The biggest obstacles are the ones we place ourselves

I know. Cliche, but its true. At least for the majority of the human race. Currently for me it’s a common denominator for a lot of aspiring writers; the crippling self doubt that prompts the thoughts “Is this any good?” “Why would anybody read this?” “Why do I even try?” Well, sometimes it feels like our aspirations are impossible, but we keep at it anyway because it is a dream we’ve had for a long time. You hear stories of how the big name authors struggled to get where they are and you think of course you can do what they did so you start your work and a week goes by and the self-doubt creeps back in. I think a lot of people give up on their dreams because they feel overwhelmed and believe they will never truly succeed. I feel this way at times also.

So I’m hoping I can look back at this post ten years from now and think about how far I’ve come (I plan to have at least 3 books published by then). We will see. The good news is I’m forcing myself to start my book simply because I’m working on it as my thesis for my graduate program. I think the average author spends about two years writing a book. I’m hoping to have my first one completed in 9 months (much like a baby since I can’t physically have one). Of course then I’ll have to search for an agent and hope that I find one and then it’ll have to be sent off and prove itself worthy to a publisher and if that happens then it has to go through the publishing stages and finally it will be out to the public and then they have to notice and enough to pick it up and decide to hopefully read it and hopefully love it and tell their friends and word spreads and it sells a lot and I can have my hopes validated and I can work comfortably on the second book. A big dream I know. All sounds good in theory, but every step is going to seem insurmountable.

Of course, I have to start at the beginning. Write the book. Luckily, I’m already past the blank page. I hope to have it published by the end of 2018, but I’ll settle for early 2019. It’ll be my debut after all.

Here are the first few lines: “She thought the bullets and the bombs had prepared her for anything, but nothing could have prepared her for Ephraim. It was a Wednesday when they met. At least, it was a Wednesday for Bronwyn. A dream had woken her for what would be the third time that week and as there was no hope of returning to sleep she sat up and prepared to begin her day.”

There we are. The first few lines so far (of course subject to change). What do you think?

Dirty Dishes

My wife thought I had an affair when I stopped complaining about the dishes. The truth is I was just tired and she wasn’t going to change her habits, so I stopped complaining to give myself a break. I still loved her, but the change was too abrupt and she thought our 22 year marriage was finally losing its stability; like it was built out of loose matchsticks. Her accusations left her crying and my shoulders tense, so I left to do the dishes. I hummed to myself and scrubbed the large soup pot until it was almost new.

Visitation

No one noticed when it floated down and took its first step on the asphalt outside. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female just by looking which is my only pet peeve. Perhaps it didn’t have a gender. I never read the bible so I never really considered it. It looked human except for the large wings growing out of its back. This one reminded me of a barn owl. It wasn’t naked but it wasn’t dressed for the winter either. Maybe they don’t feel the cold. When it touched down, it walked straight to the diner, opened the door, and entered. Everyone inside fell silent and stared. I sipped my coffee. Chuck was the first to scramble for the door. Everyone else followed except Sherry behind the counter and old Wilma in her usual booth. Sherry was too dumbstruck to move and Wilma too fragile to move quickly. I pulled out my wallet and laid a ten on the table and palmed a five. It casually took a seat at the counter and asked for coffee. Sherry didn’t move. I got up and moseyed over and tossed the five on the counter. “I’ll get this one, Sherry.” It looked up at me with childlike eyes and smiled. Even this close I couldn’t tell. The long hair made it difficult. Sherry broke out of her surprise and slowly poured the coffee before retreating to the back room. “I wouldn’t stay too long. Folk around here frighten a bit easy.” I pulled my collar up and stepped out into the cold evening air.

Writer’s Block

There is nothing more annoying that sitting down to a blank page and being unable to vomit words onto it in a glorious, well-constructed, fun to read story. It happens. Even to the best of them. I believe it was Stephen King who once said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” It may sound weird from him since he has written sixty thousand books, but he is a smart guy who knows what he is talking about.

A few things to combat that fear of not being able to start or getting stuck is to remember that no one has to see what you write, it’s okay to write a shit story, and it’s not a bad idea to use writing prompts. Hell, I know I’ve written some shit stories (a lot that never even got finished) that never saw the light of day. I can only hope that they are deleted completely and won’t pop up years in the future. Though it is a great way to gauge how far you have come by reading old work. You have to improve somehow, and you can never get better if you never write.

I once heard or read (either from a professor or Terry Pratchett) that you should write a book, then put it aside and write a second book. That second book will be infinitely better because it won’t have the mistakes you made when writing the first book. Not bad advice, especially when you can go back and rework the first one. I think we all fall prey to getting too attached to our work. That’s why you hide it away after you finish the first draft and let yourself forget about it before you return. That way you can edit with fresh, unbiased eyes.

Writing is a lot of work. I think a lot of people don’t realize this. I know Patrick Rothfuss gets hounded because he hasn’t finished his third book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. For fuck’s sake the second book was 1,000 pages, give him some time. “But it’s been five years.” Who cares, do you want him to rush it and have it be bad? No. So stop bitching and wait. It’ll be worth it. Technology has killed patience (which is increasingly a virtue today). Anyway, writing is a lot of work. Being creative can be stressful. I won’t linger on this topic because it’s not fun.

So, moving on, instead of providing a flash piece this week, I’m challenging you to write a flash piece. You can post is as a reply if you like or throw it away or completely ignore the prompt. Up to you. Here it is: Write a story between 300 and 500 words where the main character is floating in space. They could be alone, or with people. In a ship, or only in a suit. Floating toward a star, or into a large ice cream cone behind Europa. Maybe they are descending to a new planet. Either way, start with them floating in space.

How Odin lost his eye

Mythology has always fascinated me. The Norse pantheon especially so. One thing that draws my interest is that the gods are immortal but know that they will eventually die during Ragnarok (a contradiction I know). These mortal immortals behave much like humans and are not immune to emotions, but they of course perform impossible feats and live in a world that contains what we would call magic. The story I am sharing with you this week (it’s Flash Friday) is the story of Odin and how he loses his eye, and what he gains in return.

If you have not yet dipped your toes in the waters of mythology and enjoy this snapshot of a story, I recommend you check it out. Of course the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda are great sources for Norse mythology, but if you don’t like poetry or a translated book originally written around the year 1200, I recommend you try Myths of the Norsemen by H. A. Guerber or Neil Gaiman’s recently released Norse Mythology. Neil’s version is of course modern (but stays true to the myth) and is suitable for all ages. Guerber’s was written in the early 1900’s and is very informative (he did his homework).

This is a retelling of Odin’s short exchange at Mimisbrunnr.


The Price of Wisdom

Many months had passed since Odin left Asgard. He had shed all ornament before his departure. Instead of his spear, he carried a walking staff. Instead of his armor, he wore simple clothes wrapped in a dark blue cloak. And instead of riding Sleipner, his eight-legged horse, he simply walked. He appeared as nothing but an old wanderer to any who would see him. He appeared as a man to men and a giant to giants. Nothing about his appearance would reveal his name. He had traveled across the vast land of Jotunheim, the land of giants, before he found the end of his journey; a well. Beside it stood its warden.

“Greetings, Odin, Borr’s son.”

Odin grinned, “Well met, Mimir, guardian of wisdom. I have come to drink from your well.”

“Many have desired such as you, but none has so desired it that they would offer what is asked of them. You know your price.”

“I will not shy away from it.” Odin walked to the well. It was brimming with water so thin and clear it could have been air. He felt his thirst for it. He raised a hand to his right eye. With his thumb and two forefingers he spread his eyelids wide, dug deep into his skull, and pulled his eye from its resting place. Through all the pain he did not make sound. Blood dripped like tears from the empty socket. Odin held the eye before him and looked upon it one last time, then he dropped it into the well where it sank deep into its clear water. “The price is paid. I will have what is mine.”

Mimir nodded and produced a large drinking horn. He filled it with the well’s water and handed it to Odin, the first and last to pay the price. Odin took the horn with both his hands and drank deeply. Behind the taste of sunlight, the future became clear. He saw all that would happen in the nine worlds. All the troubles and triumphs of men and gods, and beyond that he learned why the sorrows and trials must be made. Noble acts amidst the troubles and sorrows would create a force that one day, a day long in the future, would grapple and destroy the evil that brought terror and torment into the world. Odin new what he must do to prepare for the end of days, and he took solace in the thought of a world reborn.

Odin drained the horn in one drink and handed it back to Mimir. He thanked the wise giant, then turned and left. His right eye would remain suspended in the well of wisdom, looking up through the water, as a sign to all who would wander there that the Allfather had paid for his wisdom.