I Give Up.

“I thought you’d already given up blogging,” some of you might say. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve been actively engaged in maintaining this blog, so your reaction is justified.

No, what I mean is, I’m giving up teaching writing.

This is a tough decision, because in the last few years, I’ve seen some really amazing things with my writing students and private instruction clients.

There have been people in my Legacy of Words classes that swore to me they couldn’t write a thing, and yet they hand me these pages full of lovely words that make me laugh or cry or sigh with contentment. I’ve had fiction writers whose eyes flare wide with that moment of recognition and epiphany, then come to me and tell me they finally figured out the ending to that story that’s been bothering them, or that they started a new novel and wrote seven chapters in one week.

So, I thought I was doing a good job. I thought my words, my encouragement, my excitement for the written word was spilling forth in ways that brought people along to their “next level.”

But I found out today: I’ve been doing it all wrong.

How do I know? I stumbled across a video titled, “How to Effortlessly Write the Perfect Short Story in One Hour.”

I’ve been ripping these students and clients off, apparently. I’m a charlatan. A scam artist. Because, I was working under the wrong set of assumptions. Here’s what I believed about writing fiction, which is contradictory to this new method:

1) Writing fiction is hard. The idea of “effortlessly” writing anything is foreign to me. Drafting is hard. Revision is hard. Getting feedback is hard, and knowing just what to do with the feedback is even harder. I don’t even make a shopping list effortlessly. Practice and evaluate and revise. Repeat. Repeat. That’s what it takes. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

2) There is no perfect story, or novel. Naeem Murr is a great writer, and one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the joy of knowing. He told me, and I believed him, that there is no perfect work. That there is always something that could be done better. That even the best story will seem, to the writer, deficient a few years later, when he or she looks back at the piece and sees how the problems of the story would be tackled differently now. Which leads to…

3) Learning the craft of fiction is an ongoing, never-ending process. The best story you can write today is not the best story you can write. Next month, next year, in twenty years, this “best thing I’ve ever written” will seem a little stale, full of holes, naive, and clumsy. That’s because the more we write, the better we get, and the more we are capable of.

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But all three of these assumptions are destroyed with a title like, “How to Effortlessly Write the Perfect Short Story in One Hour.” There is no effort needed. There is no growth in craft, because you can’t improve on perfection. You don’t need years of practice and learning and synthesizing knowledge: it only takes an hour to be set.

I hope this guy is charging at least $30,000 for this information. If he’s able to do in one hour what an MFA program only PREPARED me to do, then he deserves it.

My apologies to those of you from whom I’ve bilked money. I’m chopping my snake-oil wagon up for fire wood and shaving off my handlebar mustache and cutting my plaid-striped carnival barker’s suit into strips to be used as prayer flags for the yurt where I am planning to retire and write, effortlessly, one perfect story every day for the rest of my life. I may take the day off, occasionally, for holidays and such. There is no reason to over-burden the world with perfect stories.

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On Edge or On The Edge?

Over the last few days, I’ve felt a little nervous. Sometimes I get this way, when I have this lingering feeling that something is about to happen, something is about to break free.

This nervousness certainly manifests itself in several ways, for me: irritability, shortness, lack of concentration, and feelings of ambivalence. (And that’s even when I think the “big break” is going to be something positive…)

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How in the world can I ever expect others to understand this novel if the one person in the world who should be able to decode it (ME!) finds it confounding?

Yesterday I sat down to work on my novel-in-progress. I’ve been chipping away at this thing lately, moving into the next phase, the final phase of the first fully-realized draft. The scene I needed to write was a flashback scene, and in order to do it justice (as well as ensure it had all of the right information in it) I had to go back to an earlier scene and find some very specific things I had written. Years ago. Literally.

In that process of digging around and trying to remember what I’d already revealed in the earlier bits and trying to pin down all that I wanted to reveal in the scene that needed to be written yesterday, I found myself bogged down in the pure insanity that this novel is.

I was, to put it mildly, quite discouraged. So much so, that I wasted away the one day this week I actually had a full day to work on the book. So much so, that I contemplated drop-kicking the whole thing into Tampa Bay and starting some new endeavor, like “Fast Food Technician” or “Domestic Cleanliness Aficionado.” Surely, God, if I’m supposed to be a writer, I wouldn’t be writing books that confuse the only person who might reasonably have a chance of figuring this mess out: ME!

It was evening, it was morning: a new day dawned. I took a deep breath, remembered how some of my favorite writer friends—those writer friends whose words make me swoon—have been discouraged lately, too.

No drop kicks. No giving up. A day away, and maybe a weekend of hammering away at organizational issues, but no giving up.

I’m on the edge of something much bigger than the little pieces that have been floating around, and that puts my personality on edge. “Hold on,” I tell myself. “Hold on for a wild ride.”

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photo credit: Rennett Stowe via photopin cc