Tag Archives: writing

Posting short stories

I’ve been going back and forth whether to post short stories on this blog, and finally decided to go for it.

The tension was completely fear-based and had to do with the risk of being vulnerable and the stories sucking and all that crap.

I’m going to start sifting through old stories and will post the ones that seem finished, or finished enough. The plan is also to write new ones. At some point.

So. If you’re interested, you can click the link at the top of the page to go to the landing page for the stories, or click here and you’ll be able to see what’s up on the site.

The first one that’s up is something that was published in Storychord and edited by my friend Leesa Cross-Smith. It was written under a pseudonym, so don’t be thrown by the byline. I hope you enjoy it.

A first-draft take on life

My buddy Matt texted me today, to say that he’d read all my 2016 blog posts. My first response was to ask him what had possessed him. As I was texting this question, a second text came, telling me that he’d noticed a few “tics” here and there, meaning typos.

I explained to Matt that there will probably always be typos in these blog posts because it’s a first-draft take on life. After I sent that text, I re-read it and liked the phrase “first-draft take on life,” which I hadn’t used before. I liked that phrase because that’s exactly what this blog is.

Because I’m attempting to write a blog post or make a video or do some other creative thing that can be represented here on this blog, there isn’t time to be precious. I sit and think, then write. After that, I read through it once to make sure it makes some sense. I might catch a typo or two at this time, but I’m often guilty of missing the typo because I’ve read what I meant, not what I actually wrote. After that, I load the text into WordPress, then make an image or two to go along with it. Once this has been accomplished, I’m done. I hit “send” and forget about it.

New Morning
“New Morning” 1/7/16

Each post you see here is merely a snapshot of my day: what I’ve done, what I’m thinking, what is haunting me, warts…and typos…and all.

Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird liberated me from first-draft perfectionism with her “Shitty First-Drafts” concept. Hopefully, I haven’t taken it too far by crapping out shitty blog posts. I’ll leave that up to you, and save the polishing for work that may, or may not end up on another page of this site at some future date. In the meantime, thanks Matt (and you) for reading…and giving me something to write about this evening.

Be a Doer, Not a Talker-Abouter

I was looking through some old files and found this essay from 2006 that I wrote for “Business First.” It’s a good reminder for me.  Maybe it is for you too…

6064828421_02499ee2f6I recently attended the funeral of a cousin who had been a big part of my youth but had slipped to the fringes of my adult life.  She was fifty-two and left a husband and three children between the ages of nine and twenty-five.  Her death was sudden and terrible and brought the extended family together to mourn and remember.

At the service, I sat in the back, and as the preacher worked his way through the message, I watched the family and friends gathered there and wondered what they thought.  I also wondered about my cousin, her regrets and what they might have been.  After a while, I turned the question on myself and gave it serious thought.

About a year ago, I made a leap of faith and acted on a desire that I’d been putting off for years.  When I was in my twenties, it was easy to avoid things – there was always tomorrow – but the back end of my thirties had left me with some looming regrets that were getting harder to ignore.

The biggest of these was an unfulfilled desire to write, to tell stories about things that were important to me.  I grew up telling stories and dreaming about having them published, but feared the vulnerability that comes with putting thoughts to paper.  I had made a few lame attempts, but retreated to my books and journal at the first twinge of exposure.

The pangs of regret were slight, at first, and easy to ignore, but they persisted and grew to the point of distraction, until my fear of regret overcame my fear of being judged and goaded me into action.

There were many false-starts.  After a lot of shuffling around the house, I realized I couldn’t work there.  The distractions were too much.  Evenings were the same.  The intrusions on my schedule forced me to consider other options, and I ended up at a local coffee shop, hanging out for a couple hours each morning before work.  I hated to give up sleep, but it was the best option.

Those first weeks were spent reading and thinking about writing.  I didn’t put a single word to paper.  I didn’t know where to begin, so I read how-to books by Stephen King, Anne Lamott, and John Dufresne, as well as countless pieces gathered from the internet.  I pored over each text with a red pen and yellow highlighter, looking for clues and gaining some much needed discipline.

One morning, a few months later, I showed up, as usual, but when I grabbed the book I’d been reading, I felt weird.  I opened it and struggled to get through a single page.  I couldn’t focus.  I tried again, but my mind kept drifting off to a story idea.  I couldn’t shake it, so I put the book away and took out a legal pad and started writing.  Within moments I was drawn into an alternate reality and became so focused that I was late for work.  I went back to the story at lunch, that day, and couldn’t wait to pick it up the following morning.  I was on my way.

A mentor encouraged me to keep busy and produce as much work as I could, believing that a high volume of output would help to speed up the learning curve.  He also believed in the pressure of deadlines and suggested setting fake ones until real deadlines came along.  I followed his advice and soon found myself juggling four deadlines with the stuff I was doing for myself.

There’s a quote by Woody Allen that goes, “80% of success is just showing up.”  I love that line and repeat it often.  I have great faith in the idea behind it because, after showing up at a coffee shop every morning for more than a year, reading and thinking and staring out windows, I finally had a breakthrough.  I put a word on a piece of paper, and then another, and then another until I had many legal pads filled with words.  It’s difficult work and I still worry about what people will think, but I’m having too much fun to stop now.  My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.