Yeah! You Twine That Algae!

Most of the time, the story of how a story is made is boring. The Great Story Birthing often takes one of the two following forms:

  1. The Hollywood Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of a shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, and, shower still running, pen an entire story in one sitting.
  2. The More Often Version: I, THE GENIUS, shout EUREKA! while I’m in the middle of my shower, abandon the tub for my study and a pad of paper, remember that I most often write on a laptop, eagerly tap out five brilliant lines, go eat a slice of an entire box of pizza, forget about the story, return to it a week later, try again, hate myself for not being a better writer, eat an entire box of pizza, and repeat this cycle for several years until something finally manages to reach a somewhat conclusive ending, oftentimes because my house is at that point flooded and I have other things to take care of.

Sometimes, though, a story is something you carry with you throughout your life — something that grows as you grow, both personally and as a writer who goes from thinking ALL SENTENCES ARE COOL to knowing the precise rhythm and feel that make her heart sing.

And that, friends, is the story of the story I’ve just had published on InfectiveInk.com, And How the Algae Twines!

The first time I wrote this story, I was a sophomore in college, staring out my dorm window at the shifting snow drifts howling across the campus quad, thinking of another time when the world was also made of snow and I could feel my first real relationship reaching its zenith and beginning its long, slow descent into the frozen ground. The result: a creative short essay, and the feeling that I wasn’t done.

The second time I wrote this story, I was mored on the shores of a criticism-ridden grad school workshop, trying to be a better writer than I felt I could be. Somehow, I stumbled upon this old essay, languishing in an ancient Word file, and found myself horrified at my use of language, yet intrigued by the thoughts, images and emotions that lay behind it. I returned to my keyboard, and tried to remember what it was to feel. The result: a thirty page behemoth, with ten pages of striking imagery, ten pages of a writer reaching for a moral, and ten pages of a 24-year-old woman, demanding her true experiences find an outlet. And a workshop with an excess of praise and an excess of criticism that would change my writing forever.

The third time I wrote this story, I had been torn down to my core. There were no safe places left — not for me, not for my work. Everything I did was wrong. There was no warm hearth upon which I could nestle. After so many years of fighting for independence, I was on my own and barely able to breathe. Left with the few words that meant something to me. The few words that wouldn’t leave me alone.

It’s been three years since the third time. Three years, and this story has won awards, and finally found publication. The joy of finally seeing this story in print…well, I can’t quite put that into words. Nor can I promise I won’t write this story a fourth time, as I navigate the shriveled climes of my very non-snowy setting. But I can say that the story of this story — this story that began nine years ago and continues on — is one I will carry with me, wherever I go. This story has not left me.

You can read And How the Algae Twines at InfectiveInk.com.

Can’t Finish What I Started

I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I’m a master of beginnings. As in, my MFA really stands for, “Master of First Attempts.” But middles? Ends? Yeah, not so much. Let’s just say if my hard drive is a vast desert, story beginnings bounce like tumbleweeds over the horizon. And there I am, dragging my parched, sunburned body along the sand, just trying to capture one of them — any of them — in my maniacal story web. How’s that for dramatic imagery?

Rather than attempting to give this post an end here, I’ll toss you over to Write By Night, who have been kind enough to publish my musings on the subject of beginnings that have no end. Here’s the article. Voila! Go forth! Complete something for once!

III. Post-MFA, what do I DO with myself?

And now, the final installment of Post-MFA, what in the world do I DO with myself? Good question. Here are a few ideas.

http://www.writebynight.net/writing-help/post-mfa-part3

I’m getting some interesting comments so far and I’d love to know your thoughts. Especially YOU, post-MFAers! What have you done with your career so far? What works for you? What would you like to change? What do you think are ideal roles for writers? Chime in either here or over at Write By Night!

Money, Money, Money: Post-MFA, There is Another Way Part 2

Yep, it’s time to discuss moula. Understanding your own relationship to money (how much you need, how highly you value it, what you’d like for it to do for you) is an essential part of a happy work life. It’s a conversation I feel often gets lost for us artist types, when, in all actuality, having a good, clear relationship with money can further your artistic goals.

But even saying that I’m about to discuss it makes me uncomfortable. How’s that for social training?

What do you think? Check out the article over at Write By Night in part two of Post-MFA, There is Another Way:

http://www.writebynight.net/writing-help/post-mfa-part2/#comments