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I Never Dreamed
Hearts and minds hold dreams, and yet life can deliver the unexpected. Sometimes, what unfolds, we never dreamed. Writers imagined those possibilities as they wrote this week from differing viewpoints.
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
An Artist’s Dream by Saifun Hassam
Jamila lost her right hand when she was 5. She learned to use her left hand. Her sketches and watercolors showed incredible talent and imagination. She loved to draw starscapes and unknown planets in faraway galaxies.
She never dreamed the prosthetics of science fiction would one day be a reality for her. She never knew of the extensive prosthetics research until Hussein returned from the Iraqi war. His left leg was an experimental prosthetic from Altamont VA hospital.
She volunteered for an experimental wrist. She never imagined her extraordinary cyborg art would blossom into science fiction and anime stories.
Final Score by Hugh W. Roberts
Living his life in the closet, Alan never wanted his father finding out he was gay.
He loathed going to watch football every Saturday afternoon with his father. But he never showed how disappointed he was with the season ticket his father gifted him every Christmas.
But on the Saturday after his father’s death, Alan carried on with the tradition.
“Hello. I’m Tim,” came a voice from behind. “Where’s your father today?”
Alan never dreamt that a season ticket would be the key to meeting the love of his life and no longer living his life as a lie.
Some Dreams Fulfilled by Sue Spitulnik
Becca, Michael’s sister, knocked and let herself in. She saw him sitting on the floor by Emma’s toys but there was no baby and his wheelchair wasn’t in sight. “I have baptism pictures.”
“Thankfully it’s you!”
“Why, have you been monkey scooting around the house again?”
“Yeah, it makes Emma laugh. Whoever dreamed my long arms would be used for such a thing. “
“Maybe the same dreamer that pictured you holding a grandchild in Tessa’s family pictures. Can you believe her ex didn’t show up?”
His eyes twinkled. “Two out of three parts of that dream ain’t bad.”
Her Place by Joanne Fisher
Gina unlocked the door and walked in to her place. After a lifetime of renting, she never believed she would finally have her own house. Already her furniture was here, along with all her other belongings lying in boxes everywhere.
No longer would she have to worry about landlord’s demands, or being suddenly evicted for accidentally missing rent or some other reason. This was her house. She looked out the window and saw the garden and imagined herself pottering away in it to her heart’s content. She deeply breathed in the air of her home. This would be awesome.
The Ancestors by Bill Engleson
There he would stand on the bridge of time,
peering over the railing into the vast…
into the vast canyon of dreams,
and catch a glimpse of ancestors,
still nameless, lost in the vacuum of memory,
of so many passing’s, stories left in the grave,
the movements of people, migrations,
both big and small, the shifting of lives,
the young, the old, new loves, sweet, sour,
journeys by endless sea, across dark landscapes,
images of all who had ventured forth,
there on the bridge of time, he would stand
in abject awe peering over the railing into the vast…
My Riches by Gloria McBreen
I have wished upon the great big stars
Many times if truth be told
I only wished for simple things
Not riches and treasures
Not diamonds or gold
The stars they’ve been kind
My life has been fulfilling
My wishes all granted
My dreams I’ve been living
My kids they are my riches
My husband he is my gold
My friends they are my diamonds
My treasures each day they unfold
When my days aren’t going so well
And my smiles are very few
I thank the stars that fill the sky
And feel grateful my dreams came true
Atheist by Simon
Can we go to church?
I don’t believe in God
Show me your face? Is this real?
I never dreamt that I would say something like this, until I questioned the existence of everything.
Don’t mess with God. You’ll be punished
O.K, answer this question, who created God?
Wrong answer, WE created god.
Are you drunk?
No I’m not, but You all are drunk, drunk gallons of lies created by yourself.
God will never forgive your sins.
(Laughing), thanks, God don’t have to.
What’s wrong with you?
I talk reality, I wish you think what I think.
The Victor by R. V. Mitchell
Donny had never really taken life to seriously. He had been the class clown in high school and coasted through college with an art degree which he admitted was based on work that was derivative at best, or just throwing colour randomly on canvas. He got himself a job at a gallery by connections with a girl he had dated in college and lost it about as fast as he lost her. So how could he now be standing in front of a cheering crowd as their mayor? He had only registered as a candidate as a drunken dare.
Old by kathy70
It’s tough to be invisible, some days I wonder do I really exist. Was I 55 or 65 when it happened, is it only with young people or have I achieved an unknown life goal. Next year I’ll be 75 and things will reverse, maybe. This is not a goal I dreamed of as a child or adult but I worked for it. I still have goals and dreams and learn and teach new things. Will the end be Covid or Cancer or Crazy. Never forget old people can dream, hope, create and accomplish the presidency even. It’s time to go home?
Brain Fog by Reena Saxena
They found me in a village 14 kms away from the hospital.
My covid-affected legs are not strong enough to walk the distance. I don’t know how I reached there.
A white rabbit which kept jumping in and out in an unusual manner attracted the attention of the search team. What if the rabbit had not been so sympathetic? Nights out are chilling for a 80 year old like me.
A brain fog for sure, but how did I summon the strength to walk the distance, I’ve never walked in my senses.
It is something nobody had imagined.
Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe by Kate Spencer
“Time 10:52pm.” Abby flipped the switch, turning off the continuous beep from the patient monitoring system.
“When will this end?” mumbled the nurse pulling up the sheet.
Wearily Abby turned to check on her next Covid patient, longing for the days when she’d be treating simple cases like broken bones again. She was jotting down instructions for yet another patient when her pager buzzed. It was Emergency.
Now what, she wondered, rushing to triage.
There was her irate son, sitting in a wheelchair, yelling at the orderly. He wanted to see his mom. He’d broken his leg.
Dreams Fulfilled by Norah Colvin
She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could.
Until she did.
She wished it would rain.
‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.
‘From a blue sky?’
‘Sometimes,’ they said.
She wished the rain would stop.
‘Showers never last long,’ they said.
‘I love rain,’ another said.
‘Can you make it rain forever?’
Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents.
It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.
They begged her to make it stop.
‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’
Welcome to the North Pole by Donna Matthews
“I’m so nervous!” Ella exclaimed, pacing outside the little round building on the corner of North and Pole.
“Relax,” Easton, her husband, soothed. “You’ve got this!”
Suddenly, the heavy wood doors creaked open, and Ella heard her name called. Here we go, she thought.
Sitting in front of the diminutive manager, the questions began…
“What experience do you have with polar bears?”
“I once taught a six-week dance class!”
“Elves?” she asked.
“None so far, but I’m excited to learn!”
“You love Christmas?”
Jumping up, he yelled, “You’re hired!”
Never Dreamed by FloridaBorne
“This planet sucks,” I told the 4-eyed being who’d rescued me 10 years before.
Being in love with a creature that bites off the end of its tail, swallows it (eggs and all) and becomes food for its own young can be challenging.
“You’re a fine pet,” It replied.
Yes. It reads minds. When its snake-like body wraps around me, I feel so much love.
“Why am I on Earth…again?”
“I’m happy with you.”
My mind smiled with its joy. It gathered sperm from the “him,” so that when its children were born they would have pets, too.
A Writer Never Dreamed by Duane Herrmann
Repeatedly the young, hopeful writer had applied for a writing fellowship. This year the call for submissions was not made. He was busy building the house his family was living in, room by room, and couldn’t devote much time to wondering. One morning he was upstairs in the master bedroom working while admiring the wheatfield outside. Wind made waves rustling softly in the sea of green.
The phone rang.
“Your submission last year was so good, we decided to give you the award this year.”
Stunned, the young man collapsed on the bed.
“Duane? Duane? Are you still there?”
(56) Damned Family (Norman: Dream, Dream, Dream…) by JulesPaige
Norman had never dreamed that he would fall in love. He was introduced to her by a contact that perhaps had perhaps conflicting motives. One was to get Norman a normal life or was it to get another ‘agent’ in the ‘network’? And then Ned had convinced Norman to let her go…
Now Norman could only dream that Jesse actually had his journal and could somehow find her way to him. This morning he’d found out that Jesse had left the protection detail in the dust. No one knew where she was. He hoped she was dreaming about him.
She Never Dreamed by Hanna Steng
He was it.
Ever since she was a little girl, she’d heard it proclaimed from every podium she’d ever been around: “this is what to look for in a man, and here’s the list of things to avoid”. Every pharaphrase eventually came to the same conclusion- “make sure he’s God-fearin’, and if he isn’t, stay as far away as you can”.
She’d been so sure she knew what she wanted, she could have never dreamed that just a smile from this scuffed up, kind- eyed, “worldly” man would have her questioning everything and leave her with only one answer- he was it.
I Never Dreamed by Pete Fanning
The dogs are tangled and frisky in the chill of the evening. I’m focused on work, bills, Covid-19, when I stop in the road.
My Christmas lights glow warmly on the house. Framed in the window, my wife holds our baby girl. My son is upside down on the couch, kicking his feet in the air, no doubt firing off questions. A well of curiosity that never runs dry.
The span of the window holds my good fortune. A life I never dreamed would happen. With a smile I walk in the house.
And then the baby starts crying.
The Art of Cooking by Ruchira Khanna
“Yummy! did you cook this?” inquired my teen as he licked the last crumbs off his plate.
“Obviously! In this shutdown, I’ve been cooking every day.” I said in an exasperated tone, which was easily caught upon.
“Chill, Mom. I was complimenting your cooking.”
That praise made me quickly come and hug him since getting appreciated for my cooking was the last thing I had ever dreamed would happen.
I had become better at planning my meals with limited ingredients, but to make a delicious one was like a cherry on the cake.
I guess: Practice makes one perfect.
Harold’s Dream by Doug Jacquier
Harold never dreamed he would one day build his own classic science fiction saucer, containing everything he needed. Kitchen, sitting room with a panoramic view through reinforced glass, bedroom with a skylight to the stars, composting toilet. (Although he did have to settle for sponge baths because of the weight of water.) Powered by an anti-gravity perpetual motion generator of his own invention and steered by a GPS-guided rudder, Harold could travel the world, and did, chuckling at the UFO sightings reported on the interweb. It’s just as well Harold didn’t actually dream of this because it never happened.
At Heaven’s Gate by Colleen Chesebro
December 14th began like any other Monday. However, in the early hours before dawn, he watched the green flashes of Geminids meteors whiz by in the early dawn sky.
A few hours later, he watched the blackness creep across the land as a total eclipse of the sun descended, leaving South America under a cloak of darkness.
Surely these auspicious astronomical events foreshadowed a significant event.
The angel named Beau glanced out over the cosmos. He smiled. A total eclipse of the Sun had officially confirmed Joe Biden as the President of the United States—a dream come true.
What if I Had Only Dreamt? by Miss Judy
I never dreamt of seeking fame or fortune. I never dreamt of my success or failure. When two roads diverged, then, and only then, did I decide which path to follow. I look back sometimes and wonder, “what if I had chosen the other?”
The road has been rocky and steep at times, but I am happy and thankful for what I have become, the people I have met and for family. There will be more paths to choose and bridges to cross in this life. And, as I look back, I wonder, “What if I had only dreamt?”
Twins Reunited by Anne Goodwin
As kids they shared a bedroom, a secret language, clothes. Finished each other’s sentences; dressed dolls and made daisy chains; raced cars and fought with sticks. The elder by forty minutes, Faith didn’t mind ensuring Ryan adhered to playground etiquette, doing their homework, answering questions from grown-ups.
She never dreamt he’d wander where she couldn’t follow, where no-one sane would go. She never dreamt he’d shrug off her protection, make his own mistakes. Never dreamt he’d turn up to mock her mortgage, her daughter’s music lessons, her middle-class friends. Spoil her soirée. Make her wish he’d leave for good.
Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills
Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.
The Banshee of Ruby Valley by Charli Mills
The banshee rode a ghost-horse named Pogonip. Her steed snorted a chilling frost that withered primrose blossoms and diminished frail spring calves. She bedeviled the broad basin between the Ruby Mountains and the Smokeys, preying on the people who built ranches and tended cattle among sagebrush and trickling waterways of the Nevada desert. The banshee and Pogonip extinguished the young rancher’s bride, delighting in how he halted construction of his house, never lifting his brown eyes from sorrow. The cold-hearted banshee never dreamed that harassing the flighty gelding the new teacher rode would renew joy in the haunted valley.
Not So Prodigal Kid by D. Avery
“Hey Pal, how’ya doin’?”
“Livin’ the dream Kid.”
“Yep. Never dreamed I’d git dreamed up ta live out my days as a ranch hand.”
“Whoa. Kid, ain’tcha never movin’ on?”
“Where would I go? Sure this is a virtual ranch, but we got it real good here.”
“Dang. Never dreamed I might be ferever stuck with a greenhorn. Kid, shouldn’t ya follow yer own dreams, seek fame an’ fortune an’ sech?”
“This here’s fiction, Pal, but that there’s illusion. Done made my way ta where I am. Here I be.”
“Be-lieve yer livin’ yer dream Kid.” “Write on, Pal.”
Pawsitively by D. Avery
“I’m purty excited Pal. Never dreamed Shorty’d git us a puppy.”
“Shorty ain’t gittin’ us a puppy.” “But… I thought…”
“Get real, Kid. Thet’s Charli Mills is gittin’ a puppy.”
“Well cain’t we git a puppy too? A ranch needs a good dog.”
“Now yer an expert on what a ranch needs?”
“Well…” “Did a ranch need elefints?”
“Was jist an idea, Pal.”
“Does a ranch really need goats? Where are them goats now? You couldn’t even keep a cat unner yer hat, Kid.”
“We’re gittin’ a puppy, Pal.”
“We are, ‘cause I never dreamed we wouldn’t.”
Doggone (Part I) by D. Avery
“Kid, where’n heck ya been?”
“Saw a advertisement fer young dogs, fer sale at the Slim Chance Ranch. Slim seemed real tickled, me wantin’ a dog. Hopin’ you’ll be happy fer me too Pal.”
“Hmmf. Uh, Kid yer pup’s got kinda a flattened face.”
“It’s its breedin’, Pal. This here’s a puglet.”
“Uh-huh. Kid yer puglet ain’t got much fur. It’s kinda pink.”
“She ain’t fully growed. Like baby rabbits or mice.”
“Uh-huh. Kid, why’s yer puppy wearin’ booties?”
“Slim did that ta pertect her paws, said they ain’t fully developed yet. Never dreamed I’d have my own puppy!”
Doggone (Part II) by D. Avery
“Kid, it behooves me ta tell ya somethin’ ‘bout yer puppy.”
“What kin ya say ‘cept how dang cute she is? Look’t her waggin’ her tail. Might call her Curly. What d’ya think a that?”
“Oh, it’s a fine name fer yer puglet, Kid, but—”
“Look’t how she likes ta be scratched behind her ears.”
“’Bout them ears, Kid…”
“Hey, it’s Shorty.”
“Hey Kid, hey Pal. Oh, Kid! Yer gonna raise yer own? Musta gone down ta Slim’s.”
“Yep, got a puglet of my own. Gonna train it ta hunt.”
“Really? Never dreamed there’s truffles on the Ranch.”
Doggone (Part III) by D. Avery
“Truffle huntin’ might work out, Kid, but I figgered you’d be raisin’ this piglet up fer bacon. Not surprised ya went ta Slim’s when he advertised young hogs fer sale.”
“I’m more of a hoss person, but I’d say ya got yerself a real fine piglet, Kid.”
“Jist keep her outta the carrot patch. I ain’t fergittin’ yer trouble with goats, Kid, but reckon we kin accommodate yer bacon project.”
“Takes a lot Kid, ta raise yer own, ta look yer food in the eye.” “
Never dreamt I’d give up bacon. Come Curly. Good girl.”
June 22: Flash Fiction Challenge
Sixty miles an hour, windows rolled down, paved highway humming to the spin of tires, and I’m daydreaming about prairie flowers.
My hand rests on the steering wheel while I follow the truck and trailer in front of me. This must have been the view of pioneer women, only the pace much slower and the landscape emptier. No road signs to follow; only wagon ruts cut through the rolling hills. No modern rest stops or gas stations with odd names like Kum & Go; only free fuel for the oxen and skirts for privy privacy. When Mary Green McCanles followed her brother-in-law’s family out to Nebraska Territory, what did she dream during the long drive?
It’s easy to lump “pioneer women” into generic categories like loaves of commercial bread — you can barely discern a difference between white or wheat. In my mind, I recite the different prairie flowers to bloom during my stay in Kansas and focus on color, height and texture. Each one has a different season, grows in different soil and might even have surprising purposes. So it was with the women. My appreciation for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about her pioneer years renews. She took the time to cast each character in a unique role. Laura was different from her mother, sisters and peers. Each was her own prairie flower within the settler ecosystem.
When I became interested in telling the Rock Creek event between two historic men, I wondered if I’d have anything new to say about July 12, 1861. James Butler Hickok has been thoroughly investigated by British historian, Joseph Rosa. Often accused of being yet another fancier of Hickok mythology, Rosa had a sharp mind and a ready pen. Best of all, he did due diligence in his research, something his peers and predecessors did not do as thoroughly. When anyone called out Rosa for his disclosures or discoveries on Hickok, he readily responded and editorial battles ensued in western history associations and magazines for all the world to read. And Rosa supplied evidence for his claims or counter-strikes.
However, when it came to David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles, Rosa pulled from the error and gossip filled annuals he corrected for Hickok, but not for Cobb. I understand. Rosa’s lifelong focus was Hickok, and that’s why no one expects anything new to be discovered. At first I felt annoyed that McCanles didn’t receive fair scrutiny. While his grandson attempted to “set the record straight” after seeing his family name besmirched in dime store novels and Hollywood westerns, the result was an over-correction. Who was D.C. McCanles? It depends upon which faction one reads, but each side has gaping holes in documentation.
Early on, I wrote the man as a character in a white hat, then black. But it wasn’t until I picked up on how the women would have seen him that the story came to life.
Like many before me, I first saw the pioneer women of Rock Creek in general terms — the wife, the former mistress and the station manager’s common-law wife. The wife/mistress tension had been played out ad nauseam and the more I wrote into the story, the less it held up as the linchpin to the events of July 12, 1861. I couldn’t find out much about the station manager’s wife. I felt if I could peer into the lives and minds of these women like a botanist scoping prairie flowers, I could understand better what happened that fateful day. I could come up with something new like Rosa had.
Women get lost in the records, often because of name changes. Thankfully Mary (the wife) had sons, and I could track her whereabouts through their names. After all, she did remarry. Sarah Shull also remarried, and other historians discovered her married name and subsequent locations, but they fixated on an imagined love triangle between her, Hickok and Cobb. Because it annoyed me that the lover’s spat angle was cliched and yet another way to diminish the expression of women on the frontier as anything else other than wives or whores, I followed the leads that pointed to Sarah’s profession. The pioneer was an accomplished accountant and store-keep. Given Cobb’s interest to expand his business holdings, it places Sarah in another role.
Jane Holmes was the hardest to research. We know through oral accounts she was the daughter of Joseph Holmes, a frontiersman and carpenter. She is also documented as being the common-law wife of the Pony Express station manager, Horace Wellman. She might be the young unmarried woman with an infant listed in the Joseph Holmes household of the 1860 territorial census. Her name is Nancy J. Nothing can be found of her before or after Rock Creek. Nor can I find a likeness of the sort of woman she might have been among the more proper journals, diaries and scrapbooks of pioneer women. She’s my imagined free spirit.
Research, writing and daydreaming has been my Rock Creek dance. I’m not penning a biography like Rosa did, but I will take a page from his strategy book. While thumbing through the crisp, brown and musty ledgers of the Kansas State Archives, I used Hickok as an entry point once I couldn’t find anything relating to my principal women. That led me to Rosa’s research. I mean, his actual research he himself did at the Kansas State Archives for decades. For 20 years he did all his research from London, writing correspondence with the state historians. After that he traveled to the Midwest annually to research for 30 days, his holiday. Once he began to publish, he stood on solid documentation. Like Rosa, my fiction will stand upon solid research.
Unlike Rosa, I dream the gaps. I drive and daydream of prairie flowers, digesting what I discovered in Rock Creek on this trip.
Mary, deepened in character when I gave her a competitive edge over Sarah to wield like power. Cobb’s father wrote of Mary’s vivaciousness and a photo no historian has ever published in a book about Rock Creek shows her to be a gorgeous young woman at the time of the incident. But what else? Even the prairie rose has more to offer than beauty. I learned several stories, digging into old pioneer accounts about the era after the Rock Creek incident. One, told by her two children Cling and Lizza (as “old-timers”) recounts how they grew up playing with the Otoe-Missouri children near Rock Creek. Cling says his mother traded with them.
In a second account in another book, Mary features in an obscure incident involving the Otoe-Missouri tribe. They often stopped at her ranch, even wounded. Further, the author relates a simple passage: “Mary often walked the trails alone and at night to midwife and doctor folks.” Not only was she not afraid of the “redman” her neighbors often feared, she took care of them as a prairie doctor. This rose suddenly bloomed in my mind, and I daydreamed about Mary and what her life was like and how she became a lone woman on the prairie, doctoring and delivering babies no matter the origins. No wonder many lovingly called her Grandma McCanles in her old age. No wonder proper history overlooked her improper activities.
A third story related to me by a local historian was that Mary’s second husband divorced her because of infidelity. She said I could find it in the county records. Not that it pertains to the events in my book, but it certainly colors the character of Mary who has only her first name inscribed upon her gravestone above “Wife of D. C. McCanles.” I once thought perhaps she was uncertain of who she was — a Green, a McCanles or a Hughes. No, I think she knew exactly who she was and didn’t require the name of a father or spouse to legitimize her life in death.
Another conclusion I drew from experiencing Rock Creek in person was that Nancy Jane might be missing from the records, but she served an important role in life. She was friend to Sarah Shull, and able to reinvent herself. I suspect her next relationship was that of marriage. The wildest of the three might have assimilated into a proper life. But I like to imagine her racing a horse across the hard-packed earth with hair as wind-whipped as mine while journeying north. She did not fear change. She might have been a bit like Calamity Jane whom Hickok treated kindly later in life. Newspapers and records might have missed their lives, but the women of Rock Creek live on in my dreams.
This week, Rough Writer and author, Ruchira Khanna, has offered a guest prompt. I’d like to pause, near the end of a long journey (or at least a rest stop) to thank everyone at Carrot Ranch for carrying on while I traverse the trails. Especially, I’d like to thank Norah Colvin, D. Avery and Ruchira Khana for stepping up to ranch chores. I’ll catch up with you all once settled on the healing shores of Lake Superior. Keep writing, keep pushing on, and happy trails to you all.
June 22, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a dream. This action could have happened while awake, such as daydreaming, or make up a dream when asleep. Go where the prompt leads as it could be a nightmare or just fond memories or ambition.
Respond by June 27, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published June 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Lost in a Dream (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Young Sally stirred the bean pot and twittered about lace she’d seen in Beatrice. Sarah saw herself as if in a dream, a memory vividly sketched in mind but dormant for years.
“Beans look ready Miss Sarah?”
Her hands, no longer stiff and aged, trembled at what she knew came next. She heard herself repeat words from 70 years ago. “Check one.”
Sally blew on the wooden spoon, a lone pinto perched in thin liquid. Bread cooled next to churned butter and wild plum jam.
Sarah succumbed to the memory of the day. There never was a last supper.
December 24: Flash Fiction Challenge
The snow delivery arrived. Not that I ordered it, but it seems appropriate to have a white Christmas. Today is Christmas Eve and I’m lazing by the roaring fire in the wood stove, having brought in enough wood to forgo that chore a few days. I’m waiting for the clock to tick past noon so I can justify making a simmering pot of mulled wine.
This time of year is good for reflection.
Last week I wrote about perfectionism and how, for me, it ties to a sense of failure. As I reflect on my goals this year, I can list one failure after another. I failed to get novel number one published. I failed to do anything with novel number two and I failed to complete novel draft number three. I failed to earn the minimum income I agreed to make if I were to stay at home and write full-time. I even failed to plant a garden.
But I also wrote of generosity last week. And it starts at home with this writer. I don’t mean the kind of mollifying generosity, like “it’s okay to fail” I mean the empowering kind. The kind of generosity that gives space to ask (and answer) the question, “what did you learn from these experiences?”
What I learned is far more valuable than any failure to reach goals. After all, goals are merely tools of measurement and orientation. They get us focused and pointed to our north star, but they are not the destination nor the journey.
- I can’t write a novel a year. Not yet. Maybe, not ever.
- Multiple projects take more time, not less.
- Historical novels take lots of research. Lots of research. Lots.
- Writers can make money. Maybe it wasn’t enough, but 100% was from writing.
- Gardens need a sabbath year.
Reflection sparks resolution. No longer am I moping over perceived failures, now I’m getting ideas for what to do next. It’s like walking a long road and arriving short of my destination. I can keep going, knowing I’m closer or I can try this side road I wouldn’t have known existed if I hadn’t come this far. Choices. And ones that empower my journey.
Like the modern GPS, I’m recalculating:
- Novel number one is so close. I have several choices: press on with recommended changes; shoot the moon and send out to agents and publishers; consider independent publishing; ask for more feedback. There is no wrong choice.
- Novel number two can live in the desk drawer. Now I understand why other writers have manuscripts lingering in drawers. Now I feel like a real writer, Mastro Geppetto. It’s not abandonment; it’s aging in an oak barrel, awaiting a better time.
- Novel number three (WIP) excites me the most because all the intangibles I learned from drafting number one and number two. I can apply what I learned from previous works. It also excites me because it’s historical fiction and I can openly admit it is my true love. It requires lots of research and that makes me giddy. Research and writing.
- Money. I want my writing life to be sustainable. The conundrum is finding balance between paid gigs and producing a product. Producing a product requires quality to sell said product. Thus finding writing work during lean production times is an ongoing quest. I have updates in the works for Carrot Ranch, ideas for short-term projects and plans to localize freelancing efforts.
- I’m planting a garden and setting up an outdoor desk-slash-bird-viewing-station. It’s the beginning of putting down roots for my dream of having a writer’s retreat in the remote Pacific Northwest.
Recalculations help redefine goals. Why set goals? Because if you have dreams, goals become a way to navigate to them. Your vision is like the north star, guiding you along the way. My vision is big and includes much more than successfully publishing novels. It includes creating literary spaces both physically and digitally–places to learn grow, create and recalculate. Collaboration is part of the vision.
Carrot Ranch fosters a literary space to practice craft, communicate ideas and read stimulating writing. Rough Writers are regulars or founding contributors, and Friends are our readers and commenters. We have many friends who pop in once in a while when inspired and others who faithfully read. Together we create a community that honors what literature is about–progressing the imagination to describe, define or experience life. Literature thrives in an open environment.
Join the dream. An open invitation to the Congress of Rough Writers & Friends:
- Help develop a Carrot Ranch Anthology (expanded shorts based on flash fiction, for example). It can be a fun way to explore collaboration and indie avenues from crowd-sourcing to publishing.
- Help develop a Christmas project for next year (what trouble can we write Rudolph into with his visits around the globe).
- Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.
These are just a few ideas. To be collaborative, the idea becomes one of the collective, not just a collection of ideas from one. I hope this has reached you in such a way that you reflect on your year and turn any perceived failings into a potential fortunes for what it has to teach you. Embrace your love for the craft and stand firm in the clouds of your own vision. Create goals to take you farther than you’ve already come on this path.
May visions of sugarplums and writing success dance in your head tonight. But don’t rely on Santa to deliver; set goals to gather what it is you need on your journey.
December 24, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vision. You can write your own personal vision and “fictionalize” it in the sense that you write it as if it already has come to pass or is unfolding right now. Or you can write the vision of a character. Dream big. dream bold.
Respond by December 30 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.
A special gift to those of you who might be missing Sarah Shull. She and Mr. Boots make an appearance. And a second vision of what I’d love to manifest on Elmira Pond–a writer’s retreat.
Sarah’s Vision by Charli Mills
Christmas Eve and Sarah watched fat snowflakes fall and wood-smoke billow from the stone chimney. It was cold in the solitude of the barn, but she had to escape the oppressive bustle of Mary’s kitchen and excited children. She found a black cat hunkered down in the loose hay. Black with white chest and boots. Mr. Boots, her escort to the Christmas ball. The horses nickered and transformed into gay and welcoming guests who asked after her health and happiness. Best of all, Mr. Boots was a bachelor with no wife or children. Sarah smiled and accepted the vision.
Retreat on Elmira Pond by Charli Mills
An osprey dropped to the pond and retrieved a trout. Blue heron gronked on his log. A group of writers watched from a deck overlooking the pond. They were journaling morning pages, delving deeper into their writer’s truth, observing and capturing what it revealed. A few nibbled on fresh peaches from a nearby orchard. A rooster crowed and someone pointed to the goats on the sod-roof of the B&B. They gathered under the apple tree for a discussion of yesterday’s writing with the author and retreat host who was smiling in her gauchos, turquoise boots and broad buckaroo hat.