Posted by: mew | June 22, 2010

smack dab in the middle


So here I am for a belated check-in on the week that was, at the exact midpoint of the Creativity Workshop.   This seems like the ideal moment to give a shout out to Merrilee Faber for the fabulous job she’s done hosting the workshop so far, guiding us all through this grueling* course with encouragement and humor, somehow consistently posting inspiration and nourishment for our writers’ souls, plus practical advice to boot.

Merrilee, you’re awesome!

I know the ranks of the workshop participants are thinning by the week now, but it is no reflection on you or the course, I’m sure.  If my own experience is anything to go by, the reasons have something to do with how tough it is to churn out a story every week, consistently, and within a set framework.  It’s rough going sometimes — but then it’s also invigorating and motivating and illuminating.

I’ve learned about myself as a writer and taken steps forward with my work and my understanding of The Work of an artist, period.  That kind of education is the prize for those of us who feel called to do this crazy, kamikaze thing* and spill our words — and our hearts and our guts — onto the pristine blank page every day, over and over again.

Anyway, that last bit, consistent accumulation of words, I failed at that this week.

I believe I sat in the chair all of two times with my story in mind, and the first time I didn’t even get 300 words written before I went off to take a nap.  By week’s end, I managed barely a thousand words, and I’m sure they’d never end up in the final version.  They read like a rambling backstory, the kind of thing I freewrite in preparation for a novel.  And I probably wouldn’t attempt that novel, if that’s what I had to go on. 😉

In my defense, however, we topped a hundred degrees (with heat index) several days running, and the humidity was intense, and since I work at home in a house without central air, I’ve had no escape.  I actually went to a Hollywood summer time-killer blockbuster in order to sit in a freezing cold room for nearly two hours.

Oh, and toward the end of the week I figured out I could drive to our little public library for some relief.  Usually when I go there, I grab a stack of books and leave, because I hate reading in a cubicle, and reading in one of the circle of comfy, overstuffed armchairs in the center of the floor plan makes me feel as if I’m on public display.  (Ooh, Mom, look at the reader!)

Nonetheless, I may find myself occupying an old-school cubicle for writing purposes this week.  That position might also have the effect of forcing me to focus, with no distractions like dishes or laundry or garden or internet calling to me as soon as I try to form a sentence on paper.  Talk about two birds with one stone.

Also, F. bought a window AC unit for the bedroom this weekend, and now that it’s installed, I should be able to get a good night’s sleep.  Maybe the story output will improve somewhat, just because I’m not so grumpy in the mornings (which is generally when I write).

Of course, there is always the risk that this new addition to our home will inspire more midday retreats to the cool bed for a nap with Leo, who seems to know the right way to handle these temperatures.

Let’s just hope I make the right choice.  (You are welcome to cross your fingers for me.)

This week’s story is based on something that actually happened to me in college:  meeting a man in the emergency room of a hospital while we both waited to have one of our limbs x-rayed for breakages.  It was strange and weird and in the end he turned out to be creepy, although I didn’t know that when I left the hospital on crutches, elated because he wanted to take me to the upcoming school dance.  (Never mind that I could not dance with a broken ankle.  Inconvenient details like the brand new cast now attached to my leg were not allowed to intrude and pierce the bubble of my adolescent fantasy that my future true love had just found me in an empty hospital hallway in the middle of the night.  Yeah, right.)

But in this week’s version, in order to write a real, flesh-&-blood, three-dimensional male character, I am going to reverse our physical conditions, change the whys and wherefores of the incidents that got us individually to the hospital — and then make the female character in the midst of a full-blown, babbling mania.


Don’t you think that tiny, windowless corridor might start to feel a bit uncomfortable, especially with no other people around, not even a busy nurse coming to check on them for what feels like hours?  (Sounds a bit like Sartre’s Huis Clos for university students, n’est-ce pas?)

And because of his broken ankle, my male protagonist will be unable to just walk away.  He could probably crawl away, but really I hope I don’t need to take it that far.  It will either be funny or crazy or horrible, but the scenario should force him to reveal some depths of personality.  And also, I might exorcise a few personal demons of memory by writing it this way — and hopefully have fun doing it, too.

I’ll let you know soon.  Meanwhile, look out for the integral settings exercise in this space, coming soon.

*So I exaggerate.  Let’s call it “poetic license.”  Truthfully, the course has been very challenging… but mostly because I have to master my own inner psychology daily to get my butt in the chair and actually write.  The other stuff seems to be incidental to this most crucial of tasks — and it turns out it becomes harder to do after I fail at it a few times.  If I push through the resistance anyway, I get on a roll and it’s easier to write every day:  just following the energy, you know?

(The photos are a few more abstracts from my new, playful photography pastime.  This series is tentatively called “Childhood.”)



  1. I’ll definitely cross my fingers for you! I have thought of going to my own library to work because 1) my husband and I share an office and 2) the library, though full of wonderful things (books! dvds! magazines!) is not full of laundry and piles of papers and household chores whining at me. I haven’t done it yet, but I very well may this summer since my son is out of school, too.
    F is most definitely a hero for installing that air conditioner. What a guy!

    • Thank you, Kathy! Library quiet and cool is an escape that is working for me right now. And as you point out, no laundry. What could be nicer?

      I’d probably kill F. if we had to share an office. He’s not teaching for the remainder of the summer and has moved his research into another room of the house, and I feel like we smash into each other all day, with the best of intentions. You have my admiration, for sure.

  2. Oh I am intrigued!!! That story idea sounds fantastic.

    And I am amazed that you can withstand the heat. I don’t know if I could deal without the A/C. I hate to go outside if it’s over 80 degrees.

    • I’m so glad it grabbed your interest, Alisha. It was a weird one for me, but I’m glad I did it.

      I honestly cannot withstand it. I’ve been so listless and lethargic lately. The other day I realized that even after it got dark outside it was still 87 degrees. That’s crazy! I want to protest that I was robbed of my gentle June — but I have no energy left to do so. 😉

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Meredith! I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed this week thanks to work, so I appreciated the appreciation 🙂

    Going to the library sounds like an excellent idea. And the story sounds wonderfully creepy. Good luck with it!

    • You’re so welcome, Merrilee. 😀

      The library has been working out well!

  4. I look forward to hearing more about that story from the hospital. It’s a great mental image – the guy stuck, the woman babbling.

    • It was fun to write, Lisa. I’m not sure it would be my favorite short story ever, but maybe I needed to get it worked out of my system, like an exorcism. 😉

  5. Sounds like an interesting story — and all I can add to your comments on the sainted Merrilee is ditto and another exclamation point.

    Yeow — you are farther south than me and I can’t imagine being here in NC without air conditioning! Glad you got one in your bedroom!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: