Alright, so I didn’t end up writing on Saturday/Sunday because I was in central Michigan visiting my family. Instead, I wrote this morning at the cafe in the University of Notre Dame bookstore. It’s pretty cool because it has seating designed for students to sit there for hours with laptops plugged in, and the coffee refills are free. I don’t use that feature because I don’t want to feel sluggish and sweaty, which is what happens when I indulge on too much caffeine and not enough water. It’s not hard to resist buying books because those are all on the second floor, while the Notre Dame football fan stuff is on the first. You ever have a need for a Notre Dame grandfather clock that costs $2,195, you come to the bookstore.
At first, I felt shy about writing. I had a great accountabuddy session last weekend, but he disappeared this week. Did I make him mad? I dunno. Maybe he’s busy being him. But I take everything personally. I have anxiety, remember? I wasn’t sure what to write, but I did use the notes I took from last weekend. I had started a story about a first date. These are characters I created in for my master’s thesis at Central Michigan University, but instead of being in their 20s, they’re now in their 40s, and this is a totally new story. Why they jumped 20 years when I’ve only aged 10 is beyond me, but whatever. Maybe I wanted these characters to be a little “crustier.” Why did I use the same characters? I feel like I know these people.
I knew I wanted the entirety of the story to be set during the date in the present, but I would add loads of flashbacks about who they were in college, their 20s, and their 30s to show why they’re both single. I might even go back to high school, but let’s not get excited. So, I had the framework of the date and flashbacks. The problem is, what do they talk about in the present? How do 40-year-olds date? I have no clue. Are they just as tech obsessed as people in their 20s? Are the grumpy and crotchety? Do they feel old? Are they mature — in a good way? I have to say, none of my characters ever come out predictable, something I’m proud of, though I confess it’s likely because I put little knickknacks from my life into every character, male or female, young or old. And good lord do I like a lot of random stuff in real life.
But back to being shy. Feeling shy about writing is essentially the first signs of “writer’s block.” But writer’s block isn’t real. It’s your unwillingness to write. It’s your unwillingness to throw some garbage on the page. You know what’s garbage? Right now, the male character in my story has a hat that gets bigger and smaller based on his emotions. It’s magical realism. But can I sustain a magical hat for pages and pages? Not really — that’s contrary to magical realism, which is supposed to make an entrance and disappear without much notice. The silly hat with the feather was a way for me to think about how this guy is feeling, and likely the hat will be cut.
I also think people experience what they think is writer’s block because they sit down and expect to be typing the whole time, and to do so for hours. I tell myself I’m going to work for one hour, and as I’ve mentioned before, that may be writing, editing, submitting — anything to do with writing. Today was mostly writing and looking up information, such as how much Austin Rogers won on Jeopardy! last year, the plot for that episode of Twilight Zone in which the guy busts his glasses and can’t read anymore, and good questions to ask on first dates.
I’m starting to see how my story is full of current references — like, really current. Austin Rogers won twelve games in a row in 2017. Do pop culture references date a story? Sure, but they also take us back to a time we’ve forgotten. My friend Mike used to fill his stories with references to horror movies and TV shows. I loved reading his submissions to workshop when we were in grad school. I just sent a DM to Mike via Twitter to see if he’s still writing and using pop culture references and asked how he feels about it.
If pop culture references date a story, I also have to wonder how splendidly I think of myself. Is someone going to read my story next year? In five years? After I’m dead? Ever? That’s something I can’t know, so if I want to write about TV, movies, and a think piece on NPR, for now, I’m going to do it!
This week, I didn’t get to the un-hillbilly-ed story, but maybe I will next week. I did get a rejection letter for a poem I submitted. I think the response is unusual (it’s personalized) and also vague in an insulting way. They wrote: “We would suggest experimenting with more nuanced language and clearer poetic objectives.” How do they know what my objectives are? Maybe I met them perfectly. I’ve been rejected so many times that this doesn’t bother me at all, except how vague it is.
I submitted another story I wrote years ago that is basically a list of responses students might write to the end-of-semester instructor feedback everyone gets in college, but with footnotes that include the truth about the student that the teacher has seen without saying anything. *fingers crossed*