Things That Go Bump in the Night or Why I Can’t Finish My Creative Writing Homework

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It sounded like a genetically altered, monster sized rodent trying to scratch its way through my roof in the middle of the night.   I might have considered the many reasons this creature wanted to get through my roof and into my bedroom at 2:00am, but my mind was busy imagining other explanations for the noise that woke me up.   Let me assure you that the noise was real.  I know this for a fact because the dog barked and my daughter got out of bed to scour the outside perimeter of the house.  She gave the all clear, turned out all of the outside lights and went back to bed with the instructions to “take care of the boy” (the boy is my 16 year old grandson) if anything did happen.   My reply to her was, “He should take of me; after all, he has all those knives (my grandson has a collection of throwing knives).”

I headed upstairs and made a quick stop in the bathroom where I suddenly remembered that there was a fire extinguisher and rope escape ladder in the closet.  I decided to grab the fire extinguisher and take it back to my bedroom.  It would make a great assault weapon in case a pack of marauding villains or monster sized rodent tried to get in.   I crawled back into bed and sat looking out the window.  I was able to scrutinize my backyard, the neighbor’s backyard, and the adjoining golf course.   After feeling somewhat satisfied that we had managed to scare away whatever caused the noise, I was able to go back to sleep.

The picture I shared on this post was one shared by a friend on facebook tagging me as the person most deserving of the comment.  The people who are closest to me know a secret kept from the rest of the world- I have an incredibly overactive imagination.  My friend would tell you that this is an understatement.    I believe the words I have heard about my imagination include astonishing, bizarre, and unbelievable.  Oh, and let’s not forget dramatic.

I have to admit there is truth in what they say.  I have been this way all of my life.  My imagination was my salvation as a child growing up in alcoholic and abusive homes.   It helped me workout the worst case scenarios in my head in order to survive when some of those imagined ideas became reality.  My therapist once told me that I needed this survival tool as a child, but that I might need to replace it with something else.  Although it may be hard to believe, I am much better than I used to be.  I try to follow Pooh’s advice to Piglet, “What if it doesn’t happen; which is, after all, the most likely outcome anyway.”

However, the imagination is still fully intact.  This brings me to my dilemma.  Why can’t I write a simple story for my fiction writing class?  I have been thinking for a couple of weeks and can’t come up with a single good idea.  Flying fairies, talking animals, alien invasions, cheating spouses, dysfunctional people have all been turned into great stories.  I don’t know if there are any more original story lines out there.  Maybe it is like American Idol when they tell the contestants to take someone else’s song and “make it their own.”   I just don’t know.

I have another couple of weeks before the 5,000 plus word story has to be in a first draft form for review by the professor and my class.  I know something will come to me.  I just hope it comes soon.  As soon as that story is revised, edited, and turned in, there is another one due.  I think that perhaps I need to sit down and simply start free association writing.  I can hear Dory’s voice now encouraging me, “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…”

 

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5 responses

  1. I don’t know that it would be of any help, but when I was taking a writing course a while back, and would find myself in that same spot … where story ideas had vaporized into the ether, leaving nothing but empty white noise … well, a friend shared an exercise with me, and sometimes, it actually worked.

    She had me sit down and write out thirty words on a piece of paper. The only rules were that they had to be nouns, and I could only allow myself two minutes to complete the list. Free form writing, quickly, and without allowing any time for contemplation. One way to do this is to imagine yourself moving through your home or yard, noticing anything your eyes fall upon. The list of words looked something like this: shrimp, chair, book, refrigerator, shovel, dog, bed sheet, battery, stapler, toilet, calendar, oak tree, pliers, winter coat, nail file, picture frame, rocking chair, spoon, telephone, necklace, lamp, flower, sweet potato, television, stuffed monkey, water glass, comb, candle, empty box, mirror. Thirty words, all nouns, in two minutes.

    Then, cut each word into a slip of paper, fold them in half, and dump them into a bowl or jar. Now reach in, and grab the first three. Stapler, spoon, comb. Now write a six paragraph story about how these three things are connected. The stapler your grandfather once used, and the memories of him that surface every time you touch it. Which has you reminiscing about the baby spoon you can’t seem to discard that belonged to your daughter, or the abalone comb with the broken teeth that you found buried in the back yard when you were potting geraniums. How all three items have stories written into them, even though they are inanimate objects. And why it is hard to let them go.

    And just like that, you’ve written a story. Not a GOOD story, but a story. Often, what would happen for me, is that I would go through the exercise of pulling three unrelated nouns out of the jar, and would force myself to go through the motions of writing something … anything … that might connect those three things, and while doing so, the muse would wake up, and I’d go rushing off in another direction, finally landing on some idea that actually was appealing to my imagination.

    Obviously, the whole point is to jiggle the writing loose by completing a simple exercise. Believe it or not, those silly stories about toilets and stuffed monkeys and the dog, or the candle reflecting in the mirror as I sat in my favorite chair … well, those stories were all AWFUL stories, but they were just the oil that lubricated the writing machine, so they served a purpose. One or two of them actually turned out to be the seed that grew a real story.

    Good luck with finding whatever it is that will capture your imagination. Yes, it does sometimes seem like every story has already been told, but the good news is this … every story has another layer that can only be seen when it is your eyes reading the words. The filter of your own experience will always color every memory, and those memories are your building blocks. It can actually be an exciting thing to try to take a well-worn story, and make it fresh and new.

    Boy meets girl. Talking animals. Cheating spouses.

    Yes, the story has been told. But we want to hear YOUR version.

    🙂

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    1. Thank you! I am going to give it a try! Love finding new ideas for writing exercises!

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    2. Great idea.I am going to try it. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  2. This is some sound advice that ntexas99 gave you. I can so relate to having a very active imagination. I grew up in an abusive home too.
    I use to take all the things that happened to me and add a bit of fictionalization to them. I have earned many awards for it throughout the years. People can relate to the drama, pain, and action we endured.

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    1. I am still struggling with the idea of doing memoir/personal essay or fictionalizing things. Many of the key players are deceased so I could go either way. Thanks for the comment.

      Like

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