Two Fridays ago, I posted my second story on our Muses blog. I…was actually really proud of it. The first story, I was excited how it turned out, but the entire day before I posted it, I was so nervous. I kept telling myself how shit it was, how no one was going to like it and I would be letting my fellow Muses down by writing something so unreadable. Yet with this story–with The Beginning to the End of the World–I was counting down the days to post it. I was so excited to share this story with the world, because I just had so much fun writing it and I was so proud to write something, once again, completely out of my normal realm.
Yet it didn’t start out that way.
When February’s prompt was first introduced, I was really excited about it. I loved all the possibilities and there was so much promise. I was eager to start writing the story and see what ways I could challenge myself. I knew off the bat that I didn’t want to write a contemporary setting, but something fantastic.
Yet I didn’t get much farther than that.
Days passed and I had adopted a new mantra, a new roadblock that was stopping everything else from moving forward. It haunted me while I slept, when I was showering, at the gym, during meals. Over and over, I would whisper and repeat my conundrum, sometimes dripping with frustration, other times, choked out as a begging plea.
Why can’t we dig here?
I had a setting. I knew my protagonist was male and snarky as hell, with questionable morals and teeter-tottering levels of sympathy and hatred from the readers (or, at least, that was the goal). I heard him, one night, while showering. So clearly in my head, he told me about the Inn he caused to burn down and the bastard he had begotten, yet wanted no association with. Later, I even woke up in the middle of the night, desperately snatched my notebook out of my bag and wrote out the first paragraph in the dark, my protagonist spoke so distinctly to me. Yet I could never shake the main issue. I could never answer my question.
Why can’t we dig here?
A week and a half before my story was due to be posted, I made an impromptu visit home to pick up a few things. My Mom was working late and my brother was at a basketball game, so my Dad was the only one home. We don’t get a lot of 1-on-1 time and I had surprised him, so he wasn’t expecting it. We made some leftovers for dinner, went downstairs and turned on some Family Feud while we discussed college basketball and the weather. I’m still not sure how, but somehow, I weaved my struggle surrounding my short story into the conversation and explained everything to him.
And, without a moment’s hesitation, he looked at me and said, “You know what would be really cool?” before proceeding to speak for the next five minutes about hidden trees of opposing wills and the accidental uncovering of the Tree of Darkness, setting off the quest to find the Tree of Light. As he kept talking, it was like my protagonist was alerting every possible siren inside my head, shouting, “That is why we can’t dig here!”
I went home and wrote the entire story the next day.
I’m sure I could wrap up this blog post now and it would feel properly closed; a struggling writer finds inspiration by bouncing ideas off another soul and, by doing so, writes a story she actually loves and makes her deadline. Sounds like a complete arc to me.
Except this is so much more than that.
I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with both my parents; with my entire family, actually. My Dad is one of my greatest role models and utmost inspirations. Yet we haven’t always been the closest. Nothing to do with bad blood or anything of that sort–far from it. It’s just I tend to talk with my Mom more than my Dad when I visit home. In the past month, however, my Dad and I have been hanging out and talking more and more. And after he gave me the missing link to my story, I surprised him and mailed him a copy of it, after it was edited. Due to his non-existent online presence, he doesn’t read any of my blogs or see any of my work; not because he isn’t interested, he simply doesn’t have access to it. A few days later, he texted me and told me that he’d read my story and he thought it was awesome; really enjoyed the ending and the only drawback was that he couldn’t help reading it in my voice–which, if you read the story, you’ll know that my narrator’s tone is definitely not akin to mine. He then proceeded to let his entire crew read it, who also messaged me throughout the next week with fantastic feedback and support.
And we haven’t even reached the end of this arc, yet.
This past weekend, I went home to watch hoops with Dad. On our way to the grocery store to pick up some dinner, without prompting, he turned to me and asked, “So what’s this month’s prompt? Need help coming up with an idea?”
I’ve always believed in the power of words, in the awesome power that writing has. Yet to experience it firsthand…especially from my work, in such a personal way? Sometimes, I forget how real life narratives can be affected by the stories we write, read and tell. And in this case, where my writing became a springboard to help strengthen my Dad and I’s relationship?
Talk about fantastic.