Category Archives: Writing

November Haiku

BareTreesDays grow short, shorter.
Air chills with lengthening night.
Leaves? They’ve all fallen.

Friday Fictioneers – Shell Game

Another super-short story inspired by the photo below. Want to see what other people made of the same picture? Here’s your chance. And, if you want to, add your interpretation!

still-life-with-dougShell Game

“So your husband sold these?”

“Oh, yes. Mounted collections. He was so proud of his finds – these are really rare shells, you know.”

“Uh-huh. Pretty pricey?”

“Well, yes. They had to be. His expenses were so high.”

“Uh-huh.” The policeman headed for the next room, and she trailed after. “Lots of equipment in here.”

“You need all sorts of computer stuff to run a business these days.”

“Printing invoices and stuff?” She nodded. “Who uses a three-d printer for invoices?”

“That? That’s just a hobby.”

“Profitable hobby. We’ll have to test these shells, but I bet they turn out to be plastic.”

“What?”

“Fakes. Nice job programming that printer, though.”

* * *

Please let me know what you think of this story!

Draining the priority swamp

(Continued from yesterday, when we tried to Fix Everything by doing the “A” priorities first and expecting our staff of unicorns and fluffy kittens and floppy-eared bunnies to handle the “B’s” and “C’s”. And it didn’t work.)

UPSwampI’ve tried to follow instructions. I’ve made lists, lovely long lists, endless lists, of goals and projects and obligations. Lists that leave me with a splitting headache and a feeling that I might throw up if I spend another five minutes adding to them. Other times, I’ve forced myself to keep the master list bearably short so I can figure out which ones matter and what’s unimportant – and that’s even more depressing, because I wind up with a list of 76 “A’s”, 32 “B’s”, and 4 or 5 “C’s”. And you know what? Trying to do seventy-six Really Important Things all at the same time doesn’t work.

Enough. I need a different approach. The A-B-C tactic is just too theoretical to help me. It leaves me groping through a fog with no idea where my goal might be, no idea whether I’m getting closer or farther away from it or just wandering in circles. I need a way to see when I’m getting somewhere.

Actually, I think I’ve been tripping over it – sometimes literally – all summer, while we’ve worked on emptying my mother’s house: Work by sections. Clear out one room, or one corner of one room, then go on to the next. If you have to, make room to work by lugging part of the mess somewhere else, somewhere you’ve already cleared, and return to that pile later.

I won’t be able to tell at a glance whether what I’m doing is the thing that needs attention more than anything else I could possibly do – but if I’ve learned one thing by fiddling with ABC priorities, it’s that I don’t know which project needs to be done first. Doing things by space instead of priority has at least one thing to be said for it: You can see things change. And that would be a good enough purring floppy-eared unicorn for now.

Maybe it will work.

 

Lost in the priority swamp

UPSwampThe thing is, it’s not like I haven’t tried to get organized. Oh, how I’ve tried. Over and over, and I wouldn’t be writing this post today if I’d ever succeeded. Maybe, this time, I should start by asking where I went off track in the past.

Now, if you’ve ever felt the need to be more in control, you probably know that there are lots and lots of books and blogs eager to tell you the right way to make everything all better. Once upon a time, I consulted them all. They seem to fall into two types: the ones that give you hundreds of little tips, each on how to deal with one little individual thing – I’ll write about those another day – and the ones that offer an overall system so you can make sure you cope with what really matters.

You’ve read them. List all your goals. Assign A-B-C priorities depending on how important they are. Do the “A’s” first. Delegate as many “B’s” and “C’s” as possible. (Somehow, the people who write this stuff assume that everyone has an underling to delegate to.) Don’t worry if the “C’s” never get done. And, at last,  skip into Nirvana with your arms around the necks of rainbow-colored unicorns while bunnies and puppies and kittens frolic at your feet. For those of us who think in top-down systems, the A-B-C approach sounds great.

Only it doesn’t work. Not for me, at least; and I have to wonder how the books stay in print if this approach works for anybody. Who needs to buy problem-solving books once you’ve made it all the way to Nirvana?

(….more tomorrow….)

Thirty-one days of organizing the chaos

I am not an organized person.

I have never been an organized person. And when I start thinking about what I should change to become organized, my brain starts chasing after so many different plans and setting up so many goals it’s a wonder it doesn’t make my head spin around in several directions at once. Trying to make a nice simple straight-line plan between “Me Right Now” and “Me Living an Organized Life” makes me dizzy.

So I should be in no danger whatsoever of running out of material to write about if I spend the next month testing ways of becoming more organized. Right?

UPSwampThere. That was easy.

I don’t think it will stay easy.

(This is my first post in an October series for Write31Days – basically, pick a topic and post something about it every day in the coming month. Thanks to Beverley at My Wonky Life for making me aware of it!)

Writing 101 – Stream of Consciousness

(Added after the fact, so I can include a link: this is for Day 1 of WordPress’s new Writing 101 series.)

Okay, twenty minutes. I can do this. Well, I can do it if my left hand holds out.

Dumpster wrist, is what a friend of mine calls it. You develop it after too many days of lugging trash out of a house you’re clearing out and putting it in a dumpster or out at the curb for regular trash pickup. I’ve spent a LOT of this summer doing exactly that. And now my go-to hand is sore and undependable. Some mornings I can’t trust myself to pick up the coffee pot with it.

(The assignment for today is to write whatever goes through our minds for the next twenty minutes, and it occurs to me that this may sound like a pre-planned beginning. Really, it isn’t. It’s just that if you spend some of your time, as I do, thinking about how to tell stories, you get in the habit of filling in background information when you know you’re writing / thinking / talking for an audience.)

Of course, if you’re talking, you’d better have an audience. Even if it’s only the goldfish.

No, I don’t have a goldfish. But I suppose it’s acceptable to talk to one if you have it. I should ask my son if he talks to his accidental goldfish. Probably not, but who knows?

Anyhow, I hope I can get through this project without resorting to hunt and peck typing. That’s hard. Especially when you were forced through a year of learning to touch type back in high school. I don’t think anybody loved that class – maybe the aspiring secretaries – but it has been useful. Kind of like being tormented by the math teacher who insisted that we all practice adding up columns of numbers by blurting out what each new sum was without taking time to think about it. You make mistakes when you think about basic arithmetic. I suppose that’s why computers are so much better at it than humans.

Well, that certainly rambled a good distance from the original topic – not that there’s anything wrong with rambling stream of consciousness. I probably wouldn’t have remembered where I started if my little finger and ring finger weren’t getting so sore.

At least we’re finally making a visible dent in the mess in my mother’s house. With any luck, we’ll get the attic emptied this week, and also the sewing room and maybe the bedrooms – they’re mainly empty anyhow, except for stuff that came down from the attic a few weeks ago. After that, check the kitchen and dining room and living room, and drag a few things up from the basement. Then we should be ready to clean the whole place thoroughly, and after that talk to a possible buyer and an estate auctioneer. I really hope we don’t have to spend the winter travelling back and forth halfway across Pennsylvania to keep checking on it. We’ll see.

And after that project is finished, it will be time to clear out this house. I’ve spent way too much time listening to my parents’ horror of throwing out anything that could theoretically be put to use. Finding everything that somebody else could certainly have used if only it had been given away twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago, and that’s now junk, will definitely clear that notion out of your head.

It’s harder to get rid of your own useless treasures, though. But it needs to be done, so that I don’t wind up ninety years old and surrounded by stuff that I don’t even know where to start looking for. Better to have less and be able to find it. But which “less” to keep?

Well, start by locating and dumping things that I don’t need and don’t want and will be perfectly happy without. Then I can start triage on whatever else is left. Not fun fun fun. Hopefully my stupid hand will have recovered by that time. This is frustrating. It does seem to be better than it was last week; I need to remember to take a wrist brace to my mom’s this time so it doesn’t

Friday Fictioneers – Ghost Stories

Friday Fictioneers again! It’s been an exhausting summer – I’ve missed writing these stories, and reading the stories by other Fictioneers.

campfireGhost Stories

“Out of marshmallows.” The kids protested. He couldn’t see faces around the campfire, but he knew the voices.

“We’ll get more tomorrow. Right now, let’s tell stories, then bed. I’ll start. One night, three kids were camping in the woods. It got dark, and their dad said ‘Time for bed!’ And they said ‘No!’ ‘No!’ ‘No!’ ‘No!’. Well, their dad could count right up to four. So he said -”

“Dad,” sighed Norah, “is this a ghost story? Because they’re dumb.”

“Yeah. Wanna go to bed now.”

“Me too. Because there’s no ghosts.”

Kids bedded down, he stared glumly into the flames. Got to stay awake till the fire’s out.

Thin – bony thin – fingers clutched his shoulder. A voice moaned, “It’s cold. So cold. Let me join you?”

 

Please let me know what you think!

 

Friday Fictioneers – In the Middle of My Life

It may be Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it’s not time for Friday Fictioneers! Please let me know what you think of this story, and go read the rest of the Fictioneers’ tales.

jennifer-pendergast4In the Middle of My Life

When I started college, everything seemed to open up in front of me. So many new things to learn and do – and in a few more years I could step into the real world and claim my place there. But you have to be practical.

After college, my place in the real world turned out to be a cubicle with an uncomfortable chair and an out-of-date computer. Marriage and family are great, but I didn’t like feeling them push me back into that colorless cubicle day after day, year after year.

Well, we’re home from seeing our youngest graduate. No more reason to be practical. I want to hand in my resignation and go figure out who I can be. Will you come with me?

Friday Fictioneers: Love-in-a-mist

Here we go again – hundred word stories (more or less), based on the latest Friday Fictioneers photo prompt chosen by the one and only Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

copyright-erin-leary-2Love-in-a-Mist

When it’s foggy, I remember. I had gone for a walk, but soon I couldn’t see where I was. I climbed to the top of a hill, where the fog was thinner, and then he appeared. At first he was only a moving blur. I watched as he came closer and took shape.

He was young, but his clothes belonged to another century. He started when he first saw me, and then shrugged and accepted my appearance, strange though I looked to him. We talked for minutes, or hours – I don’t know – until the fog lifted. He faded with it.

For years, I searched for him every foggy day, but magic only happens once. At least he left me a token, my dear child. If only I could have left something with him.

Friday Fictioneers: Nothing Like It

Friday Fictioneers time again…be sure to follow the link to read other interpretations of the photo and offer your own hundred-word story!

copyright_bw_beachamNothing Like It

There’s nothing in the world makes you feel free like a boat. Out there on the water, no roads, no speed limits, just use your common sense and don’t plow into the side of an oil tanker, because any fool knows it can’t change course fast enough to get out of your way.

So there I am, nice sunny day, motor cranked up, bow tilted up to the sky, next thing to flying. Nobody told me the tide was going out.

Nothing makes you feel trapped like sitting stuck in a mud flat waiting for the water to come back.