Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: July 2013

Beginning at the End

Route 66

As mentioned previously, I’ve been working my way VEEEERRRRY SLOOOOOWLY through Holly Lisle’s ostensibly three week course on How To Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck. It’s taking me closer to three months. This is partly because making the time to write has been quite the challenge lately (and has become even more so since I started my job search); but I think it’s mainly because I’ve been going through it in order, doing all of the exercises, and nothing has been coming together satisfactorily, because the part I actually needed to read and do first is the part that was saved for last: figuring out the ending.

Some writers can write a story without knowing how it ends. Many even prefer it that way. They enjoy not knowing where they’re headed until they arrive there. I am not one of those writers. For me, a story is more like a road trip. Just picking a random direction and taking off with no clue where I’m headed would make me anxious. I need to have a destination in mind. If I know I’m driving to, say, Jacksonville, Florida, I can take as direct or as meandering a path as I want, sticking to the Interstates or getting off to check out all of the mountain overlooks and Navy battleships and reptile and ‘gator farms between here and there, stopping at every Stuckey’s along the way. As long as I have a road atlas and I know I’m headed in the general direction of Jacksonville, it’s all about enjoying the journey.

Sometimes I only have a fuzzy idea of the ending. Sometimes the ending changes on me halfway through the book. Sometimes, I know a good portion of the story, but can’t see the ending. Sometimes, I’ll start writing it anyway, and the ending will come to me once I get started. But sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why I haven’t been working on Radium Town lately. I’m stalled out because I don’t know where I’m going with it. I know the characters, I know the monsters, I know that there will be an epic confrontation somewhere near the end, but… I can’t see it, or what happens afterward, how everything wraps up. Which makes telling the story difficult for me, because without knowing the ending, I don’t really know what the point of the story is.

And good flash fiction, I’m coming to understand, is very much about getting to the point, which you have to drive home in about the space of a tweet. I did the exercises for the beginnings and the middles. I had characters, I had problems, I had complications… but I didn’t know the point until I got to the Endings lesson. And once I knew the point of the stories, I realized that everything I had previously written was wrong. Wrong protagonists, wrong POVs. Some of the stories I’d started were just wrong for this format.

Apparently, for me it’s best to write flash fiction backwards.

So now I’ve got two of them done [UPDATE: Make that one — I just submitted the other one to a local coffee shop e-zine]. I’m pretty happy with them, currently. The other three (the assignment was to write five), I need to throw out entirely and go back to the drawing board. But this story collection is finally starting to come together, so I’m happy about that.

Surrender

God has really been at work in me lately. He’s been patiently pulling me through a rather painful and difficult process of learning to let things go, to stop being led by my ego and my stubborn desires and to submit my will to His.

I confess that we haven’t been happy lately. Pretty much the opposite, really. Not with each other, I should clarify — our marriage is the one great thing we’ve got going. Well, and our dog. He’s pretty great, too. He makes us laugh when we really don’t feel like laughing. But everything we’ve been working on and toward has ground to a halt. For a little while there it seemed like the freelance biz was starting to pick up and maybe head toward success, but it’s floundering again, and while we’re still managing to scrape by, home repairs are piling up, and other little emergencies keep cropping up, and things have been overwhelming and we’ve just kind of been drifting, directionless, not knowing where to go next or what to do. It’s like God suddenly said, “NOPE! This isn’t the direction I want for you guys.” And for a while, instead of humbling ourselves and praying for Him to show us the right direction, we (I, mostly) kept stubbornly butting our heads against the wall trying to make it move.

I’ve done a lot of crying out to the Lord in my frustration in the last couple of months. I’ve done a lot of casting about for something or someone (other than myself) to blame. But I’ve also been digging deeper into scripture and realizing that I’m the one who needs to change. I need to surrender my pride and my ego and humble myself to God’s will. I need to surrender all of my desires and give God rein over my life. I need to stop seeking my own pleasure and start seeking His. I need to stop trying to wrestle everything into submission to my own will and start trusting in Him to care for us. And I need to stop putting him in the back seat in certain areas of my life.

These are of course hard lessons for any Christian, but I think they might be especially hard for those who, like me, were raised in faith and grew up taking God and Christ and salvation and faith and etc. for granted. It’s hard to fully understand passages of scripture that talk about putting off the old man when you were only five years old when you got saved. It’s too tempting to think that you don’t have an old man to put off.

So now, at 40 years old, I’m just now beginning to grasp what it means to present myself a living sacrifice. I’m finally starting to understand that in letting myself be broken down like this I’m giving God material to work with so He can build me back up, and He’ll build me into something better than I ever could have imagined for myself.

Since I’ve come to that realization, things are starting to turn around. Doors are starting to open for us again. Matt and I had a heart-to-heart the other day about re-examining and re-defining our priorities and what changes we need to make to ensure that we’re walking in God’s will. Part of that is that we both need to start looking for work outside of the home, because God clearly hasn’t blessed our home business. We have to accept that maybe that’s not something He wants for us right now. Maybe it’s not something He wants for us ever. And that’s okay, because whatever He has for us will be better. At any rate, I have my peace back, and I’m full of hope for the first time in a long time.

Last year, we got to a point where business died down, and out of sheer desperation I started looking for a full-time job. I did so grudgingly. I cried a lot. I was resentful. I didn’t put my all into the search. Somehow, I still managed to find a job, but it was a terrible job and I only lasted there about six weeks, and I cried almost every day that I worked there. I came out of it resolved to make our business work no matter what.

But now, there are two differences. For one thing, we’re not desperate. We’ve still got some work coming in, plus content mill writing (which isn’t my favorite, but I’m grateful for it regardless), and while it’s not enough to prosper, it’s enough to make ends meet while I take the time to find the right job — the right job being one that meets all of our needs and is well-suited to my personality and abilities.

The other, biggest difference is that this time I have total and utter peace and contentment about going back to full-time employment. I’m even a little excited about it. And as we make our plans, I trust that the Lord will order our steps. I look forwarding to seeing where He leads us.

Hell, or Oklahoma? (I think that question might get asked a lot.)

So last week was… well, not Hell. But it was Oklahoma in the summertime without air conditioning, which can be easy to confuse for that other place. At any rate, it was one of the most difficult weeks in recent memory, speaking on a purely physical basis, and not much got done that wasn’t taking cold showers and giving the dog cold baths and sipping cold drinks and watching DIY air condenser repair videos on YouTube and generally hating life.

We first noticed that the condenser fan had stopped running toward the end of the previous week. At that point the temps weren’t so bad, so we didn’t panic. We were able to jerry-rig a screen on our patio door (which doesn’t have one built in), open some windows and turn on all the ceiling fans, and between the low-90s temps and the steady breezes, we were comfortable enough that Matt thought maybe he could take the time to learn how to fix it himself. I give him an A for effort and an A+ for tenacity, and I do believe he learned a lot. But by the time Thursday rolled around and it still didn’t work, the breezes all died away and the heat index ratcheted up to 111, he was ready to throw in the towel and call in my brother, who repairs ACs for a living.

Now I’m sure you’re asking, “Jean, if you have a brother who is an AC repairman, why on earth did you suffer with a broken AC for an entire week before calling him?” And there is an answer for that, albeit a lame one, and it is that we were afraid it would be awkward. See, in all the time we’ve lived here we’ve never had him over, and we both hated the thought that the first time we ever invited him over was to fix our air conditioner. Now, in our defense, we don’t know where he lives or what his place looks like, either. I guess we’re not really all that close. We usually see each other at Mom’s house on holidays and other occasions, and we text each other on occasion, and that’s usually enough.

Still, it felt awkward enough that we put it off for as long as we could. Of course, in true big brother fashion, he was happy to take time out of his Saturday to come take care of it. He replaced the capacitor and did some rewiring and got it running again, much to our relief. We paid him in pie and a promise to have him and my SIL over soon to feed them dinner and not ask him to do any manual labor. And thus endeth our week of pain.

But like I said, for the most part, it wasn’t that terrible. We spent a lot of time out on the patio, and on the worst day I took my laptop to the library to get some work done. Poor Matt, though, had to stay home to make sure the pets didn’t overheat. That was our biggest challenge, especially keeping Pete cooled off, because he was really having a hard time with it. Basically, we kept him wet pretty constantly and fed him a lot of ice. Toward the end, I rigged up a bandanna with a pocket to hold an ice cube that he could wear around his neck, which seemed to help.

But that was a week of lost productivity immediately following another week of productivity loss due to me simply feeling like crud all week. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I made up a lot of ground yesterday by doing all of the laundry, plus some mending, and vacuuming and other house work. Now I need to get some articles written and finished up while there’s still enough daylight left to do some yard work. After a weekend off, though, I’m having trouble getting the writing gears fired up again, so hopefully writing this post will give them a bit of grease and get me going.

Speaking of writing, it’s been two weeks since I’ve even attempted fiction or thought about the direction I want to go there. Once I’m caught up, I need to sit down and do some serious thinking in that regard. At any rate, I think it’s pretty much a given at this point that I won’t be doing the July session of Camp Nano. But good luck and happy writing to any campers who are.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén