False starts

Jaume Plensa's "Echo"

I’ve begun, and not finished, a dozen blog posts for various reasons. I was inspired and then became uninspired, or I began a post, and thought I would get back to finishing, but weeks went by and the topic became dated. Or I had no idea where to go from my opening idea. Or I lost confidence.

This is not unlike my short story writing. I have dozens of short story beginnings–sometimes an opening line, sometimes an opening paragraph, sometimes a first page, sometimes several pages–abandoned for various reasons. It feels wasteful, all these words, but I can only take the best of them as a writer.

Before I became a writer before I became an HR manager, I used to be a recruiter, and I worked with someone who told me, “Recruiting is like kissing frogs–you have to kiss a lot of them to find the right candidate!” For me, short story writing is like kissing frogs. I’ve got to sample the words and feel them, before I know it feels right.

(And sometimes a short story becomes a novel).

(And then, the novel becomes the main affair–at least for me).

For your entertainment (and mine)–a sampling of first lines from ditched blog posts:

  • Sometimes my novel drives me nuts; a put-a-fork-in-my-eye, bash-my-head-against-the-keyboard, utter-a-primal-scream, retreat-to-bed-and-put-the-covers-over-my-head, nuts.
  • Writing the real people into my work I ended there.
  • Michael Chabon touted the Bay Area writing community and it was refreshing to hear someone tout some place other than NYC.
  • At the age of thirty-three, on New Year’s Eve, I had a stroke.
  • I was rifling through feedback awhile back and came across the following comments:
    “I think your character should get off the plane and start exploring New York. And the wife? She should try to stick with him…”
  • I was in the car on a tired Monday morning, feeling all my years, heading to my class of 19 year olds who would further remind me of my time on this planet.
  • I have had several people come up to me and say, with supreme conviction, “I have this feeling that you could be a fantastic spy!”
  • My husband and I were talking about the Electric Light Parade, which I have seen once and only once in my life.
  • I write at a space for writers, situated in the top floor of a downtown office building.
  • I’m in NYC where sometimes I feel like my entire life swells in rich clouds of memory.
  • Being in a new town means making new friends and acquaintances.
  • My childhood bedroom window used to have no sheers, just a patterned blue cotton fabric that my parents urged me to close in the nighttime.

I may get back to these blog posts and finish them. But for now they lay half dressed and waiting.



Filed under Writing

13 responses to “False starts

  1. arachnomaria

    I may come back to these blog posts and read them.

  2. I’m writing a short story myself at the moment, I find it like pulling teeth. I write poetry normally, but enter our local competition each year to support the literary community. Most times I wish I had left them to it. I have 950 words of a vague one line idea. And don’t know how to end it happily. I am starting to think I have a poor opinion of life in general.

    I will finish it, even if no one reads it and it bombs in the competition, it makes me write in a different way, and thats always a good thing.
    Perseverance is everything in writing they tell me. Oh good.

    Keep writing,

    • @arachnomaria: and they might very well be here. 😉

      @redjim99: why does it have to end happily? i think at a certain point, as a writer, you have to let your characters and the story tell you what happens next. perhaps the story is not meant to have a happy ending…and that’s ok.

      • I agree about ending the story happily or unhappily. It goes how it goes (and it doesn’t reflect on the author’s opinions on life in general, IMHO). Nothing is worse than a tacked-on happy ending that isn’t supported by the story itself. We don’t need short stories like that, that’s what Hollywood movies are for. 🙂

  3. I’m the same way. I toss about half the blog posts I start (and half the blog comments, and FB posts).

    That being said, I’d be interested in reading some of the blog posts you list. Especially the even-numbered ones (though not so much the last one).

  4. I like the curtains! I love hearing about your parents and your childhood.

  5. thomas demary

    “I was in the car on a tired Monday morning, feeling all my years, heading to my class of 19 year olds who would further remind me of my time on this planet.”

    Moar!! Finish! 🙂

  6. Oo this is fun.

    April, 2005: “Once upon a time, there was an empty space.”

    February, 2006 (not even a complete sentence): “The dissident role of lit mags vs. mental masturbation”

    January, 2007: “If you are Anthony Swofford or Steve Almond, then you are in publications I read. For better or worse.”

    December, 2008 (after a blockquote): “As someone raised by the Jesuits, I can tell you that even back in the 90’s there was deep ambivalence in Catholic schools about technology in education.”

    December, 2009: “Books for sale”

    February, 2011 (for a McSweeney’s list about “Love is…” cards for third anniversaries): “Love is…Having sex and knowing what kind of sub you’d like afterward.”

    What bums me out now that I don’t do much if any creative writing anymore is that I’m now experienced enough to understand that process…that writing is a kind of education, self-education I guess, and that like education, you only learn through experimentation and failure.

    But we have a problem with creative writing: we romanticize it so much that failure feels like the universe is passing verdict on our souls.

  7. I love open ends but am much better at open beginnings. Good to know am not the only one:)

  8. thank you–I’ve gotta transform some of those starts into a good little run, no? 🙂

  9. Nate

    Oooo, I love the spy one. It sounds like the beginning of one of Graham Greene’s entertainments.

    I will share one of mine from the other day that actually sparked a “magic” writing day for me:
    “I am an idiot.”
    (And yes, the story is somewhat autobiographical!)

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