The blank page is yours. Cast aside worries over art and criticism. Imagine a land without rules. Imagine that nobody has ever told you that you cannot or should not do this thing. Those people were wrong. Forget those voices.
I think that’s a perfect way to kick off Day Two of the 30-day challenge. (On an unrelated note, Chuck Wendig is also a very entertaining gentleman to follow. It’s funny that the terminology of this day and age makes stalking someone sound not-so-weird. If you’re feeling like you want to web-stalk some more folk, you might consider “following” Mr. Wendig, too.)
By now, one of two things is happening. In scenario A, you are abrim with what can only be boundless creativity. You are reading this after hitting your 3,000 word count, and you’re probably deciding whether or not to do the literary equivalent to a cool down. For a boss like you, that could mean that you recite slam poetry to your basset hounds, or maybe you step out into the crisp morning air, take a luxuriously deep breath, and then strip down to nothing and run full bore to the end of your private dock, jump into the lake on your property. Whatever it is, in Scenario A you just generally warrant my quiet and seething jealousy by having a healthier mind, body, and spirit than me. Good on ya. You and your well-groomed insides.
In Scenario B, you awoke to deep snoring, and you slink out of bed soundlessly so as not to awake either your people or your other electronics. Except for maybe the tea kettle or the coffee pot. Your feet have that dull, wide, aging feeling, and you can’t shake the idea that you should maybe start stretching first thing out of bed (but, if you’re like me, you’ve always secretly felt stupid stretching, even privately, so you ignore the sensation guiltily). You walk over to your laptop, and you stare at it wearily. It’s your day off. You should be sleeping. And you did the outline, but you binge-watched the Walking Dead this weekend, and you can’t quit thinking about that episode with the little girls and Karen and the big fella, whatshisname. You know your character is supposed to be doing other stuff today, but you really want to make her do something else, entirely.
Okay, that might not be you. But that’s me. And if you’re in that same boat, I encourage the following exercise. I have a notoriously weak attention span. I am panicked by the idea of losing out on ideas. That’s why my iPhone (and the Sticky Notes on my home computer, and the Stickies on the HP) has three sets of completely useless notes: Snippets, which is full of bullet points, quotes, convos, notions, personality traits, and other flotsam and jetsam; Story Ideas, which is where I put whole and complete suggestions, personality traits for characters, micro fiction topics, potential titles, and various inspirations; and Freelance, which is where I put my legitimate leads for things, stories in my community and corresponding dates, people of interest, places of interest, interests of interest, and the more reality based topics I encounter but don’t see or hear about enough to remember on my own.
This morning’s activity is to go through the lists and pick three at near random. I’m too superstitious for that, though. I can’t let something as important as a chapter of my novel-project-thing go to chance. So, I color code everything in rainbow blocks of text. I use Control F to find the word “the.” Every 11th instance, I color code the idea red. Then, skipping ones I’ve already highlighted, orange. Then yellow. You get the idea (or you need to look up Roy G. Biv). Once I have a veritable rainbow of ideas, I collect the third one I come across. I have now wasted 15 minutes, but the snoring continues from the bowels of the hallways rooms, so I think I’m still okay on time.
Now I choose my favorite.
If you’re not stuck, and if you’re on track, that’s awesome. Keep going, my friend. If you find yourself stuck, I encourage you to give this (or an idea like it) a go. What’s an idea like it? Well, for example, I subscribe to a flash fiction group on Google. Every Sunday, they release a prompt. Since NNWM’s word count goals–if you’re aiming for the proposed word count–is roughly the length of a good peice of flash fiction, these type of sites might be of some use to you, either now or later.
I love Flash Fiction, by the way. I just had the immense pleasure of nominating this story by Robert Isenberg, who I am now quietly obsessed with, on Pif Magazine. It’s one of the best short pieces that I’ve had the opportunity to read in awhile, and I’m so glad my colleagues concurred. Short stories like this one remind us that there are moments that are in us, and that their very stagnant and coagulated memories are actually brick and mortar ones that we are free to use. We can find a place, hours or days or months later, for the ugliness. The self-doubt, as Anne Lamott can tell you, is essential to your progress. (If you haven’t read Anne Lamott, then we can’t be friends. You should stop what you’re doing right now and read Bird by Bird. Go ahead; I’ll wait.)
Writers, waste nothing. Especially not the broken bits. Even if your novel is science fiction, and your story is very plot driven, push yourself to add that extra dimension to all of your characters. There’s no room for it? That’s fine. Make a new one, and use him another day. Write his bones like a binary code, and break them just like your own. Just like your ex-wife’s. Just like your son’s. Just like that weird dude who always checks you out from the corner of his eye at Fred Meyers, but who won’t ever make eye contact with you because he probably kills prostitutes and wears their skins as hats whenever he isn’t working as a stocker, and is obviously very shy around the living.
Break all of the people, and let me watch, because I’m into that. 😉
Without further ado, and without telling you too much about my personal project (because maybe I’m that shy stocker wearing fleshy hooker hats), here are a handful of my Stuck snippets. I warn you, these basically make less than no sense, but if they can be of use to you, have at it. The goal is to show you that everything has a purpose. Especially the random stuff.
The Erotic Bakery, a Seattle staple in the Wallingford district, closes its doors after a decade in operation.
Street artists are called “buskers,” and–apparently–there are groundrules and agencies and directories of buskers. (Can you imagine? It’s like Ello, but for jugglers and accordion players. So jealous.)
That time in high school when he came in to your job, and he was drunk, and your were so jealous not because he didn’t have to have a job, or because he was drunk on a Friday night, which sounded glorious, too, but that he felt like he could enjoy life without you around, which you couldn’t do no matter how hard you tried; and you were sweeping with that giant slidey pushbroom from that closet in the back (that was super easy to use, and which you should look into buying, because how awesome would that be to have one for the kitchen now, right? It was like the space ship of brooms…), and he came in through the doors of the gas station with some Random Dude you didn’t know, stumbling, and laughing at something that probably was only funny to drunk people, and you were excited to see him until you realized how belligerent he was and how many drinks it would take to get that way, and then how, in front of this other drunk face that you’d never seen before and wouldn’t ever see again but who was much hotter than both of you, and to your utter embarrassment, he leaned on your shoulder, on that starchy and stiff bright red uniform polo, mock-empathetic, and said, “Poor baby! Some day we’ll have to get you a real job,” and how you laughed as if it were funny there, with his hand really leaning on your shoulder for support, you laughed together, and then how you cried in the walk-in when you were stocking Rockstars after he left, and how you wished that you could open the sewer grates and slink into the shadows of the underground and live like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the rest of your days.
the slime of all my yesterdays
rots in the hollow of my skull
and if my stomach would contract
because of some explicable phenomenon
such as pregnancy or constipation
I would not remember you
or that because of sleep
infrequent as a moon of greencheese
that because of food
nourishing as violet leaves
that because of these
and in a few fatal yards of grass
in a few spaces of sky and treetops
a future was lost yesterday
as easily and irretrievably
as a tennis ball at twilight
From Story Ideas:
Start a story with this phrase: “Bury me with all of my shit, because you know it’s mine.” (Not my line; this is one of my favorite quotes from Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.)
“The smell of coffee brewing at a restaurant. The noise of plates stacking, loud and sometimes dangerously forceful for porcelain, and how this clatter is welcoming, like the dull roar of chatter on a school bus.”
“Is it just me, or do you only like to f*&% women who look like they were extras on Orange is the New Black?”
“Are you going to let me strap a GoPro to your baby or not?”
Found a waterlogged journal, which looks as if its from the 70s, in this abandoned, cabin-looking structure in the woods while out geocaching. Write about its pages.
Asshole Index: I would like to compile a list of all the idiots, douchebags, and all miscellaneous Horribles I’ve known the years over. Starting with my grossest boss and working my way down to gropings on public transit, dudes who wax their pubes, women who don’t wax their beards, and people who look forward to Charley Brown specials on TV (because you people drive everyone secretly crazy).
Sometimes, I just liked to be near people; talking wasn’t necessary. I would sneak out of my house at night–midnight or later, always–and run in the dark. Run, sometimes with jeans on like I was Harrison Ford being chased by Whoever-Chases-Harrison-Ford, to houses, and climb onto the roofs of people that I knew and loved. I loved the roof, where I felt okay being alone. I loved being close to the trees that shaded people’s homes, and I loved hearing people move around inside their living rooms and bang around inside their kitchens without the weird film of knowing that they were being watched. People are always best in their concentrated form.
Happy scribing, friends! On an unrelated note, isn’t it insane how long folks’ll sleep if you just let them? I’m about to interrupt all that snoring in the hallway, if you’ll just excuse me.