Strange new writing experience

This is a bit odd, so bear with me while I explain this.

I’m working on my second fiction project for class this semester. The first draft isn’t due for about five or six weeks, and I just turned in the draft of my first project last week, so I have plenty of time. I’ve had the itch to get going on it. I did an outline, which is unnatural for me even though it’s a vital part of writing. (My outlines are usually half-assed random notes and ideas scribbled in four or five different notebooks.) After doing a real outline I’ve been doing extensive research. The story takes place about 1969 and in the American southwest. There’s a car that’s a big part of the story and it involves a road trip. I’ve reached out and found somebody with this classic car that is willing to help me out. I also tracked down a 1969 USA road atlas. I’m familiar with the time period, but I’m fact-checking, etc., all in the name of authenticity.

So what? Well all the research, note taking, and outlining have made me impatient to write it. So I sat down and started tonight. I just wanted to get something down. And oddly, this time I went to the computer instead of my normal handwriting method. The story starts out in the car with my four key characters having a conversation. I was about three pages in when I wrote an exchange that made my stomach flip-flop. This was strange for me. One of the characters said something that sent a shockwave through the car and I was writing the reactions and sudden discomfort of the other three people. I’ve gotten attached to characters in books or movies and felt a pang when either I thought something bad was going to happen, or something bad did happen to them. Never did I ever think that I would write something that would have that effect on me, because I’m writing it. And certainly not after a couple pages.

Hey writers, I know you’re out there reading this. Please tell me, has this ever happened to you?

Creative Writing meta-fiction assignment

The coffee shop is full of small round tables. Most are vacant on the frigid sub-zero morning. Even the draw of fresh brewed steaming-hot coffee is not enough to pull many people out of their beds on this bitter morning. The comforting and invigorating smell of brewing coffee fills the air.

Two women sit at a table near the center of the seating area. They braved the cold to share each other’s company, something they look forward to each week. Their faces are painted with exhaustion. They’re emotionally drawn and quartered. Not that they ever complain, but they need this weekly break from husbands, children, work, and numerous responsibilities. A short respite from life as they know it.

When they are able to have time alone, they choose to spend the fleeting moments with each other. They share the time over a cup of coffee or tea, whichever strikes their mood. These meetings are their escape. They’re anonymous here. The endless demands stop for just a short time. The needs of others vaporize for a few minutes. Sometimes they chat, these friends of countless years. Sometimes they’re quiet, finding comfort in the mere presence of the other.

Without a word they can sense how the other feels, what they need at the moment, support, or simply quiet escape. They can read each other’s expressions, or flick of their hair, or the way a hand rests on the table, and know exactly what it means. It’s an unconscious sign language that’s evolved over a few decades of friendship.

Today they’ve been mostly silent, choosing to soak up the peace. The shop is quiet except for the slight murmur of two employees talking behind the counter. Their peace is broken when a balding middle-aged man approaches their table. He has papers in his hands and tentatively holds one out between the women. His discomfort is apparent as he explains that the paper is a project for his Creative Writing class. He explains that they have no obligation to read it, and that he’s not selling anything. They can use it as a coaster for their cups, or to dispose of a piece of gum, or crumple it up and use it as a cheap cat toy. Neither of them reach for it. He sets it down, thanks them for their time, and walks away. Their eyes meet, relieved that the uninvited guest has gone away.

I thank you for your time. I’m not selling anything, this is an obligation-free handout. This momentary diversion from your day is a meta-fiction writing project for my Creative Writing class final. Thanks again for spending your time reading my words.

Starbucks anti-student?

I have a class assignment for Creative Writing which requires me to “publish” a short piece based on one of the styles we have studied this semester. The requirement is to write something that involves the venue in which it is going to be published. I frequent a Starbucks in Burnsville, MN. It is connected to a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I thought this would be the perfect venue. I decided on meta-fiction and that I would hand it out to a few customers.

Saturday when I bought my drink I explained what I was doing. I’m in school, it’s a project, I’m not selling anything, it’s not profane or offensive. I was flatly turned down by a rather rude worker. (Maybe she hadn’t had her coffee yet?) I was disappointed to say the least. How can a corporation that relies on many students for their workforce be so callous and cold?

I sat down and had my tea and relied on my stealth to distribute a couple of sheets to some women I’d seen before. I also stashed a few and left them behind. But I didn’t get as much research as I wanted for this publishing exercise.

I think that next time I will just do what I want. I’ve heard it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I’m one of the dunces left in this world that still asks permission. That puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I had to get this off my chest and rant a little about Starbucks. Why doesn’t Starbucks support students?

I’ll post the assignment in my next post.

Small (writing) Victories

I write, and write, and write, but it doesn’t always feel like I get anywhere. Sometimes a little thing can feel like a victory though. It can feel like progress.

I do most of my writing with pen on paper. I like the tactile feedback of putting pen to paper. It feels more “real” to me. It feels like I’m creating instead of just typing. I know that’s silly, but it works for me. I imagine it to be parallel to the artist putting the brush to canvas. Pen on paper is my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite. I love my computer and all the wonderful programs that make life easier. But pen on paper is where I start.

So what is the point of all this babble? Well, every time my pen runs dry I feel like celebrating. Because it means I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s progress, I’m moving forward. Another empty pen, another productive day.

Beautiful World

Recently I was talking about yet another book that I started writing, and a friend told me that I write a lot of “twisted” stuff. Which I took as both a compliment and a challenge. So I sat down and tried to write something a bit less “twisted” than my usual fare. Please enjoy:

Beautiful World

The sky stretches out before me, an endless expanse of soothing cool blue.

Wisps of white caress the blue.

A lush, deep green field surrounds me, moving by an unseen force.

A breeze wraps around, gently embracing me.

The deft hands of a master play the reeds of grass like an instrument.

A song of “hush” fills my ears.

A neon-bright yellow butterfly bounces through the air, searching for a flower to rest upon.

The green below me races to the horizon to join blue sky.

The white fingers reach out, touch the green.

At peace, I close my eyes and lift my face to the sky, inviting the sun to warm my face.

The breeze returns, engulfing me, gripping me in a soft motherly hug.

I’m lifted and relieved of my earthly binding.

Carried through the heavens, I’m one with the air, one with the sun, one with the universe.

Released from my constraints, I surround the earth.

My host shares with me her every elemental beauty.

I’m adrift in a peaceful feeling never experienced before.

I see, feel, and hear everything. And nothing.

The sensory overload tests my consciousness, which is pulled to its limit before my time is up.

I’m pulled against my will and returned to my corporeal prison, left longing for release again.

I can see it with my eyes, and now I’ve felt it with my soul.

It’s a beautiful world.


The following is a fictional piece. I’ve been working on my book and I went off on a tangent while writing a certain scene. A four or five sentence paragraph grew into a few paragraphs. It does not fit within the story I am writing, it’s just too heavy of a passage. There is already enough sadness in the book to include this also. So here it is:


The image in the mirror shows a man he should know. The face is recognizable, but he doesn’t really know the man before him. Staring back at him is a man at an age that is unfamiliar to him. His mind has tricked him into thinking he is much younger. The reflection doesn’t lie, nor deceive, it is truthful. Unlike his mind and his heart, the mirror is brutally honest.

He searches the reflection for his past. Grasping desperately to hold on to any memory he can. He knows something is there, but the years have been stealing the memories. Hiding them. Faster. More efficiently. Relentlessly. With every tick of the clock.

His mind struggles and his heart aches to maintain his tenuous grip on the past. It’s unfairly ripped away from him. It’s a child’s toy caught in the surf. It should wash toward shore, but is rhythmically pulled away into a vast expanse of nothing. He watches helplessly, unable to intervene.

The mirror is a friend of the young. It has become his enemy. It’s judgmental. It gives no comfort. Nostalgia means nothing to this cold lifeless foe. It will not help bring back his past. It is steadfast with an unforgiving reminder of the present.

Anger overtakes him. He swings his hand up and smashes the mirror with his palm. The cracks radiate out in every direction from his hand, a reflective kaleidoscope. He holds his hand against the broken mirror while blood trickles down his arm. His reflection is distorted beyond recognition. He looks at the blood dripping into the sink, mixing with his tears, slowly flowing down the drain.

The Table

I sit at the table, my composition notebooks, journals, pens, and laptop spread out in front of me. It’s a very old wooden table. It’s seen more years and history than I have. It’s older than I may ever be. It’s been around for so long and has been surrounded by so many different people, that it almost has a soul of its own. It’s weathered and worn, smooth, not rough. It’s gotten shiny with age. It still smells like wood, a pleasing scent, a comforting scent. It’s stable, sturdy, and heavy, built in a time when long-term quality was an expectation instead of something that causes surprise or wonderment. The deep dark rich honey color feels warm and inviting. Gather around and sit down, it’s time for a shared meal.

The little nicks, scratches, and scrapes on the table top intrigue this observer. They don’t just tell a story, they tell a library full of stories. Joy, sadness, grief, relief, laughter, anger, resentment, ambivalence, jealousy, hatred, and love, it’s seen them all. Stories that it cannot tell, it cannot share. This table took an oath of secrecy, not by choice, but by destiny.

Put your palms flat on the surface and you will feel like you are touching the past. Close your eyes and you will feel the passion of the builder. Feel the care that went into selecting the right wood. Feel the craftsmanship and the pride that went into creating this testament to the skill of the builder. Feel the craft that was handed down from generation to generation.

The shiny surface would make you think that it would feel cool, but it’s always warm to the touch. I like to think that it has absorbed an eternal warmth from those it has encountered.

My dream is spread across this wonderful table. The builder is gone, but I hope that somehow they know how special it feels for me to use this table to craft my work. This table inspires me. Most would probably never take note of it the way I do. I suspect that few would feel the way I do about a simple table. This table has touched so many lives. When I look at it, I imagine where it has been, who it has encountered, what has been discussed by those that have rested their elbows upon it. I want to reach into this table and pull it all out. I want to experience it all. Feel it, hear it, smell it, breathe it.

I cannot though. I have to settle for my imagination.