One Hundred Words 101

Friday Fictioneers has become a staple on my blog. Creating a story using only 100 words has impacted my writing in ways I did not expect when I first discovered the group of talented writers led by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Now everything I write goes through a rigorous edit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’m often knee deep in chaff.

A photo is where the story begins, usually. There are times, however, when an idea that has been percolating in my mind mingles with the prompt in mysterious ways. The result ends up on the keyboard. I don’t question it. I just close my eyes and let it fly. Winging it is what we pantsters, as in fly by the seat of one’s pants, do best. There is no outline or structure, no discernable method to the madness that ensues when I am writing. That is why editing is an indispensable skill. The key most used on my laptop is the backspace, second only to delete.

I had a professor once who tried to instill, or was it impose, rules to be followed when writing anything. I resisted as much as my GPA would allow, but in the end, what she had tried so hard to get me to understand stuck with me. I use it, but probably not often enough. I’ll share it and you can decide for yourself if it is as easy as she made it seem.

Each idea must be supported by a sentence that answers one of three questions about the idea. How is it true? Why is it true? In what way is it true? The simplicity of this practice is deceptive because it can be difficult to admit that you are making a claim that cannot be supported.

I hate when that happens.

Today I did a lot of writing. I published a blog post. I wrote an article that will most likely never be published. I wrote two versions of a cover letter for my ongoing job search. A deluge of ideas caused me to work on several documents simultaneously. I could not separate my ideas fast enough to bother asking how or why or in what way any of them were true. As a consequence, I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening editing. Right in the middle of all of it, I had to stop myself so that I could start this post. It was nagging at me to be let out, like a sneeze that stings so bad it makes your eyes water.

That’s it. Be open to possibilities. Decide for yourself what is good and what isn’t. Let others help you along the way. Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. Know the rules. Know that you can bend the rules. Know that some rules aren’t worth the torment you feel obligated to endure for them. Know that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a summersault sometimes followed by a face plant. Have the courage to stare failure down and make it pay you back with interest. That’s how to write a story using only one hundred words.

Here is my story prompted by the prompt courtesy of Sarah Potter.

january-snowfall-nighttime
Copyright Sarah Potter

Since You’ve Been Gone

My mug is piping hot. I take out the biscotti, leaving one in the jar. “I’ll be back for you later,” I whisper. My heart flutters beneath layers of wool and flannel. The flashes are gone now, but the covers still end up on the floor. For old time’s sake I guess, when lava in my veins forced me to open a window. He hated that. The silence is louder than ever. I won’t miss being stuck in this place. The checklist, still on the kitchen counter, is incomplete. Perhaps I’ll have that last biscotti. Tomorrow might be too late.

*****

Lately my mood, and my writing, has been bluer than blue. I make no apologies. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading. I owe you all a debt of gratitude for the generous comments and thoughtful support.

Will Work For Life

An unsettling thought occurred to me while I was taking a break after completing six online job applications in a row. That may not sound like many, but it is. The process for jobs I am interested in is excruciatingly tedious. I won’t bore you with the details of my search and rescue mission on dot coms dedicated to helping us find work ’til we die.

Which is closer for some than others.

There seems to be a trend for people of a certain age to humble vent on LinkedIn. Humble venting is a bit like humble bragging, you know, when someone tells how grateful they are for something in that false modesty language with the undertone of “OMG, this awesome thing makes my life so much better than yours and now everyone will want to be my friend so that they can be amazing like me, but they can’t, no one can, not even you.”

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m saying.

ANYWAY, humble venters are people who tell you that they have finally found their dream job with one of the ten best ever companies to work for. A company that values experience and rewards thought leaders and sends fairies riding unicorns to their house in the middle of the night to lay out their business casual wear and set up the coffee maker so that all they have to do is press the button and hop in the shower.

THEN, they go on to say how horribly rotten the job search experience was for them. How a thousand man hours produced hundreds of applications that yielded only a few dozen interviews and how their ego was dealt a deathblow every time an email, thanking them for there interest, but to NEVER EVER expect to get so much as spam in the future, came after hitting refresh on their phone, iPad, AND PC fifty-two times each, oh, but now after torturous months, their faith in humanity has been completely restored.

Humble venters use run-on sentences.

I’ve been cautioned, thank you Mr. Petruska, not to post anything that might be construed as negative or derogatory or damaging or even halfway accurate about organizations that seem to only hire nit wits, dim wits, and knuckleheads for HR recruiting. So, I won’t.

I will, however, say that there are some serious issues with talent acquisition in the corporate world today, my friends, and until somebody makes that great again, there’s gonna be a whole lot of valuable resources wasting away in Margaritaville.

I’m just sayin’. What? Too negative?

The thought that occurred to me is that this experience must be a lesson in humility. This is based on that annoying premise that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, there certainly have been plenty of humiliating moments in my life for no reason I can think of. Well, I have learned my lesson. Digital rejection is as bad as human rejection. I promise to never humble brag again. I do need to get hired so that I can humble vent. It’s on my bucket list, and if I don’t do it soon, there may never be an opportunity because I intend to get a job or die trying.

Have humility, will travel.

 

 

 

Measured Response

My creativity was temporarily out of order last week. The constant demand to prove my worth took its toll on my dignity, and in my weakened state, the Friday Fictioneer prompt wrestled me to the ground. I knew where the prompt was leading. I did not want to go there. I tried for a day or so to come up with a positive story, to no avail. The scene was always brutal and crushing. Just like my week was turning out to be.  Finally, I gave up.

A person’s positive outlook can come to an abrupt end with the realization that they must sacrifice more in order to contribute more. What a vicious problem this is to solve. The list of rejections I have received grows longer every day. Months of searching and hundreds of job applications have led me into a deep pit of disappointment. It seems no matter how precise the plan, trial-and-error is how I am destined to explore problems, a method that makes it difficult to see what to do next to get where I want to be.

The thought occurred to me to post an open letter to the organizations whose talent acquisition software has dispositioned me out of hand because my resume doesn’t contain the correct key words. I decided even a well-written rant would give me no pleasure. I suppose we all have a tendency to respond to things that we don’t need to respond to. I am determined to resist the temptation to let frustrating circumstances defeat me.

It turns out that even when we are methodical and deliberate, life can knock us off our feet and steal our lunch money. Luckily, new information can break through the darkness in the wee hours of the morning and give us just what we need to face another day. Below is my response to Liz Young’s formidable prompt.

broken-face-liz
Copyright Liz Young

 

The Sum of My Parts

Blistered feet carry me to the edge where I have fallen to my knees more than once. I’ve lost my way a dozen times, chasing someone else’s dream. My heart beats a mile a minute as I land on my ass with arms outstretched toward a seemingly unattainable goal. Why waste time wringing my hands when there is so much work to be done? This question strengthens my resolve. I ask, if not me, then who? The reply comes quickly. There is always someone else more desirable. The words sting. They ring in my ears. They will not break me.

*****

Thanks for reading. More punctual Friday Fictioneers are here. Thanks to Liz and Rochelle for keeping the light on for me.

Life and Death: The Next Big Thing

The world has lost a giant intellect with the death of Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician who breathed life into data and gave humanity an enormous gift. His entertaining and optimistic approach to data analysis is inspirational. His teaching methods will live on in every person who had the good fortune to hear him speak, and while I am saddened by the loss of such a kind and generous teacher, there is an upside. All we have to do is accept that his work is not finished and endeavor together to continue it. Students of all ages are clamoring for teachers with Professor Rosling’s ability and willingness to facilitate learning. There are many such teachers in our schools who are eager for partnerships with industries that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). What are we waiting for?

One thing that must be understood is the notion that, “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” is utter nonsense. I offer instead the counter, “Those who teach empower others to discover they, too, can do.”

Teachers in many schools feel hamstrung by the very system that is supposed to support student growth and achievement. Budget constraints and ineffective administrators often work in tandem to squelch the enthusiasm of new teachers who either hang in there, hoping it will get better or give up in frustration. Teachers begin their careers with the knowledge that society does not view them as professionals. The pay scale proves it. The lack of parental involvement in scholastic performance proves it. The fact that some believe our teachers must be armed with weapons, rather than the proper tools to do their job also proves it.

Optimism for the future rests in the hands of teachers. Modeling behaviors such as respect, attention to detail, curiosity, and compassion, often falls solely on teachers, because of a lack of engagement at home where inappropriate behavior is sometimes cultivated or ignored. Behavior cannot be ignored in a public classroom any more than it can be ignored in society. Teachers cannot merely take to social media or the streets to remedy problems they encounter daily in the classroom. Clear, measurable objectives proven by goal-driven evidence are only part of the success story. Teachers must be supported, empowered, and compensated in order for us to arrive at a solution with which we can not only live but thrive.

Thanks, Professor Rosling, for your knowledge, humility, and humor. You will be missed, but hopefully your message will not be lost on us.

Nothing But Net

The original title of this post was “Things NOT To Post On Social Media When Looking For A Job.” Upon further review, in the morning light, it became clear that Chianti does not pair well with late night blogging. The best thing I can do for myself right now is to curtail my freedom of speech – so ordered, so edited. See how self-governance works?

I know this SNL skit has been youtubin’ down the river of social media, but when something’s got wings, you gotta let it fly! Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. I love her and everything she stands for or against. The chick’s got game.

Speaking of slam dunks, this week’s Friday Fictioneer prompt, courtesy of Ted Strutz, made me think I was in over my head at first, but in a flash of inspiration, Millie Hollingsworth came to mind, and 100 words rolled onto the keyboard. SWOOSH! Thanks Ted.

mystery-chair-ted-strutz
Copyright Ted Strutz

Hell or High Water

Eternal damnation terrified Millie. She was forever confessing one selfish impulse after another to keep the devil from walking into church and snatching her right off the pew.

“Sanctify my soul, oh Lord, that I may be worthy of forgiveness.” Millie’s plea was often recited with desperate urgency as the deacon caressed her shoulder.

“We’re gonna keep you on the straight and narrow come hell or high water, Child.”

His haphazard plan to instill some virtue he thought she naturally lacked didn’t work. His good intentions paved the road to Millie’s hell, a trip easily managed with her eyes closed.

*****

Readers new to Friday Fictioneers will want to visit Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for their reading pleasure and further instruction on how to join her supporting cast. Thanks for reading.