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A donkey and a carpenter and a guy named Oswald walk into a bar… – The Pile I'm Standing In
A donkey and a carpenter and a guy named Oswald walk into a bar…

A donkey and a carpenter and a guy named Oswald walk into a bar…

That’s the title of my latest post over at The Vox Pop Network. You should go read it. It’s right over here. I give you a taste:

A few months ago on an espresso high, I was reorganizing my bookshelves in the middle of the night when I came across good old Ozzie. Chambers, that is. I read My Utmost For His Highest religiously in college (that was, um, seventeen(ish) years ago). Like most Christians in America, I set my copy next to the toilet for those brief moments of daily…solitude. Feeling a rush of nostalgia, I snuggled into the couch in the quiet of my basement, flipping through to all the underlined passages that addressed my struggles at nineteen years old.

To find out what happens next, go here!

You may recognize the beginning of that post from the one I wrote here just a few days ago. If you read the first post, and then go read the Vox Pop post, you will see the lovely transition from draft to completed project.

The first draft I wrote quickly and without thinking too much about it. Maybe it took twenty minutes to do, including the formatting and the actual posting. I knew there was something else in there I wanted to say, but didn’t have time to develop it.

Later I thought it would make a good post for The Vox Pop, but there is where it got ugly: I had an expectation that because I had already written a draft, I would be able to finish it off quickly and move on to something else. To the contrary, I spent the entire three hours of my writing afternoon working on that essay, and when my time was up it was still not fit to publish. Because the creative juices would not obey me, I was hugely frustrated. In fact, I sent off a few Eeyore-type “I suck as a writer” IM’s involving F-words to anyone who happened to be online at the time (uh, sorry about that, friends).

It was a good reminder that I should not walk into a writing project with such arbitrary expectations.

The two biggest challenges for me in writing are endings and titles. I want a title that catches your attention, and I want an ending that punctuates without tying a neat little bow on top. Ongoing life is hugely unresolved, yet my early draft work almost always includes a version of “…and she lived happily ever after.”

This essay was no exception. It’s almost like I need to get the fantasy out of my head, the wish that conflict would be resolved in a 30-minute sitcom or a 500-word essay. Sometimes I write conflict resolution into the essay when it hasn’t actually resolved yet, and when I read over it I’m like, WTF? Who is this woman with all her problems solved? Who put this in here?

So at the end of my three hours I closed my laptop and went home, feeling like a failure.

It wasn’t until the kids were in bed that I had enough head space to process through the essay again, and this time I could see things so clearly! I chopped, I reworked, I added, and then… I sat again and waited for the ending to come to me. Always with ribbon and bow in hand, I want a nice little story ending. Finally I realized I could just chop off the last paragraph I was working on and *poof,* the ending you see is the ending you get. No moral. No lesson. No you-should-be-like-me. No summary wrap-up that insults your intelligence. Just, an end.

I was giddy. It was fantastic. I read it over and over. I hit “publish.”

We creatives are so moody, aren’t we?

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