Tom Flanders World

All the stuff about me and my life
Meaning and Responsibility
train station meaning

What does meaning mean?

In response I’m spending more time on each piece. Last Thursday’s post went through five drafts. It’s not the time and effort spent on multiple drafts that bothers me. It’s that fact that the more drafts I do, the drafts I want to do. The more things I find to “correct”, the more I assume there are other things that need correcting. (Like that comma back there that I initially left out.)

So I go from two drafts to five, and it was only a deadline that prevented further revisions. I had to convince myself that it was good enough. Not an easy accomplishment for a flawed perfectionist.

Then we have meaning, which is what I started to write about. On this I have oddly little stress. People will read my stuff and come to their own conclusions. What it means to me might not be what it means to them. They might not even care enough to assign meaning.

I guess the question is; What does a writer expect from their audience? Do we want praise, comments, criticism? Or is it enough to know that people are reading what we wrote? For larger pieces I have a wonderfully honest first reader, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome by having her look at every little piece of text that leaks out of my brain.


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Acme World News (Flash Fiction)
docks - acme world news

Six bells. Mid watch. 3 A.M.

The ship is early.  The bus is late. The captain and the man in the suit argue. Nothing better to do. Eventually the suit goes and sits on the hood of his Cadillac. The captain takes a swig of his “coffee.”

The bus arrives. The suit gets on and does his speech. The crew sets up the ramp to the huge door in the ship’s side.

The bus talk ends and the passengers, maps in hand, file out and up the ramp. Minutes later an army of green trucks drive out of the ship, down the ramp and through the pier gate. The suit returns to his car and naps.

No two trucks are the same. Some are brand new. Most aren’t. Some look like zombies should be driving them, or at least running over them. One is a beautifully restored 1950’s Divco milk truck. Each has a license plate from a different state. Except Wyoming, there are three Wyomings. All of them have the words “Acme World News” painted in yellow on the sides.

Two bells. Morning watch. 5 A.M.

The first trucks return. It takes almost an hour for all of them to complete their routes. They drive up the ramp into the ship, then the drivers return to the bus to collect their envelopes from the suit.

Four bells. Morning watch. 6 A.M.

The trucks are all back. The bus is gone. The ship is pulling out. Soon, people heading out to work all over the county will find a newspaper on their doorsteps. A foul paper full of lies and scandal. Most will throw it in the recycling bin without a glance. Others will read it and rage against the filth. An undiscerning few will read it and believe it. They will let the hate possess them. They will share it with their friends. “They couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

The suit pulls up in his Cadillac and hands me my envelope. He drives away fast, escaping the unclean scene. I pull the gate shut and lock it. Feeling like a whore pulling up her panties.

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Writing Habit

chained photoI am a creature of habit.

Recent bad weather, then some blood sugar problems, kept me off the bike for a few weeks. Then a month later I realized that there was no reason to not ride the bike. I’m now trying to get back in the saddle regularly.

The same happened with my writing. While I’m always working on stories in my head, I haven’t been typing as much as I’d like. I started in January, committing to writing one 100 word story a week. That went well. In March I added a weekly blog post about what’s going on in my life.

Now here in April I’ve started writing a weekly essay about writing. The cool thing is that writing three days a week quickly morphed into writing six days a week. I’m now a month ahead on 100 word stories, and have piles of starts for the other days.

One problem I’ve discovered is how I don’t believe my writing is important. They are after all just tiny little scenes and stories that crank out without much effort. The word effort is the key. Growing up with the Irish Catholic/Puritan work ethic, if something isn’t a struggle it has no value.

Writing is what I do for fun. I delight in these pieces I produce. It’s like a game. So how can the product of a game have worth?

People read my stories, the web logs say so. I’m honestly not looking for external validation. First I need internal validation. Maybe my lack of self esteem won’t allow it. Maybe I need a personal celebration of specialness.

Oh yeah, habits. Remember what works for me might not work for you. Be one with your writing. That sounds good and zen.

Photo by Lucy Maude Ellis

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Guilt writing

I am guilty of guilt writing.

guilt photo - guilt writing

Photo by h.koppdelaney

Guilt writing; that is stuff you write because you are a writer not currently writing anything. Not writer’s block, but the natural restful state of a writer between projects. When I’m not writing I feel like a fraud. Like I’m not really a writer.

So I sit down and write. Tentative ideas peek out from behind uninspired words. Nothing good ever comes of this, but I’d rather fail than feel the guilt of betraying my craft.

When it comes to guilt, I’m pretty much guilty of everything. Guilt is my strongest and most destructive emotion. I actually invent things to feel guilty about. It’s sick.

I also have to say that I am never without ideas. These ideas live in my head. Many of them will never make it to the page. They never mature properly. They are the larval stage of the story. They must be cared for and experimented with or they will never materialize.

The problem is that so many people believe that thinking about things is not writing. Only writing is writing. Unfortunately I let these people influence me, triggering my guilt. So I type out immature ideas and try to make them work. They never do.

So I guess what I’m saying is, “Friends don’t let friends write guilty.”

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Distraction-free writing

The distraction-free controversy

distraction photo

Photo by nordique

There is much talk lately among bloggers about distraction-free editors. The idea is to write out your thoughts and not worry about formatting and spell checking and all that nonsense. Then after puking all your words onto the page you turn on those features or open the file in another program that does  all the fancy stuff.

So basically, Notepad is now bleeding-edge technology.

I make fun, but the weird thing is that people who aren’t easily distracted are criticizing those who are. I think  you should do whatever you can to make your writing process as comfortable as possible. So if you feel you need to write in the computer equivalent of a monk’s cell, that’s what you should do. Perhaps an actual monk’s cell would help as well.

I have a friend who lives at the other end of the spectrum. I’ve seen him many times on the N-Judah working on his plays. People pushing, shouting and all that and he stays focused on his screen. No headphones or anything. I don’t know he does it.

So what’s the point? When it comes to writing environment you should take everyone’s advice, or ignore everyone’s advice. Try everything and throw away what doesn’t work for you. It may take years but it’s worth it.

For me, I have an unfortunate dependence on machines. I have laptops I can’t use for writing because I’ve just never developed a rapport. On others I can write some things but not others. Fortunately I just obtained a little blue writing machine, an Android tablet with a keyboard that I’ve instantly connected with.

Wish us luck.

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