Branches: Prologue

Today is around the time I’d hope to crank out another story in the Branches series, but since I devoted last week to writing a fictional piece for Love & Radio around a series of voice mails (that, unfortunately, over the weekend became an internet sensation and thus useless to us), today is finding me ill-prepared in the schedule department. So I thought that, instead, I’d answer a question that potentially needs answering.

What the hell are you doing?

Yeah, seriously! What the hell am I doing? Fiction? Plots? Imaginary . . . characters? What? And this was supposed to be fun and easy! Short and “flash” fiction have always been my favorite formats to read, and what I assumed I’d write, if I only had the time.

And now I have the time! Rejoice, rejoice, Emmaaaaaanuel.

Here’s what I initially hadn’t figured on, and what I promptly figured out a mere few hours after awakening that first blissful, sunny morning of freedom: writing takes practice . . . and I haven’t written any fiction in seven years. Seven years may not sound like so long to the more wizened of us out there, so here’s some perspective: seven years ago is equal, for me, to two life phases ago. That’s pre-post-college working life, pre-college hilarity life, all the way back to mid-high-school omgwtfbbq life when — oh, why pad the truth — I wrote about mermaids.

And cats! The culmination of my fiction-writing career thus far, my epoch, was at the tender age of fourteen, when I realized I could write a story about . . . mercats.

I’d like to think that my brain cells have been about 75% replaced in the past seven years. This would be a pretty convenient philosophy, since beyond freeing me from the embarrassing preoccupations of my former psyche, it could follow that I — as in, my current brain implementation — have never done this fiction-writing thing before. This is certainly what it feels like. I open up a blank TextEdit file, turn off my wireless, and stare blankly, desperately, like someone told to compose an essay in a foreign language.

Because here’s the problem when you’re just making shit up: you can say anything. What. Do. You. Choose?

I realized that I could use some boundaries, and a clear place to begin. I needed to write a lot at first, without getting frustrated with the details or worrying that it sucked a little. I needed to read a lot, and take from other writers, because that’s what everyone tells you.

So, okay. Branches.

I’m not under any illusion that these are great, publishing-house-publishable stories. For both of our sakes, I hope they’re at least somewhat entertaining, worth your time. I would welcome any comments containing criticism, encouragement, violent insults, ambivalent shrugs of doubt, and perplexed questions in regards to my abilities (unless we’re dating — in which case, please say that you love me).

One every two weeks, until I’ve written ten. I have a general rule that I don’t write anything I don’t enjoy writing, because it shows. If I’m still pulling my hair out by assisted-story number ten, I’ll move on.

But let’s give this a go, shall we?

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  1. I know this sounds pat. But…I agree with you– writing is really really hard sometimes. Even when it’s what you love to do. I am the same way; the last time I wrote fiction, real stories; the last time I really thought of myself as A Writer and spent HOURS writing, and when I wasn’t writing I was just killing time til I could write again, was back in highschool.

    I had the same ‘staring at a blank screen’ thing during college, when I was trying to write a collection of short stories for my senior project. “I’m worried that I’m not old enough to have anything useful or intelligent to say through creative writing,” I told my project advisor. “Well, you have a point,” he said. “That’s why many professors don’t think we should offer a creative writing project as an option. Now, run along and write your creative project.”

    Ogod. The agony.

  2. Ben LaFarge of course. Then I dumped him as an a project advisor for Nancy…something. Shoot, that makes me feel bad.

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