I’m a middle school language arts teacher and last summer, I resolved to forego teaching summer school in order to spend my time writing. Thanks to two excellent blogs, Two Writing Teachers, and Teachers Write!, I have done more creative writing this summer and done it more consistently than I ever have. As a result, I’ve become enamored with writing memoir-based short stories about my childhood in Fort Scott, Kansas and the truths about life learned during that time in that town.
Even though I have worked as a freelance writer in the past, the writing I completed last summer contains far more meaning to me personally, and I can now see a clearer direction of where my writing is headed, although I am unable to define that direction right now. And I’m okay with that.
(Attention Real Writers: Skip the next two to three paragraphs, since you already know this is how writing works.) I am also okay with: not knowing where a piece is headed even when I’ve invested many hours in it. Even when I’ve been disciplined enough to play with the point of view or the sequence of events to gauge the effects of those changes. Even when I’ve known that the experimentation may be tossed out in the end after all. Even when I know that few people, if any, may read it, like it, recommend it, or share it.
I have also learned to trust that the story will come if I have enough patience. I just must keep writing and thinking, knowing that the story will eventually show itself (with a plot and everything!). And then there’s this: What is the story really about? It seems like the story’s theme, life lesson, or jaw-dropping revelation is something that I should be able to pinpoint at the start of the story, but it isn’t. I have to spend the time (again, patience!) to let the story come, and then — and finally then — figure out what it’s really about. And then refine and massage the story so the reader understands what it’s really about without being told what it’s really about. In other words, give the reader 2 + 2, not 4.
Writing is exhausting in the same way that a jigsaw puzzle is exhausting. I search and search for that one piece that I know is there if I look hard enough. Finally, I find it, fit it in, and the picture is a little clearer. Taking all this time to do all this thinking is hard because I don’t naturally have the necessary patience. It’s just so dang hard (whining goes here). It’s much easier to read, or watch t.v., or eat, or do laundry, or grade papers, or go for a walk, or bake bread, or clean the windows. Anything is easier than writing.
P.S. In case you’re interested, the next paragraph contains a list of books I read last summer, all of which were excellent distractions from the writing I should have been doing. It’s a little strange that, with the exception of Dillard’s and Angelou’s work, these books bear little resemblance to memoir, the genre I am currently exploring.
- An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
- A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
- Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
- Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick
- Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
- Missoula: Rape and the Criminal Justice System by Jon Krakauer
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Deep Down Dark by Hector Toban (The 33 Chilean Miners).
I’ve included below some published work from my time as a freelancer, which occurred prior to kids, the Internet (yes, that long ago), and a blissful foray into the ceramic arts with my husband, Mitch Yung.
- Produce Merchandising magazine, contributing editor, Vance Publishing, Lenexa, Ks.
- Niche and American Style magazines, writer, The Rosen Group, Baltimore, Md.
- The Crafts Report magazine, writer
- Country Heart magazine, writer, New York, NY
- Branson Living magazine, writer, Branson, Mo.
- Raising Arizona Kids magazine, writer, Phoenix, Az.
- Independent Business magazine, writer
- Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, writer, Atlanta, Ga.