This week I’ll be chatting about short story writing by reviewing snippets of Signature’s Compact Guide to Short Story Writing — A highly recommended read for any-level writer.
How To Ignore Your Instincts & Find The Real Story
”All of this is only an instant, something I felt over the course of a single summer walk beside my mom. And yet this instant has stayed inside of me for two years now, and nothing has ever come of it except this essay, an answer to a question: What is writing like?”
What Instincts Are We Talking About Here?
The instinct to over analyze words and creativity can sometimes take over the creative process, often limiting what one can create. Emily Ruskovich, author of Idaho eloquently illustrates how writers can capture and economize on everyday life moments and memories to create new, fictionalized experiences. I must say that so far, Ruskovich’s example is an illustration of her mastery of this skill. She talks about a memory her mother once shared with her, about a time when her mother’s uncle was given a time out during a cold winter. The uncle’s father made him stand outside in the covered porch of their home to experience the cold of winter by being as close to the elements as possible (without physically standing in the snow). The covered porch of the house only offered a thin barrier of protection, thereby creating a situation in which the uncle was “in-between” — in a transgressive state that emphasized his punishment as being a part of three points: a punishment for himself, a punishment for his father, and a punishment for the outside viewer who happened to empathize, pity, and/or attempt to ignore the young boy locked outside his home.
What Ruskovich was able to create as an example to this very point was astounding. She showed us that writers must continuously dig for the best they can create; that writers must move beyond the first story that comes to mind because often the first story only reveals something superficial. If you want to show something magical, you have to dig in a bit deeper to what you already have.
”Locked inside of it was not my relative, but a little girl I’d never known, ten years old with dirty-blonde hair and a bright and cruel face, a tight, twitching mouth. She was standing in the middle of that porch that was built out of windows. This was her punishment for something (what?) terrible that she had done, to stand out here in the cold, locked out of the house and also out of the out-of-doors, in the frozen in-between space that was the covered porch. The windows were framed with frost. The locked door behind her was blue. I saw the stale, wicker chair beside her. I could smell its frozen cushion. On the ground, a cup of water, as if her father could assuage his guilt by reminding himself he had given her that. The girl wore a dress. She could have put on her coat, which was wadded up beneath that wicker chair, but she did not, though her bare arms were covered in goosebumps. She stood perfectly straight in the middle of the porch. And what she was wasn’t sad – she was wildly glad. She relished her own hunger; she devoured that cold. Her breath was bright and beautiful and scary.”
The Power Of Journaling To Capture Ideas
I’m new to the idea of Bullet Journaling. I haven’t been a consistent journal-er, truly, since kindergarten (I had much to say then about my classmates). Instead, growing up, I found myself scribbling notes on corners of my notes, holding a collection of unbound college-ruled pages full of half written stories, sketches, lines of poetry — all that would typically be written and bound in what one would call a journal. So the process of Bullet Journaling sounded appealing — mainly because I saw so many pictures of clean, creative, and organized examples on Google (“I want to do that!”). Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal, wrote an essay about the beauty of “cultivating a map of your thoughts and insights.” He talked to us about his interest, growing up, with the stars. This transformed (in a nicely written essay, I might add) into a short history about how early explorers jotted down the stars.
”It all started by jotting down what we saw, one star at a time until it began to make sense. We found patterns, and identified relationships. From centaurs to quasars, each generation refined their knowledge and understanding to better help contextualize the stars as they related to us.”
This is the pattern that Carroll takes with writing and with the creation Bullet Journal. After learning about its creation, it only makes me want to start one the sooner I can.
”It’s important that we figure out a way to makes sense of our thoughts, and it starts with cataloging them, one thought at a time.”
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