Working hard on new stories. Eight stories. I’ve just printed them out for the first time. I feel like I’ve got them to a place that they are workable. They are whole stories that need refinement. How would I describe the process of getting to these eight stories? I started each day with an attempt to quiet my mind. It wasn’t always successful, but the mediation practice settled me, despite the noise my own mind generates. I’ve been sitting in meditation for about a year now. For months, I could only do five minutes. Then, last summer, I decided to really give it a try. I jumped from five to fifteen minutes and as soon as I finished sitting, I moved to my desk. I had this idea at first that I was going to write on index cards because so many of the greats seem to have done this. Robert Olen Butler has an entire regimen devoted to the use of notecards. These small cards were a way for me to break out of the trap of writing on the computer. But I couldn’t tell a story on a card. That process eluded me. But I liked the cards. I wrote the date at the top of a month’s worth of cards and set out to fill one, front and back, each day, M-F, before I sat down to writing a story. Then, as soon as I’d put down whatever I needed to put down on the card, I moved to my notebook. I wrote longhand, and quickly, trying to tap into something greater than my everyday mind, what E.M. Forster would call the creative moment. Did I find the creative moment? I don’t know. I wrote and didn’t think. That was key. Not thinking. I tried to get out of the way. In doing so, I think I’ve written some of the best material of my life. A mixture of memory and imagination that is truthful, or will be truthful once I’m done revising. What does that mean, truthful? It means I tried to be honest in my stories, tried to tell real human stories full of love and hope and redemption without sounding sappy or sentimental or cloying. I was able to do things in these stories that I’ve never been able to do before and I think it happened in part because I wasn’t worried about where to publish them or who might like to read them. I haven’t shown them to anyone and I doubt I will, not until they are done. This is about me and the words. Most likely, in this day and age, they will not have a wide audience. That’s okay. Much like the novel I finished last year, I wrote these to meet my standards, because I wanted to hear these stories. Maybe someone will buy them and publish them, but if they live only on my hard drive and see only a few reader’s eyes, that’s okay too. It’s not easy to say that. It IS easy to get down about writing when there is no audience. So, my mantra must be, writing for the sake of the work. Writing for the way it focuses my attention. Writing for the way I tell my own story by telling the story of imagined characters. Writing to join the conversation.