First paragraphs

The past couple of posts have been writing excerpts from my friends in this group. Reading words, especially the words of my friends always helps to motivate me and remember why I am in this group, in this blog, writing at all in the first place. When I feel stumped and generally dried up I often go back and read my own writing. This is often an exercise in ridiculousness.

I sometimes think “Jesus this is terrible, thank god I never let anyone read this.”

But often I will read something and wonder if it was really and truly me that wrote it because I genuinely like it. I’ve gotten most of my short story ideas from writing prompts. These are specific but always somehow warp themselves into my voice and my same themes. Our writing is not intentional in terms of what comes out of us and onto the page. The act of writing and sitting down to work is quite intentional, but if our hearts are in it what comes out of us is quite the opposite. It is free and open and uninhibited, and we can’t stop the bleeding.

Here are the first paragraphs from six of my short stories. These were written when the blood was pumping and the ideas were fresh and raw and they remain some of my favorite paragraphs in the stories. Sometimes a starting point, the moment when we close our eyes and jump, is the clearest and sharpest moment we have. So keep starting. We don’t need to finish quite yet.

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Abandonment and Annihilation

A little less than a year ago I ditched my book. I’d been writing it for almost three years at that point and had revised at least 4 times, re-mapped the storyline, gotten rid of an entire main character.

And then I felt overwhelmed. I decided that I had zero business writing a novel and needed to work on my actual skills before I jumped off that cliff. The plan was that I would write and revise a collection of short stories and try to submit them for publication.

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Alchemy In Spring

I’ve been cold for months. The older I get the longer the cold takes to seep out of my bones. It kind of sits there, at my deepest marrow-level and crouches until spring. The green air warms me and the sun penetrates everything until the smells and the chartreuse of spring are there, just as the cold was.

We’re in the brown time now. Everything is crackling and stark, wood scratches on bare wood branches. The sky gets bright but the way the sun hits you is alarming. It blinds and makes you squint as you see your breath in the air in front of your face.

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I Don’t Really Write Happy Endings

It’s funny that my compulsion and decision to write came simultaneously with having children. The moment I lost control of my time, and my emotions started to run a little more wild is the moment I picked up the pen and paper. I took control of words in a way I didn’t feel like I could control my life anymore.

After the birth of my second child I decided to take a writing class. This soon turned into a writing practice that has become one of the driving forces in my life. Doing this while working full time and raising two children is not easy. There are times when the guilt I feel for deciding to take the time to write is overwhelming.

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The 15-Minute Writing Challenge

Making time to write.

This is difficult. Some days it is impossible.

How do I find time to draft ideas, make outlines, develop characters?

Then I remember: I wrote an entire novel in 15-minute increments. I did it in the car, at the Laundromat, while the kids were in the bath. I am not a drafter. I am not an outliner. I have tried time and again to sit down and PLAN what I am going to write. But I know that the stories are all around me and they come out when I least expect it. I want to scoop them up, I want to see the ideas floating in my everyday life and use those to get better. I’ve stopped working on my novel for a bit so I can focus on smaller pieces, short stories that bring together everything I am trying to do in my giant book. They’re small, manageable slices of the larger ultimate goal.

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The Other Side of Silence

Dear Reader,

Amy originally wrote this post for her blog, Elliott’s Provisions, in July of last year after our first writing retreat in California. At that time, a Trump presidency was still only a nightmare we hoped would never come true, and we in this group were still grappling with the struggles, desires, and responsibilities of being a writer. If you are struggling with how to make your writing, your art, meaningful in these violent times, we hope this will help.

In love and solidarity,
The Fixin’ to Write Contributors

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Writing Like A Renegade

In an interview with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Toni Morrison spoke frankly about writing in the midst of life, not in grand moments apart from it:

And I remember very clearly I was writing with a pencil. I was sitting on a couch, writing with a pencil, trying to think up something and remembering what I just described. And I was – the tablet was that legal pad, you know, yellow with the lines, and I had a baby. My older son was barely walking, and he spit up on the tablet. And I was doing something really interesting, I think, with a sentence because I wrote around the puke because I figured I could always wipe that away, but I might not get that sentence again.

We are ten women who all signed up for Renegade Mothering blogger, Janelle Hanchett’s Write Anyway class in 2015. It was an online course designed to break down barriers we all face when deciding to write. We hailed from all corners of the globe. We learned about how to give less of a shit about our fears in writing. We learned about how to write through it all even when it was hard and we wanted to give up.

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