This is petty of me. This is weak of me. This is me saying that I have very little confidence in myself. This is me asking how I can improve.
I'm generally really hesitant to share my writing. I've never been under the impression it would <i>take me somewhere</i>. I've never been under the impression that I'm more or less talented than my peers.
When I do share something, I've noticed the responses are light. I'm never expecting the world. And I know this is my own problem. The trouble is, some of my writing gets a lot of views and little to no feedback. I feel like the writing I love the most is recieved in the worst way. I just struggle with handling this. Does it mean I'm more awful than I thought? That, really, out of 102 people who read something, only 1 person likes my writing?
I've been really struggling with my mental health. I'm really depressed and I can't afford treatment and, honestly, my brain is often just useless. I'm trying to be better and make better choices.
I've really enjoyed Prose. It motivates me to write. And this week I've finally created a challenge people want to participate in. So it's been nice interacting more than usual.
But I told myself I'd start making practical decisions this year. And I'm not sure I am able to handle this anymore. It's no ones fault but my own, I need to square away my own brain. But. If you're someone who has read my writing and doesn't like it or are indifferent, why? What is it you don't like? How can I improve?
I really appreciate honesty and constructive criticism. And any advice you can give about handling public response to writing.
I'll likely continue to write regardless. But I might take another hiatus/stop publicly posting. I feel weak and needy writing this. But I'll get over that, too. Eventually.
Walking and Standing Still
We were walking to the CVS on Hollister Avenue. Well, we were biking, only I had left my bike alone and away somewhere. So we were walking, slow and weaving and straight along the ticker-tape bisecting the road. Turn right on Sabado; keep one eye open and the scanners on. Only this time the scanners were quiet and that open eye was looking for a sweet blue house nestled between the dry earth and the sky to match.
Hang a left on Fortuna. This is as rural as the city gets...suburbia with a skeletal schoolbus in a dead end or driveway--some long grass, a dirt bike path; probably families living here.
We took a wrong turn and I got thirsty in the dust. Doubling back and fitting my feet in your footprints. The air felt cool but the sunlight was heavy. I thought about the secret we had uncovered: my first secret in this new place. Suddenly didn’t feel so public, so developed and known anymore. I have always been so starving for the secrets of a place--the holes in the fence and that wind-hollowed, twisting metal skeleton out in the woods. The places where you fall through the floorboards and might not ever get back to because no one had ought to tell about them to anyone else.
Well, what about that huge slab of stone in the sun--always in the sun for me--about forty minutes straight up from the fourth floor? It doesn’t feel quite like the one I remember, on not-my-property and in the woods and hidden away from the quarries. A great stack of cut limestone piled up between the trees, out of nowhere and out of place. If you leave your things in the underbrush, you can scramble to the flat tilted top and stay until the sun goes cold, or until you’ve seen enough of the stars. Who would ever think to find that strange monument? But I went back and it remained.
My bike clicked across the yard and then I was sliding in front of the lethargic cars that were the kind that we had in the city. The gears ate my pant-leg, certainly hoping for one last bite of skin, but not getting any. I got what I paid for at CVS. Peeled clam shell off of cardboard off of another clamshell and handed it off to you. Put some powdered sugar in the fridge and failed to hide any surprises from her.
The laundry--crunched up against the brick wall, gathering wet and threatening to spread across her desk--hid crunched in its corner. I slipped into my unwashed sheets, wrung out and forgetting the secret I found. It wasn’t a very good one.
1: a way of living that often focuses on finding beauty in that which is imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete.
“the cracked vase, though irreparable, evoked a sense of wabi sabi”
//cracked leather binding of an aging book / chipped terracotta pots housing blooming buds / crooked crowded teeth framed by persimmon lips/ peeling paint on the cottage windowsill / vines tangled in the broken lattice//
a year is a long time.
I mean I know time is relative and a social construct and just a way for us to feel a little more in control of our lives or something like that but like a year is a long time.
I’m different. New place job cat friends car depression crunchyroll account man. Crack me open like a tree and you’d see twenty-seven rings but I feel like I’ve aged threefold and how does that work anyway.
And I learned that love can make me feel like a hummingbird topographical map piece of cut fruit left on the table to rot, the smell of decay suffocating every living thing that comes near me filling their lungs til choking, disgusting.
This is the way the world works, tough clutch and holding. No apology, no excuse keep your head down and get through—is what I’d like to say. But things are better seen with starry eyes and strong shoulders.
Its not the end even though my heart is in my ankles and my brain has shrunk and everything I gained I also lost. Yet it feels that way.
Still, I go on.
I am in the mood where I believe
I could care for plants—yes, I would
not forget to water the ficuses for once.
I would keep a pink calendar on the fridge
and cross off every day I have kept them alive
with a smiley face. I have kept myself alive,
too, and that too feels miraculous
in the most mundane of ways.
No, I can’t cartwheel. I can’t somersault.
I can’t open my eyes underwater.
But last Tuesday I turned a turtle up
off of its back, and that was that.
I was happy. I was happy. I was happy.
So this is a topic I’ve thought and written a fair bit about. I’ll link to two other pieces that I’ve written about it for some more in depth thoughts. My general thought is that the framing of the question such that there is an iron clad absolute moral answer is stupid. Intstead I think it is better to ask oneselves some or all of the following questions:
How can my writing respect people of all races, ethnicities, religion, abilities, sexualities and genders, while also respecting and agnowledging the histories of suffering, oprression and apropriation that are attached to many of those identities?
How can my writing show or encourage a world of inclusion and diversity that is often unrealized in reality?
What biases do I have that show up in my writing and how can I agnowledge them and avoid passing them on to my readers?
How does my work interact with racist, sexist, ableist, classist, homophobic etc. tropes?
How does my work interact with the history of white cis men aprropriating the stories of marginalized people?
I don’t think there are many specific rules that people have to follow, but I think that every writer should grapple with these questions. So while I don’t have a solid answer to your question I hope you can think about these questions and find your own way to move forward in this excessively problematic world.
Here are links to the other 2 posts I mentioned:
You know what that means, and I suggest you take that advice. Stephen King wrote one of my favorites of his "Mr. Mercedes". The lead character is a black kid. The killer is a white guy. He even drops and "N" bomb quite a few times throughout the book! As a black writer, I encourage people to write characters of different backgrounds, as long as you've done some leg work about that type of person's life. Actors follow people and live like them to get into the mindset of a character they will play. Writers should do the same. If you did the research, it would show. If you make up some generalized bullshit, it will show also.
The shadow baby swung upside-down on the monkey bars. There wasn't an actual corporeal baby, just a shadow of a baby. Its outline was most distinct at high afternoon when discarded fast food wrappers danced across the playground parking lot. The shadow baby cavorted from dawn to dusk, climbing and swinging on playground equipment. He scaled the domed monkey bars and skittered across teeter-totters. Late in the afternoon when the shadow of everything stretched toward a vanishing point on the horizon, shadow baby could be found building castles in the sandbox just before he disappeared for the night. The children were so used to the small shadow that they played unaffected by its presence. But attending mothers and nannies all shied from the haunting image that cavorted amongst their children. Adults didn't consider unattached shadows of babies swinging on monkey bars as natural. Shadows don't exist without tangible objects that cast them. Yet there it was, frolicking right along with their own kids. Sometimes during play, the children stopped and whispered something to shadow baby and even though it made no sound, its small body looked as if it were giggling or outright laughing. That unnerved the parents even more. The shadow baby ignored the adult’s superstitious fears. One day, the children didn't come to the playground, leaving shadow baby to play alone. Then the next day, heavy-set men showed up with large, angry sounding machines and the playground was bulldozed down and cleared away. The asphalt was scraped flat and bare. The shadow baby no longer had monkey bars to swing on or slides to ride. His bouncing image melted into the scrapped and scarred pavement where the playground once existed.
#fiction #short story #random object challenge #thriller #shadows #babies #playgrounds #william calkins