The Reader Speaks (and updates a page)

Once in a while I actually remember to update my “What I’m Reading” page, and today was one of those days! I’m in the middle of numerous books right now and I have a huge TBR list right now that’s likely to only get larger. I have a Goodreads link on the sidebar that you can check out if you want to see more of the books I’ve read and want to read.

I can definitely say The Crane Wife is my favorite book that I’ve read in the past few years at least. I really loved it and I plan to read it again several times in the future, after I get my own copy of it. For some reason I can’t seem to find it in any bookstores… I don’t think it would necessarily be everyone’s taste, but it is absolutely perfect for me. I almost wish I’d written it.

If I find another favorite book, then that section of the page will be updated, but The Crane Wife will also stay.

Seeking Microfiction

Writing has been hard these days. I find that at any given time I either have nothing to say or too many things to say. It’s probably a stress thing. I should meditate more, and drink less coffee. Or more coffee.

Yes. It’s becoming clear to me that I’m not drinking nearly enough coffee. I should rectify that.

Then again, maybe I should drink less coffee after all…

I’m feeling indecisive. Can you tell?

I’ve been thinking that I want to start writing microfiction again. I was very into that style for a while, and it just dropped off suddenly for reasons I could not identify.

Flash fiction is something that has probably been around longer than we think, but has gained traction in the past few years. It does not seem to have a fixed definition. Some people will say under 1000 words, others will say under 1500 or 2000. Some people say anything that’s no more than a few pages is flash fiction.

Microfiction is sort of a subcategory of that, also without a firm word limit, but in my experience it defines works up to the 500-700 word mark. It can be as short as a sentence or two, or as long as a few paragraphs. In theory, the short piece contains an entire story, or enough of a story that the reader can fill in the missing details. Personally, I think there’s a danger of reading that criterion in a limited way. Yes, the intention is to try to fully communicate the piece in that rather small word count, but I don’t think that means packing a plot into that space. Many of my microfiction pieces are more along the lines of snapshots, moments in time, rather than trying to have a narrative. I think the form lends itself to that use and so I took full advantage of it.

I don’t know why I stopped writing them. I suppose I just stopped experiencing things that inspired me in that way. Or I got distracted by adult life and became separated from my imagination. Or both. So I tried to remember how I started writing them, and I remembered–of course, I started by reading.

One book I can go back to is Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance. I would also like to find some microfiction I have not already read. Do you have any suggestions?

 

Losing Summer

It is now the first day of fall. I noticed how perfect the weather was today when I went out to get my groceries. The sun shone brightly but the air was cool. A few of the trees on my street have already started to change. THIS is the best of weather.

The turn of August to September saw a flare-up of oppressive heat, but that seems to be the last surge of summer. It’s cooling off again; it seems the season is ready to accept defeat. As usual I had that moment of regret for all the days I didn’t spend at the beach, and having only sat outside at a restaurant with friends or family a few times, despite walking by such patios constantly. I barely wore sandals and I spent far too many days inside.

Every year now, I find a moment to complain about how summer is not very exciting as an adult. When you’re a kid you get the time off from school, and depending on your circumstances, your parents will take you somewhere for a vacation (even if it’s just a two hour drive to a town in the same state). For the rest of the summer you read, you spend time with friends, you hang out in someone’s pool (I always knew someone with a pool). You eat a lot of ice cream, go to barbecues, and don’t have to wake up early.

Then you start to get older. For most people, summer jobs start somewhere in the mid to late teens. Some start much earlier and a few won’t have jobs until after they graduate from college–but those will probably spend the summers volunteering or studying. (This story does not include those people who never have to work. I have no frame of reference to talk about them.) Suddenly, you don’t have all these days off anymore. Teenagers’ jobs are often part-time, so although they sacrifice some of their free days, they still have quite a lot of time to eat ice cream and hang out in their friends’ pools.

But then you enter the “real” world. You have a full time job, or two or three part time jobs, and you don’t have the time to enjoy the beach or spend a day wandering around town with your friends. You have responsibilities instead. If you do have the time to do these things whenever you want, chances are you don’t have the money. Much of your summer free-time goes to waste lamenting that you’ll barely be able to pay your bills this month, so instead of going to the beach, you scour Craigslist for a new job. Gone are the days of being free to enjoy the summertime. Just like they said it would, adulthood sucked away all the fun (I don’t know who “they” are exactly).

As summer becomes just another part of the year with the same schedule, the same stress, and the same lack of time, we long for the time when summer actually meant something more than just wondering what the hell you can wear that won’t cause you to die of heatstroke on the way to/in the office.

 

When you think about it, though, what exactly are we losing? Think back to being a kid during the summer. Really think. My memories of youthful summers are getting a little vague and fragmented at this point, but I’m fairly certain that I ended up bored and ready for summer to be over somewhere around the beginning of August. If I could go back and talk to my ten-year-old self, I’d say “Find something to do and be grateful for your lack of stress.” But unfortunately, hindsight never benefits us. I was always pretty eager to go back to school, even excited.

Of course, I got sick of being back at school after two weeks, instead of two months. I think I just liked the change, the feeling that things were moving forward. New teacher, classroom, notebooks, clothes. Sometimes new friends.

Leisurely summers feel like a story someone told me, rather than anything that really happened. Maybe I block them out because they make me feel guilty for not doing more with my free time when I had so much of it. Of course, I was a kid then, and kids don’t need to be responsible for “getting things done.” I think the problem is that now I know what I would do if I could spend my time how I chose without having to worry about adult things. I’ve felt like there could be so much art, music, friendship, love, etc. in my life, if only I had enough time.

It’s in the Execution

I’m writing a post right now (not this one; it’s still in my drafts folder) that is swiftly becoming a timing problem. It’s the sort of post that only makes sense to publish at a certain time of year. It’s about seasons. And sure it will make exactly the same point no matter when I end up posting it, but if I don’t get to it in the next week or so, it will seem far less relevant and no one will care. I started writing the post and figured I’d finish it the day after that, but haven’t done a thing with it since.

This is actually two problems I have had as a blogger combined into one. The first is that I have many times started writing a post, based on an idea or the seed of an idea, and somehow found that it just doesn’t work out. I don’t finish it right away, and when I come back I can’t remember what I was intending to say. Or I just don’t like it. I am the first to say that not every blog post has to be a winning work of art, but I do think it should convey SOMETHING of value–and if I’m not really interested in what I’m writing, there’s no reason to expect anyone else will be. Besides, even though I tend to approach blogging as more informal writing, and therefore needing less polish than something that a “real publication” (whatever that means at this point) would print, I still do prefer to hold myself to a certain standard as a writer, which requires that I’m at least moderately pleased with the pieces I decide to put out on the vast emptiness of the internet.

The second problem, of course, is procrastination. It’s not actually that hard to think of a timely topic, but it can be a little more difficult to finish the piece while that topic is still relevant. I’m not saying I couldn’t do this if I had to, but it is one of the reasons I like to write about more general topics that are not time-bound, whether I’m writing in fiction or in the real world. (I would like to pause to acknowledge that at this point I have already done the backspace-shuffle, the typists’ most common finger dance, to fix numerous typos, and I’m wondering when I got so bad at typing. I used to be much better than this.) Ahem. Anyway. Procrastination is procrastination whether you open the file and stare at it with your fingers over the keys or go clean the kitchen instead–if you’re not writing, you’re not writing.

This leaves me in my current predicament. I can either make myself work on this post (I suppose if I hate it I just won’t post it) now-ish, or I can wait until next year, at which point I probably will have forgotten about it entirely. My concern, after looking at what I have so far, is that I won’t get the post to say what it is I am really trying to say. This is a constant struggle for me, in writing and in regular conversation. Somehow I always feel that the recipient of my thoughts just doesn’t quite get it. I don’t know it that’s my failing or theirs.

Keep an eye out. If you see a post from me very soon about the myth of summertime leisure (oo, I think that’s a much better title than what I had), then you’ll know that I succeeded in finishing the piece. If you don’t… well then you know the other thing happened.

Summer Heat–Sometimes

I think I’ve been conditioned by air conditioning. This is strange because I don’t have air conditioning, and I hate how cold I always get when sitting in air-conditioned spaces. I usually only want it on the hottest of days. Yesterday I found the heat death-like. I thought I might catch on fire. I luckily managed to do some work, but not as much as I had wanted, because I could barely think, I was so hot. I had to get dressed for an errand, but as soon as I got home I changed quickly into something breezy that I would never be willing to wear out of the house. I tried to drink a lot of water with a lot of ice in it. Nothing really worked.

When it got dark the air finally started to cool. I was relieved, but not enough. It still felt too hot. The air in my bedroom rarely moves no matter how wide I open the windows. I probably need a better fan. So I lay there trying to will myself to move, and went to bed much earlier than usual because there was just no way to get anything else done.

As I wandered back and forth that day, spending a few minutes reading, a few minutes watching videos, working, etc., over and over, I looked out the window and wondered when it would rain. “Why isn’t it raining?” I whined to myself. That would have really helped.

That didn’t last long. I thought, it will rain when it rains. I’m not going to make it happen by wishing. Despite what I might want, I have no control over the weather. Soon enough the heat will go away, and then later it will come back…

It was around that time I went to bed.