Yesterday I literary slept all day. I woke up at around 3, had some left over pizza and went back to bed. This morning when I woke to make my writing class I had a pounding headache. I assumed and was worried that I got a cold. Thankfully some Tylenol worked. Today was a big day for me at my writing class. My short story was workshopped. I’m glad I didn’t skip it.
Before this I emailed the same story to some family and friends. Several gave me good advice, and things I could work with. I haven’t workshopped my work in more than a decade. I’m amazed at the different ways eleven people looked at my story. Plot turns, choice of words, what to focus on, and other suggestions are things I would not have thought of on my own. And when you get feedback from friends and family it’s usually in the form of an email or a few minutes of conversation. This was a discussion taking a half hour or so of the class’s time. Everyone had a turn to speak, and the teacher helped people to elaborate. I recommend Gotham Writer’s or other writer’s groups where you get this type of class discussion. I think when I go to revise this story my approach will be much better. Also, doing the same for others, and giving feedback on other students work is beneficial. Normally I read published work, and either I like it or I don’t. To give valuable feedback you need to analyze the work. This can be time consuming to see what turns of phrases work, if a transition to one scene to another doesn’t work, if a point of view or tense is consistent, and if other writing skills are strong or weak. Learning to evaluate stories as a writer can only help my own revision attempts. Including my own, we have read 5 stories over two weeks. Each story was unique and created talking points for the teacher. The class has people in different career paths and different backgrounds. I’m impressed how seriously the class is taking the feedback to critiquing the stories. I’m very impressed with everyone in the class.
Also I think talking about writing for 3 hours on Sunday afternoons is inspiring. I took a workshop with Gotham in summer. I started a story and only got a few pages into it. After the first class of this semester we had a two-week break because of Columbus Day. During that break I wrote out the story by hand, and then quickly typed it up. That was the first short story I finished in a few years. I was happy with that, just to finish the story was a milestone in my opinion. In the foreseeable future I simply plan to write short stories, because I enjoy the feeling of completing them. With this revision I realized once a draft is completed, there are numerous changes and direction a writer can go with a draft. Anyway after today’s class I feel inspired to write. I walked up around 20 blocks in midtown to meet my sister and nephew for a very late lunch. Since I was sick I didn’t want to hang in Manhattan until dinner or skate after class. So we met around 3:40. On that short walk up to near Columbus Circle I thought of what to write next. I decided with so much feedback, maybe I should sit on my workshopped story, and go straight to a new story. I actually signed up to turn in a new story in three weeks.
For a few weeks now I thought of taking parts of my failed novel attempt, and using some of those themes for new and better work. My sister laughed at me during our late lunch as I told her my plan and said I shouldn’t call my past work ‘my failed novel attempt,’ and instead call it ‘my unfinished novel.’ Anyway, this class energized me, and I thought out the beginning of a short story, and then the twist that will be a conflict. I don’t want to get too much into what I want to do, but I’m excited about the solid outline I thought of. Maybe that is the main thing about writing, to get excited about a project, and maintain that drive to complete it.
So in October I wrote a story, and in November I hope to write a story. During class the teacher talked about publication, and emphasized the more stories you have out the better. I pointed out that in a Charles Bukowski documentary I saw he said he sent out a story or piece of work each week. I’m not a Bukowski fan, but I always thought that was an amazing pace. The teacher today reiterated today just by numbers the more you submit the more of a chance you have. For me, I am not capable or writing a story per week. But I think I can write one story a month. So that is my new goal, to write one story a month.
For a little bit I’ll just write them. In 3 or 4 months I would have a small pool of stories, and then maybe I would be able to revise them with more detachment. Instead of worrying about if my one and only story is perfect, maybe with numerous stories, I could look at them simply as stories and not as personally. That’s about it!
COMING SOON: I’m about halfway through ‘Just Kids,’ an autobiography by Patti Smith. This book is well written and has been making me think quite a bit. So my next entry will be a review of this book and a self absorbed rendering of the larger thoughts on creativity this book has sparked in me.