The Hardest Job Ever

What is my writing space?

Well, the one in my head is a chaotic mess filled with thoughts like the above.  At least I’m in good company.  If Lev Grossman has thoughts like that and produce The Magician series, then maybe there’s a bit of hope for me.  Which reminds me–I need to read that series.  There it is again–that unfocused, easily distracted mind that tells me it’s just easier to read than to write.  Truth be told, I also regret not making enough time to read too.  Lately, I have started reading a book, then another, then another.  Now Goodreads tells me I’m currently reading 5 or 6 books, when I’ve actually only finished about 12 this year.

The physical space I write in is just as chaotic.  I don’t like to write at my desk at home.  First, it’s cluttered with bills, scribbles, unfinished to-do lists, and maybe a cat (who knows she shouldn’t be in that room, let alone on the desk).  I sit at a desk all day long, looking at numbers, so when I write, I prefer a more relaxed position.  Slouched on my couch isn’t the most healthy position for my back, but at least I’m comfortable.  I turn away from the t.v. and towards the kitchen.  One would think it’s harder to ignore the t.v. than it is to ignore my kitchen.  It’s not–especially when I haven’t done the dishes in over a week.

Finding the time to write and the space to write is hard.  It’s hard for everyone.  We all have our obstacles, from writer’s block to that inconvenient day job to playful children.  I don’t even want to mention the timesuck that is social media.

Why do we do this?  Some say writing is therapeutic.  In a way, yes, I can say that working my inner thoughts to the surface is somewhat therapeutic.  Honestly, sometimes, I feel like writing makes me need therapy.  When I sit on my couch, realizing I am about 3000 words behind on my NaNoWri project, I stare at my messy kitchen.  Then, that writing space in my head gets muddled with that ever-growing to-do list that I never catch up on.

Writing is making hard choices.  Of course, we make choices in our writing. That’s the easy part.  The hard part for me is dumping the clutter from my head, my home, my life to find an open guilt-free space to write.

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An Evening Well Spent with Neil Gaiman

Grainy photo of Neil Gaiman on stage.
Grainy photo of Neil Gaiman on stage.

Last night, Cam and I attended a much-anticipated event in our small college town.  As part of a cultural enhancement series, Neil Gaiman spoke at the local college despite his seemingly hectic schedule.

I’ve been anticipating this event for about a month, and when we showed up two hours early to the auditorium, the stairs leading to the front doors were an indicator that my hometown is also home to a large Gaiman following.  I heard from another Gamain fan that some of them had been sitting on the steps all afternoon, waiting for the doors to open.

Before even showing up, Cam and I decided not to buy any books.  Before the doors opened, we made our way over to the door designated for those who want to purchase signed books.  After all, I just got a part time job in order to pay off a few things and save for the future geek wedding.  Fortunately, the job is in a book store that was set up to sell Gaiman’s pre-signed books at the event.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my employee discount purposefully to avoid that temptation.  Lesson learned.  Removing the incentives may not prevent me from changing my mind at the last minute.  We left with The Sleeper and the Spindle and an American Gods paperback.

The event definitely exceeded our expectations.  He read an excerpt from his new collection of short stories, Trigger Warning. The story he chose was a prime example of his ability to reinvent old fables or myths.  The story featured a Genie just released from his bottle.  If you haven’t read it yet, it is quite delightful.  Hearing Gaiman read it enthusiastically brought it to life.

He also spoke about some of the meaningful work he has recently been doing to raise awareness of refugee crises, and recalled experiences about visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan.  This is an issue that is certainly close to my own heart, having spent time with refugees while living in Africa.  I taught literacy to a group of women living in Zambia, who fled neighboring Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  Before that, I gardened and planted trees with Mauritanian refugees who returned home after a decade living across the border in Senegal.

The night ended with questioned submitted from the audience.  The one that is ALWAYS asked at these types of events is “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?”  His answer was simple and typical.  1.) Write.  2.) Finish 3.) Show it to people.  My Fiction Friday segment seems to be collecting cobwebs these days, so as ordered by an idol, I intend to pick it back up again.

In the meantime, I need to decide which to read first, the new The Sleeper and the Spindle signed copy, or American Gods signed paperback.

#NeilGaimanAtWKU

The First of Fiction Fridays

Between the 9-5 humdrum workday and wasting too many hours in from of Twitch.tv and Netflix, I manage to occasionally find time for a creative outlet, writing.  So, I like to write.  I don’t do it very well, but that’s not that important.  In a hopeless endeavor to gain some skill in this hobby by practicing regularly, I’ve decided to start a Fiction Friday on this blog and post a story or excerpt I’m working on.

So here goes….

The war was still far from over. It dragged on like a dull pain to Simon. The fear of danger was a distant state. Only exhaustion and redundancy was left. He wanted the war to end, not for the thousands of lives at stake or the economic drain it was seizing from the entire world. He wanted the revitalization of his dimmed emotions. He felt lost in the objective of the war. It was all he knew. The war had been carrying on for nearly his entire life.

As Simon scanned the sky from the small jet, he wondered if the enemy was just as tired. A package of supplies for troops on the ground was released moments ago without a hitch. There was normally trouble with supply runs, but not this time. No enemy was found following them to the drop point, and Simon felt useless as the gun on board.

He continued to scan the wide blue in front of him, and he finally caught a shadow from the corner of his eye. A missile was detected on the panel in front of him, but it was too late. It hit the back of the plane with a loud thunder. He could see Mark, the pilot, screaming at him, but he heard nothing but the force of debris crashing into the sides of the small plane.

Mark grabbed a parachute and opened the door. He turned back to say something to Simon, but the plane jerked and he hit his head on the opening and fell out.

Simon grabbed a parachute quickly moving against the wind that was trying to suck him out of the back of the gaping plane. As soon as he managed to fasten the pack, the plane shifted, throwing he down on the floor. With nothing to grab onto, he slipped out of the spiraling plane.

At first, he glared at the spiraling ocean beneath him. He was paralyzed by the sight of it, stretching out as far as he could see in all directions. Then he remembered Mark had to be somewhere below him. His goggles obstructed his peripheral vision, and he could not find his friend among the speeding debris.

Suddenly, he saw a white canopy emerge beneath him and he barreled past it. Relieved that Mark was conscious enough to open the chute, he pulled his own pin. He closed his eyes and smiled briefly. He knew he would survive. Mark would know what to do.

Simon began to feel uneasy. He didn’t feel the shock of his chute opening. Opening his eyes, he glanced at the growing ocean. He immediately begin trembling, thumbing around for his emergency pin. His mind went blank. His breathing became erratic. Emergency procedures were a fleeting memory beyond his grasp.

He turned to locate Mark now far above him. Stupidly, he waved his arms. Mark was floating almost directly above him with debris dropping around him. In an instant, what appeared to be scrap from the shell of the plane dropped into his canopy, shredding it. Mark’s limp body was being dragged down with the metal, enveloped in the white material.

Simon’s body shook with fear and grief. He was now going to be a casualty in the war that everyone had become so accustomed to. He was just a piece of data now for future generations to study and make callous observations about this war. He would be remembered by no one except as a tic in the newspaper statistics of the war.

Momentarily he remembered he had to act quickly. He reached for the emergency pin to release the malfunctioning chute in order to open the reserve.

His mind was clear. He faced the approaching water and let go of the pin. No longer was he alarmed that he would die today. He wanted to be released from this war.

He watched as he sped toward the water. Slowly, the waves opened, inviting him in. He felt the jolt, as if his canopy opened, and he was floating. Opening his eyes, he saw that he was surrounded by light. Unaware that this was his own death, he floated slowly to the bottom with his canopy of light from the sky above him. He wore a look of relief as he floated to his resting place. He was free.