I’m working on a short story. It comes from a ten minute write exercise I did a while back and posted on my short story blog. I was doing these little ten minute writes to help keep myself engaged and coming up with new story ideas, but once I got really into my novel the practice fell to the wayside. I need to get back to it, but I have at least a dozen story ideas on the blog that I think I can work from (not to mention all the tons I have scribbled in random notebooks).
I mentioned before in an earlier blog post that I’m not comfortable with writing in the short form. I’m not. I think at heart I’m a novelist, but as Ray Bradbury suggested, I should work on short stories. I’ve also found through research and from advice from other (published) writers getting short stories published is a great way to get some public exposure. Practice and exposure equals a skilled and possible published writer. Anyway, I don’t have a novel idea at the moment, and honestly this story doesn’t feel long to me.
Speaking of feeling, that’s what I’m thinking about as I write this blog post. This story focuses on two characters from two very different backgrounds meeting in a place that is not really home for either of them but they both need something in the town. I worked on the character Rose. I haven’t worked on the Chinese character who is Chinese by race, but English by nationality. I need a name for him still (and no, I’m not going to call him Chinaman, the author is not trying to be derogatory, and neither is Rose, but Rose doesn’t know any better). I spent about two and a half hours building Roses’ character. I went into her description, into her likes, into her history. I wrote all this stuff that may or may not make it into the actual story but the process is creating a character who feels real to me, and if I execute it well she will feel real to the readers.
So, two things happened, as these two things always do, but they never cease to amaze me. One, I’m always amazed at how much work goes into writing. Here I am writing and writing and writing all this writing that will never be read. It isn’t meant to be read. It is just the work. The wizard behind the curtain. I will write more on Rose. Then I will write the second character and then I will write the setting because the setting is important to the story. I write before I start to write. It awes me every time. Sometimes I get this negative voice that says, “what are you doing? Just write the damn story! Be organic. Stream that shit. You’re wasting time.” But, what time am I wasting? Maybe, someday I will be able to do all this work in my head. I’ll dream the characters and wake up and type for hours and suddenly I’ll have some brilliant piece of work, but I’m not there yet, and I may never be there, but that’s okay. As long as I ignore that voice I’m cool with it.
Secondly, I am amazed at how emotional I get while I am writing. It’s like I believe these characters are actually real people! If something makes me sad my eyes well up. If something is funny I laugh. I make all kinds of facial expressions and movements with my hands. At home it’s fine because who cares? Whose looking? But, in public… Sometimes I need to get out of the house and have some humans around me so I’ll go to a coffee shop. I can do this when I’m just in the beginning stages of a story. I can’t do this while brainstorming and I can’t do it when I’m actually writing the story, but this part building characters, plot, structure gathering all the tools, I can be in a coffee shop. In fact, sometimes it helps like the buzz of all the people gives me energy and inspiration. Maybe I need their living-ness. I’ll get into the state, you know, the flow, and suddenly I’m “emoting” all over the place. Making faces, getting all teary and ferklempt. And, I don’t even care. I mean I don’t care in the sense that I don’t notice, until I notice, but I can’t stop because if I stop then I might loose my momentum so I have to keep making the faces and moving my hands in weird ways as I make new discoveries. The only thing I pull in are the tears because sometimes I feel like I could just end up sobbing, and then how would that look? Plus the sobbing takes away from the writing. I reel that emotion in at home too for the purpose of continuing with the story. Sometimes I can sit outside of myself like I am sitting across from me watching me do what I do when I write, and my looking self says, “What are you doing? You look so funny.” In fact, I’m doing that right now as I write these sentences because I’m laughing at the visual of me writing because I’m doing my emoting right now. And you know what? When myself is looking at myself getting all emotional and making faces and saying, “you look funny”, at that moment I really, really like myself.
This must be what Ray Bradbury meant when he said writing was joy. I think writing saves me a little every day.