I read one time that the reason Raymond Carver wrote such short stories (meaning, stories that were shorter than average…forgive the akward phrasing of this sentence) is that he was so pressed for time, it’s the best he could do. I understand that, as I’m sure many other writers do, too. Being pressed for time works well for me as a poet–I can crank out a surprising amount of work in fifteen or twenty minutes–but not so much for me as a fiction writer.
When I began taking myself seriously as a writer, at the tender age of thirteen, I had an enormous amount of time to devote to short stories. Along with one novel and a stalled sequel, short stories were all that I wrote. Poetry didn’t come until high school, and I didn’t bloom as a poet until part-way through college.
Fast-forward to today, with two kids out of school for the summer, and I don’t have a lot of time to myself. Parenting tends to wear me out, so staying up late to write isn’t an option. I’m a morning person, but I’ve been sleeping in later and later. So I continue to write when and where I can, often as I sit with my youngest while my oldest practices Taekwando. That’s where I wrote the following story-opening:
“Listen, I’m making a concerted effort to wear clothes around the house,” my father said, walking into the dining room fully dressed, “so I’d appreciate it if no one popped in the bathroom while I was in the shower. Make sense? Good.”
I glanced at Amber, my current girlfriend. Well, “girlfriend” wasnt really the right word. Friends with benefits was more like it, but Mom and Dad were happy I brought a girl home, so they could call it what they wanted to. I was less interested in my older brother Owen’s opinion, on Amber or any concievable topic.
“I like my men deviant,” Amber said, looking at me but directly the words to my father. As usual, his attention was solely on his food, and mom was already half in the bag after three glasses of wine and only a handful of Ritz Crackers to eat. Owen paid attention, though, and grumbled something. I wasn’t in the mood to ask him to repeat it.
I managed to write a little more before practice was over, and ended the session with this note to myself:
this is a story in need of a direction, a resolution, and some character tweaking. This is where I usually stop writing, abandoning whole shit-show for a poem, but I need to finish this to prove that I can.
Indeed. So, to keep myself accountable, I’ll continue to write and document the experience here. When I’m done, I’m post the first draft. After edits, I’ll post the second.
(sigh) Now to find the time to do it….