Sunday, May 06, 2007

On Writing...

I've always attempted journaling but I can't say that I've had very good luck. There are journals piled around here everywhere, some of them full, some half-full, some sporadically drawn and written in. Doodles, phrases...sentences if they're lucky. Periods of manic scribbling and years of silence.

My computer has become more of a journal than any bound volume could've ever hoped. I can type much faster than I write. In light of this simultanous compulsion to write and total lack of consistency, my computer has lots of little bits of me floating around in it. I write snatches...thoughts that seem particularly poetic or promising. Blips of frustration. Collections of mild insanity. Since I can't sleep, I was reading through some of my niblets and found a diatribe on writing short stories.....

I don’t particularly like short stories. They’re premature novels…brain puffs that never got loved into life. They’re the angsty teenagers of the literary world standing bold and defiant amidst authorities but really longing for love and maturity. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m no Flannery O’Connor or Annie Proulx. I’m not even a second-rate John Grisham or Dan Brown. Maybe I’m just mad because I don’t think I have a good short story in me. A friend says we all have one novel in us. I happen to know I have four novels in me, but short stories…I don’t feel those knocking on the inside of my head antsy to be loosed upon the world. The novels are insistent. Bratty even. They claw and scratch and scramble. Short stories don’t whip themselves up in my head. They don’t jump around like magic beans..

I feel like I should write short stories. Shouldn’t I crawl before I walk? And that’s a cliché I wouldn’t put into a short story unless it was a particularly naughty one that I felt needed punishing. If I wrote a short story I’d want it to be gritty. Completely unlike me in every visible way. I would step half out of myself. I would put the academian aside and embrace my past. The one I don’t think about too often. I would embrace my upbringing. The one that most “refined” people would hope I’d find embarrassing. The Texas’ness in me. The street dances and the rodeos. The smell of cow shit globbed on the foot rail at the stockyards. Grease and rocks and fried fish. Baby rabbits in shoe boxes—a surprise from my grandpa. Crawfishing with bacon on a string, my grandmother chasing my cousin around with a cigarette in one hand and a flyswatter in the other. “Y’all” and “yesterdy night” and horses and trail rides and thunderstorms. The dirtiest, most precious station wagon on the planet. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr., and Big Red soda. My ancestors would kick my country girl ass for calling it soda.

And then I went back to work on a short story that I've left languishing, loveless for a year or more.


  1. In addition to all the other places I write, I use for personal journalling. I too am very inconsistent at this, but at least it all ends up in the same place. It's very scattered, bits and pieces of brain fluff all over, whatever happens to need spewing at the moment. And it's password protected. No one ever reads it but me. I need a place where I can write anything I want, without concern for who might be reading it.

  2. I'm the same way with journals. I love paper and books and all types of writing items. But I also find the computer my constant. Also I feel the same about the writing and stopping and why can't I just do a small project etc.

    Just a comment to let you know you're not alone.

  3. I hadn't thought of using livejournal that way, Cdn. For some reason, even though I have an account, I always forget I can password protect my entries. That would be a great way to keep a private journal. Thanks for the idea!

    Nik, thanks. It's good to know we're all floudering around sometimes. :)

  4. I think that short stories are significantly harder to write well than longer pieces of fiction because there is no room for error.

    I have dozens of blankbooks and journals, but rarely use them for keeping a journal (I despise the word "journaling") mostly I make lists in them.

  5. I have found that I can type and think faster than I can write and type. I do keep some small notepads around to record random thoughts and quotes.

  6. I'm the same way-- I type much faster than I write (and much more legibally). However, I do sit down once in a while and write in my paper journal, that I've kept since I was 14-- for 31 years now. I find it amazing to go back and see my frame of mind when I was a teenager, or in college, or dealing with a family problems, relationships, etc.

    One of my favorite high school teachers, who I blogged about yesterday, was a big fan of the short story, and made the same point Lulu did-- that their brevity makes them harder to write.

  7. It's funny you wrote about journaling because just today I was thinking I should take it up again. I generally don't maintain a private journal when I'm happy all around, but find it very comforting when something is bothering me. I've switched to the password protected computer variety though. :)

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  8. I agree, Lu. Which is probably why I don't like them--I'm long winded. :D And why don't you like the word journaling? Although it can't be any weirder than my abhorrance of the words "sandwich board". Gives me the creeps.

    Kristy, I have a "bullshit book" for much the same reason. If I have a thought that is threatening to get away, it goes in the BS book.

    Wow, Johnny! That's committment to a journal! I'm impressed. I think the longest I've written consistently was just a year or so.

    Ari, I'm the same way. When I'm happy I don't feel the same urge to write. Thus my blog generally suffers when I'm peachy happy.

  9. Geez, Andi, that's a great little piece of writing.

    Journaling is one of those things that writers are allegedly supposed to do and I have to tell you I just don't buy that. I write bits and pieces, like you do, and if I handwrite them they're gone for good. I hate to think how many little pieces of writing have gone bye-bye along with the computer they were stored in. At some point, I realized that what I'm best at is writing stupid little anecdotes. Pitiful, but true. The blog is my medium. Too bad it doesn't pay. LOL

    I need to suggest some short-story authors for you to read. I think it's actually more difficult for most authors to write short pieces with skill. Simon's book, of course, and Anna Gavalda's I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere are a couple that come to mind. What you talk about in that little journal piece sounds like Larry Brown's autobiographical work. Have you read On Fire or Billy Ray's Farm?

  10. Not pitiful at all re: anecdotes! I love your anecdotes.

    I'm going to look up those short story writers and collections RIGHT NOW!!! I always love to fall in love with a new short story or writer. While I don't love every one I read, finding a gem is fantastique!

  11. i feel the same way about short stories...I don't think I have short stories IN me and moreover I've never enjoyed reading them, to be honest. Finally I've thrown in the towel and I am writing a novel with not ONE completed short story to my name. Fuck it, I say. Write what you want to write and see what sticks - it's really the only way to do this gig.

  12. well believe it or not this is a journal, albeit an interactive one, and you're pretty good at it. I love your little snippet, your "short story". Face it Andi, you are a good writer. Period.

  13. My blog seems to be a journal of sorts for me although I have many perfectly good empty paper journals around, I find them hard to resist buying.

    I have maybe a good short story or two in me but I'm doubtful about having a whole novel in me.

    I liked your diatribe. It was short story-like Andi!

  14. See -- just that post itself is a good bit of writing.

    I have never been able to do the journaling thing regularly except when I backpacked through Europe for a few months. Having that time on trains and in hostels made it easier to maintain.

    I type a heck of a lot faster than I write but in return my writing has seriously gotten messy!

  15. I don't like it because it seems "nounverby" to me, like "scrapbooking". Why not just say "keeping a journal"?


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