Why Write?

a man on a mountaini holding his arm up while the sun is settingWhen struggling with a first draft, rewrite, edit, or final polish, do you ever ask yourself, why do I write? Why must I put myself through this excruciating exercise that I don’t have the time or energy for? I do. Sometimes writing feels Sisyphean, the interminable project-boulder keeps rolling back, nearly squishing me, and the moment I’m confirmed un-dead commands me in a Simon Cowell voice to DO IT BETTER.

How easily I forget the joy writing brings, the satisfaction, the peace. Which is why, during times like these, I must remind myself to ask this ever-important follow-up question: why did I start writing? This teases out the truth—it untangles the act of writing from the web of “things that make me busy” and reclaims its position at the forefront of “things that make me sane,” also known as, “self-care.”

Five Reasons We Write

If you, too, ask yourself why you started writing, I bet you’ll come back to one of these five reasons:

  • To make sense of something. Writing is one of the few ways to work out the tests we face and the choices we make, hopefully landing us on the positives in a sea of negatives.
  • To heal. Some of us heal by sharing our burden in hopes that people facing similar battles will feel less alone. We yearn to provide a balm for the next person in this struggle, in hopes their pain can be mitigated. In this way, writing is generous. And generosity heals both the writer and the reader.
  • To share a unique perspective. Maybe you saw a side of something that no one else had the opportunity to see. And maybe it bugs you that people are drawing conclusions without having the full story. This type of writing, though it may feel like a duty, also provides healing.
  • To provide a legacy. I wish my grandparents had written their stories; I’m so curious about their lives. I for one want to leave at least part of my history behind, from my perspective, for future curious progeny.
  • Because you don’t have a choice. Your story communicates to you in clear ways that it must be told, and you are the teller. Physical symptoms make it impossible not to write and tell you with certainty—your calling is not optional.

These reasons are distinct but also connected by their healing power, whether it be the healing of ourselves, our loved ones, our community, or humanity. And the best side-effect of the reasons our craft has hold of us—they force us to honor ourselves. Writing is our form of self-care, how we keep ourselves sane and show ourselves love. And when we do this, when we grant stories life, we also bestow an immense favor upon our world. We show, by example, that self-love comes first and then, with the energy that writing our truth breathes into us, our words have the opportunity to create change, soothe, heal, and share our love for humanity.

 

 Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

The Holiday Gift Guide for Feisty Writers

Do you ever wonder what to give your favorite feisty writer? It’s that time of year, and some of our awesome contributors have made gift suggestions any scribe is sure to love:

Marni’s Writer Gift Ideas:

the cover of Novel & Short Story Writers Market1. Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2018 is the only resource you need to get your short stories, novellas, and novels published. This edition of NSSWM features hundreds of updated listings for book publishers, literary agents, fiction publications, contests, and more, and each listing includes contact information, submission guidelines, and other essential tips.

Inside Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, you’ll find valuable tips for:

  • How to take your readers on a roller-coaster ride by mastering the art of the unexpected
  • Weaving foreshadowing and echoing into your story
  • Discovering the DNA—dialogue, narrative, and action—dwelling inside all memorable characters
  • Gaining insight from best-selling and award-winning authors, including Steve Berry, Liane Moriarty, Junot Díaz, and more

Why I love it:  I love this gift because it answers the age old question, “But where should I send my work?”  This is the gift that keeps your work from ending up in a shoe box.  Buy one for yourself while you’re at it.  Truly worth it.

https://www.writersdigestshop.com/novel-and-short-story-writers-market-2018

2. Inspirational Book

Book Cover for Juicy Pens Thirsty PaperWrite and share what’s in your heart! Let SARK show you how. Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper is your non-judgmental witness, resoundingly supportive friend, and practical guide to the craft of writing and storytelling. For anyone who knows that a writer lives within them but doesn’t know how or where to start; for writers who need new ways to work past their blocks and be reinspired; for anyone who loves SARK’s wise words and art, Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper will help start the ink flowing and keep it going.

 

 

 

 

Why I love it:  Well, truth be told, I love every book by Sark.  She is the queen of giving you permission to loosen up, to play, to love the messy, juicy and joyful process that writing can be.  If you become a fan here are a few more: Eat Mangoes Naked, Succulent Wild Woman and Inspiration Sandwich

3. The Editor’s Tote by Dooney and Bourke

For those who want luxurious toting of their notebooks, papers and laptops…

The Editor's Tote by Dooney & BourkeThe Editor’s Tote by Dooney and Bourke

H 7.5″ x W 4.5″ x L 8.75″ One inside zip pocket. Two inside pockets. Cell phone pocket. Inside key hook. Buckle closure. Handle drop length 4.5″. Detachable strap. Strap drop length 13.5″. Lined.

https://www.dooney.com/pebble-editors-travel-tote-BSHTL0326.html?dwvar_BSHTL0326_color=2LCAPATN#q=editors+&start=1&cgid=dooney-bags-style-tote

 

 

Why I love it:  Well if you know me, you know I can be greatly cheered up with purses and totes.  I don’t know why but when I carry around my notebooks in this it makes me happy.  If you have a writer in your life who is equally delighted by pretty containers with straps, this is a lovely gift.  And guess what, it is ON SALE for the next 4 days!

4. Bonus Gift – Just for Fun

fun wall clock for writers

The Writer’s Clock at Café Press

Why I Love it:  It only allows you an hour to panic, then back to writing.

http://www.cafepress.com/+writers_clock_wall_clock,1160095998

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa’s Writer Gift Idea:

book cover for The Anatomy of Story

 

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby

 

This is the most comprehensive and practical how-to book for narrative writing that I’ve ever come across. It explores story from conception through execution, delving into character development, world building, thematic through line, plot, and scene construction. Truby’s concepts build upon one another, helping the writer understand their story from many different perspectives and thus giving them the tools to weave an intricate and cohesive web that will satisfy readers. And the best part is, this isn’t just for fiction writers—it’s useful to anyone who incorporates narrative into their writing, be it journalism, memoir, or non-fiction. While this book could be mulled over from time to time as ideas develop, it also includes a workbook format where the writer can do the work as they progress through each chapter. The writer(s) in your life will be forever indebted to you for this gift and—let’s be honest—there’s no shame in treating yourself to this one too!

https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Story-Becoming-Master-Storyteller/dp/0865479933

Karen’s Writer Gift Idea:

an index card that says the gift of 5 hours for writing

 

The gift of time to write.

That’s all I want in this crazy season. My shelves are full of books on how to write, I have very nice bags to carry 10 copies of my latest, a laptop, pens, three spare unfilled composition books. There’s one thing missing…

 

 

Paula’s Writer Gift Idea:

book cover for Big Magic

 

Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

Here’s why I recommend it:

Big Magic grants authors and artists permission to create free of fear (or maybe in concert with it). I especially liked the early sections on the distinction between being a genius and having genius pour through you (the latter reflects the true nature of the artist) and how ideas can get sidetracked and, if they’re set aside too long, lost (been there myself recently). But, Gilbert argues, even if these ideas go away from you, they often appear elsewhere, pursued by others in a concept known as multiple discovery.

Fascinating and liberating, this book celebrates the joy of creating and gifts all authors and artistic types with the knowledge that it’s okay to just do the work, no matter the experience level or eventual outcome. Highly recommended, not just for authors, but for all who yearn to be creative explorers.

Marijke’s Writer Gift Ideas:

an open moleskine journal with drawings and writing in it1. Moleskin Journals

https://www.amazon.com/Moleskine-Cahier-Journal-Large-Ruled/dp/8883704983/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1512416238&sr=8-3&keywords=moleskin+journals+set+of+3

I’ve tried a LOT of journals and finally settled on the plain moleskin journals.  They are the perfect size to carry with me.  I have taken them on all my retreats and now have a collection, one for each retreat I’ve been to.  These are marvelous to mine for content later.

 

2. Watercolor pencils

water color pencils

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000J6EVZK/ref=twister_B076PK1CZC?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

These are so fun for adding pictures to my journals.  I find that it helps me relax and pay attention to my surroundings when I add a little color to my journal notes

 

 

 

 

 

3. The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language by Natalie Goldberg.

book cover for The True Secret of Writing

 

https://www.amazon.com/True-Secret-Writing-Connecting-Language-ebook/dp/B008J4RQD8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512417133&sr=8-1&keywords=the+true+secret+of+writing

This book captures what I think are essential components of my own writing practice, which Natalie distills as this: Sit. Write. Walk. It encourages us to dig a little deeper to “mine the rich awareness in your life, and to ground and empower yourself.”

 

 

 

 

Danielle’s Writer Gift Ideas:

  1. Out of print clothing

old t-shirt

https://www.outofprintclothing.com/

I wear a lot of t-shirts. They are part of my personality and feature anything from interesting designs, to bands that I love. Lately I’ve started to add both bookstore and book t-shirts to my collection. This site has a whole host of book-themed gifts, whether it be a t-shirt with Frederick the Mouse or a scarf with Edgar Allen Poe-ka dots.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Book darts

book darts

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Darts-Bronze-Line-Markers/dp/B0030J1J30/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512428855&sr=8-2&keywords=book+darts

I choose to read physical books simply because I spend most of my days and nights in front of a screen. I have also attempted to curb my book spending, so I’ve also been borrowing a lot of books from the library. Book darts are the absolutely perfect way to mark specific passages in books. If you’re reading a book you borrowed for the library for book club, you can “dart” your way though it and remove them all prior to returning the book. Book darts are thin, neat looking, and removable. I’ve already blown through two tins. So worth it.

3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art book cover

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/1936891026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512428569&sr=1-1&keywords=the+war+of+art

The War of Art is my writing bible. Pressfield tackles one of the greatest nemesis of writers around the world – resistance. When I’m wrestling with the demons of resistance I reread the final paragraph of this book (which is marked with a book dart in case you were wondering) “Creative work is not a selfish act or a need for attention. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us all you’ve got.”

 

 

Lisa’s Writer Gift Ideas:

  1. 1. Book Map

book map

https://laughingsquid.com/street-maps-of-book-and-tv-show-titles-by-dorothy-collective/

These are fun, beautiful pieces of artwork featuring landmarks from literature in a single city map. Fun to stare at during those brainstorming sessions! They also have TV and movie maps, for those who don’t just love books…

 

 

 

 

 

2. Storymatic:

picture of storymatic game

https://thestorymatic.com/collections/frontpage/products/the-storymatic-classic

Literally a box of writing prompts. These have gotten me out of many a writer’s block jam, and there is a booklet of fun group games, too!

 

 

 

 

3. Dragon:

dragon software box

https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-NaturallySpeaking-Home-13-0-English/dp/B00LX4BZAQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1481404642&sr=8-1&keywords=speech+to+text+software&linkCode=sl1&tag=bookfox-20&linkId=989cb992faf4df717d127e4fe36aecd5

This is a software program for taking dictation, which is the fastest way to get words on the page, whether they are notes, prose, blogs, or whatever pops into your brain. It also learns to recognize words and spellings you use often, including proper names. Think of all the brilliance you’ll be able to get out when the words move as quickly as your imagination! (Note: this is the PC version. They have it for Mac as well, but it’s more expensive for some reason.)

3 Tricks to Keep Your Climax Climactic

Disco ball in black and whiteNot that type of climax, sheesh! This is a writing blog. These tricks are for fiction writers but are helpful to keep in mind for all of us who put words on a page.

1) This is my favorite climax trick, and it comes straight from the amazing John Vorhaus: take a situation that could happen in real life and kick it up a notch. We writers are already good at this one, right? We play out what-if scenarios a lot. Some might say too much, but  I would argue that this is who we are and why we’re good at what we do, so naysay elsewhere! Now then, where were we? Oh yes—take the gift of playing out scenarios and tweak it a smidge—what could almost happen if? This is fiction, so push your climax just outside of the reality box. Take off its acrylic sweater and help it plug in the garage sale disco ball that clicks every time it spins past 9:00. Now dance with it!

2) Go somewhere. What is the setting for your story? Can you switch it up for your pinnacle scene? Move your readers in every sense at this juncture; take them on a journey in more than one way. As your main character is changing on the inside, describe a new locale on the outside. Move us, ground us, shake, and serve.

3) Don’t get stuck on expectations. You’ve made it this far! You’re almost there! While writing my climax, I felt suffocated by the pressure of the first 90% of the book. What if this part sucks? Isn’t this the most important part? What if it’s not as good as the rest of the story and the whole thing unravels and the ending is terrible? Stick the thumb back in the mouth of your inner critic. Pro tip—put peanut butter on the thumb first, so she has a harder time removing it. Then write. Still stuck? Do this exercise: describe the climax scenes in the last five fiction books you’ve read. Can you? I couldn’t. Because the climax is less important than its name implies. What matters is your protagonist and how (s)he/it makes your readers feel. About the world, about themselves, about everything. A compelling central character is what matters most. Just make sure the climax rings true to this unforgettable character you’ve created. Or rather, just outside of true (see trick #1). Then, switch up the setting (see trick #2). And write it.

Now go! Your disco ball awaits.

 

Photo Credit: Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

 

Shhh, It’s Flowing…

As writers, we read a lot about those times when we’re all froze up. Writer’s block, brain cement, inner or outer critic sabotage.  In an earlier post, I called it Backstroking Through Peanut Butter. Call it what you will, the struggle is real. With all the obstacles we writers face, it’s amazing we can progress at all.

Until recently, I was in a writing slump for over a year. Any progress I made during that time was the result of Herculean effort. Square marbles were clunking around in my brain. Nothing was rolling anywhere.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about those times when it’s all working. A tail wind is speeding you toward your destination. You’re hitting green lights all the way. The only hindrance to project completion is how fast you can type, the number of hours in a day, eating and other distracting bodily requirements.

Don’t you love it when this happens? A wide open road. The spigot is cranked as far left as it will go and the plot is spraying out of you. Awkward moments transform to smooth. Sure, you’ll still need to revise later, but what you’re creating feels like it won’t require 75 rewrites because, in moments like these, you’re spinning gold.

Sometimes these flashes are fleeting or few and far between. But when they land, mmm, savor every moment. I’m in one right now, and I find myself thinking, what did I eat, drink, hear, and/or experience that dropped me into this perfect frame of mind to get this done? Was it the eclipse? Was it that dinner with my aunt? Did a (wonky, half-baked) headstand in yoga class jog something loose? What granted me the freedom to move ahead, to leap frog toward project completion? And how do I recreate this exact space the next time inspiration abandons me, as it undoubtedly will?

Don’t project, I tell myself. Sit. Type! Phone, down. News, off. Eat fast, sleep less. Capitalize on this rare instant when it feels like it’s writing itself. Don’t distract it! Keep the laptop charged. Save all work to the cloud. This is the magic hour. Don’t self-sabotage. Stay in it.

Shhh, it’s flowing…

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/fire-hydrant-children-water-summer-1972971/

How To Turn Your Political Angst into Writing Gold

A man and his son holding a sign that says Make America Think AgainI wish I wasn’t writing about politics right now, but The Clown In Chief isn’t giving me much of a choice, now is he? Reason #4,763 to poke another rusty pin into my tiny-yet-somehow-bigly voodoo doll: I want to write about things I love, like un-stale tortilla chips, excellent haircuts, the unrelenting cuteness of my cats, and the dizzying amazement I feel about my kids (except when they fight plus the other times I want to post them on Craigslist), but I can’t, because The Grand Poobah of Doofusness is relentless.

*Big sigh*

Speaking of (or sigh-ing of?), are you big-sighing as much as me these days?

Venezuela, big sigh.

North Korea, giant petrified sigh.

Charlottesville, gargantuan tear-filled sigh.

I can’t friggin’ write. I’m too morose about it all. And too annoyed that I’ve been rendered morose by a reality TV shyster whose evil heart casts such a malevolent and slimy shadow over every corner of our world.

I know I said in this earlier post that “if we survive his reign, he may end up being a gift to us all.” But today, I find the Pollyanna-Me-of-Yesterday clueless, annoying, and badly in need of a slug to the stomach.

Given all of that, I will end on a positive note, because DNA is weird and I am incapable of leaving people in darkness and tumult, even if that’s where my heart resides. Here is one thing I know for sure: we must take decisive action now, in whatever form we can. My form is writing, and if you’re reading this, yours probably is too. Writing prompts are good for people like us—they help us further our craft—and, especially, in this case, they take us to places we may not have otherwise gone.

So here’s your prompt du jour: write a story about a person who somehow lands a job they are not remotely qualified for or capable of handling and one instance where (s)he “yugely” botches it up.

We know one example of this, all too well, or rather, all too inadequately. The novel Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart rocks this theme too. Steve Carell in The Office? Nails it. Me singing karaoke fits it like a glove. 30 Rock, Parks and Rec., a lot of great TV operates in this realm.

Where else do you come across this in your life? Write it, share it, allow it to further your craft. Create at least a smidge of good from all this bad. Remember, we are the recorders of our times. We are most essential during moments like these, crucial to prevent history from repeating itself. Let’s make sure, for the sake of our world, that we are the best at what we do, or at least, the best we can be.

Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash

5 Ways Writing = Om

Woman in yoga pose upside downI love a good yoga class, almost as much as I love a good story.

It was while pondering this notion (in Shavasana) that I had the following earth-shattering revelation: I love both writing and yoga because they are one and the same! Structurally, I mean. The elements of a good story must also take place in a good yoga class, or it will fall flat on its face (like I do when attempting crow pose).

Here are the five ways a good story resembles yoga:

1)  The hook. At the beginning of yoga, the teacher will look at you while oozing serenity and say something to the effect of, ”Like it or not, here’s what you’re going to learn today.” Stories do this same thing by serving up something scary, jarring, or uncomfortable. They put you squarely into a problem, one that (you hope) will be unraveled by the end.

 

2)  Warm me up, lest I break. With the hook, I’m given a dose of what I’ve come for. Now it’s time to move some blood around, so I don’t pull a hammy. Here’s where I’m shown characters, voice, and plot—the yoga equivalent of sun salutations.


3)  Vascillation. I suck at yoga! Wait, I should be an instructor! I’m so flexible! Actually, I’m a starfish! In this part of a both yoga and story, we don’t know what we want, who we love, or why we are still on this planet. Because when we aren’t ecstatic, everything aches.

 

4)  The test. Did we succeed or fail? Win or lose? Or did we leave with a lesson we had no intention of learning? In yoga, this will usually resemble some type of inversion.Today it was the flying pigeon. But on this day, all the flapping, twisting, stretching, and breathing wouldn’t get this bird out of the coop. In a story, we are also turned upside down. Tension is at its peak because this is the last shot at the goal we think we have, the final chance to tuck that ribbon into our pocket and move on. We are sweating, focused, riveted because success or failure comes down to this moment right here, right now.


5)  Release the heat. Now I can breathe with my mouth open again and review what I learned. In yoga, perhaps my intended physical goal was not realized but I instead I gained a clearer picture of my true strength, a greater appreciation for my purpose. If I’m lucky, I may have gotten a longer glance at the fleeting fairy of inner peace. In both yoga and story, this is where we acknowledge why we came and recognize that we will come again, to breathe in more of this feeling, to twist ourselves into even more unlikely contortions, and to, once again, (attempt to) take flight. And, once our story is over and if we have done this right, we get to say Namaste to strength, hope, improbability, and magic.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/yoga-headstand-cat-1726228/

The Gift of Not Breaking Things

laptop computer with explosion on the screenAdieu, fair computer
Oh, how I will miss thee—
Your greasy screen
Your peeling space bar
The large dent on your front right corner from the day I dropped you
When
You
Still
Had
Shiny
Stickers
On
Your
Keyboard.

Adieu.

I will miss the sensitivity of your tab key,
Your stubborn L,
How you sometimes hide icons and then surprise me with them
when
I’ve
all
but
given
up.

How rapidly do you scroll?
I know this answer.
I live this answer.

How speedily do you search?
Here I pause, because while fair, strong, and true,
You are also a web sloth.
Like yesterday when I asked you,
What is the capital of Tasmania?
I hit the spyglass and waited
And waited
And waited
As you spun
And spun
And spun
And finally transported me to a place
of pale gray emptiness,
where nothing I could do
would convince you to accept your mission,
not
even
at
your
usual
snail’s
pace.

Now Tasmania has no capital.

This was not the first time,
not even the fiftieth time you said,
NO. NO, I WILL NOT SEARCH FOR YOU TODAY.
That you made me wish for a wall of Encyclopedia Britannica.

I recognize our relationship has changed to one
where I practice patience, deep-breathing, and mantra repetition while trying
not
to
scream
or
break
things.

And this lesson has value; I cannot deny it. So thank you.

But perhaps it’s time for new lessons.
For memorizing the curves and contours of a new keyboard—
The one my work gave me
FOR
FREE.

So adieu, Beloved.

Let’s allow this new day,
dedicated to electronics recycling at this high school gym
and smelling faintly of sports socks

To be the day someone else inherits
the gift of not breaking things.

Adieu.

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/search/computer?photo=z8lfwpQVXJo

Writing Through Trump

Salatka-writing through trump-kayle-kaupanger-200964Preposterous. Unconscionable. Diabolical.

To call him childish insults young humans everywhere.

You know who I’m talking about.

His audacity takes my breath away. He also takes my sleep. And my words.

I, like many of you, am suffering from TIFPS, or Trump-Induced Frozen Pen Syndrome. My words have become a casualty of this inconceivable nightmare-cum-truth. Because it feels like an error in the order of the universe! Like we were heading, albeit upstream, toward a beautiful, self-realized place when suddenly, our canoe flipped and we are now sputtering and speeding toward a massive waterfall! Where giant hungry piranhas await us at the bottom! And even if we can somehow kick them away, the plunge pool is comprised of skin-eating acid and tall shards of glass! I fear we might be dusted.

Yet, something niggles at my brain. There must be a reason, the something whispers. A force like him doesn’t just pop onto the global stage without carting a larger lesson, like a dingleberry tangled into his comb-over.

What good can come of this new reality, where environment-haters are entrusted with our environment? Where public school-haters are entrusted with our public schools? What is the lesson here? I wonder these things as my fingers idle, frozen above the keyboard and my pen lies arrested, poised over paper.

As a Feisty Contributor and Editor, I also wonder how this new world order affects us, our tribe, the scribes of our times. Because we, as the world’s storytellers, must not freeze. Now, more than ever, the world needs us.

How do we combat TIFPS and continue to do the job the universe assigned to us? We cannot lose our words, our voice, the tool that wields the most power!

Here is one idea: let’s use the Apricot Aberration to make us better writers. Because we almost can’t get better fodder. He can be our tangerine-hued, frowny-faced writing prompt. Here are a few questions to ask ourselves to get unstuck:

  1. What words describe how he makes me feel? *
  2. What does this look like? Be specific. (And by specific, I don’t mean truthful. Use alternative facts at will.) *
  3. What is the worst case scenario? Be specific. *
  4. How can I combat this scenario? *

We witness him suck power on a daily basis as though he just rolled out from ten days under a dusty rock and straight into a 7-11 on 7-11, a.k.a., Free Slurpee Day. Sure, he can slurp all he wants, but he will not suck our power.

We must write through his reign so the world knows how we survived. We must capture this moment in time by observing, with our words, the details, the heartbreaks, and the humanity. When was the moment I took a stand? Here is what it looked like. When did I give up? Because I felt like it was too big and I was too small. When did I go from powerless to powerful? Write down all of this. Every speck.

Or maybe you aren’t there yet. You are still frozen, powerless, petrified. We get that, too, and you are not alone. But if you were to take a stand, what would you want that stand to look like? Write that down. If we are able to survive his regime, he may end up being a gift to us all. A majestic awakening. A monumental call for truth, understanding, and above all, compassion. For that to happen, we will need to remember what this time looked like. What this felt, smelled, and sounded like. We need us.

* My answers:

1) I feel powerless, fearful, despondent.

2) I stop standing up for myself at work and at home with my family because it does no good. Why expend the energy? I always lose anyway. I focus on my quilting instead. But my quilt scenes are getting weirder and angrier.

3) We go to war with nations all over the world simultaneously and are immediately close to perishing, every last one of us evaporating into a fungus-shaped cloud.

4) I contact an amazing scientist in Japan who went to my quilting camp in 8th grade. She has identified an enzyme which dissolves both plastic and rubber. With the help of some unsuspicious individuals, boom, all warplanes are grounded. We, as a nation, are forced to return to diplomacy.

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/collections/141077/american-political?photo=ihH2ztuBTOs

Pretend I’m a Kitten

Three newborn kittensWhile critiquing my writing, please pretend I’m a kitten. Because while I’m as feisty as they come, I’m also sensitive. This is not always a great combination. Sometimes I can serve it, but can’t return it. Sure, I’ll dish it, but I refuse to eat it. Mess with the bull, you’ll get the blubbering mess who has torn the horns from her scalp and is trying to stab herself with them while bemoaning, I don’t deserve to be so forsaken. I’m human; I have those days. For now, for the sake of argument, let’s assume every day is one of those days. And also that I’m a kitten.

Let’s role-play. Here I am, walking into our writing class/meetup/poetry jam/critique group/creepy online chat room. I might look put together because my shoes match my scrunchie, but that will be a fluke. Here’s the truth—on the inside, I’m a disaster. It doesn’t matter why. After this meeting, I’m thinking about tying a bunch of twigs together and floating myself out to sea, beckoning large black birds to come feast slowly on my vital organs, killing me softly with their beaks. (You can sing that last part.) I even brought some Styrofoam in my trunk in case the twigs aren’t buoyant enough with my weight on them, but I’d rather not use it because our oceans have enough problems without an additional slice of something with a gazillion year half-life. I will die miserable, but on good terms with our planet.

Before I take myself out, I’ve brought something to read aloud, and it stinks. Of course, it stinks, I wrote it while feeling sorry for myself. This piece reeks of Eau de VICTIM. Few people can get away with VICTIM as their theme. If the main character is a whiner, she better be darn good at something else too. As in, she’s a whiner but she bakes a crazy good cheesecake. Or, she’s a whiner, but she’s also a psychotic axe-murderer who held the word record for underwater hula hooping in 1985. Whining solely to air injustices doesn’t work. I hate to be so bIack and white about things; maybe there’s a person who can pull this off. In general, my thought is that whining is what journals and therapists are for.

Back to our group thing. It’s finally my turn. I read my woe-is-me story out loud (because I have a lot of them, in my journal). There is an extended moment of silence. You want to say, NO. Erase. Redo. Start over. Now is when you should remember that I’m just a kitten. I have big paws that I trip over. I fall asleep in crazy places and funny positions. I make noises that are considered adorable by cat people and, more often than not, I’m scared, but I puff up to look tough. Kittens like me prefer constructive criticism, because we just got here, and we have a lot to figure out. So please, tell me the truth because I’ve come here to learn and improve, but say it with kindness.

Here at thefeistywriter.com, we encourage you to embrace your feisty side, the part of you that says, “Here’s my story, no apologies!” We also remind you to create more distance between yourself and the parts of you that shun praise but shed all armor when baseless criticism is fired straight at your guts. People can be jerks. But not us feisty writers! We are gentle and helpful when people share their truth with us, even when their truth smells like a box of cat turds. We go easy. I’m a kitten; you’re a kitten. Let’s play around and be open and curious with this craft we love and encourage others to do the same.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/Y_pLBbSAhHI