Category Archives: Flash Fiction

When You Stop Writing…What Then?

@sadboy

Can I tell you a story before we answer that first question? Thank you.

There once was a boy who liked to write. He spent each day finding joy in creating stories and discovering interesting characters. Sometimes, he had too many stories ideas; he didn’t know what to do. Oh, my. One day, he decided to get to work on one of his story ideas and began to write with a new friend named Rough Draft (“RD”). They wrote and wrote. And wrote.

The two had fun together; Rough Draft never judged the boy but always found encouraging words when the boy was discouraged. The boy had even told himself sternly from the beginning, “Do not self-edit; just write what comes,” and RD was right there with him, helping him like his own personal trainer. The boy set goals for himself. For example, he set a goal to write 250 words per day which felt very realistic to him, and Rough Draft gleefully held him accountable. He joyfully and obediently listened to his new friend and after seven months he had written over 60,000 words for this story idea! A self-published book was taking shape. The boy crunched the numbers on his calculator as fast as his little fingers could fly and figured out he did better than his daily writing goal: he had written 266.67 words per day, to be exact. Good for him. He was so proud of himself. The boy and RD grew together in the process—mostly from what they learned from each other.

But soon after, the celebrations ceased and the exaltation ended, the boy was left alone with a very ill Rough Draft. The boy saw his friend now as weak and sickly. He wondered if he had made a poor choice in his friendship. Had he really known Rough Draft all that well, he asked himself. I don’t even know him! he cried. The boy was desperate and reluctantly hired on another writing helper named Rewrite to help Rough Draft recover. The boy and Rewrite immediately got off on the wrong foot, as they say. Rewrite was a stern disciplinarian, nothing like Rough Draft.  Oh, how the boy hated Rewrite! There was nothing fun about Rewrite and he did cruel things to the boy’s friend Rough Draft. Rewrite said things like, “Your friend, Rough Draft, expresses himself in a passive voice. We will make him ACTIVE!” Some days, he could hardly watch as Rewrite cut Rough Draft down and ripped out parts of his very soul, trimming the fat and killing off darlings. And the thing that shocked the boy the most: Rewrite made the two friends fight with each other. The boy began to blame RD, and RD blamed the boy for their lack of progress.

The boy did the only thing he knew to cope: he walked away. He left Rough Draft to languish alone because even Rewrite didn’t show up if the boy didn’t. (Apparently, Rewrite was a jealous soul.) Sadly, the boy and Rough Draft lost touch and soon didn’t recognize or understand each other. They had forgotten the very reason why they began their journey together. A tragic end to a promising beginning.

I saw the boy recently. He looked sad, depressed. He mumbled something about how other writers seem to develop strong relationships with other rough drafts and even rewrites. They were much more talented than he. Blaming himself for the failure, the boy wouldn’t call himself a writer anymore. (I think he said he worked in a call center now.) And his only show of passion was when he mentioned that other writers got published and he didn’t! “Last I checked, Amazon had over 2,100,000 books in their store! If that doesn’t make you depressed, what will?” 

The boy lost his way, but I’ve reintroduced him to another writing companion. Second Draft is very much like Rough Draft used be. Second Draft doesn’t judge but rather quietly encourages small, incremental changes. He tells the boy other encouraging words like, “Don’t worry about your original goals to self-publish. We’ll get there. Let’s just take it one day at a time. Enjoy what you’re doing…and it will all fall into place.”

A wonderful new friendship is developing…and the book has begun to take shape again. 

A moral to this story? I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with what this blog has been talking about all along. What are our motivations for writing? Why do we write in the first place? Are your goals unrealistic? (And I don’t mean, are your dreams unrealistic? No, because they never are unrealistic. They’re dreams!)

Have you lost your way in your writing? If so, come home. We’ll all be there waiting for you. To say kind words to you. And introduce you to some new friends.

(P.S. I wrote this blog post with the help of my two friends Rough Draft and Second Draft. I still haven’t forgiven Rewrite.)

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Teaser: When It All Comes Crashing Down

@pine

Here’s a very short excerpt of the story I’m currently writing, When It All Comes Crashing Down. A teaser, I suppose. It doesn’t give you much about the story, but, hey, I had fun writing it. (This is an example of “writing” while driving–you can write, gather ideas anywhere. I recorded this into my voice recorder while taking a long drive through Wisconsin.)

The stand of pines stood tall and straight to the edge of the field. Their branches hung over the field, welcoming Thoreau into the stand of trees. Not like the opposite stand of oaks, with their twisted and gnarled branches, sinister and unwelcoming, the pines seemed to him open, their whispers in the wind comforted him. The oaks leafless and silent, held their secrets in thick bark. Ancient secrets, Thoreau thought. Unspoken things from unspoken worlds. Hard hearts as hard as his. The pines, he could feel in his hands, had thinner bark, their lower limbs coming off easily, their dead wood cast off early to prevent diseases, before they brought about death. The pines seemed happy, lighter. They caught the wind, hoping to share their secrets with the wind. And just like Echo, this new person in his life, they were ever green. Always alive, always moving and thriving. Colorful. Thoreau imagined that he was not unlike an oak, a hardwood tree. Like an oak, Thoreau now felt dead and hard inside. Barely alive, barely surviving the winter. How did she do it? She didn’t survive, she thrived. He had become stiff and unbending. Yet still, he thought somewhere deep inside, he was strong. Something inside, a quality about him that made him sturdy, something strong, something lasting. He was a hardwood, not a softwood. Could it be that the pine, while seemingly alive, seemingly gracious and on the surface soft and smooth, be too soft inside, lacking integrity? He thought Echo could be this way. Maybe it was an act. Maybe inside she was soft, that she lacked integrity, couldn’t withstand time and difficulty. He wasn’t so sure what to think of her. He didn’t trust her. He didn’t trust the pines, but he still slept under their branches that night.

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Dream: Dead Man

@ dead man weston

Here’s a short story for your enjoyment. It’s based on a dream I had on Monday. Don’t know what will come of it. Not carefully edited or even well-thought out at this point–I just threw it down on paper. I’m WRITING and that is what counts, baby.

Will it turn into a book, a short story, end here as flash fiction? Let me know what you think.

Dead Man

A cadaver lies frozen on our gravel driveway.

Nothing strange about that, really. My family is buying it today. Or are we renting it? Storing it for someone else’s safe keeping? I’ve been exporting goods in from India to keep my American clients happy, so I haven’t been around much lately. Always interesting to see what they’ve been doing to make money when I’m not around.

My latest haul was an ungodly-sized asbestos sheet. It’s the new stuff. Thin and flexible, safe for your lungs, supposedly. (Dad never believed the asbestos scare in the first place, “back in the day.”) Made in India. Very safe, they say, but the stuff flakes off like a…. Very expensive too, so I’ll make some decent change. What my clients will use it for, I have no idea. The thing is huge: imagine trying to lug one around, extremely thin 10 x 18 foot sheet of this stuff. Well, I am. One sheet. If it was at least two or more, the sheets would give each other a bit of support. As it is, one sheet gives me the challenge of strapping it down and keeping it from flying loose. And that’s all before I tried smuggling it in, which is even more difficult. Okay, boring for you, I know. The cadaver, now that’s more interesting, right?

I’ve learned not to ask anymore, to let my family do what they need to do. To survive? I’m not sure. They have plenty to eat—that’s certainly not a problem evidenced by my father’s rather porcine gut and my mother’s generous backside. When things were more difficult—a decade or so ago—my parents sold off my older sister as a prostitute. I was only eight at the time, ate like a bird, so they kept me around.

“Help us carry it in, will you?” my dad asks.

“Really? I’ve got enough going on,” I reply. Honestly, dead people creep me out—especially stiff, frozen ones. I see plenty most days in my work, and I never get used to it. I just can’t work with them.

“Then find a way to make yourself useful; we feed you, you know.” That’s my mom.

You feed me because I help support you with my business, Mom!

The two of them struggle to pull the stiff into the house, its heals dragging on the driveway, making little ruts in the gravel.

“Where are you keeping it?” I ask.

“Your brother’s room.” Dad.

“And he’s okay with that?”

“He has no choice,” Mom says, “It’s the coldest room in the house.” (Every room in our house is cold; I’m not sure what she means.)

My brother, who will remain nameless, is a passive-aggressive type so we won’t know for some time how he feels about a dead guy in his room. Nameless will lash out at some point when we least expect it.

In other words, it could get violent.

To be continued…?

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