This is a writersliftwednesday blog, sharing the works of fellow writers, poets and persons random. All re-blogs will be linked appropriately to their authors.
Writing is no easy calling and nothing easy was ever worth doing.
Support each other. Share and reshare.
of your normally
hold more weight
than they can
I am the words
of your own voice,
of what the heart
I am the words
expanse of love
is a sea within,
seeking it’s share
from the universe’s
I am the words
when the insides
by a relentless drought,
and the fumes
of the vaporous soul
are too much
I am the words
[An excerpt poem from The Indifferent World]
Three is the loneliest number on a clock
when the night can’t save you.
No doubt it is the constellated tug,
a conspiracy of stars, the silent, primal
voice that whispers the uselessness,
that grinds greater gears,
that mocks the hubris of careful plans,
set alarms. Every blanketed life around you
sleeps safe and happy and secure
like nothing can touch them, like change
has made its exception, named it you,
and passed finally over the frosted roof.
#3 “Lessons of a Story Collection: The Smashing of False Beliefs,” by contributing author Cai Emmons for Women Writer’s, Women[‘s] Books
False Belief #1: I am only a novelist.
I am a novelist—I did not intend to write a short story collection. I write what I love to read, and since I was a young child that has been novels. I used to lie on my side on my bed, elbow bent, head resting in my hand, and read for hours while my mother hounded me to get outside. There was nothing I loved more than escaping into a big immersive book.
It was only natural that, when I became a writer, the ideas that came to me were ideas for novels. When I entered graduate school, it became necessary to write stories. Workshop situations can only handle a certain number of pages, and writing shorter pieces is an efficient way to explore aspects of the writing craft. So, I wrote some short stories during my years as a student. I approached them mostly as exercises, but I began to appreciate the micro focus and concision a good short story demands.
When I left grad school I focused on the writing of novels, but every once in a while, in the twenty years since then, an idea has come to me that is clearly a story not a novel, and I have written it in my rambling novelist’s way. In my head, however, my real mission was the writing of novels and writing stories remained an exercise.
However, a little over a year ago I was perusing the stories that had accumulated in my computer—a few had been published, a few had only been read by close friends—and it occurred to me that there was a clear thread that connected some of the stories. I gathered five of them and knew immediately that they cohered as a collection, despite the fact that I’d written them over a span of twenty years. I sent the collection off to a contest on a whim and was shocked, truly shocked, when it won with the promise of publication. A long-held false belief was smashed. Maybe I could be a novelist and a short story writer?
False belief #2: I am always writing something new.
I think many writers feel as I do, that each time I take up another project I am exploring something new. I never reread my published work to prove that point, so the belief has gone unquestioned, but when re-examining my stories I saw something different. It became clear to me that, for most of my writing life, I have been probing the same basic question: What does it mean to live as a woman in this culture? I never committed to this consciously, it was merely a matter of writing the story that came to mind and seeing what it brought to light. I have certainly been approaching the question from different angles, but the thematic undercurrent, the dianoia of my work, is quite consistent.
The five stories in Vanishing are a case in point. In “The Deed,” for example, a woman is so timid and uncertain about who she is in the world that she cannot even assert ownership over her own house. In “Fat” an aspiring young artist with body issues is forced to reckon with her own judgment of the fat model in her art class. All the situations of the central characters in these stories are unique to women navigating lives in a culture that undervalues them.
How could I not have realized that I was returning again and again to this central question?
False Belief #3: Staying with one form of expression is the best way to “improve.”
Since I’ve been writing novels I am aware of getting better at the discipline. I have novels in a drawer that have never seen the light of day, and I am quite sure they should remain comfortably sleeping there. I have a couple of new novels in the pipeline each of which I believe demonstrates some kind of advancement in my command of the form: more seamless plotting, more concise and evocative language, more profound relevance to the human condition.
But since birthing this story collection so unexpectedly, something else has occurred to me: Maybe I would benefit from writing in different genres. Not just short stories, but poems and plays. My evolution as a novelist had its roots in dramatic writing and, before that, poetry. Why not return to some of those forms periodically to reframe my view of how the written word can function? Why remain exclusively in the novel writing gulag?
My thinking has gone even further than that. Why not attempt some different kinds of art-making which would involve learning new skills? I have always wanted to learn to draw and paint, but I’ve been afraid to try. I also love to dance, but long ago I left behind any disciplined approach to dancing. What if I were to take a drawing class, or learn to tango or tap dance? Doing these things would wire my brain differently, just as language-learning does, and no doubt it would widen and refresh my view of the world.
I have not extended myself yet, but maybe soon, because putting together this story collection has changed me, smashing through a long-held belief that I am a person who does—and should do—only one thing.