Welcome to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe

Andy surprised me with a clean deck. #feelinggratefulA few of us sat on the deck the other afternoon having a pre-dinner cocktail when the conversation turned to unicorns, specifically, how we like to have chefs prepare them. Andy, the resident vegetarian, just listened, of course. I said I prefer untrimmed brisket ground with salt and pepper, cooked medium rare, topped with Gruyère and served on a buttered rosemary roll. Our house guest prefers his cut from the tenderloin–a simple filet cooked rare. They’re all grass fed, so no need to worry about that. Is it shameful, eating unicorns? What else are we going to do with them? This is America for god’s sake.

The discussion reminded me of how much I love my move to writing fiction.

Attempting memoir was like regularly putting on grimy chest-high waders, feeling through mud for pistons and ribs to salvage. Always mosquitoes. Perpetually damp and confused. I stuck with real life because I was compelled to write and lacked confidence in my ability to make up plot. I wrote from impulse and left undeveloped clusters of paragraphs in my wake. Thus, the blog grew. But all along, I knew that starting with non-fiction events and opinions doesn’t preclude one from having to contrive form. Refining memories into structured pieces felt boring at best (so what if I’ve never eaten lettuce) and often times painful (I’m a bad daughter, an even worse girlfriend, and my cheeseburger addiction is murderous).

What was I going to do? Quit writing?

No. I had to try harder.

Returning to fiction writing classes in a formal academic setting is the best thing I’ve done all year. I’m learning how stories work and how to make them. As a happy side effect, I have a new clarity, a way to compartmentalize my various writing behaviors.

  • There is this blog for public musing, which usually comes from a compulsion to whine or wax soapboxy, and which I should probably retire at some point.
  • And now there is a slowly growing body of completed short stories. Fiction. No unicorns, just people with problems not my own, characters to whom I owe nothing. If I can trick myself into giving them something more consequential than a hair growing from a mole under a jawbone, they might assert themselves, make a mess, hide the evidence. Any mud under my fingernails is fantasy grit, imagined sludge. My waders are clean and dry as Lady Elaine’s red dress.

I can see now that blogging has been a habit stemmed from a crude urge to write. I’ve loved it, but this is the time for discipline. My stories will come from cultivating self-control. Which is a long-winded transition to saying I have a deadline in three days and two hours of blogging was not on the agenda. Oops.

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No unicorns were harmed or consumed in the making of this post.

 

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