“The Date”, a short story by Sarah Galyean Jones

In less than three days, thanks to a rave review in the New York Times, Café Luca had gone from hole-in-the-wall to line-out-the-door. It had taken me over an hour just to get a table, but that was okay, because Henry was late and I had gotten there early. This had been our place, our favorite little spot in Manhattan. Now, it was everyone’s favorite little spot in Manhattan.

They finally seated me at a table next to the bathrooms, a downgrade from the booth near the front window we used to occupy. I took a minute to flip open my compact mirror and examine myself. I hadn’t seen Henry in a year, and I couldn’t have him sitting across from me after twelve months had passed with lipstick on my teeth. But, I looked okay. I looked the same.

“Amy?” I glanced up to see him standing there, and it took me a second to recognize him. He’d swapped his lumberjack flannel for a blazer, had on glasses and a legitimate haircut. He looked like a real writer now. He looked like an adult.

“Henry! It’s good to see you!” I stood up to greet him. I sounded a lot more excited than I had intended.

He clapped an arm around me, the way you hug your aunt. “It’s good to see you too, Amy.” We sat down, Henry unrolling his silverware and shaking out his napkin.

“Man, this place is packed now! It was never like this before. Can you believe it?”

“Yeah, I know, it’s crazy!” I said. “The Times bats an eye at you and all of New York comes a’flockin’!” I cringed. Why had I just said “a-flockin’”?

“Very true,” he nodded.

“Amy and Henry!  It’s been a while!” The waiter, who had told me his name maybe a hundred times during the year that Henry and I frequented Café Luca, but I’d always been too drunk to remember it, appeared at our table. “It’s so good to see you two! It’s been a while!”

“Chuck, how are you, my man?” Henry said, shaking his hand like they were actually good buddies and not just server and patron. Chuck! That was it. “Business seems to be doing well. There’s a line out the door!”

They chatted for a minute before he took our drink orders. It got a martini, a gin one. I was going to need it. The last time Chuck had seen us, we’d been so in love that we sat on the same side of the booth. We were that couple you hate. The one you look at and then whisper ‘get a room’ under your breath.

“So, how’ve you been, Amy?”

“I’ve, um, well I’ve been good,” I said. “I’m really surprised that I actually got you to come here tonight.”

“I mean, I’ll be honest, I was really surprised to get your call.”

“Well, I’m glad you showed up,” I said. “You look really good.” I tried not to put too much emphasis on the ‘really’, but it was hard.

“Thanks,” he blushed. “You do too.”

“Have you been doing well?”

He nodded. “I’ve been okay, can’t complain.”

“I’ll say.” I reached in my purse to take out the book. It was as good a time as any to get to the point. “I bought this.”

Henry’s face flushed. “Ah. Well, thank you.”

“Henry, it’s amazing. I can’t believe you finally did it. And it’s a bestseller, too?   I mean, that’s insane! I remember when you were starting to work on the manuscript, and look at it now! It’s in hardback and everything.”

He smiled. “I can’t believe it either. I keep waiting to wake up, you know? Like, someone pinch me.”

I nodded. “I am so proud of you.”

We finally made eye contact. “Thank you, Amy.”

Chuck appeared again to take our orders and Henry and I both got what we always got. We didn’t even need to look at the menus. I ordered a second drink.

“Well, so, I guess I’ll just get right to it,” I continued. “I read it in, like, a day. I mean, it’s really good. It totally grabs you, Henry. I couldn’t put it down.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“But, I, uh, well, I noticed something.”

His face flushed again. “You did, huh?”

“The character you call Avery, the girl who keeps interfering with your main character,” I flipped open the book to the page I had dog-eared and read aloud, “‘She was a drunken mess, a belligerent fool charging through the Union Square farmer’s market at ten A.M. on a Saturday morning. She knocked over a card table of produce, and dashed away in the opposite direction before the vendor turned around to see. I stood there watching as she tore down Broadway, jogging in her heels to god knows where, her crimson hair flying behind her. She was a loon, and I had to claim her as mine.’” I looked up at him. He was staring at the napkin in his lap. “Henry, this is me.”

He didn’t say anything.

I flipped through the book, looking for the other passages I had bookmarked. “I mean, this Avery character, she does all the things I’ve ever wanted to do. Like, she lives in that building in Nolita that I tried to lease but couldn’t afford, she’s a photographer that actually makes money, she’s got a pilot’s license…” I glanced back up at him. “She cheats on the main character like I did.”

He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. “Yes, okay? Yes. She’s you.”

“Henry,” I shut the book. “Is this even legal? I mean, I’m pretty sure I could sue you for libel. Obviously, I’m not going to, but I’m pretty sure that I have a case here.”

He kept his eyes down. “I didn’t use your real name.”

“Why did you do this?”

He shrugged again. “I guess I didn’t think you would ever read it. Hell, I didn’t think I could ever get it published.”

“I mean, Henry, you say things about me in here that I would never want anyone to read about. All of the bad stuff that happened to me that year, it’s all there.”

“I know.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, why did you do those things?”

I didn’t know how to reply. Our food appeared at the table.

“Oh, wow, they’ve really stepped up their game since we used to come here,” Henry said, eyeing his chicken and picking up his fork.

“Don’t change the subject.”

He shot me a look. “Well, alright, I’m sorry, Amy. Is that what you want me to say? I’m sorry that I wrote about you in my book. I’m sorry I was mean. But I’m a writer, and those things happened to me, and I can use them if I want.”

“Those things didn’t happen to you, they happened to me.”

“Well, I got to enjoy the side effects,” he said, stabbing at his food.

“Henry, you’re the literary darling of New York City and everyone and their uncle is reading about ‘Crazy Avery’. Do you have any idea what that feels like? This is mortifying.”

He put down his fork and leaned in to whisper. “Do you know what it felt like to sit outside of our building and watch that guy leave? That guy who you said was just a work friend? Tell me how you think that feels, Amy.”

I looked away.

“Tell me how it feels when I get a call from a stranger at three o’clock in the morning, and you have to go pick up your girlfriend from some apartment in Williamsburg because she’s too drunk to go home by herself when she told you she was just grabbing dinner with her girlfriends. Tell me what that feels like.”

I didn’t speak. He kept going.

“Tell me what it feels like to use almost all the money I had in savings to pay your bail. Tell me what that feels like.”

“That was a bad time in my life, okay? I know that I was difficult.”

“Yeah, difficult,” he said, and I knew the word didn’t even begin to cover it.

“I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t change what I did.”

“Well, I’m sorry that you don’t like what you read. But, you know, it’s true. So, if you don’t like the Amy that’s in print, maybe you should examine the Amy you are in person.”

I didn’t say anything. He waited for me to answer. We sat there for a while, him glaring at me, me staring at my plate of pasta, without a word.

“Is that why you asked me here tonight?” he asked me finally.

I shook my head. “No. Well, yes and no. I asked you here because, well, because I had a question.”

“Okay. Let’s hear it.”

“In the end of the book, we find out that the main character is still in love with Avery. We find out that he wants to get back together with her. He wants to give her another chance.”

“Yeah, so?”

I took a breath. “Well, so, I guess I wanted to know if that’s true. I wanted to know if you want to give me another chance. If you’re still in love with me.”

He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms across his chest, and let out a sigh. “God, Amy, really?”

“How can I not ask, Henry? I mean, it’s right there in the last chapter! The main character says he’s still in love with Avery, even though she’s a mess, even though she cheated on him. He says that he loves her enough to work with her through their issues. I mean, how can I not ask if that’s true?”

“It’s been over a year, Amy.”

“Yeah, so?”

“So, I guess, when I wrote it, yeah, I was still in love with you. But that was a year ago. And a lot has happened in that year.”

“I know.”

“And, well, I have a suspicion that you still haven’t gotten real help.” He glanced at my empty martini glass. “Have you?”

I swallowed before I answered. “No, not yet.”

“Amy,” he reached out and took my hand in his. “I’m always going to love you, okay? But I can’t go through all that again. I just can’t. I owe it to myself not to.”

“But, but, in your book you said—”

“I know what I said.” He squeezed my hand tight, and then let it go. “But that’s a book. It’s fiction.”

I pushed the martini glass away from me with my free hand.

“Look, I’m not really very hungry anymore,” he said. “And I think that maybe it would be best if I go now.” He let go, and started to lift himself up from his chair.

“Please, let’s finish our dinner. Don’t leave.”

“No, Amy, I really think I should.” He stood up and pulled two twenty-dollar bills from his wallet to leave by his uneaten plate of food. “I’m sorry you didn’t hear what you wanted to tonight. I really am.”

I nodded.

He paused for a second, crossing his arms over his blazer again, tapping his foot the way he always did when he was thinking. “Do me a favor?”

“What’s that?”

He pursed his lips before he spoke. “Take care of yourself this time, okay? Can you do that, please? For me?” I was reminded of the old Henry. The Henry in the flannel, pacing around our apartment on a rant while I sat on our bed, going on and on about how he couldn’t love me enough for the both of us. Because I had to put in some effort too.

I squeezed my eyes shut. “Okay.”

With that, he pushed in his chair, turned, and left me sitting there, alone with his book.

Chuck reappeared to scoop up my empty glass. “Do you want another drink, Amy?”

I shook my head. “No, thank you. I’m done.”

The Writer’s Tool Box

Hello, everyone.

I’ve been incredibly busy lately, what with my book coming out in less than twenty days (HOLY MOLY, IT’S FINALLY HERE) and revisions of the new book and working on short stories for my fiction class and also forcing myself to trudge through all of the other academic work on my agenda so I can actually, you know, earn a degree and not give my dad a heart attack when he finds out he paid tuition dollars for C’s, so I haven’t had a lot of time to come up with fun and quippy ideas for blog entires.  However, with all of this extra writing I’ve been doing, I’ve realized that I can’t really have a productive day of talking to myself unless I’m well-equipped with my “writer’s tool box”.

Now, I know you may be conjuring up images of a some rusty looking fishing tackle box or Luke’s tool box, Burt, from Gilmore Girls (I appreciate you if you get the reference), but, alas, I have no physical container to store these necessary items.  My “writer’s tool box” is imaginary, so the comparison may be a bit of stretch, but it’s 11:06 on a Tuesday night, so cut me a break.  Anyway, I thought I would share with you what all I have in it.

1.  Massive amounts of coffee

Here’s a true story for you.  This morning, I woke up a little early to get started on my daily goal of 2,000 words, and rolled out of bed at the wee hour of 8 AM (I’m in college.  This, to me, is early.) and came downstairs to let my dog out and brew myself a warm cup of liquid personality.  Except for one thing: I was out of coffee.  How could I let this happen?  How could I have been so foolish?  So, I put on some pants and got in my car to head to my local Starbucks.  I turn in to go through the drive through, when I see this heinous disaster: a chalkboard has been propped up at the entrance that says that both the indoor cafe and drive through are closed due to a power outage.  They are sorry for the inconvenience.  I, personally, feel that their apology doesn’t quite make up for the inconvenience.  Alas, I know that I can’t come home unless I have something caffeinated in my hand, and I look way too just-rolled-out-of-bed to go into a grocery store for ground coffee.  So I stooped to a level of fast food eating that’s lower than low: the McDonald’s McCafe.  It’s not my favorite, or ever my first choice, but it did the trick.

 

2.  Auto-Save

I can’t tell you how many good stories I have lost to Word Document.  It’s taken me a long time to get over myself make the switch, but I now only use Google Docs, and they take extra special good care of my work.  I feel like they actually care.

 

3.  Major self-control, or an App that doesn’t let you get on BuzzFeed while you work.

There are a lot of these out there.  I highly recommend Freedom.  Suddenly, I don’t go from composing dialogue to scrolling through a list of “Dogs Who Are Stuck in Things, But Totally Okay With It” and lose hours of my day to the black hole that is the Internet.

 

4.  A good editor.

Thanks, Mom!  Hold on to these people like they owe you money.  Even though you probably owe them money for reading your crappy first drafts.

 

5.  A door that locks.

I get a little weird when I’m in the writing zone.  I pace around the floor, I have conversations with myself, I end up in all kinds of yoga positions to get the blood (and, hopefully, ideas) flowing to my head.  I don’t necessarily want the rest of the world to see this.  So, I lock the door.

 

6.  Other books.

“You’re not a writer unless you’re a reader.”  I don’t know who said that, so I’m claiming it as my own.  On the days I don’t write, I try to read a little of something someone else wrote.  It keeps you sharp.  Like a pencil.  A pencil that you write with!

 

7.  A deadline.

This works for some people better than others.  I’m the type of person who won’t do anything if you give me unlimited time to do it, so I make up deadlines for myself, and then I act like it’s incredibly important that I finish on time, or else we might face a real life The Day After Tomorrow situation, or something.  Which might make for a good story.  So there you go.

 

If you have any other tools for your writer’s toolbox that you swear by, I’d love to hear about them.  And possibly steal them from you.  Thanks for reading!

SGJ

 

 

Late night thoughts on Valentine’s Day…

This is probably going to be a quick post, not because I don’t think it’s important, but because it’s 10:52 on a Sunday night and I have a test in the morning.  But it’s on my mind, so I thought I might talk about it.

 

I had a bad week.  Like, really bad.  I won’t go into the ‘why’, but I will say that my boyfriend deserves a crown and a gold star for listening to me whine for the past seven days.  He’s a good one.

 

But, despite the fact that I had some things happen this week that, well, weren’t my favorite, I can be grateful for one thing.  I had an okay Valentine’s Day.

 

Now, before you shut down your browser because you don’t want to hear about flowers and candy and my romantic restaurant dinner for two and all the lovey dovey moments of my day, hold up.  Full disclosure: today, I studied for my test that I have in the morning, took another online test, ate a Healthy Choice microwave dinner, and watched the Bachelor reunion thing that came on TV tonight so I could spend time with the real love of my life, Chris Harrison.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  But, no, I’m telling you, we did nothing today that had anything to do with celebrating this Hallmark holiday.  At all.  I promise.  And I was really, really okay with it.

 

I was pretty single for a long time, so I know what it feels like when Valentine’s Day (or, as it is sometimes lovingly dubbed, Singles’ Awareness Day) rolled around and I had no boyfriend to buy me a giant teddy bear or anything.  I would spend the entire day, morning to night, feeling sorry for myself.  It wasn’t because I really wanted a giant teddy bear, it was because I didn’t want to be reminded that I was alone, and I felt excluded from all of the festivities because I wasn’t part of a package deal.  For someone like me, who is very affected by seasonal depression, Valentine’s Day could not have come at a worse time.

 

I’ll make my point, and then I’m going to bed.  To all of you girls out there who had a crappy day, I wish I could give you a hug (or buy you a heart-shaped box of chocolates, if you would prefer that) because I’ve been there.  But try to remember that this day, while, yes, is a scheme for candy and flower companies to make money, is also about love.  Love can be shared between all kinds of people, in all different relationships, and that includes family, friends, and pets.  Pick someone in your life who you love, and call them and tell them.  They may be feeling low today too.

 

And, if you like a big cheesy Valentine’s, that’s great.  But don’t be upset if your significant other didn’t pull out all the stops.  In my opinion, a good relationship is one where it feels like Valentine’s Day 365 days of the year, and you don’t need a goofy holiday to prove it.

 

And can I just say, can we please bring back elementary school Valentine’s Day?  Because that was so fun!  I want to decorate a shoebox and make a bunch of paper cards for everyone in my third grade class.  How can we do this as adults?  Someone figure this out and make it a thing.

 

So, anyway, to tie all this up, spread the love.  But kill the hype.  Because this holiday makes people feel bad.  And I would really like to change that.

 

Love all around and goodnight!

SGJ

The ‘S’ Word

Oh, Lordy, it’s that time of year again, isn’t it?  Here she comes, the month to trump all other months, the Queen December, and for 31 days may she reign.  I have been so “crazy busy” over the past month that I began to sound like a Kardashian sister.  And I know that I’m not the only one!  I’m sure all of you can sympathize with me when I say that I haven’t had a spare minute to even keep up with those crazy Kardashians over the past 22 days.  What with final projects, exams, coming home for the holidays, jumping back into work and running all the Christmas errands like a North Pole elf, I am officially deep in the ‘S’ word.  And I don’t mean that ‘s’ word. I mean Stress with a capital ‘S’.

So this post is all about stress and how I handle it, because everyone who knows me personally knows that I have a lot of the ‘S’ word, and I typically make damn well sure everyone around me is aware.  Sorry.

When I stress out, it takes toll on my body.  I typically get approximately three or four planet-sized zits on areas of my face that cannot be avoided, like the exact middle of my forehead or (this one was fun) the very tip of my nose.  I looked like Rudolph and it was so festive that I don’t think anyone judged me. Just kidding.  I can’t stop myself from eating massive amounts of sugary carbs and will go out of my way to get them, like driving around at 12:30 at night looking for a grocery store in the tri-state area that is open and contains the limited-edition birthday cake Oreos, which I then eat in disgustingly large quantities.  And my hair falls out, so I end up shedding more than my dog, which makes us both a little confused.  I have trouble sleeping, I nervously pull out my eyelashes, I forget to hydrate and I can’t communicate on a basic human level with any other homo sapien.  Basically I look and act like a zombie from the Walking Dead, and it always happens during this time of year.  And then my blog suffers because I have no time to write since I am so busy trying to fix my pizza face.

I don’t think that all of this makes me special in any sense or that I am the only individual in the world who deals with stress, so I am not writing this post as a poor-pitiful-me soliloquy.  In my first blog entry, I explained that The Rough Draft exists for the sole purpose of whatever I decide to use it for, whether it be a rant, random musings, or just a rave about whatever Ina Garten recipe I am currently obsessing over.  I just want to talk about my anxiety because I think it is healthy to acknowledge the fact that as a human being, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I have trouble handling what life can dish out on the day-to-day.  So, I have some strategies to keep me breathing and guide me back to sanity and I would like to share them with whoever out there is reading. And, it’s my blog, so really, I can write about what I want.

 

The first thing I do to combat my anxiety when I know that I am straight up stressed as hell, is sit down and have a come-to-Jesus with myself.  It usually happens in my car, when I’m sitting in the parking garage of my University campus, mentally preparing myself to walk to class and attack the day.  I say, “Sarah, we need to calm down, and here’s how we’re going to do it…” and somehow I instantly feel a little better knowing that my responsible side is still in existence.  It’s like when you break something valuable and your mom swoops in to inform you that it can all be fixed with a little super glue and determination.

Next, I try to identify my “real fear” (I say like this I have some idea of what I’m talking about or like it’s a legitimate of psychiatric term, but it’s totally not).  I’ll explain: if I have turned in an application for an internship or submitted a piece of writing to a magazine, and the waiting process is causing all kinds of unwanted emotion, I say to myself, “Are you really this nervous about an creative nonfiction essay, or is it something bigger?” And typically, Sarah will answer Sarah with something like, “I’m scared of rejection and what that could mean for my career and what that means about me as a writer.”  So there you have it, my “real fear.”  I think that opening up the situation to examine the broader picture is, like, maybe 70% of the battle.

And next, I ask myself, and this may seem a little counter-productive but roll with me, “What is the absolute worst possible thing that could happen?” and Sarah says to Sarah, “I receive a rejection letter and it really saddens me and I lose faith in myself and my talent and start questioning if I have any at all.” So then Sarah takes a deep breath and says to Sarah, “Well, we just won’t do that, okay? You have the choice not to do that.”  If have a plan for how I want to handle the worst-case-scenario, I know I can do it and come out on the other side.  So, self talk successful. This works. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a good friend who sought you out for advice.

 

Lately, my biggest point of stress has been my future.  I feel like when I say the word ‘future’, it needs to ensue some lightning and scaring echoing and other random special effects, because that’s the way it sounds in my brain.  I hate not having a plan.  This is something that I have realized about myself through a lot of self-talk and journaling.  As disorganized and hippie-dippy and carefree as I am about my present, not knowing exactly what I will be doing in the next five years gives me serious heart palpitations.  I think it’s because I’m scared that I’m not doing the right thing in my present to get me to where I want to be in my future, and also nervous that I don’t even want the things that would really make me happiest.  And that’s a really hard thing to judge.  I’m at a very transitional time in my life, approaching the post-grad world, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I like to act like I have my shit together and I’m all professional with my book coming out and what not, but when it comes down to it, after the release date in March, my life looks a little bit like dark alley, the kind you try to avoid because you have no idea where it leads. The control-freak inside of me is about to lose her marbles because of this.

It’s especially hard because a lot of my friends are receiving job offers and amazing internships and getting great opportunities that not only mean they’ll be making a living, but it gives them a set plan. I’m happy for them, but I can’t help but compare myself to them. I find myself asking, “When’s my great offer going to come in?”, “When am I going to get the excited phone call?”, “When am I going to have the good news?”  I don’t want to be a jealous person, so my reaction to their success stresses me out even more than I already am. And then I get another zit.

So, I’m going to self-talk a little on my blog, because, frankly, I think I really need it. Here we go.

“Sarah, what’s the absolute, end-of-the-world, very worst possible scenario that could happen?”

“Well, Sarah, I think the worst thing that could happen is that I graduate and have absolutely nothing to do because no one has hired me and my life has come to a grinding halt and everyone I love moves away to pursue amazing careers and I am left all alone and abandoned.”

“So, Sarah, this isn’t so much a fear of not getting a job, as a fear of loneliness and being left behind?”

“Yes, Sarah, I believe it is.” (BAM!)

Unfortunately, the therapeutic voice in me doesn’t quite have an answer for this one yet.  So, I’m waiting on inspiration, and it’s asking a lot of my patience.  I think for now, I just have to wait, and enjoy the present, and stay positive in the sense that I have lived a pretty good life so far.  Nothing so bad has ever happened to me that I couldn’t handle it, so why would the tune suddenly change now?  Maybe soon some events will occur and suddenly I’ll have a better idea of what my upcoming next few years will look like, and I really hope that happens.

I do know this, and I think this is a good thought to end the entry on: whatever I do, wherever I live, however I make my income, I know that above all, I want to feel happy and loved and surrounded by individuals and a setting that inspires me to create. I like to close my eyes envision that feeling in the hope that it will bring that life into being, and part of me really believes that it will. For those of you who are also approaching transitional periods in your lives, I wish you peace of mind, and please know that you are not alone in your stress. Feel free to give me advice on how you handle your anxiety! I’m always open to new ways of dealing with the tangled mass of unraveled yarn that I assume is what you see when you crack open my skull.

 

Happy Holidays and lots of love to everyone! I hope you find joy and refuge in whatever celebration you partake in!

 

SGJ

The Art of Ending a Sentence

“Always write when you are just a tad hungry.”  This is a piece of writing advice I read somewhere or heard from someone maybe, like, ten years ago.  I’m not sure who originally said it, so if you know, please inform me, but I have to say…this is crap.

Whenever I write when I am “just a tad hungry” I get “just a tad hungrier” until I am “just kind of raiding the fridge to see if I drunk ate my leftovers or not.”  No writing actually gets done.

I have noticed something about the world of authors and poets and editors and writers.  When I started to actually try and improve my writing by sitting in workshops and joining author networks and buying books entitled, “What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers”, I found everybody who is even the tiniest bit successful, or who thinks they are any good at stringing words together into a sentence, is chomping at the bit to give you their advice.  From one writer to another: how to write better, write more, writer darker, write funnier…the list goes on.  I’ve heard a lot of trick-of-the-trade slogans, and some of them are really good, but some of them, like whoever thought it would be a good idea to make me write when I haven’t eaten yet, are not.

So, I’m going to be kind of shameful.  I’m going to talk about my process and maybe offer a little advice as well.  If everybody else is doing it, why shouldn’t I?  But, I will add a disclaimer before I start: if my wisdom seems absolutely absurd to you, feel free to ignore it.  As writers, we have to do whatever works best for us so that we are consistently producing work.  It’s when you aren’t writing that you can’t really call yourself a writer, and those people bother me.  I’ll talk more about them in a bit.

 

Anyway, here is what I do and why it works for me.

 

Start off early.

One thing I really try to do is write in the morning.  This is something that probably won’t work for a lot of writers, because I feel like we tend to be a nocturnal bunch, and on any given night you can find us torturing ourselves at four in the morning over an adjective.  But, I’ve noticed that if I start the day with coffee and a thousand words, I tend to continue going back to what I’ve started throughout the day, and, thus, getting more done.  I also think with more clarity in the AM, as I am pretty much a worthless Netflixian by eight o’clock at night.

 

Admit that I am not a genius.

It took me a long time to realize that a first draft is terrible.  All the time.  No exceptions.  I used to indulge myself in the belief that I was so brilliant that I could vomit onto a word document and it would be Pulitzer-worthy. Obviously, this isn’t true, and I have since learned.  The editing and rereading part of the writing process isn’t a walk in the park, in fact often it can be a stroll through hell, but, gosh, it is so necessary.  It took me a while to admit that.  But here’s what I have learned: your work gets better every single time you go over it.  Every time.  No exceptions.

 

Refuse to rely on whatever is sloshing around inside my skull to hold my ideas.  Make lists.

I imagine that the inside of my brain looks a little bit like an episode of TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive.  This is no place to store ideas!  Until I can get some professionals to come in and clean up the stacks of things I have piled up in my brain, I have to consciously make myself write down every notion that occurs to me, whether it be for a story, my blog, my novel, whatever.  If I do not write it down, there is a 100% chance I will lose it.  This is why my room is covered with checklists written on pieces of printer paper folded in half, the Notes app on my phone is the most used, and my school binders have scribblings in all the margins.

 

Set a word count for the day and hit it.

This is easier said than done, and often I don’t actually reach my goal.  But novels are made a little at a time, and on the days I get really into it and look up to realize I’ve written almost a dozen pages, it’s really satisfying.  It is then that I am reminded why I love doing this.

 

Know that this is actually hard.

This is where I talk about those “writers” who bother me.  Being a writer is not sitting in a coffee shop and acting pretentious and wearing elbow patches and seeking out first editions of novels written by old dead guys.  I think people who do that, but don’t actually write anything, are just romanticizing the bohemian lifestyle.  It makes me mad, because those people aren’t writers, they’re hipsters or beatniks, and they call themselves writers and give us a bad name.  Being a real writer consists of sitting on your computer and creating work and then doing whatever you can to make it better.  It takes hours, it’s not glamorous, and when I am “being a writer” I am pretty much sitting in a corner of the couch in my sweatpants with my hair bundled on top of my head and I look like I have a terminal disease.  I think if those elbow-patch-wearers actually did the work and didn’t put some much effort into being a phony, they’d probably shed their tweed jackets.  There’s a really funny YouTube video, The Nine Types of Writers, that illustrates my point.

 

And here’s one final tip.

The best advice I ever got when I was an art major was to “draw what you see.”  When you’re working on a still life, often you are tempted to draw things the way you think they are supposed to look instead of drawing them the way they actually appear to you from the angle where you are sitting.  I think this can be applied to writing too.  Write exactly what you see, hear, feel.  Not how you want it to be.  I think that’s where the magic happens.

 

About a year ago, I wrote an article for Tremr called Dear Author’s Lament, all about how in love with my first novel I was and how it’s really hard to start up a new one.  In a way, I was grieving it, not being in that world of Broken Haven construction anymore.  But, I’m happy to say, I’m well over half way finished with a second book, and I think it’s going to be better.  So, I’m going to go work on it now, because that’s what writers do.  Stay tuned.

 

SGJ