The Simple Formula to Write a Book

The formula to make copies is simple:

Put the papers in the copier + press COPY = Copies Made

Writing a novel, on the other hand, is a series of such complicated, odd hurdles of the mind that it resists any formula but this:

(Pain + Time) × dumb luck (i.e. inspiration, the Muse, the hand of God) = A Finished Novel

The Formula for Creative Writing

Photo by Lee Nachtigal

Consider deleting dumb luck from your equation. You have so little control over dumb luck or the hand of God it’s hardly worth accounting for it except in retrospect when you say, “That was nice. Thank you for that dumb luck.”

You do have control over your time and pain threshold, though. You can choose to spend as much time and go through as much pain as you want. Thus, this becomes  your new formula for writing:

Pain + Time.

If you want to write a book, you need to embrace pain. Accept it as a hazard of doing the work you love. Realize it will come when you least expect it. It’s okay to run from it for a little while. As long as you come back.

Pain + Time.

Coincidentally, every pregnant woman and mother in the world knows this formula intimately. Making copies is easy, there is little pain and it doesn’t take that much time. However, if you want to give birth to something completely new, it requires something more of you.

Pain + Time. It’s the only way to create anything of value.

PRACTICE

Spend some time free writing today.

If you have a work in progress, free write for your novel. If you don’t, write about whatever comes up.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments.

And if you post, make sure to comment on a few other Practitioners’ posts to encourage them that their pain and time is not in vain.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

    Gosh, it’s the time that gets me. time, time, time. “It’s the only way to create anything of value.” Heck, I’d venture to say that most good things are born from the passing of time and a grip of patience.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Hmm… what do you mean by a grip of patience? I think you might be making a profound point.

      • http://www.TehLemonsmith.com Tyler Smith

        It’s a way of saying we need to be patient, and not rush.

        Bloggers can get so focused on visitors that they get impatient and will try virtually anything for an increase in traffic (even if it’s not true to self.)

        Patience helps us to be content, do better work, and not suffer from tunnel vision.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Mmm… that’s really good Tyler. Well said.

  • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

    I am incredible preoccupied today with other projects but I did manage to squeak out a paragraph on the piece I’m working on. To give the whole back story on what is going on wouldn’t be quite fair at the moment. But hopefully you can get an small glimpse into my protagonist’s situation.

    Caleb gets pretty upset when I talk about the sheriff. He’s had some run ins with him a time or two and he knows he’s an awful man. I don’t even have to tell him that. He says I just rather not talk about the sheriff at all. Says that I’m just wasting my words and he’s probably right anyhow. He usually is. But, truth is, I can’t help but talk about those things cause it’s all I think about and Caleb is the only one I feel comfortable talking with. I can’t wait for him to come back this evening so we can talk about all sorts of things. I’ll try not to mention my dad or the sheriff or my mama. Maybe he has some good things to say so I’ll just sit there and listen and who knows.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      You’re writing fits in the widest array of genres, Bo. It’s so great. I never know what to expect.

      Nice work with the voice. It’s hard to shift in and out of voice when you’re working on different projects, but you’ve done it well here. It sounds like he’s a kid with some kind of hero worship for an outlaw? Is that close?

      • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

        Thanks, Joe. Several weeks ago, I woke up with this idea and I just started writing. It was quite nice to have a pretty good idea where I wanted to start, how I wanted the story to develop, and how I generally wanted it to end. Since then, some of the details have changed but I’m trying to stay true to my original idea.

        You are right in one area. It’s a kid (teen). But it’s a she, not a he. I don’t want to give to many details away at this point but Caleb is a little older and he’s really the only outlet she has in her life.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Ah… very nice.

          Don’t you love it when ideas drop into your head during your dreams?

    • http://writex3.blogspot.com/ Steph

      My impression is that the sheriff is not necessarily a good guy?

      • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

        You are correct. The sheriff is not a good guy. He’s the antagonist’s bestie. Here’s a bit of story regarding just how well the main character likes the sheriff.

        I don’t like the sheriff at all. He’s not any better than my dad either. Maybe even worse. In fact, he can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. He can sit right there and cut his teeth just like granddad says that will happen to all those people who don’t get up to heaven. I’d shoot him this very instant and send him there myself if I could. Hell, I’d even walk him right down to the flames.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Oh ok. I didn’t get that he was a bad guy. That makes sense now.

    • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

      The narrator sounds like he thinks a lot of Caleb, looks up to him maybe? And the narrator has his own reasons for not liking the sheriff that aren’t the same reasons as Caleb’s? Some guesses, anyway. :)

      • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

        You are very close, Casey. But the narrator/antagonist is a 15 y/o girl and Casey is an almost 18 y/o boy. He is really the only outlet she has so the time they spend together is very valuable to her.

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      Nice, not sure who’s talking but I like the internal dialogue. It fleshes out Caleb too.

      • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

        Thanks, Heather! Yeah, this is just a tiny piece in what I hope turns in to something larger.

  • Angelo Dalpiaz

    I am taking Joe’s advice.
    My grandmother’s last tragic years is a story I’ve wanted to write for the past six years. I have written about 10 short story scenes for what I hope will eventually become the novel about her life.
    For today’s practice I wrote another scene that will come early in the novel, it’s about the day my grandmother met my grandfather. It’s much too long to post here, it’s about 3200 words, but here’s a small part of the scene. If anyone would like to provide a bit of feedback I’d appreciate it. In this scene my grandmother is a 26 year old single woman living in a small mountain village in Italy in the year 1920. Her father has arranged for her to meet a man for possible marriage. She didn’t like the idea of an arranged marriage.

    There had been more than one emotional argument with papa over the last couple of weeks. She loved her father dearly, but he refused to accept that she was not a little girl anymore. At age twenty-six she had become independent, she had no desire to change her life—she saw no need. Angela rested her head against the cool stone wall of the house and thought about the walk she and her papa had taken last night, and she tried to relax. She was lost in thought as she turned and peered into the mist that shrouded most of her village as her thoughts returned to last evening.
    The village had been cleansed by the day’s rain and the air smelled clean and new as she and her father walked together, arm in arm. They had talked, calmly, about the future, Angela’s future, and the possibilities a man like Severino could provide.
    They walked down to the small lake below the village of Bresimo. The grass along the bank of the lake was still wet from the rain, but they found an old tree that had fallen over and sat on the rough bark trunk. They talked as the sky above them turned violet, then deep blue.
    “I want only what is best for you, Angela,” her father said as he tossed a small stone into the placid water. Angela watched the circular ripples spread across the smooth surface and move toward them before she answered.
    “Papa, I don’t want to disobey you, I love you,” she began, “and I understand why you want me to meet this man, I do.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “But you must understand that I want to love the man I marry.” She looked into her father’s round face and saw how his dark eyes complimented the flush in his cheeks caused by the cool, evening air.
    “I am not saying you must marry him, mio dulce,” he replied as he slipped his arm over her shoulders. “I only ask that you meet him, and that you consider him a suitor.” His gaze lingered on her face before he turned away.
    By the time they finished talking, dusk was settling in. Shadows stretched across the blackened water and the lake became a darkened mirror reflecting the slowly drifting clouds floating overhead. As they walked back to the village together, Angela sensed, more than knew, that she had made a decision.
    As they greeted other villagers and talked of marriage, children and grandchildren, she saw the last of the day’s rain clouds moving away in the distance. Streaks of pink and dark purple cut soft lines across the sky. She had the ominous feeling that the life she’d know until now was drifting away, just like those clouds. Enveloped in the comfortable feeling of days end, and the warmth of her father’s soft brown eyes as he looked at her with a heart filled with love, she finally relented.
    “Okay papa, I will meet this man, this Severino Curelli, but only because you want me to.” Angela had said.
    “That is all I ask. I only want what’s best for you,” her father said as he took her hand in his and they continued their evening stroll through the damp village. Angela liked it when she walked with her father like they did now, and she liked it when he held her hand—it made her feel like a little girl again.

  • Angelo Dalpiaz

    I am taking Joe’s advice.
    My grandmother’s last tragic years is a story I’ve wanted to write for the past six years. I have written about 10 short story scenes for what I hope will eventually become the novel about her life.
    For today’s practice I wrote another scene that will come early in the novel, it’s about the day my grandmother met my grandfather. It’s much too long to post here, it’s about 3200 words, but here’s a small part of the scene. If anyone would like to provide a bit of feedback I’d appreciate it. In this scene my grandmother is a 26 year old single woman living in a small mountain village in Italy in the year 1920. Her father has arranged for her to meet a man for possible marriage. She didn’t like the idea of an arranged marriage.

    There had been more than one emotional argument with papa over the last couple of weeks. She loved her father dearly, but he refused to accept that she was not a little girl anymore. At age twenty-six she had become independent, she had no desire to change her life—she saw no need. Angela rested her head against the cool stone wall of the house and thought about the walk she and her papa had taken last night, and she tried to relax. She was lost in thought as she turned and peered into the mist that shrouded most of her village as her thoughts returned to last evening.
    The village had been cleansed by the day’s rain and the air smelled clean and new as she and her father walked together, arm in arm. They had talked, calmly, about the future, Angela’s future, and the possibilities a man like Severino could provide.
    They walked down to the small lake below the village of Bresimo. The grass along the bank of the lake was still wet from the rain, but they found an old tree that had fallen over and sat on the rough bark trunk. They talked as the sky above them turned violet, then deep blue.
    “I want only what is best for you, Angela,” her father said as he tossed a small stone into the placid water. Angela watched the circular ripples spread across the smooth surface and move toward them before she answered.
    “Papa, I don’t want to disobey you, I love you,” she began, “and I understand why you want me to meet this man, I do.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “But you must understand that I want to love the man I marry.” She looked into her father’s round face and saw how his dark eyes complimented the flush in his cheeks caused by the cool, evening air.
    “I am not saying you must marry him, mio dulce,” he replied as he slipped his arm over her shoulders. “I only ask that you meet him, and that you consider him a suitor.” His gaze lingered on her face before he turned away.
    By the time they finished talking, dusk was settling in. Shadows stretched across the blackened water and the lake became a darkened mirror reflecting the slowly drifting clouds floating overhead. As they walked back to the village together, Angela sensed, more than knew, that she had made a decision.
    As they greeted other villagers and talked of marriage, children and grandchildren, she saw the last of the day’s rain clouds moving away in the distance. Streaks of pink and dark purple cut soft lines across the sky. She had the ominous feeling that the life she’d know until now was drifting away, just like those clouds. Enveloped in the comfortable feeling of days end, and the warmth of her father’s soft brown eyes as he looked at her with a heart filled with love, she finally relented.
    “Okay papa, I will meet this man, this Severino Curelli, but only because you want me to.” Angela had said.
    “That is all I ask. I only want what’s best for you,” her father said as he took her hand in his and they continued their evening stroll through the damp village. Angela liked it when she walked with her father like they did now, and she liked it when he held her hand—it made her feel like a little girl again.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      You’ve written some beautiful sentences here, Angelo. Lines like these, “They talked as the sky above them turned violet, then deep blue.” It seems as if they are two Roman gods, or else Shakespearean nobility fighting over antiquated issues. “They walked down to the small lake below the village of Bresimo.” Wonderful.

      The only thing I’d watch out for is unnecessary adjectives. Words like “placid” and “ominous” aren’t really helping us get a fuller picture of what you’re talking about. Or this, “Enveloped in the comfortable feeling of days end, and the warmth of her father’s soft brown eyes as he looked at her….” You could cut comfortable (or change it to comfort and cut feeling), “the warmth of,” and even “as he looked at her.” Of course, these are second and third and fourth draft changes to make, but I just wanted to give you some ideas.

      Good stuff, Angelo. You wrote 3000 words of this today? Well done, sir!

      • Angelo Dalpiaz

        Yes, Joe, I wrote 3091 words total on that story yesterday.

        Thank you for the suggestions. I have a tendency to over use adjectives. I like the changes you suggested, I’ll write them in today.

        And thank you for your encouraging words.

        • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

          3091 words. Holy crap. I’d be jumping up and down, running aimlessly in circles in my living room.

          • Angelo Dalpiaz

            I have an unfair advantage, Bo, I’m retired and have almost as much time to write as I’d like.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          You’re quite welcome, good sir.

    • Marianne

      I think you write with particularly appropriate rhythm in this piece. I get the feeling of two people strolling, talking, him throwing stones. I like that with this kind of dialogue because so much important stuff is being said her, that if you didn’t keep interjecting bits of action and description it would sound like an essay in dialogue. Good luck to you! I think you are a wonderful writer and you seem to have a good story here.

      • Angelo Dalpiaz

        I think it’s important to show characters in motion. Even when characters are sitting on a log on a lake shore they are moving…their eyes, their heads, their feet, or throwing a stone into the water while the other watches the circles while she thinks.
        Thank you for you for taking the time to read my excerpt, and for your kind words.

        • Anonymous

          It’s my pleasure to read your writing Angelo. Thanks

    • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

      That was lovely. I enjoyed your original piece for the Winter Solstice contest so much, it’s nice to read more of the story. I like the feel of a recent rain and how it mirrors a new beginning. I also liked getting a taste of the characters surroundings and relationship.

      • Angelo Dalpiaz

        I saw your comment on my Winter Solstice story but didn’t know how to respond to say thank you. I’m finally learning my way around.
        The rain cleansed the village, but it also cleansed the anger Angela and her father were experienceing.

    • http://writex3.blogspot.com/ Steph

      Yay! So glad you are developing this project! I hope you continue to post excerpts for us here.

      • Angelo Dalpiaz

        I’ll post a few excepts as I go.

    • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

      Very nice, Your description is beautiful. I can see this father and daughter walking together.

      • Angelo dalpiaz

        Thank you, Eileen. I worked hard on creating the scene where Angela walks to the lake with her father.

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      Wonderful images here – I like the use of the one Italian phrase and the weather to show emotions. Some of the earlier descriptive paragraphs might be interested shown as scenes – like how does the father still treat her as a little girl? By showing there might be more character information.

      I love the dialogue, the ripples on the water and their talking. There is a lot in the scene.

  • http://writex3.blogspot.com/ Steph

    Thanks for the prompt! I won’t post mine here because it is rather rough, but I have a question for you and whoever else might be reading. I’m midway through my 4th chapter, and in today’s practice, some backstory started cropping up. I’ve been doing my best to stave it off early in the book. Is is ok to let some come out at this point?

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Here’s a great resource from an author who studies neuroscience and it’s intersections with writing. She actually visually mapped out the backstory in Hunger Games and discovered Collins’ used 7 PAGES of backstory at the end of chapter 3:

      http://blog.liviablackburne.com/2011/05/do-flashbacks-make-your-butt-look-big.html

      So yes, it’s good to keep it out of the first maybe 25 pages, but you can definitely include some.

      • http://writex3.blogspot.com/ Steph

        As writers, we cannot see ourselves from all angles. Now I can step into the day with the confidence that my backstory is not making my butt look big. Thank you, Joe!

        (that link is awesome)

        • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

          That’s so true Steph. If I want to see what is wrong in my work I have to put it away for six months first. Only I don’t want to stretch work on a story that long if I don’t have to.

      • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

        Whow! That is great information. Making mental notes.

      • http://mdjourney.com/ Steve

        Wow, thanks for the link. I’ve never thought to analyze a story that way.

  • http://mdjourney.com/ Steve

    Hunched over my textbook, I glanced up as David slowly rose from his chair and lumbered up to Ms. Oliver’s desk. He started whispering something to her, which only piqued my interest more. I put my head down and stared at the pages in front of me, straining to catch any word of the conversation.

    “Michael.” Ms. Oliver’s voice startled me. “Would you come up here?”

    I nodded and joined David in front of the desk.

    “I would like you to escort David to the nurse’s office,” Ms. Oliver said quietly. “He is not feeling well.”

    Her voice was steady, but her face seemed taught. Was I sensing apprehension? About what? David had seemed just fine.

    “Why does he need to go?” David asked. I wondered the same thing.

    “I want him to go with you. No more questions. Go with him Michael.”

    Her voice signaled finality. She looked at me and I saw the apprehension again. This was about something more than just a sick kid.

    We left the classroom and walked towards the nurses office in silence. David was clearly not happy about my company. I wasn’t particularly happy either but my curiosity overcame any feelings of annoyance at my errand.

    When we arrived at the office, David was escorted inside. The nurse asked me to wait outside. I sat in a chair next to the door and waited. I did not wait long before I saw a figure quickly walking towards the office. It was Principal Renner. He paused before entering and asked, “Is David inside?”

    “Yeah,” I answered, and he briskly opened the door and stepped in.

    Renner? What was going on? I pressed my head against the door and listened to the muffled voices.

    “Alright David. I just got a call from Ms. Oliver. She told me a little bit, but I’d like to hear it from you.”

    “I, uh, well… last night I had a dream. A bad dream.” A dream? What was this, a counseling session? David continued,

    “It was the most lifelike dream I had ever had. It was here, in Captora. I… I saw Peacemakers with guns. Helicopters were flying overhead. Bombs were landing throughout the city, hitting the barracks, city hall. I was in Ms. Oliver’s class, watching it all, watching everything. I saw bodies.” David paused.

    “Ok David. What happened next?”

    “I heard explosions outside the school, and then one that shook that building. We ducked under our desks, Ms. Oliver locked the door. We waited for a while. Then there was gunfire and screaming. I heard someone yell, ‘they are in here!’ And then our classroom door was knocked down. Peacemakers swarmed into the classroom, surrounding us. They shot Ms. Oliver. They pointed the guns towards us… and then I woke up.”

    I waited. Silence.

    My waiting was interrupted by a deafening boom that made me slam my head into the office door. The door was promptly opened and Mr. Renner pushed me aside, looking out the hallway window. I followed his gaze and saw smoke billowing out from the barracks.

    “Get back to your classroom. Now.”

    • Cindi Kerr

      Steve – Is this the opening of your story? It would work as one. I am invested in the characters, wondering what’s going to happen next, and eager to turn the page. Your use of dialogue and sparse description helps move the scene along quickly without sacrificing any pertinent details. Good work!

      • http://mdjourney.com/ Steve

        Thanks Cindi! I actually envisioned this as more of an ‘inciting event’ as opposed to an opening, but your comment is causing me to re-think that. I appreciate the feedback!

      • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

        Great analysis, Cindi.

    • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

      Is this taking place on a military base? (You mention barracks). I am curious how much the dream will play in the rest of the story, and what is happening.

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      Very intriguing, I too want to read more. Interesting they were sent back to the classroom. Great use of dialogue. Suspense was well done.

    • http://writex3.blogspot.com/ Steph

      Hi Steve. Don’t underestimate your dialogue! It is well done and speaks for itself. There are a couple of instances where you explain it afterwards. I don’t think you need them.

      I, too, am curious as to what happens next!

  • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

    From a short story I’m working on I’ve never been in this situation and I hope never to be. I’m trying to imagine what she must be thinking and how she will handle what is happening…

    “Now come here, Sadie, and sit with your old man,” Ken said to his ten year old daughter one evening after supper. “Go on Monica, and get that kitchen cleaned up,” he said to his wife as he took his daughter with him into the living room where they would sit together and watch a sitcom on the televsion. Monica began clearing away the dishes and taking them over to the sink. Ken had never bought her a dishwasher, and she wanted one now. She did not like how much attention he gave Sadie and she wanted to be out there with them. As she tidied up the remains of their meal, she listened to them in the front room.

    Sadie was squealing and laughing and breathless, and Monica imagined them wrestling on the floor like they did when Sadie was younger. Monica’s ears strained for their words, picturing them tumbling and rolling around on the floor, and she hurried through the washing and drying of dishes to check on her daughter. In the refrigerator was the last of the cherry vanilla ice cream she had been saving for herself, but now she took it out and scooped it into a bowl and set it on the table. Then she went to the living room.

    • Cindi Kerr

      Casey – I’m wondering why Monica is so suspicious of actions that appear normal at first blush, which makes me want to read the next page. I am wondering if Sadie’s father is the one with the problem (as it seems), or if Monica is overly paranoid. Obviously, two very different stories would result.

      • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

        That’s the crux. I don’t think Monica is going to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Ken won’t ever have a chance to defend himself. There is a problem in their marriage though. I’m trying to validate her suspicions, but I want to also make Ken not entirely evil, through third person limited pov. Is it wrong to leave the reader wondering what was the truth of the matter at the end?

        • Angelo Dalpiaz

          Hi Casey,
          Maybe it’s just me, but reading is an investment of my time. Some things left to the reader’s imagination is okay, but when an author leaves the most important questions unanswered it makes me feel cheated.

          • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

            Yeah…you’re right. I do feel unsettled when I end a story that doesn’t feel finished, and leaving that out my make it feel that way. Thanks. :)

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          In literary fiction these days, it’s very vogue to end the story before you really know what’s going on. This leaves ambiguity. The reader has to finish the story for themselves. I think it’s okay, even a good thing, to do it, just as long as you realize not everyone will be pleased with you.

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      I am imagining that this may be a case of incest if the mom is suspicious. Might want to have the mom think more about what her suspicions are – want to know what she discovers when she is in living room – why did she set bowl on table? Did she plan to eat it or was it for the family? I am certain some of my questions are answered previously or later.

    • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

      I feel like her suspicions hint at abuse in her own past. I like how you say just enough to make us all wonder what is really going on here.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Brilliant inner monologue, Casey. This one line changes the whole scene, “She did not like how much attention he gave Sadie and she wanted to be out there with them. “

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

    I’ve been slowly working on idea for an ebook about failure. Here’s what I wrote this morning. Might not make the final cut but that’s how this process has gone for me so far. Chunks of stories. Some might end up being part of the puzzle. Some might not.

    How we choose to react to failure is one of the most important keys to success. We either allow it to defeat us or we allow it to help shift our perspectives and tackle the situation from a different angle. We’ve all heard Einstein’s definition of insane. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This behavior will eventually get the best of us. Failure must compel us to look for alternatives.

    Alfred Mosher Butts was one person who knew this to be true. Mr. Butts was an unemployed architect during the Great Depression who happened to also love words and games. I can only imagine how being unemployed during the roughest financial crisis in history could have gotten the best of you. And for some, it did. But, Mr Butts took his love for words and decided to work on creating a game. He moved forward with his idea and didn’t allow failed attempts to deter him from the dream he envisioned.

    The game was originally named Lexico, then New Anagram, then Alph, then Criss-Cross, then Criss-Crosswords before finally settling on the name we know it today. Have you heard of Scrabble? It took nearly 20 years for Mr. Butts idea to become a commercial success. Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley and many other game manufacturers rejected the game when Mr. Butts first brought the idea to them.

    In 1952, Jack Strauss, the Chairman of Macy’s department store in New York happened to play the game while he was on vacation and after returning home went to his game department wanting to purchase the game but they did not carry the game.

    That was soon to change!

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      Nice – and the example is a new one to me – It is true about failure – it doesn’t have to defeat us if we learn from it. Nice showing that patience is also needed for advancing of new ideas.

    • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

      I came across this quote from Hemingway just this morning. After I read your piece, I thought I’d share it.

      “All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

      That’s why we do what we do, I suppose.

      Thanks for sharing this, Eileen.

    • Brab608

      I write in chunks of stories too.

      “Failure must compel us to look for alternatives” is a great sentence. It’ll appear on a Quote of the Day calendar someday, attributed to you!

  • http://twitter.com/jenluit jenluit

    “Story Engineering” was a great help to me in getting over my fears about “how” to write a novel. It just outlined what I think I already understood, but in seeing it so clearly, I was able to put aside the fear and get down to business. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it helped.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Agreed, Jen. Outline can certainly cut out some of the time + pain, although outlining itself can sometimes be part of the time/pain formula, especially for those who hate plotting their novel.

  • Anonymous

    There is always urgency about writing 15 minutes. Why is the world in such a hurry ? There is an economical slowdown every where even in China as per their standards. Time is truly relative. Why become successful in a trice. Wy not do all we want to do in a relaxed way ?. we will achieve better quality. Write when we feel like writing. . Be pregnant with the idea as long as you like. In such writing , their will be an outburst of energy, flow and contentment. If all of us had not competed so fiercely for bigger and bigger rewards and had saved on breath and wealth, we wouldn’t have been in this financial mess.

    Krishna Kumar

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I firmly agree with you, Krishna. The fifteen minutes is just to get you started. Also, if people posted an hours worth of writing here, it would take a long time for everyone to read and give feedback.

      But you make such beautiful points, “Be pregnant with the idea as long as you like.” Mmm… that’s so good.

      • Anonymous

        Some of us get lazy when pregnant, eating grapes and egg rolls. Indolent and spoiled we don’t wish to give the baby up. We don’t want to become the spoiler rather than the spoiled. C-section is then required every morning after breakfast for 15 minutes. (kidding of course – i’m not quite that crazy yet)

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          Way to take the metaphor to the next level, Marianne. I love this.

  • Cindi Kerr

    She was so tired. Time dragged at her feet, pulling her relentlessly forward while she struggled to remain encased in the joyous ignorance of the past four months. An impossible feat, she labored every morning to remain in the quiet fog of her dreams. Inevitably, the effort itself woke her and she was, once again, achingly aware of the responsibility resting on her heart. She had to decide today.

    • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

      I love the image of time dragging feat, but might want to change out the impossible feat (unless pun intended). Nice showing of the reticence of making the decision.

    • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

      I love the line “she labored every morning to remain in the quiet fog of her dreams.” I totally want to know what she decides.

  • http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com/ August McLaughlin

    A friend of mine asked me how I completed my first novel and whether there was a step-by-step book he could use. He runs marathons, training by the book (ha, pun ;)), follows recipes to a tee and regularly attacks items from his lengthy ‘bucket list.’ (Yep, ‘write a book’ appeared there after my novel-tea party.)

    Pain + time… Well said. (Although I’d personally add passion.) Terrific post, Joe!

    • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

      I’d love an explanation of this novel-tea party.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Yes. Passion is a good one. I’ll have to think about that.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

    I am considering this for opening to my memoir – my first opening was straight to my father’s first incest attack – a friend said that I should start slower, showing simple neighborhood interaction, that I am trying to live normal life inspire of the abuse going on in my house- does this sufficiently entice a reader to read on? Does it hint at the fact that something is wrong in my house? Is it too long or too boring? There is nothing in this that is graphic abuse.
    ****“

    Run!” I yell to Pam. “The boys are right behind you.”
    Pam heads toward the maple tree in Bobby’s backyard. If one of us touches the trunk, we win. The boys promised to be our husbands and play house if we beat them at caveman. They’d better.
    She dodges around them, runs past the tomatoes in Mommy’s vegetable garden, and puts the pear tree between her and Bobby.
    I stop for a second to catch my breath; we’ve been playing forever. I’d give anything for some ice-cold lemonade and a chance to sit in the shade. Sweat drips down the side of my face.
    Steve sneaks up behind Pam and drops the hula-hoop lasso over her head.
    I dash toward the maple tree.
    Darn. Bobby’s guarding it.
    Pam kicks and screams as her brother drags her to the cave, the cinderblock barbeque pit in my backyard. My heart sinks. All is lost when Steve rolls the pretend stone in front of the cave door.
    She wipes sweat off her forehead and beats on the rock. “It’s no use. I can’t escape. They’re going to eat me.”
    Hula-hoop in hand, Steve runs toward me shouting, “I’m coming to get you.”
    “No,” I scream. Maybe, I can get to the tree from behind. I run toward Pam and Steve’s backyard, trip on a root, and fall.
    Before I get up, the boys lasso me.
    “Wait a minute,” I say. “Let me see if I’m bleeding.”
    They stop while I brush grass stains from my knees. Good, no blood.
    I put up a struggle, but they’re stronger and drag me to the cave, shoving me in with Pam.
    She hugs me and asks, “Do you think we can escape?”
    The cavemen laugh. “Never.”
    Steve pinches my arm. “Ugh, good meat.”
    They rub two sticks together to light a pretend cooking fire.
    The ice cream truck’s bell rings. It’s down the block.
    “Ice cream,” we shout. The boys drop their sticks and we break out of the cave to run home and ask for a nickel.
    I quietly open the screen door. If I slam it, Mommy might tell me I can’t have any money. I tiptoe to the living room. If she’s sleeping I don’t want to wake her up.
    She’s sitting in her green armchair, watching As the World Turns. Cigarette in mouth, Mommy takes a curler out of her hair and tosses it in the basket with the others.
    “Mommy, Mommy, can I please have a nickel for an ice cream?”
    “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
    I want to roll my eyes, but don’t.
    Her cigarette moves up and down as she talks and some of the ashes fall in her lap.
    I put my hands together in a begging position. “Please, Mommy. Everyone else is getting one.”
    “Okay, but only today.” She shakes her index finger at me. “Hand me my change purse.”
    I want to tell her to hurry up, the truck is close, but bite the inside of my mouth and quietly wait while she slowly puts her cigarette down, takes a sip of special orange juice, and digs through the change to fish out a nickel. I grab it from her hand, thank her, and run outside to join the other kids.
    Why does she make such a big deal over a nickel? Well, at least I got one. What do I want? Sno-cone, ice cream bar, or fudge sickle? When the truck stops, I buy an ice cream bar.
    Pam and I find a shady spot to sit. I nibble the chocolate off and lick the vanilla ice cream. The trick is to make it last as long as possible before it melts. A bit of ice cream dribbles on my hand and I suck it off.
    Pam pokes a straw into her cherry sno-cone, “I don’t want summer to end.”
    “Me neither.” Not true. School’s safer than home.
    “In three weeks we’re going to have to get up early and sit in a stupid classroom.”
    “You’re lucky. There’s no homework in first grade. In second, I’ll have tons.”
    “Yech, homework.” Pam scrunches her nose.
    After we finish our ice creams, she stands up. “Let’s go find where the boys are hiding.”
    Throwing our sticks and wrappers in the garbage, we run toward Pam’s house. The boys jump out from their hiding spot, grab us and shout, “Got ya.”
    I get so tired of boys’ games.

    • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

      Does the mother play a part in this? She seems a bit stingy and selfish, as if she enjoys holding the power of controlling her daughter’s happiness.

      The only other clue is the narrator thinking school is safer than home. Do the next passages hint more at the trouble at home?

      • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

        Yes – my father enters the picture and plays find the soap with me in the bathtub – re mom – she is an enabler – title of my memoir is “Tell me what he did.” Every visit of my father to my bedroom, the next morning my mom said those words to me, wrote the incidents into a notebook and filled two notebooks of incidents. She was alcoholic – tried to hint on that with the special oj. The rest of the chapter is a bit more graphic and I didn’t want to post anything too upsetting for people. Am curious, do you get a sense of Shirley (my legal name) as spunky a bit?

        • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

          By the suppressed eye-rolling, yes. Outside of the house she (or you :) ) tries to live a normal life. I get a sense of two different worlds.

          • http://www.xanga.com/wondering04 Heather Marsten

            Casey, thanks, the game is one page of one and one-half spaced type – then it is followed by an ice cream truck scene, then my father comes home and I go in the house and the horrors begin. I assume the blurb on the back might keep readers reading a couple of pages, although I guess I could cut out the game. My initial draft had my father coming in my room for the first time when I’m seven and some think that is too heavy to begin a book with. I did try to pretend I was normal and things were better when my father wasn’t home. But he was the center of the universe of the house and everything was based on him. I had an inner life and an inner rebellion, and I want to show that, for that helped me to survive the abuse. I do come out in the end healed. But go through many things including the occult before I get there. Thanks for reading and commenting.
            Heather

    • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

      I love how much I know the type of person she is by what she wants to do but doesn’t. She wants to tell her mother to hurry up, she wants to roll her eyes, the boys had better play husbands in their game of house. I really like that. I want to get to know her more!

  • http://kinswomans-pursuit.blogspot.com/ Casey

    All these story fragments. Am I the only one that wonders what happens next?

    • http://www.provurbs.com/ Bo Lane

      I was just thinking the same thing. Like reading a few paragraphs in a book at the store. It’s hard not to purchase them all – or most of them, anyhow.

  • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

    Thank you for the advice to just write. I wrote for fifteen minutes on a scene I started yesterday for my YA project.

    _____

    Maybe if a deranged lunatic has escaped from a nearby mental facility, he’ll find me making out with someone and decide to kill me. Wait, the virgin never dies in those horror movies. And wasn’t that the purpose of Fright Night: to scare us all into keeping our virginity until we meet the man who could protect us from premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and all those things that come from living a dirty life? Note: find someone to make out with.

    “Hey, libby,” his voice caused me to jump.

    I turned to find Josh standing behind me, quietly appearing like his space ship had beamed him out of the sky.

    “Wow, I scare you a lot.”

    “Its that whole sneaking up on people thing htat you do.”

    “Yeah. I’ll work on that.”

    “Please do.” I turned to stare at the doors of the church. The sounds of the music leaked out over the sound of hammering and laughing.

    “You going in?” He tucked the box under his right arm and shielded his eyes with the other hand.

    “I kind of have to. I’m one of the leads on the project.”

    “Really? This didn’t seem like your kind of thing.”

    I looked at him, questioning.

    “Oh, yeah. Its totally don’t have anything better to do with my saturday. I love the idea of building a haunted house to help kids realize that either they behave or the will be doomed. Its a blast.” I gave him two thumbs up and a cheese grin.

    He gave me a blank stare and a shake of his head before responding with an “Okay,” and continued walking towards the church. Note: work on sarcasm.

    “Wait up.” I sped up my walk to be at his side. He shifted his box to under his other arm and opened the doors for us. I leaned against the opening door to allow him to pass.

    “Thanks.”

    “What’s in the box?”

    “The pamphlets for tonight.” He pulled one out and handed it to me. A picture of last years youth group was on the front above the word “Join us”. Younger versions of Amber, Michelle, and I stood within the group of other teens and kids at our church after last years spring picnic. Amber and Michelle smiled at the camera. I was looking off in tthe distance.

    “What were you looking at?”

    “I don’t know.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

    Thank you for the advice to just write. I wrote for fifteen minutes on a scene I started yesterday for my YA project.

    _____

    Maybe if a deranged lunatic has escaped from a nearby mental facility, he’ll find me making out with someone and decide to kill me. Wait, the virgin never dies in those horror movies. And wasn’t that the purpose of Fright Night: to scare us all into keeping our virginity until we meet the man who could protect us from premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and all those things that come from living a dirty life? Note: find someone to make out with.

    “Hey, libby,” his voice caused me to jump.

    I turned to find Josh standing behind me, quietly appearing like his space ship had beamed him out of the sky.

    “Wow, I scare you a lot.”

    “Its that whole sneaking up on people thing htat you do.”

    “Yeah. I’ll work on that.”

    “Please do.” I turned to stare at the doors of the church. The sounds of the music leaked out over the sound of hammering and laughing.

    “You going in?” He tucked the box under his right arm and shielded his eyes with the other hand.

    “I kind of have to. I’m one of the leads on the project.”

    “Really? This didn’t seem like your kind of thing.”

    I looked at him, questioning.

    “Oh, yeah. Its totally don’t have anything better to do with my saturday. I love the idea of building a haunted house to help kids realize that either they behave or the will be doomed. Its a blast.” I gave him two thumbs up and a cheese grin.

    He gave me a blank stare and a shake of his head before responding with an “Okay,” and continued walking towards the church. Note: work on sarcasm.

    “Wait up.” I sped up my walk to be at his side. He shifted his box to under his other arm and opened the doors for us. I leaned against the opening door to allow him to pass.

    “Thanks.”

    “What’s in the box?”

    “The pamphlets for tonight.” He pulled one out and handed it to me. A picture of last years youth group was on the front above the word “Join us”. Younger versions of Amber, Michelle, and I stood within the group of other teens and kids at our church after last years spring picnic. Amber and Michelle smiled at the camera. I was looking off in tthe distance.

    “What were you looking at?”

    “I don’t know.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

    Thank you for the advice to just write. I wrote for fifteen minutes on a scene I started yesterday for my YA project.

    _____

    Maybe if a deranged lunatic has escaped from a nearby mental facility, he’ll find me making out with someone and decide to kill me. Wait, the virgin never dies in those horror movies. And wasn’t that the purpose of Fright Night: to scare us all into keeping our virginity until we meet the man who could protect us from premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and all those things that come from living a dirty life? Note: find someone to make out with.

    “Hey, libby,” his voice caused me to jump.

    I turned to find Josh standing behind me, quietly appearing like his space ship had beamed him out of the sky.

    “Wow, I scare you a lot.”

    “Its that whole sneaking up on people thing htat you do.”

    “Yeah. I’ll work on that.”

    “Please do.” I turned to stare at the doors of the church. The sounds of the music leaked out over the sound of hammering and laughing.

    “You going in?” He tucked the box under his right arm and shielded his eyes with the other hand.

    “I kind of have to. I’m one of the leads on the project.”

    “Really? This didn’t seem like your kind of thing.”

    I looked at him, questioning.

    “Oh, yeah. Its totally don’t have anything better to do with my saturday. I love the idea of building a haunted house to help kids realize that either they behave or the will be doomed. Its a blast.” I gave him two thumbs up and a cheese grin.

    He gave me a blank stare and a shake of his head before responding with an “Okay,” and continued walking towards the church. Note: work on sarcasm.

    “Wait up.” I sped up my walk to be at his side. He shifted his box to under his other arm and opened the doors for us. I leaned against the opening door to allow him to pass.

    “Thanks.”

    “What’s in the box?”

    “The pamphlets for tonight.” He pulled one out and handed it to me. A picture of last years youth group was on the front above the word “Join us”. Younger versions of Amber, Michelle, and I stood within the group of other teens and kids at our church after last years spring picnic. Amber and Michelle smiled at the camera. I was looking off in tthe distance.

    “What were you looking at?”

    “I don’t know.”

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      I love this bit of internal monologue, “Note: find someone to make out with. ” Hilarious.

      This is the classic meet the interesting somebody scene. You do it very well. I wonder what adventures they’ll get into?

    • Brab608

      You write dialogue well. And I’m wondering – why was libby looking off in the distance in the pic.

  • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

    Thank you for the advice to just write. I wrote for fifteen minutes on a scene I started yesterday for my YA project.

    _____

    Maybe if a deranged lunatic has escaped from a nearby mental facility, he’ll find me making out with someone and decide to kill me. Wait, the virgin never dies in those horror movies. And wasn’t that the purpose of Fright Night: to scare us all into keeping our virginity until we meet the man who could protect us from premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and all those things that come from living a dirty life? Note: find someone to make out with.

    “Hey, libby,” his voice caused me to jump.

    I turned to find Josh standing behind me, quietly appearing like his space ship had beamed him out of the sky.

    “Wow, I scare you a lot.”

    “Its that whole sneaking up on people thing htat you do.”

    “Yeah. I’ll work on that.”

    “Please do.” I turned to stare at the doors of the church. The sounds of the music leaked out over the sound of hammering and laughing.

    “You going in?” He tucked the box under his right arm and shielded his eyes with the other hand.

    “I kind of have to. I’m one of the leads on the project.”

    “Really? This didn’t seem like your kind of thing.”

    I looked at him, questioning.

    “Oh, yeah. Its totally don’t have anything better to do with my saturday. I love the idea of building a haunted house to help kids realize that either they behave or the will be doomed. Its a blast.” I gave him two thumbs up and a cheese grin.

    He gave me a blank stare and a shake of his head before responding with an “Okay,” and continued walking towards the church. Note: work on sarcasm.

    “Wait up.” I sped up my walk to be at his side. He shifted his box to under his other arm and opened the doors for us. I leaned against the opening door to allow him to pass.

    “Thanks.”

    “What’s in the box?”

    “The pamphlets for tonight.” He pulled one out and handed it to me. A picture of last years youth group was on the front above the word “Join us”. Younger versions of Amber, Michelle, and I stood within the group of other teens and kids at our church after last years spring picnic. Amber and Michelle smiled at the camera. I was looking off in tthe distance.

    “What were you looking at?”

    “I don’t know.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/candace.m.chatman Candace Chatman

    Sorry for the repeated comments. eeeek. I’m so embarrassed. My computer kept doing some weird stuff. If you could delete the repeated entries, I would appreciate it. I look like a wierdo!

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Ha don’t worry about it. Fixed. It’s strange. This is the 3rd time today that happened. I’ll look into it. Sorry about that, Candace :)

  • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

    I have a secret. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. It’s not a secret about something I’ve done, but it’s shameful all the same. Nor is it a secret about anything that was done to me. I am not an abuse victim, but sometimes I act like one. Maybe God abused me, or maybe he cheated me would be a better way of putting it.

    I’ve forgiven God… I think, but I haven’t forgotten. It’s impossible for me to forget. It’s in front of me every day. My unforgetfulness turns to obsession. Oh how I want to get rid of this secret, but how do I let go of a secret without revealing it? If I don’t reveal it, it remains a secret.

    I feel like a traveler who has one day to sightsee in Paris, but must carry his suitcase around with him the entire time. Heavy. Burdensome. The weight of my baggage causes my shoulders to ache and my neck to stiffen. My hands go numb. All I want to do is get rid of it. Lay it down. Throw the heavy trunk into the Seine. But I can’t. Someone will see me, someone will notice. Then my secret would be revealed.

    The day tour has turned into a lifetime. I’ve moved in, but never unpacked. I don’t feel at home here. I don’t feel at home in me. I’m not comfortable in my own being, my own body.

    I want to be known, but I can’t. It’s too risky. They will reject me. I am afraid.

    Fear. Fear of rejection. That is what has driven my life.

    To know me, really know me is to reject me. That’s my life verse. My mantra.

    When I was a boy, the first secret I remember living with was that I wet the bed. My parents were loving and supportive. They never punished me or ridiculed me. It was OUR little secret. It was the family secret. Did that make me the family secret?

    The second secret of my childhood was, interestingly enough, anatomically related to the first. I had to have surgery. Part of me thought that was pretty cool. But, in spite of the cool factor of getting gifts and attention from friends for going into the hospital, it wasn’t fun telling anyone, because it was a secret surgery. It was a surgery on my privates. I couldn’t even show anyone my stitches.

    I didn’t understand the medical terminology, so when the doctor called them testicles, I thought he said “technicals.” I thought I was being clever telling everyone I was having technical difficulties. They all laughed at my joke, but not how I intended. My secret stayed private, because my privates were secret.

    Even now, revealing this much of my secret makes me nauseous. And my fear is that it makes you, the reader, nauseated as well. That feeling you are having, isn’t that all a part of the rejection process? Isn’t it true that rejection starts in the gut?

    I have lived my entire life in fear of rejection. Secret rejection. Private rejection. You are rejecting me right now and don’t even know it. This is my assumption. This is my creed.

    But here’s my question, my private question I have secretly asked myself my entire life. Are you more likely to reject me if I reveal my secret or if I keep it from you?

    • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

      very thought provoking. And you’re right, I got that feeling in my gut as I was reading your words.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      You’ve put this so beautifully, Tom. You’re very courageous. Is it safe to be so vulnerable, or particularly smart? Maybe not. But I think in the end vulnerability wins. By the way, did you see this:

      http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/01/18/confessions-of-a-narcissistic-blogger/

      I loved your metaphor of carrying the heavy bag through Paris. “Throw the heavy trunk into the Seine.” Brilliant.

      • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

        Thanks for the encouragement. How interesting that you posted that blog today. Your timing is impeccable Mr. Bunting.

        • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

          I know. Isn’t it funny?

    • kati

      Hey Tom! It’s kati here. i’ve been awol for a week or two and am just checking back in. this is an amazing post. your story, simply in the telling of it, is rife with power. it’s given me pause tonight. the best way i know to honor your courage is to give a thoughtful (if lengthy) response. i hope it’s ok with you if i weigh in on the question you asked with such visceral force: how to let go of a secret?

      i’m an occupational therapist and although my job is to help people deal with the scary secrets of their family life (i do home therapy for families of kids with developmental disabilities), when it comes my own secrets, through my whole adult life I have done a horrible job releasing them gracefully up to others. even my dear, trusted friends have not known important details of my past, and i have seldom brought them into my current struggles. i prefer to stay focused on their stuff. and what coward with a few therapeutic skills wouldn’t, right?!? it’s safer, of course. but through the brutal death process of my father a year and a half ago (his cognitive confusion carried with it lots of bizzarre, embarrassing stuff) i’m just now learning to live another way. i’ve decided that hoarding secrets is the worst kind of way to carry baggage. it’s like choosing to cut off your moles, and then sew them under your skin. makes you look a whole lot better on the outside, but you rot away your interior strength. and the sad thing is, it’s so unnecessary. like in my situation: right before my dad finally died, i carefully chose three precious people and brought them in to see my military genius of a father, wasted away and talking like a psychotic child. unbelievably, just letting them in his room changed everything. i was no longer alone in the tragedy, and the bulk of my shame melted away as i saw him through their eyes. loving people have a stronger stomach than we give them credit for.

      the simple exposure of the secret strips it of its power.

      so after many months of focused reform, i am pleased to offer a few tips on how to let go of a secret.

      1) make an actual list of friends. Not just beer-drinking friends, but the wingman kinds who would have your back in battle. If you don’t have at least SIX NAMES on your list, get out there and put some sweat equity into creating new honest-from-the-start friendships.

      2) when something heavy happens — quick before the secrets take hold — systematically go down the list and contact your peop’s. Approach the process just like you did the fire drill in first grade: stop, drop and roll. Cut to the chase. Give up one piece here, another piece there. The key is to spread it out so you don’t ask too much of just one person. And do it quick. You have to release the cause of your embarrassment before it can take root in your soul as shame.

      3) Ask your friends to feed you the bait. make it as painless for them as possible! (With one no-nonsense friend it goes like this. HER: how are you? ME: good. only i did this sucky thing yesterday. HER: Do you want to tell me about it? ME: ok. deep breath. two minutes later, my synopsis is done. She gives me her honest feedback, and we’re back at the details of her day, where we both prefer to be.)

      4) Appreciate whatever they can give.

      it’s been an awesome season of my life, this awkward learning to take up space. i’ve been amazed to learn how easy it is for people to love skin that’s dusted with dirt.

      tom, thank you for entrusting us with a story that helps us all love you a little better. :-)

      • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

        Kati,
        Wow. I’m touched by your thoughtful show of love and support. I truly didn’t know what to expect when I posted this. My gut said “Just do it,” while my head said something else but my gut was speaking so loudly I never heard exactly what my head was attempting to say, so I swallowed hard and clicked “Post as Tom Wideman.” Scary! But through this process, I have had an “aha” moment which I posted here; http://www.spiritualsidekick.com/ My “aha” moment was when I realized I have lived my entire life afraid of rejection.

        Thanks so much for your tips. They are gems. I have some work to do in all four areas. I do have a small group of guys that I have started opening up to, so I plan on applying the tips more proactively. Blessings!

  • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

    I have a secret. I’ve had it as long as I can remember. It’s not a secret about something I’ve done, but it’s shameful all the same. Nor is it a secret about anything that was done to me. I am not an abuse victim, but sometimes I act like one. Maybe God abused me, or maybe he cheated me would be a better way of putting it.

    I’ve forgiven God… I think, but I haven’t forgotten. It’s impossible for me to forget. It’s in front of me every day. My unforgetfulness turns to obsession. Oh how I want to get rid of this secret, but how do I let go of a secret without revealing it? If I don’t reveal it, it remains a secret.

    I feel like a traveler who has one day to sightsee in Paris, but must carry his suitcase around with him the entire time. Heavy. Burdensome. The weight of my baggage causes my shoulders to ache and my neck to stiffen. My hands go numb. All I want to do is get rid of it. Lay it down. Throw the heavy trunk into the Seine. But I can’t. Someone will see me, someone will notice. Then my secret would be revealed.

    The day tour has turned into a lifetime. I’ve moved in, but never unpacked. I don’t feel at home here. I don’t feel at home in me. I’m not comfortable in my own being, my own body.

    I want to be known, but I can’t. It’s too risky. They will reject me. I am afraid.

    Fear. Fear of rejection. That is what has driven my life.

    To know me, really know me is to reject me. That’s my life verse. My mantra.

    When I was a boy, the first secret I remember living with was that I wet the bed. My parents were loving and supportive. They never punished me or ridiculed me. It was OUR little secret. It was the family secret. Did that make me the family secret?

    The second secret of my childhood was, interestingly enough, anatomically related to the first. I had to have surgery. Part of me thought that was pretty cool. But, in spite of the cool factor of getting gifts and attention from friends for going into the hospital, it wasn’t fun telling anyone, because it was a secret surgery. It was a surgery on my privates. I couldn’t even show anyone my stitches.

    I didn’t understand the medical terminology, so when the doctor called them testicles, I thought he said “technicals.” I thought I was being clever telling everyone I was having technical difficulties. They all laughed at my joke, but not how I intended. My secret stayed private, because my privates were secret.

    Even now, revealing this much of my secret makes me nauseous. And my fear is that it makes you, the reader, nauseated as well. That feeling you are having, isn’t that all a part of the rejection process? Isn’t it true that rejection starts in the gut?

    I have lived my entire life in fear of rejection. Secret rejection. Private rejection. You are rejecting me right now and don’t even know it. This is my assumption. This is my creed.

    But here’s my question, my private question I have secretly asked myself my entire life. Are you more likely to reject me if I reveal my secret or if I keep it from you?

  • http://www.writingmylifestory.com Sherrey Meyer

    Joe, as a mom, this is a formula I a relate to very well! :) Great post, as always.

    FYI, after our email exchanges, I’ve updated and revised my blog giving it a fresher, more positive look along with a new title, one I feel more comfortable with. Take a look, http://www.not-just-a-name.blogspot.com.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      It looks great, Sherrey!

  • Brab608

    No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

    She’d driven 75 minutes through a blinding rain storm, coupled with high winds determined to blow her off the road. The commute normally took her 45 minutes, but she’d had to slow down due to road conditions. As she parked her car in the student parking lot, the rains subsided just enough for her to transport herself and her tote bag to class without getting wet. The wind, however, had gotten worse. By the time she entered the classroom, her scarf had been wind-whipped around her neck and her hair had been “Osterized”. She was the Show & Tell example for the word “bedraggled”.

    She sat herself down at the desk closest to the door so she could get out of the room as soon as class ended, thus avoiding the traffic jam created when all the evening students were dismissed and made a mad dash to get to the comforts and responsibilities of home.

    The instructor gave them their assignment – Free Write for 15 minutes. Ugh. The wind was still whistling through her head, whisking away any creative thoughts she might have. The sounds of the rain were still drowning out the voice of her muse.

    What to write? What to write?

    Free write. There was nothing free about writing. Writing costs. It costs in time. Time spent sitting in class and at her home computer when she should have been cleaning the bathroom or walking the dogs. It costs in energy. Mental energy that would better be used in balancing her checkbook or reading the newspaper. It costs money. The money she should have spent on paying down debt that she’d instead spent on this class.

    She thought of a quote from author Harlan Coben where he said writing was inspiration plus perspiration plus desperation. For Coben, the desperation was that if he didn’t write, his kids didn’t eat. She wasn’t desperate. Not like a real writer, that is one who actually made a living at writing. She had a well-paying job that more than covered her expenses and afforded her the opportunity to take this class.

    Being the business woman she was, she did a quick cost/benefit analysis of writing versus not writing. She wouldn’t have the financial desperation. Her desperation would be emotional; a desperation that came from the painful backlog of words and ideas that would clog her mind and soul if they were never released.

    There were costs to writing. There were costs to not writing, as well. There was no such thing as Free Writing. But the exercise proved to be something of a coupon to be redeemed– buy five words, get one free. The words started to flow and before she knew it fifteen minutes were up and it was time to go.

  • http://jblearnstowrite.tumblr.com/ JB Lacaden

    Free writing. Free writing. My mind’s not working right now. Anyways, here’s what I can come up with in 15 minutes.

    Run.

    My lungs are begging for oxygen. The muscles in my legs feel like they are burning. But I continue on running.

    The sun shines down on me like a spotlight. I’m the lead actor in this play. Sweat keeps on sliding down my muddy face–leaving traces of cleanliness. My lips are cracked and my throat is dry. I know my feet are bleeding from the nonstop running. The pain was terrible at first but as I continue on running I could barely feel it anymore.
    Behind me, I can clearly hear the sound of footsteps running hard to catch up. There is the sound of voices as well–shouting voices. But I’m able to hear them clearly through the loud beating of my heart. Thump. Thump. Thump. It feels like it’s going to explode. There’s only one thing in my mind as I am running. Escape. I know I had to escape. To stop running is death.

    How long have I been running? Minutes? Hours? It feels like an eternity. The scenery around me stays the same. I’ve been running for so long but it feels like I’ve never really gone anywhere. The same bright sun shines down on me. The same rocky terrain pierces the skin beneath my feet. The same dry wind passing me by. And still the same ones behind me never giving up the chase. I keep on running. It won’t be long now. I keep my eyes focused in front of me. I know escape is near. In front of me I see the outline of trees. I see the light of the sun being reflected on the clear surface of the small body of water. I see escape. I smile. I continue to run.

    I open my eyes and I find myself back in darkness. I’m back in my cell. I feel the familiar pain of hunger lingering in my stomach. I close my eyes. I shut them tight. Please, let me go back to sleep. I want to go back to escape. I turn to the side. It doesn’t take long. The next time I open my eyes I find myself running once again.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Interesting. So the running is just the dream of someone imprisoned? In general, I’m not a fan of dream sequences, but this one seems special, seems like there are symbolic things going here. The dream is less to trick the reader and more to describe the screwed up emotional state of the narrator. It’s interesting, JB.