Short Story

I need to write a short story. Months ago I committed to writing one short story a week, and sending out one short story a month to a contest or a magazine. I have so far written one short story (in my lifetime). I’m sure I have other stories that are short, but I have but once set out to write a short story and written one.

In fact, I always thought I hated short stories. They weren’t worth my time because they were either confusing or pointless and couldn’t I have just been reading a novel instead? A novel, that’s something beautiful. I don’t remember where I read this, but someone wrote something to the effect of “It’s not hard to write sentences, and books are made of sentences, so if you’re going to write a sentence, why not just write Moby Dick?” Of course, they said it better. I think I read it in a book. They were already writing that sentence as a part of a full-length book.

Then something happened (I guess I read a few short stories) and I got it. I understood why people wrote them. A short story is a moment. A novel is weeks.

(this is the library I’m about to mention –

taken from

There is a quote on the glass wall of the library near where I do yoga: “A short story is what you see when you look out the window.” Okay. I look out windows. A short story is maybe the kind of thing you can write when all day long you are sitting in a class and all evening long you are doing homework from that class. It is the thing you can do in one of your breaks. Right?

I don’t know. I’ve only written one.

I often come up with plans such as the one I already mentioned: give myself a quota, some sort of routine. If a short story is a moment in time, it should take but a moment in time to write. So why don’t I start?

My biggest issue with short stories, and the reason why I still feel the tinge of distaste I used to have for them, is that they are based on a plot. A novel is based on a character. Anytime I try to come up with a plot for a short story, I feel as though I am a child who was asked to create a comic strip for class. This happened. Then this happened. This image then that one. It’s so dull. It sounds horrible to write. I can’t make myself do it.

So I think I need to change things up. I need to start with moments. I need to rifle quickly  through journals and take eyes-half-open glances at things I’ve written in there – quotes I like from books, things I noticed that day, dreams – and turn those moments I catch into stories. I need to write from a moment, not a child’s plot.

So there!


I Lost My Dreams

Tonight I plan to post over my bed a sign to remind myself, in my dreams, to remember my dreams. Or to wake up and remember to write my dreams down. For the last five nights I have kept my journal under my pillow with a pen at a page titled Dreams. Though I have not written a word, I write this post with the clear and focused intention of trying to find the dreams I’ve lost.

I spent a year daydreaming and writing a novel, two inseparable activities. My dreams were a continuity of my life: nighttime variations with even less control. Now I am back at school and I go to bed tired and thinking of textbooks and I wake up to the sound of the morning news in French on my alarm clock. Sunday morning announced the impending threat of “La Troisième Guerre Mondiale.”

For three weeks now I have not remembered dreams. I actually ate more Brie than I should have eaten Saturday night with the intention of dreaming. Cheese is said to make you have crazy dreams. I remember one dream that night: I was running around naked in the back kitchen of my old workplace because I had a shower in the middle of my shift. I didn’t realize I was still in the middle of my shift and there were customers waiting for me. I’m not saying I have great dreams: common threads are I am late for something or I missed it entirely.

(I also dream about World War Three: caves and tragic partings with one fellow male guerrilla fighter).

One thing that dreams give me is a centre. I wake up and I know where I’ve been for the last 6-8 hours.

Another thing that dreams give me is an explanation for my mood. I wake up inevitably affected by my dreams. If I can’t remember them then I don’t know why I’m shaken. Dreams often make me wake up feeling nostalgic. But what is the feeling of nostalgia if I can’t remember the past I was dreaming about? A sinking feeling. A terrible pit.

I woke up this morning with that. I have no idea where it comes from. I’ve spent the past two hours thinking of my dream. I remember a person, but I’ve lost the mood. My dreams are just that, moods, and if I’ve lost my moods then what does that say about me in my daytime life?

2 Minute Post to Feel Free (and Rushed)

I stand behind my desk to write this post. I shake my legs a little bit. I listen to a French song because I’m trying to overwhelm my brain with French so I can master the language or master the confidence to one day master the language.

I just made a to-do list in Prismacolours so that I could get something of the many things of homework I have to do this weekend done. There are so many textbook pages that I started thinking how many textbooks have I read in my life and is that even okay? Is it okay my lifetime reading list has included that many textbooks? They are so poorly written!

My time is almost up and my back hurts and my legs are still shaking (on purpose – like I’m dancing – not like I’m nervous). Back to work!

I post three pictures so this isn’t such a poorly-written, textbook-like entry.


Hardest Challenges

It’s so much easier to be an hour early than it is to be on time.

So much easier to go for a hike on Sunday than it is to walk a little every day.

It’s so much easier to sign up for a 30-day yoga challenge than it is to go to yoga two days in a row.

So much easier to plan to run a marathon than to make running something I do.

To help a stranger than a friend.

To dive in than to step in.

To write a novel than a poem.

(photo from

Such a Good One

An excerpt from Adam Gopnik‘s Paris to the Moon

“The hardest thing to convey is how lovely it all is and how the loveliness seems all you need. The ghosts that haunted you in New York or Pittsburgh will haunt you anywhere you go, because they’re your ghosts and the house they haunt is you. But they become disconcerted, shaken confused for a half a minute, and in that moment in December at 4:00 when you’re walking from the bus stop to the rue Saint-Dominique and the lights are twinkling across the river – only twinkling in the bateaux mouches, luring the tourists, but still – … you feel as if you’ve escaped your ghosts if only because, being you, they’re transfixed looking at the lights in the trees on the other bank, too, which they haven’t seen before, either. It’s true you can’t run away from yourself. But we were right: you can run away.”

Start to Finish

I’ve found that if I start something I am often tempted to finish it. So I’ve started to roll balls out in all directions and this way I have balls rolling. Then I have to catch them and finish them. Perhaps this is a great explanation for the anxiety that sits in the pit of my stomach.

(This post was started at 9:40 a.m. in the middle of an education class on Classroom Assessment).

Now I am home this evening and I have this, among other balls rolling. I am rolling in balls I’ve set into motion: I am in school and I have to write a novel and I also have to learn the ukulele, start submitting short stories I haven’t written to publications and I also have to work every Saturday. I wish I could juggle, but it seems I’m playing an imaginary version of that soccer drill where you shoot a lot of balls at a goalie at once and they’re like okay, one at a time.

English: A red Ukulele, manufactured by Makala
English: A red Ukulele, manufactured by Makala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love multi-tasking. It makes me feel like I’m doing everything. But it rarely allows me to feel like I’ve done anything. A combination of these two things makes me continue it: not feeling like I’ve done anything makes me keep going; feeling like I’m doing everything keeps me wanting more. Multi-tasking is my drug, my generation’s drug.

So what do we do when we become students or teachers or lawyers or writers (or another job, name another job) and all day we feel like we’re so close to doing everything but it still feels like nothing gets done? What do we do when we get busy?

I propose that we keep rolling those balls out. The tasks we set into motion are our hopes and dreams materialized. You know how people keep talking about dream boards? About “The Secret”? This is it: the multi-tasker has found a spiritual home. Instead of embarking on tasks, we write them down, and by writing them down we’ve committed ourselves to them.

I’ve been learning the ukulele, sign language, trying horseback riding and writing excellent short stories for years. They’ve all been written on pieces of paper, little tasks to set to the wind whenever I feel I haven’t yet done enough today. Or whenever I feel like I’m doing too much: I need something else. I don’t necessarily do these things from start to finish, but I do get them started – that way I go back to them to finish.

The Moments That Don’t Count

I’ve been overwhelmed by a life theme these past few days: people keep telling it to me in different forms. They’re saying it’s the moments that you don’t think count that are the most significant. They’re saying pay attention.

I attended a lecture on professionalism as a teacher. I was advised to be professional in every moment – especially in the moments you don’t think you need to be. Professionalism in the staff room, in the hallway, in the parking lot. Could it be a lifelong motive, this professionalism? What if I was the most respectful, positive, well-mannered person in every moment of my life? I should strive for that. Of course I should strive for that.

I attended a yoga class. I was told that it is the moments that we do regularly – the “lather, rinse and repeat” moments – that we let go by easiest. It is in these moments that we practice yoga. It is in these moments that we can breathe, observe, connect.

(, taken by Robert Sturman)

I love that. I love that I can improve on myself in every moment. In every dull, repetitive, standing-on-a-bus moment I can do something to better myself, and it can just be one deep breath. And by bettering myself, I better you, and you and I better the world, or the bus.

I’m so tied up in school, or more so the idea of school. We have nine classes at once. It’s hard to put everything in its right place in a binder, let alone do the work required. I’m more overwhelmed by the idea of work than the work itself. I think I’m losing track of ways of bettering myself: am I sleeping enough? Exercising? Letting my mind rest? Writing?

No. I’m not doing enough of any of those things. But I’m doing a lot of moments where I look up from an article or a schedule or a blackboard and I think of brilliant ideas. I breathe. School is a place for creative thoughts that aren’t school. I write them in the margins. I highlight them. I make lists of things to do if I wasn’t tied up in all this. I might be prone to think that nothing will come of these ideas, but last year I broke out of school and wrote a novel from my marginal thoughts.

So maybe it is the most banal moments – the bus rides and the three-hour lectures and the late nights over late papers – that make up the most significant parts of life. Because it’s in those moments that I’m growing.

Where the Soul Sits

My soul sits in the pages of my novel that are right now in their latest form on my computer. My soul sits somewhere in my computer. This computer is bound to break soon: a Mac 2007 can only hang on for so long. I ward off its demise by talking about it.

I started the Education program at UBC. It’s not that my soul isn’t here with me – I’ve known for a long time that teaching can be a place where I bring it with me – but it’s been fractured. It sits partially in my computer, in a story I’ve touched for minutes only since last week, when I started this whirlwind.

I watchedInsidious this weekend, after trying so hard not do but still, strangely, dying to. That’s the thing with horror movies: we know they’re going to terrify us, and we take it as a challenge. As it happens, this time I won. I wasn’t very scared.

To not give away any plot points, I will just say that Insidious deals with the soul, and how it can be overtaken if left alone too long. I found my soul in writing. I took a year off to write and felt so fulfilled by it. I fear now that any pursuit that moves me away from writing is a weakening of my soul, a chance for it to break away. I want to keep my soul close, of course.

(I’m sorry, I don’t remember what blog this is from, but the picture saved as “Leanne in studio,” so Leanne, I love your studio. It seems so soulful).

I think this must be what happens when people start jobs or school programs that don’t make them happy. They know their soul sits elsewhere, but are afraid to join it. So they let something insidious seep in and take over: the poison of a life they’re not supposed to lead. And they lose sight of the soul they once had and they think this is what life is – a soulless thing.

Fortunately, though I’m confused about where my soul is (I think it’s on a computer), I also know that the school program I’m doing right now will lead to a fulfilling life. I feel I have found a job where I can let my soul live in two places: my daytime teaching job, where I live to help my students, and my nighttime/early morning/lunchtime teaching job, where I live to write my life’s pursuit. Of course, my soul lives in my relationships, in my family and my boyfriend, in my downtime and my fun time and in all the other things important in my life. But the soul that cries out to do something with my life, that soul can be shared.

I’m excited that my first week in the education program is making me think about my soul. I think that means something.

Where Did My Novel Go?

I went back to school. Whoops!

Where is my novel? Not in my head. In notebooks. On one computer. In binders and binders (some I have vacated for use in school). I didn’t quite lose my novel, but where is it, exactly, if I’m not writing it?

This year my novel might exist on bus rides. It might exist in old documents, revised, or simply reread. It might exist in my head over night. But I’m so scared for it. Where is it right now?

I’ve lost the feeling of my novel. I sat down for a set forty minutes on Thursday night. I opened the folder where it should be and the document I last touched. I sat there staring at the words, unsure where they came from. A novel is a thing that exists because of a time and a space and it depends on other things around it: the middle on the end and the beginning. If I’m not sure where I am in my novel because my head is elsewhere and my novel’s here, how will it ever advance?

I was in school two years ago when this novel already existed. It hadn’t yet been written, but first chapters had been formed and reformed and I knew my characters (I thought some characters were going to die in car crashes at that time). In any case, the novel existed, and I actually worked on it while in school. I sat and wrote small notes to myself in class. I sectioned them off from important class notes with backwards slashes: /The party is actually a high school reunion.

I loved doing this. I let sitting in class be a form of meditation. I listened for a while, and instead of drifting off into neurosis about upcoming assignments or into other neuroses about having left a hair straightener on at home, I drifted off into my creative brain. I let school feed my creativity by running from it toward something good.

But I wanted to approach this year differently. I took a year off from school in which I wrote full time (full time meaning writing was the thing I did; working was part time). I became a writer – someone who wrote every day. This was so much apart of my identity that I couldn’t see it changing this year. It actually couldn’t change, or else I would change.

So here I am. I am writing a blog post, so that’s writing. I’m thinking about how my novel is lost in time-space, so at least that’s some form of concern for my writing, if not an attempt at doing the task then an acknowledgment, at least, that the task exists and is important. I’m scared I’ll lose this identity I’ve created. It’s easy to pencil in writing time (it isn’t, I haven’t tried that yet), but how easy will it be when assignments are piling up and I’m just so tired?

I feel compelled to do some kind of vow here, in front of my audience of a few people. Here it is: I am a writer; I just sometimes go back to school.

Why isn’t everyone reading Walden?

I am on page 77 of Walden and I have so far read Henry David Thoreau’s take on mortgages, fashion, DIY, travel and school. Thoreau published his masterpiece in 1854, but it feels so relevant – too relevant to be so good, so insightful. I don’t know why we aren’t all reading Walden right now.


Walden is the account of a social experiment. Thoreau built a cabin and lived on the edge of Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts for two years in search of meaning in his life. Isn’t that what we are all reading right now? Memoirs of people looking for the meaning of life?

Thoreau is a philosopher of sorts – a trancendentalist. We read his quotes everywhere – on bookmarks and graduation gifts. His school of thought says that man is inherently good and needs to find ways to be independent and self-reliant or else he will be corrupted by organized religion and politics. Isn’t that a lot of what we’re reading right now? Books arguing for the power of the individual?

Thoreau on mortgages: “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”

Thoreau on fashion: “My tailoress tells me gravely, ‘They do not make them so, now,” not emphasizing the ‘They’ at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates.”

Thoreau on DIY: “Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? … Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.”

Thoreau on travel: “This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once. ‘What!’ exclaim a million Irishmen.”

Thoreau on school: ” ‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”


I can’t get over how much I want to be reading this 160 year old book right now. It’s exciting to feel that sometimes we can find the answers to the most pressing issues in the oldest, wisest places. I’ve maybe learned something about why people read the Bible: the answers were here, all along.

It might be that Walden caught me at the right moment in my life, and this moment in my life has coincided with the right moment in time.

Me, on mortgages: I am contemplating, in the Vancouver housing market, the possibility that if things go on this way I may never be able to buy my own home. And if by chance I am able to successfully buy my own home, still never own it.

Me, on fashion: As a young woman bombarded by media, I’ve developed a bad habit for spending money on frivolous items, such as the latest clothing and other ephemeral trends.

Me, on DIY: I’m attempting to eat and buy local in order to offset the negative impacts of globalization.

Me, on travel: I am at the point in my life where I’m supposed to travel, but also at the point in my life where I’m supposed to settle down.

Me, on school: I left school last year and am going back this year, all in search of what?

I don’t know why everyone isn’t talking about Walden right now. Then again, this headline was in The New York Times this morning. Maybe everyone is, and I just haven’t been listening.