It was a dark and stormy night. Not to your taste, how about it wasn’t the best of times and it wasn’t the worst of times. OK, so maybe I better leave that sort of writing to others. My writing friends and I often talk about what works and what doesn’t, and about what’s fun to write and what isn’t. I’ve written and self-published two novels and looking back, I can’t say either was a great deal of fun. Flash fiction has been a new thing to try, but in the end, it hasn’t grabbed my interest. It is in writing short stories that seem to give me the space to tell a story, to be creative without requiring the time commitment of penning an 80,000-word novel. Commercially, I’m not sure short stories ever get to the top of any best-selling lists. But then again, I’m not getting calls to do NPR or Oprah interviews for my novels.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to write and why. I just finished reading a book that has helped move me along in this process. The book title is First Person Singular by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami. He is a novelist who has also published a great deal of short stories. The book I just mentioned was a collection of eight of the most quirky stories I’ve ever read. One was about a monkey that could speak to and understand humans. To add to the story, the primate stole parts of the names of females he found attractive and, made them forget who they were. Yep, it not only sounds quirky (a technical term) but maybe sounds so off beat and bizarre that you might wonder why anyone would like it. But I loved the stories. Murakami is a very skilled writer, but I liked his work mostly because it was so entertaining. The stories were simply fun to read. And as a result, I couldn’t help but think they must have been fun to write. Emphasis on the word FUN.
This last thought leads me to how Murakami’s book has helped me come to some decisions on what I want to write. Confession time. Whenever I’ve turned my nose up a bit and allowed myself to think that I try and write for something more than entertainment, I end up realizing all I’m doing is being snooty and my nose is in the air. I like books with some “moral” element to them and I think consciously or unconsciously I’ve also tried to write with some moral or ethical bent. I realize that far more often than I’d like to believe, it comes off sounding more like an old Bible thumping preacher, who goes on far too long and offers far too many “shoulds” and “should nots.” What can happen is little fun for the reader and little fun for me as the writer. I have no desire to be a preacher or a moralist. Although it’s often said, “find your own voice,” I believe we all to some extent try and emulate those writers we admire. As my friend Wes says about himself, “I’m no Hemingway,” I can add to the choir that “I’m no Steinbeck.” I do strive to move closer to my voice, although I admit it often sounds more like a rooster with laryngitis than a rock star.
I’ve also dipped my toe in the water writing poetry. Again the effort of writing something new puts me in a category of a novice writer of poorly written limericks than it does in the category of Langston Hughes, Mary Oliver, or Nikki Giovanni. Still, it is fun and gives me something new to learn. The learning curve is steep, but it’s keeping my brain active. Did you notice I again used the word fun?
Lastly, I’ve come upon the activity of making and reading chapbooks. If you are unfamiliar with them, they are generally only 20-to-40-page booklets that are most often books of poetry or short stories and are often handcrafted or produced by small publishers that specialize in this type of writing or printing. They are inexpensive and date back hundreds of years. Mostly they are fun to write and make. Three funs in a row and they become a winner for me. So now I’m focusing my efforts on improving my short story and poetry writing skills and creating chapbooks. To this point it is a blast.
If you ‘re interested in finding chapbooks, look on the ETSY website and then search for chapbooks. Shameless plug – my two chapbooks, Finding Home and Common Ground can be found there. There are many to locate on Etsy, or you can simply google chapbook publishers to find more.
So now I want to spend a bit of time finishing up a new story I’ve been working on. The Reverend David says you “should” find what brings you pleasure and do that thing. Writing, reading, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or counting ants crawl across your kitchen counter. It really doesn’t matter if you enjoy it. I’m now going to spend some time doing just that. I wish you great luck and success.
Do yourself a favor – read First Person Singular
Denni’s Wise Words
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the soul on fire.”