My Guilty Pleasure

Yes, I have one. A guilty pleasure, that is.

It’s mysteries. Now, I don’t write them, but I read them more often than not. I love ‘em, okay? I love their simple complexity. For one thing, a good mystery has engaging characters, and for another, it has built-in conflict. Character and conflict – the basis of all of good writing. What’s not to like?

Speaking of good writing….I know a wannabe writer or two who is very curious about how famous writers write. They wonder, should they lie bed with their computer on their stomachs while they write (like Woody Allen) ? Stand up and write, use only parchment paper…. You get the idea.

Of course it doesn’t matter how you write or where you write, as long as you do. Moreover, as Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, says you should set a schedule to write, even if it’s just 15 minutes twice a week. Good or bad writing, just sit down and write something. Which I’m sorry to say, Natalie, I’ve tried, but I just can’t do. I need a bit of inspiration, which many writers scorn.

Well scorn away, it’s what works for me. In fact, if I try to sit down and do some “free writing” I’m apt do this instead:

First, clean the bathroom using a Green cleaning solution, and then wonder if I’m really disinfecting anything.

Second, do laundry. All of it.

Third, watch Chopped, Hardcore Pawn, the mystery DVDs from the library….

Fourth, the most important thing I do, I eventually put down the mystery, and read a book of short stories. Without reading stories, I might never write one. After all, where would I get my inspiration? Plus, I’ve learned how to write stories from reading stories.

My problem is I can read fifty stories and not one of them inspires a word. Then suddenly, the fifty-first story clicks: it’s tone, characters, its narrative voice, who knows what does it, I simply can’t explain the inner rush I feel. It’s not that I’m not curious why it works, but when the “click” happens, when the rush feels ready to implode, I don’t delay. I just say, ‘thank you’ and head to the nearest writing instrument…..

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Everyone has their favorite authors. These are some of mine: Anything by Aimee Bender, Amy Bloom, Raymond Carver, Molly Giles, Lydia Davis, Lorrie Moore, Ellen Gilchrist, Leonard Michaels, Mary Gaitskill, Jennifer Haigh, Marian Thurm, Miranda July (notice all the M names! – what’s up with that?), among many others. With the resurgence of the short story, there are so many from which to choose.

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