I’m at the low end of my normal creative cycle. I’ve noticed, and I hope this doesn’t come out too lavender-crunchy, that my personal creative flow waxes and wanes pretty predictably each month. Of course, I work full time and have a marriage and a seven year old, so sometimes the stories that would usually be able to bubble to the surface and onto a page are sadly left to cool and are forgotten.
During these quiet periods, I’ve been getting better at training my eye to past works, and being more critical and relentless with edits. I’ve submitted several pieces for publication and the crotchety, keen-eyed bastard-editor who lives deep inside my skull saw lots that he didn’t like this time around. He pushed his monocle close to paper, frowned, took a bite of ham sandwich, stamped out his filterless cigarette, and pressed his pen down firmly, scratching out what he found unworthy, unnecessary, and trite. He went through a lot of red ink. He’s not a favorite person of mine, but he is useful when he comes around.*
Luckily, a few things (a very few things) received his reluctant stamp of approval, and I just received word a few days ago that a piece that I originally shared on here, titled We Blend Our Faith, will be published in the upcoming issue of Glint Literary Journal. There are also four or five submissions hanging on spiderweb gossamer thread, out there in the publishing universe. Like street urchins in a Dickens novel, they’re waiting hollow-eyed and hungry for a scrap of bread to be thrown at them. If they aren’t successful, I’ll take them in again (like a benevolent Fagin) and send them back out another day.
I am reading something right now that is tearing my heart out and showing it to me. How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer, is a collection of short stories told from the voices of young children and teenage girls. She uses the spare, literal sort of writing that I admire. Orringer’s words come from a sparely written, flowing like water place that Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood, and Jeffrey Eugenides come from. A little detached, coolly observant, and full of a closely bridled undercurrent of passion, Orringer paints her stories with words. The stories are effortless, and they hum.
I found the book quite quickly, and without much thought. I didn’t seek it out. Sometimes I like to go to the library with no expectations and no list. I simply walk through the stacks and listen, waiting for a story to call me. I know this sounds silly, but I ask God to send me the story that I need to read. It always works, this bit of cobbling magic.
What about you? Are you reading something magical right now? Does your creativity bend and curve with the movements of the planet or the shadows of the moon?
*There is not really a small, gnome-like 19th century editor living inside of me. I have no claims to the title of one with Multiple Personality Disorder. I did love reading Sybil when I was younger, and saw the mini-series more times to count. “The people, the people, the people…”