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How I decide what to write

December 22, 2009

This has been my year of writing. I have fully embraced the fact that, whether or not anyone actually wants to read what I write, I have these words and ideas that roil around in my head until I spill them out onto paper (well, computer). Here’s how it seems to work for me: I have a spark of an idea that starts rolling around my brain–I know that it’s there, and I say hello to it, but I don’t really welcome it yet with open arms. It’s sort of like a long lost relative that has shown up on your doorstep and asks to stay for an indefinite period of time. I know that I will suck on this Lifesaver of an idea until it has become that tiny nugget of candy that I will put to paper. That’s when I will sit down here, at my laptop, and start to write. Even then, I never know where I might end up. I’ve become a big fan of rewrites, which is a good habit when you are a writer.

I don’t have a degree in writing, per se. I do have a bachelor of arts in communications studies, which seemed very studious and important when I got it, back in the mid-eighties. I minored in journalism, which is a very different type of writing than what I do now, I suppose. I took a lot (two words, people–two words.) of creative writing classes over the course of my four-year college career, and I journaled it all. (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing at this point.) I thought my poems dripped in meaning; my short stories, while not masterpieces, seemed to bear fruit according to my professors–I took myself so seriously back then. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I have journals from all of my relationships; thank God I can’t find high school.

I recently found my journal from my early twenties, when I was dating a man who I thought was my true love (dating sounds so light and happy; enmeshed, all encompassed by–you get the idea). He and I were hot and heavy for several years; I recently wrote a poem called “Broken Glass Hallways” about him–perhaps that gives you an idea about the foolish kind of love I gave him. He cheated; I took him back. Ah, foolish; now you understand. He surprisingly got back in touch with me this summer on Facebook and we reestablished contact on Facebook, email, text–though I am happily married, he became a constant presence in my life, albeit online, electronically. I forgave him that he rejected what he craved. His desire for me once again threw a wrench into my nicely ordered life.

When I found out he had killed himself that night in October, the same night after we had spoken at lunch; to say it threw me, well, that diminishes my feelings immensely. (Some people say he did me a favor.)

This emotional process has, in a way, become my muse. Stories and poems are pouring out of me like, well, you know. They are intensely personal and private, so I have not posted them here. (My husband of seventeen years knows that old boyfriend and I were in contact and understands that he and I had feelings to resolve. To say that husband is one cool dude doesn’t cover it.) I don’t know what it was inside me back then that finally made me decide to want a man that would treat with respect; but hey, I got the good guy and I didn’t even have to train him. I look back now on all those journals and I wonder if I will pass them on to my daughter so she knows never to allow a man to treat her like old boyfriend treated me. The great was great; but the bad; well, the bad was horrible. No girl deserves that.

But it makes for great copy.

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