Tag Archives: stuck

Exercises, or Feel the burn

I’m stuck.  Horribly, painfully, terrifyingly stuck.  It’s the dreaded block, man. I’ve had this before, and I do notwant to get derailed by this again.  So, in an effort to jump start my gears, I’ve been writing little vignettes.  I don’t draft, I don’t think about what’s going to come next.  I just choose a first sentence and go from there.  Painful, but therapeutic, I think, I end.  Here’s one I think is sort of alright.

*          *          *          *          *

“I’m tired of this,” Cara whined.

Christian didn’t even bother to look up from his paper.  Cara was always tired of something.  “What is it this time?”

“Well, for starters, I’m tired of you not paying attention to me,” she said, pouting.

Christian turned a page, taking pains to remain as neutral and calm as possible.  “I am paying attention to you.  Case in point: if I were not paying attention, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

“You’re not even looking at me!”

Heavy silence from Christian.

Cara wasn’t stupid.  She had noticed, of course, that it took longer each time for her husband to respond to (diffuse, rather) her little outbursts.  She knew those few extra seconds he took were to calm his own temper.  That didn’t worry her.  It was perhaps a testament to her own self-absorption that she had never even considered the ramifications of such.  Christian had indulged these little fits of hers for the entire duration of their relationship and, she believed, would continue to do so without fail.

Christian, for his part, did love his wife.  She was the light of his soul, the still point of his world.  He would have done anything, gone anywhere, if only to make her happy.  But no matter how much love or devotion, twenty years of temper tantrums will wear anyone’s patience thin.

The human brain works amazingly fast.  He thought of all this and more in those three seconds of silence.

“Cara,” he rumbled, and Cara, so unused to such gravity in her husband’s voice, jumped in surprise.  Exasperation, yes.  Placation, of course.  But gravity?  She shivered involuntarily.

Christian set down his book and rose from his chair.  With even stride, he crossed to his wife, who suddenly felt as timid as a rabbit before this 300-pound giant.

“Cara,” he said, taking her small hands in his own bear-like fists.  His fists.  Strange she had never thought of them that way before.  She swallowed hard.

“Cara.  Stop.”

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Meat and marrow

I submit this post to you today in hopes of clearing my mind of familiar troubles.  Dear readers, I am unsettled.  This gift I had for writing–or maybe thought I had–has atrophied.  I can’t do what I once could.  I now stumble for words and phrases, and the ease with which I used to create has receded, pulled back like a wild thing easily startled, a deer or a flower, Sleeping Grass you dare not touch.  This frightens me.  What am I if not a writer?  Writers create, writers seduce.  They can be nasty or standoffish, but the moment you read the story–or poem, song lyric, whatever–you feel that connection, see all those tender bits laid bare, years of intimacy distilled down into a single page, words simple but rife with double meaning.  At least, that’s what good writing means to me.  All of my favorite writers are what others might call navel gazers: those who choose internal narrative over dialogue, raw emotion over action.  Neil Gaiman, whose light sci-fi sits shotgun to perception.  Marguerite Duras, whose stream-of-consciousness style captured the oft-buried emotions of her protagonists.  John Paul Sartre, who accurately described my own feelings of remoteness.  These writers I love and emulate.  I fear I shall never reach their levels greatness.

I’m editing this story, or, rather, trying to edit it.  I’m not sure exactly what the problem is, maybe too much dialogue, but every rewrite has been stilted, jerky, not at all smooth and flowing as I would prefer. Either I skimp on character direction, or I put in too much, and I just can’t.  Get. It. Right.  And I feel stupid and sub-par and bad, because it’s always what I’ve wanted to do and I can’t do it and I’ve had all this time and what am I if I’m not a writer?  *sigh* I’m just so discouraged.