After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

My Writing Bucket List

Writers of the world, if you’ve got a story, I want to hear it. I promise it will follow me to my last breath. My soul will dance with pleasure, and it’ll change the quality of all my waking hours. You will hearten me and brace me up for the hard days as they enter my life on the prowl. I reach for a story to save my own life. Always. It clears the way for me and makes me resistant to all the false promises signified by the ring of power. In every great story, I encounter a head-on collision with self and imagination. --Pat  Conroy, My Reading Life.


   Thanks, Pat. I will do my best. Although I don't think it will be a novel.
   That was (and still mostly is) always my wish. Much of that desire I do owe to Mr. Conroy, whose novels always inspire me, despite his being, in his own words, "showy with adjectives" and "overreliant on adverbs." Though I sometimes feel his lengthy and florid novels are death by a thousand paper cuts, it is nevertheless a sweet death. I can appreciate them all the more because I have been trying to write a novel for over six years. I have close to 80,000 words towards a story that is going nowhere currently, even in my mind. My characters are thoroughly unruly and disobedient, and the story arc has bent so tight I fear that like an overtorqued steel spring it may break and kill me.
   So, I have decided to look at other venues for writing. I have crafted a bucket list of writing goals I want to accomplish before I die (or my novel slays my ambition). My goal in each case is to have them published in some reputable (and perhaps even financially renumerative) fashion. Here they are:

   1. Write a short story. I do believe I can write a 5,000 to 10,000 word story that would be worth reading, although a shorter one would be harder. In fact, I like the notion of a story collection, where all the stories have a connection, probably implicit (five people who picked up a pack of hotel matches in 1968 Scottsdale, Arizona, for example).

   2. Publish a poem. It is true that "prose is words in their best order, poetry is the best words in the best order." While Eliot's The Wasteland doesn't bring to mind economy, it most certainly is. Of all the written arts, poetry comes closest to both painting and music, where in both you can be as realistic or as impressionist as you dare. Poetry slams sometimes have the same effect as strolling through a museum. Reading poetry aloud is just like listening to live music—there is joy in the silence between notes, and the decaying echo from the back wall. My poetry (two examples here and here) tends to be on the realistic side, but who knows? I would love to see my words in The Atlantic, or The New Yorker, but I must realistically think more towards regional poetry magazines and reviews.

   3.Publish an essay. I love researching. I love interviewing. I simply love observing. Put those three passions to pen and paper and I think an essay would probably be my best shot for my first publication. I have in mind a story from my home town about a supposedly true story of a grave that may, or may not, contain the person named on the tombstone. It's full of politics, family love and hillbilly justice.

   4. Write a song. In my late teens and early twenties I played guitar constantly, and wrote a few songs that I would perform at weddings or just for friends. I still remember a couple of them, and they were decent enough. And while I am becoming accustomed again to the guitar after a three decade estrangement, I think I could write a meaningful, appealing lyric and place it in a competent piece of music. My personal tastes lean towards singer-songwriters, like James Taylor and Jackson Browne, or contemporary songsmiths such as Pierce Pettis, Jason Mraz or Patty Griffin. I fear some of my production may even fall into the "country" category, but it's a hot market. I prefer the term "Americana," the songs of people and places and hopes and dreams. If I can ship off two or three songs a year to publishers, maybe one will find an ear.

   5. Write a screenplay. This fascinates me. And the only thing that encourages me in this venture is that I have seen many TV episodes and movies where I have been able to anticipate the next line, or the next scene, with uncanny accuracy. And there are times when I have obviously had an idea that I am sure would have worked better that what ended up in the script. I would probably feel most comfortable with drama; maybe some short morality tale, that ties up in the end with a few threads still loose.

   6. Write a novel. Again, it's a wish more than an obsession at present. I feel like the fellow who has sketched his dream home on the back of a napkin, and who knows how to use a hammer and a saw. The rest seems daunting to me.

   7. Write my obituary. I can almost assure myself that this might actually find itself published, if there are any local newspapers left.

1 comment:

Trisha said...

I love bucket lists and yours is a pleasure to read! I appreciate your goals--challenging but attainable. You have a gift for expression.