Tag Archives: creative writing

Night and Day: a poem about your creative life and your work life

At night you write editorials
On managing depression
By day you justify the difference
Between online and in store pricing
At night you design covers
For your unpublished works
By day you honor expired coupons
For entitled jerks

At night you rehearse monologues
In front of all your mirrors
By day you perform a script
For fear of secret shoppers
At night you record podcasts
With a progressive slant
By day you’re a captive audience
For political rants

You’ve got a long commute
When you follow your dreams
You get motion sickness
Between the extremes
You get whiplash
Covering all that ground
Between the sun and moon
You get all worn down

At night you draw sketches
With intricate crosshatching
By day you find gaps in shelves
In need of patching
At night you drop beats
Over vintage synthesizers
By day you compare coverage maps
To those of your competitors

At night you pack stanzas
With evocative verbs
By day you bottle rage
For some good Yelp blurbs
At night you teach yoga
To friends looking to get a grip
By day you bend over backwards
Just to get a good tip

You’ve got a long commute
When you follow your dreams
You’re a crash test dummy
Between two extremes
You get jetlag
Covering all that ground
Between the sun and moon
You get all worn down

Blog Status Update

Blog entries will always get more clicks than Short Stories, but if you’re an aspiring author you need to do one of these things more. “How to” articles will drive traffic to your site, but will they pique anyone’s interest in your fiction? What’s the overlap between your readers in each medium? Odds are your blogging voice and your narrative voice sound completely different.

If you share more blogs than fiction, you’ve only established one of your brands.

I’ve had success writing about online marketing, but I’m more interested in writing horror than I am being a social media mentor. Yes, I could get around Twitter’s link limiting algorithm by writing endless articles about it, but that’s not why I’m here in the first place.

I’ve decided that my site needs to take a hit in monthly clicks so I can pursue my niche. If that means rebuilding my audience from the ground up, so be it.

There’s no shortage of bloggers who blog about blogging for bloggers who do the same, writing empty self perpetuating content that dates itself upon publication. I’m going to exit that cycle for a while.

You may have noticed the change already. This last May I’ve posted 5 short stories. I don’t know if I can keep that level of creative output going all summer long (I also have a novel to edit), but I want share as much fiction as I do blogs on writing.

There are so many would-be authors building brands by giving advice on the craft of writing. That’s been my strategy for four years now.

I’ve found that the audience that enjoys my blogging voice doesn’t really know my creative writing voice yet. That needs to change. So brace yourself for more twisted fiction to come.

How Writing a Novel is a lot like a Relationship

Last week I mentioned that I’d finished reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Rather than be a creativity kleptomaniac, I’m citing Ansari’s book as the inspiration for this article.

In his book, Ansari talks about the strange thing that happens when someone we like makes themselves available to us. The moment we know this person is a possibility they go from being the one to an option. They lose their appeal. We let our text exchanges with them fizzle out. We’re suddenly too busy to set a concrete appointment. The thrill of discovery is gone. This reaction is especially true to emerging adults fresh on the dating scene, where the search for a soulmate is a numbers game. Continue reading How Writing a Novel is a lot like a Relationship

Mixed Messages: How Corporate Writers Can Kill Their Darlings

1. Mixed Messenger

What Pickup Artists and Corporate Jargon have in Common

What would you think of a guy with hair plugs, a spray tan, and two bluetooth earpieces jutting out from his face like tusks? How about a man who walks into the club with a fur hat, black feather boa, and chains dangling across his pre-torn jeans? What about the guy posing with a gun and a tiger in his two seat sports car? Does it seem like they’re compensating for something?

Everyone wants to stand out, but someone who peacocks too much looks like they’re using their decorations to substitute for a personality. A pickup artist buried under pieces of flare tells the world there’s nothing really there. When a man walks into a bar with his head lost in a nest of fashion scarves everybody laughs behind his back, but when a company weighs down their job postings with unnecessary jargon no one challenges them. Continue reading Mixed Messages: How Corporate Writers Can Kill Their Darlings

Clarity is Cool (Audio Blog)

(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

This rant is for anyone who took an English literature class course and still didn’t loose their passion for writing, for anyone who can read something without having to search for a hidden meaning, for anyone who thinks that symbolism should come secondary to a good story. Continue reading Clarity is Cool (Audio Blog)

Clarity is Cool

1. Lifting the Blur

In college, I had a creative writing course that almost turned me off of the pursuit.

Safeguarding my 4.0 grade point average, I read the assigned short story collection before class began. These were award winning pieces; charming, clever, and oozing with emotion. When the professor saw my paperback copy, with it’s folded pages and well worn spine, my “A” would be a foregone conclusion, that was until he told us to ignore the syllabus. He was going off book, bringing in photocopies of stories from his personal collection. He felt they were better representations of what we should aspire to be writing.

As thick as these shorts were, they were uneventful, over stuffed with poetic language. If they were interpreted as films they’d be five minutes of awkward silences. If they were turned into plays, the director would have nothing to block out. The cast would stare off in opposite directions, while the audience waited for something to happen. The characters rarely moved, they made small talk to conceal larger conversations. The stories rarely came to conclusions, they just sort of ended.

Believing the absence of entertainment value signified some deeper meaning, I found myself rereading. It all went over my head. I felt illiterate. I kept looking, but I couldn’t see what the professor saw in these clips. I hoped our discussions would shed some light on his reasoning.

Rather than dwell on characters or plot points, we discussed the stories like we were interpreting dreams. Our conversations began with questions like:

“What did the color of the drapes represent?”

“How does the spiral staircase parallel the couple’s relationship?”

“When Gerald says, ‘The tree should have blossomed by now,’ what does he really mean?”

The professor preferred narratives that read like portraits. Paintings of couples frozen in time. These weren’t stories about changes, but explorations in the characters’ routines. If we wanted signs of development, we’d have to search for hints.

We were told to look for the iconography in the scenery, to search for symbolism in the humdrum, to find mosaics in the prosaic. It felt like we were learning valuable skills for critiquing another medium.

While I struggled to understand these stories, the rest of the class set out to find the invisible hand of the author, and they saw it everywhere. They were in on a joke that I didn’t get. They observed the feelings evoked by the sight of blue, red, and yellow, while I felt colorblind. Their fine toothed combs were finer than mine. Their enigma machines were in perfect working order, while I tried to break these codes with a crayon and a piece of paper.

This is not an exaggeration: I considered the possibility that I had an attention deficiency. I couldn’t focus long enough to read between the lines. I kept thinking, if I can’t see the value in these stories, who’s going to see the value in mine?

I thought that I might have poor taste, that Stephen King was what we peasants drank, with our beer bottle pockets, and these shorts were the Champagne of the literary world. My palate wasn’t refined enough to appreciate the difference.

2. Blur Man

When it came time for peer revue, our intentions were lost in translation. The authors were told they couldn’t chime in until the end, they had to soak in their audience’s confusion. Each short was an inkblot, open to interpretation. Every observation said more about the reader than the author of the words.

Scanning flat surfaces for signs of dimension, we saw sexual tension where there was none. We saw plot threads as thin as fishing lines, that told us the players were on borrowed time. Our subliminal searches led us to better stories than the author’s intended.

Relying on the Socratic method, the professor tried to direct us to conclusions using questions. This only added to the confusion. We came away with the wrong lessons.

The students got defensive. It wasn’t their fault that we lost the plot, we should’ve seen the signs. It wasn’t that they weren’t writing well, it was that we didn’t know how to read it right.

Imagine being told you didn’t get the job only to counter with, “You just didn’t get the symbolism in my cover letter.”

I couldn’t see the point of interjecting dual meanings, of making everything Freudian. I had a story to tell that involved police corruption, crooked lawyers, and demons. I couldn’t waste time languishing in any one location.

When I turned in my noir thriller, the professor was not a fan, but my peers had a different reaction. In their written feedback, they kept calling it “Fun.” There was a word we weren’t slinging around in our quest for deeper meaning, but “fun” was my intention.

I wanted to put something enticing on the surface before drawing my readers in. My popcorn prose weren’t completely on the nose. I didn’t prefer telling to showing, but it was clear what was happening.

I used symbols, but I took care not to make them the stars of the show. Clever characters, and an original premise were my big draws. Students thanked me for bringing action to my fiction. What I lacked in hidden meanings I made up in entertainment value.

I learned that symbols can be fascinating, tools to add layers to your writing, but you have to have a compelling story before anyone will feel the need to open it to interpretation.

3. Looking at the Blur