Writing Short Stories

Old hobbies die hard. Have keyboard, will write. Love four word sentences.

A lot of you … some of you … at least ONE of you asked why I didn’t send a log about Thanksgiving. No particular reason, I just didn’t write one. It wasn’t blasé by any means — Chris and I enjoyed two excellent turkey dinners courtesy of Therese and Stuart, and my Aunt and Uncle. Chris supplied the dessert at Stuart and Therese’s, a pumpkin mousse. (He felt the traditional pumpkin pie was too traditional.) We had pumpkin pie the following night.

Life in Calgary has been quietening down a bit. (Not that it’s been furiously active since my killer workload dissipated.) Lately, I’ve been keeping my pastimes to a Thoreauvian level: Working, eating, sleeping, watching TV, watching movies, reading, and writing. Sounds pretty spartan, I know, but like Thoreau said: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It’s not like I’m dating or anything…

When I left university and started working full-time as a technical writer (cum Geoff-of-all-trades), I slowly stopped one of my favourite hobbies: writing. Not this kind of writing, which is very stream-of-consciousness matter-of-fact writing, but fiction (science, or otherwise). When I was in high school, I wrote a large number of short stories (partially because I was in a creative writing class), but also because of my friends — Chris, in particular.

Chris is a creative person, has been for as long as I’ve known him. He’s a very visual person, which is one of the reasons he’s drawn to the visual arts far more than I (I can barely draw a stick person). But in high school, he translated many of those visual ideas to paper. While the stories I wrote were maybe somewhat fantastical, Chris has a unique ability to write horrific stories that were reminiscent of Stephen King and Clive Barker. (Given the genre he typically read, that’s not all that surprising.) I used Chris as my benchmark to shoot for when trying to improve my writing.

When I hit university, I continued to write, though not nearly as frequently. When I was on my co-op terms at Digital Equipment, I had the ability to go home at night and write — my job didn’t dampen my creativeness. It wasn’t until I started working as a technical writer that things started to go sour, story-speaking.

I can’t believe to this day how much energy got sucked up when writing a technical document of some sort. So much that when I actually tried to sit down and write something vaguely interesting, I ended up writing more about the software package I was documenting. Not really a good creative streak, in my opinion. It wasn’t long before that entire creative streak was gone. It was a sad day when I stared at a blank screen in Word, unable to write a single word, unable to think a single creative thought.

That’s one of the reasons I started writing these. I don’t have to think much. (You can all stop laughing now.) But it allows me to get the need to write out of my system, otherwise I’d probably go crazy. (For the record, I also wrote these because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s losing friends due to lack of communication. I do think about all my friends (and family, obviously) and how you’ve affected my life. I may not ask you how you’re doing on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder.

About a month ago, I lay in bed trying to sleep while a wind tore through downtown Calgary. Normally, this is just a mildly annoying thing — the rattling of the windows just keeps you from falling asleep as quickly as you might normally. But that night, it rattled loose an old memory … part of a short story I’d written in university. I thought about it for a while, falling asleep wondering what it would be like to write it out again.

I don’t have any of the short stories I wrote in high school and university. They fell a horrible virtual death during a computer maintenance session in 1998. The only things that survived were the Observer’s Logs I’d written from a few years earlier. (Although I mourned the loss of the work, I was happy that my logs survived.) I had nothing to start on, except the memory of what I’d done.

For the next few days, the ideas I’d had for the story, including the comments my English 409 professor had given me, came trickling back like creek refilling during a spring thaw. Finally, dragged out my old Gateway Pentium 133 laptop (really only good now for using Microsoft Office) and started writing.

The more I wrote, the higher the temperature got. The melt continued, and the trickle became a strong stream. I actually had to go out and buy a small notepad and pen so I can jot down ideas. I carry it with me everywhere now, just in case. Every night for the past couple of weeks, I’ve sat down in front of my computer, and wrote. Not copious amounts (I need to drag myself away from the TV — it’s wrecking my concentration), but I’m up to about 30 pages of a novel.

Yes, I’m past the short story phase (at least for this particular tale). The (nearly) three years of writing Observer’s Log entries (in often disgusting detail, as several people have complained) have given me the ability to dwell on a particular scene or character and develop an aspect of the story. I don’t know how long this book will be — it’s writing itself at the moment — but hopefully I can find someone to publish it.

Anyone know of a good literary agent?

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