Discovering abandoned writing

Art is never finished, only abandoned

Leonardo da Vinci
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Frigid winter temperatures and pandemic isolation have forced me to embark on another phase of clearing out clutter that mysteriously accumulates in my home. Discovery of a box placed high up on a shelf, both out of reach and out of eyesight, recently led to an interesting find.

Blowing off decades of dust, I opened this innocuous cardboard box, both puzzled as to what was inside of it and wondering why it was languishing in that spot unnoticed. Curiosity welled up inside of me. Along with a small buzz of excitement as recognition dawned about what it might contain.

Dozens of cheap notebooks were neatly stacked inside. Hilroy brand with narrow lines, three holes punched in them while sporting traditional colours: yellow, blue, green, and an odd dull shade of red. Reminder of a time when I had once poured my heart and writing soul into the craft of writing.

Flipping through them, I read past attempts at short fiction, poetry that badly needed line breaks, and pages of ideas for essays. Today I guess we would call that genre, creative non-fiction. Some random journal entries, typically melodramatic rather than upbeat but clearly delineating the timeline of the writing. Decades old from my university days and slightly beyond.

Character sketches. Plot outlines. Prose written with far too many adjectives. Ideas for a novel. As I read, becoming rather engrossed in the words written by my much younger self, I knew that my clutter clearing project was going to be placed on hold. Most of the notebooks had many blank pages. It was almost as if I must have started to use a new notebook whenever I made a renewed commitment to developing a writing practice.

As I read through these notebooks, I felt an emerging sense of creative energy. Looking at one of pieces of short fiction, I wondered if it would better lend itself to a flash fiction piece. Moving quickly to the computer, my now preferred way to craft prose, I began reshaping the words that once were in my mind so many years ago. And realized how thankful I am for this unexpected opportunity to rediscover these abandoned words.

Stay healthy and safe!

Creativity: Getting tiny sparks to burst into flame

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The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Doubt. Negative self-talk. Despair. We have all likely experienced those moments when we are certain that our creative wells have run dry and that we have no more words to offer up to the world. When we are beset by those times sometimes referred to as writer’s block, how do we regain those sparks of creativity and find the kindling needed to encourage them to burst into full flame?

Last month, I attempted and (actually!) finished a writing event during National Novel Writing month. Flash Nano, an event created by Nancy Stohlman who asked participants to sign up to receive a writing prompt every day and to then write a story of up to a thousand words. Each morning last month, I found myself trying to bend my mind around some unusual ideas, very quirky prompts, and then proceed to create a piece of flash fiction.

I must admit that as the month progressed, I actually eagerly looked forward to what that morning email would bring. And although it’s wonderful to now have a file folder with thirty flash fiction stories, some of which I will definitely invent the time to edit and polish while others will linger in that folder forever, my biggest takeaway was learning more about creativity. Specifically, how I became attuned to the role creativity plays in my writing life.

This was a private experience for me, I did not post my stories to social media sites, or share them with others. It was instead a journey down a path that led to internal examination and discovery. Each morning I found myself considering many divergent ways in which to approach a story based on prompts that sometimes didn’t even make sense to me. This creative discovery process was something I have never fully appreciated or spent much time in reflection about it.

Through this discovery journey, I have come to understand that many aspects of daily living are in fact creatively inspired. It seemed that from one day to the next, my sense of creativity was heightened and I began to notice how this permeates all aspects of my life. From what clothing I would choose to wear that day to what foods I decided to prepare and even extending to what type of exercises I would choose to engage in. Creativity is afoot even if we think it is not.

And the best part of this entire writing exercise, was that the more time I spent working on these ideas, the quicker they came to me. By the last week of the flash fiction event, my writing came more quickly and with much less struggle. It almost seemed as if the more creative sparks I experienced, the more these ideas became like pieces of kindling. And for all of the ideas that I didn’t actually use, I have set the remainder aside in a notebook for some day in the future.

Hope you are experiencing the warmth of the creative path in your life! Stay healthy and safe!

Finding refuge in flash fiction

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Flash Fiction will change you. It will make you a very different writer.

Nancy Stohlman

Having previously attempted the world renowned practice in November of writing a novel in 30 days (NaNoWriMo), and found that I was unable to sustain the motivation to finish, this year I stumbled upon a different type of November challenge – Flash Nano! This writing challenge is the brainchild of Nancy Stohlman, author of the recently published craft guidebook to flash fiction, “Going Short – An invitation to flash fiction”. Nancy provides daily writing prompts with the challenge and expectation the writer is to write a flash fiction story of 1,000 words or less every day.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not but it is an amazing challenge and the by-product is learning more about oneself as a writer as well as some of the nuts and bolts of the craft. And…even better, it has been a wonderful distraction from all of the chaos across the globe especially the political farce playing out south of the border and the looming escalation of viral infection.

To date, I have received seventeen prompts and written seventeen stories. Today I will tackle number eighteen and the best part of receiving these emails is that I now find myself spending more time during the day on this writing practice and I am also discovering it has enhanced my creative inclinations in other aspects of life throughout the day.

We likely all know what types of activities or strategies work best for each of us to stay engaged, creative, and energized. But maintaining consistency with any undertaking seems to have been elusive for me over the past few weeks as the outside world has become somewhat overwhelming. It has also been more difficult to simply find joy, excitement, and just plain fun in an activity. This one has helped check all of those boxes for me.

This has been instructive on several levels and surprising as well. This one activity has helped me focus on setting goals, applying effort to achieve them, learning and developing new skills, persevering when you think you don’t want to do something any longer, finding fun in the process, and learning to tune out all of the negativity that is knocking at the door. Writing practice has been a part of my life for the past couple of years and this month it has been amplified and elevated.

It has been awhile since I have looked forward to completing a task every single day. Perhaps this is one of the defining features of the disruptive force this pandemic has had in my newly sculpted post retirement life. Having made it through my own personal life transition, the farthest thing from my mind was to anticipate the collective transition that we are all going through. This writing practice has taught me a few personal lessons that I hope I am able to sustain long after we pass through this dark tunnel of time.

Hope you are finding things in your life that nurture you and create positive energy, excitement and just plain fun. Stay healthy and safe!