On Hitting Day 50 of #100DaysOfStories

I hit day 50 of my challenge #100DaysOfStories last week. I’d let off keeping track of the days that I actually managed to write for a full hour, although I hadn’t stopped using that time frame as the goal. Also, because the Daily Writing Challenge spreadsheet I use was originally created for the 250 words a day challenge, getting at least 250 remains a goal as well.

So for instance, in writing “The Gods That Made God” (aka “Young Gods”) I might write for a full hour for several days. But once the story reached its end, the most important thing I can do during the daily hour is read/review/re-write. So then I would do a free write on some other essay or story (I also like to do this in order to prime the pump even when not doing re-writes) to get up 250 words, and then I can spend the rest of the time combing through the story and not think about whether I’m meeting my word count.

I’m tired.

I was up last night, not because of my younger son, but awake for 3 hours just because. I suspect this is the inevitable return of my monthly hormonal cycle; while I’m neither ovulating or menstruating quite yet, the ghost of the hormone machine is beginning to crank up, getting ready for full gear in a few months, I suppose.

What have I learned in these first 50 days? That it took 5 months to get those hours. That many days all I can muster 250 words, or about 15 minutes. That in order to do anything at all, I have to abandon whatever story I wanted to work on, and just free write a blog post on my feelings or reactions to the news.

What I’ve learned is that like marriage, the only thing in writing is getting back up and starting over again. There is no there-there; some days I feel it, feel the deep soul of my relationship filling me up, illuminating each aspect of my life. And a lot days I just tread water. Like my marriage, I riot and complain and threaten to leave … and then get right back to it in the morning. These 50 days have taught me that like my marriage or running, the comfort is not in what is accomplished, but rather the routine itself, the repetition.

What I’ve come to respect in these 50 days is how crappy a writer I am. I’ve written about it in this blog, but I can’t stress enough how hard that simple fact is to face. As I discussed with my brother, and he agreed he faced the same, when you realize that you will never glamorously succeed, that the fantasy must be retired, a gush goes out of you. Like a dam let loose, you watch that power rush away and standing in the trickle that barely covers your ankles, you think, man, is this enough force? In the end all the energy was in the dream.

I’m tired.

I also think there maybe something important in enjoying the story that I’m writing, finding the whole process not a chore or a drag, but a simple, indulgent joy. But I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure how to get there. Maybe like running, there’s days for knowing that everything hurts and that all you can do is a maintenance run and there are others where you realize you soar.

The Mother and Other Stories, Writing Utopia, & #100DaysOfStories, Day 40!?

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous” Aristotle, according to the little paper attached to my tea bag.

Two things conspired on me this morning: one was submitting a flash fiction to Flash Fiction Online (the staff is interesting, the work is solid, but dear g-d that has to be the dullest title of any magazine I’ve seen yet. perhaps created during the early digital optimization days when it was oh-so-important to have a title that would come up in google. or not. maybe the editors were simply tired by the need to have clever titles.) I don’t know if this was in the hard sells section or just general advice, but the editor explicitly states that she’s tired of misery. She makes the argument, which has been on my mind of late, that given the generally agreed upon depressing state of affairs, doesn’t it behoove us to write something upbeat. She even refers to the Depression/postwar penchant for optimistic media, a point which I just used in an fight with my brother.

Except, of course, I was arguing that folks like him [which is to say, doing really well] are obsessed with dystopia worlds, because that’s their form of escapism. Free me from this plenty!

It’s a shame, then, that I sent a dystopian flash fiction piece. On the bright side, when I receive my inevitable rejection, I’ll be able to to assuage my grief with the notion that at least they were pretty clear that this was not what they wanted to see. [and on a curious other note, hard sells included mother/child stories. Since I just decided that the overarching theme I want to pursue is not feminism or gender issues, but pointedly maternal issues, this came as a kind of side blow. Really? Really!? There’s LOTS of mother/child stories? Am I that much under a rock? I mean, I am. I know I am. But. Damn. Still disappointing.]

But what I actually wanted to think about in this post is: how to write interesting, but not dark fiction?

I read this part of their website just before listening to a segment on wnyc on Dutch author Rutger Bregman’s new book about utopia via open borders and universal basic income. There’s an author whose name I don’t recall, interviewed in Clarkesworld (maybe. it was years ago) and he said that he has set several stories in utopias and guess what? There was still plenty to say, still plenty of action.

I’m not terribly drawn to the idea of dreaming up utopia or for that matter, dystopias: if the story (or the character or the conceit) needs a utopia or dystopia, then that’s what the world will be. Actually, now that it’s in my head, why not create *my* take on utopia? (From my current set of half writtens, Flippers or the IT Manager might actually be more compelling if set in a utopia) For now, I’ll leave that challenge alone for the more interesting one: writing something … what’s the right word? Upbeat? Cheerful? Wholesome? All those words make me cringe.

But what doesn’t make me cringe is an awesome story where there’s real love, courage, moments where you go, Yeah! Go, go, go!

If I’m honest, I, too, am exhausted by dark worlds where no one can be trusted and nothing is what it seems.

But. Let’s be honest. Disney and disneyfication* exhausts my patience as well.

The answer is ¬†good art, but that’s tricky. For all the commentary on the different elements of Stranger Things, from the use of pastiche to the music and everything else, it was just good. Good as in it made you feel good. There was also a surprising triumph of good&love&courage in the show. Bwah. But it’s just not that easy.

How do you do it?

And the final thought for today: The Mother & Other Stories. That’s going to be the name of the collection of speculative fiction short¬†stories I am working on. It’s going to begin with the short story “The Mother” and end with the novella “The Fire God and Nothing.” Maybe done by 2020 at my snail’s pace? Maybe self published on Amazon because I’ll finally have reconciled myself to just loving my work without the need for recognition?

 

*disneyfication actually refers to the colonization by Disney of real spaces, not fictional ones. But you get the idea.