2, I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with an old friend – my imagination.

P.S. Wouldn’t you know it, there is one more lesson to be learned this week…ALWAYS save a copy of your work; somewhere, anywhere!  The original version of these ramblings was a thing of beauty – far more intelligent, witty and composed then the version that appears here.  But, alas, no one but me will ever be privy to that.

After 45 minutes drafting the post right into WordPress as a shiny, new page, my words disappeared into nothingness.  Apparently, there was a shift in the cosmic continuum at the precise second that I hit “publish”.   Early causes of the shift identify the catalyst being a gnome fart somewhere in the bowels of Middle Earth.  The force of the blast rattled the almighty Internet and “poof”, no amount of “back” arrow, reload or “WTF’s?” shouted at my screen would bring back what I wrote.  That was the fudge icing on the shit cake that has been my week.  How’s that for a story behind the story?

Now, what did I tell you about creativity bubbling up in the most unexpected places?!