You want to write better. You want to write more.

Ann Linquist I’m Ann Linquist, freelance writer and online writing instructor.  Whether you’re interested in writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or effective business documents, I invite you to explore this site and find out how to reach your writing goals.

Post a Story

Now that I found a lot of old stories and organized them, I thought I’d post one.  Since I get to indulge myself, why don’t you post something you wrote that you like? 

Squeezing More Out of Life

by Ann Linquist

My head has ached for days, seven now I think. I try to do too much; I admit it. With my 50-hour work week, the constant running to pick up and drop off kids, the impromptu dinner parties that I pretend are so easy, I end up with a headache I just can’t shake off.

It’s as if an angry old troll perches on my shoulder, his eyes popping, and his mouth in a wild leer while he squeezes the big muscle coming off my neck. He always goes for the right side, my working side, the side that scribbles the notes, grabs the phone, hefts the bag, and stirs the sauce.

I picture a wizened little man, dwarf gray. His long bony fingers are brown with age, but strong and tipped with sharp talons. When he finds a good chunk of shoulder muscle, he squats, burrowing deep into the tissue with wiry fingers. He uses his feet for maximum leverage, digging in with his toes. He works his way up the muscle, hand over hand, until he reaches the base of my skull. Then he bites me to make sure he gets my attention.

The little man doesn’t relax even when I sleep. He loves it when he can make me open my eyes by giving me a vicious pinch so I’m trapped in a purgatory of wakefulness. He tiptoes, grinning, up my face to deliver a head butt. On the way down, he elbows my temple.

“I’m all yours,” he whispers in my ear. “You made me.”

I always grit my teeth when he says that because he’s right, I did. For some reason I made him crabby, frustrated, and stubborn. I don’t know why I did that since he treats me as if I’m a doll he’s tired of playing with and now just likes to torture.

He’s not evil, but he is obsessively preoccupied with his mission. He’s a specialist, an acupuncturist gone wrong. He rocks back on his heels, his clutches sunk deep into my aching shoulder, and gives it all a twist. “How’s that?”

I resent the way he relishes his task, how he fine-tunes his talent at tormenting me. I’m often tempted to beat on him with a stick, or better yet, a club, as if hitting the sore spot will make him loosen his furious grip.

“Stop!” I scream at him. Then I slow down and try to regain control. “That’s enough,” I purr. I know it’s better to approach the problem in a calm, measured way. After all, it’s just a tension headache. There is no little man.

To cope, I indulge in my favorite fantasy. I’m lying in bed, resting my sore head and tired body. I can stay there as long as I want, reading books, watching movies, taking naps.

But come on! I‘ve got a desk full of work, a Saturday meeting, two conference calls coming in at 1:00 PM, and I said I’d bring cookies to the twelve-year-old’s soccer game. If I skip lunch….

I squint my eyes, grit my teeth, and command my body to rise. Grim determination is my best ally. The problem is that my temper often rises too. It’s that imp up there, tying my shoulder in knots.

I’ve got to relax and face this problem rationally. There must be meaning here; I prefer to believe things work that way. One has headaches for a reason. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and meditate on my pain. I see myself leafing through the pages of my life, sifting thoughts and impressions, probing my feelings. I find….

I find that I don’t really have time for this right now. So. I’ve got a headache. Big deal. I’ll do what I always do: square my shoulders, put my head down, and go. It’s just that there’s this little demon on my shoulder, riding me like a bronco. I try to concentrate on the next task and forget the little devil digging his spurs into my vulnerable flesh, waving his hat with a great big grin, and hollering, “Yeehaa!” Maybe one day he’ll finally make me sick enough that I have to slow down.

On the other hand, maybe I’ll start working out with weights. I could fit in a half hour of power lifting before I collapse into bed at night. In no time at all I’ll be so lean and mean that I can beat that little man at his own game. When he squints his eyes and grits his teeth at me, I’ll be a match for him. Then we’ll see who squeezes whom.

Are You Keeping Track?

I admit I started this blog just to goof around and enjoy seeing what came out of  my fingers.  The other day, however, I decided to print out some of my short stories, which I then realized were saved on my computer in all sorts of unlikely places.  Computers have begun to be like closets; we stash things in them without always thinking carefully about what we’re doing.  We quickly forget where we put things.

I have begun gathering my stories and putting them into one computer file.  I could find most of them, but then I thought about what I might have put onto the blog.  I began checking back through the entries.  I found some reasonable things I wrote, and now they are in a “Stories” file as well as printed out onto the three holed paper I bought in bulk by mistake one time.  Now I have a nice binder with stories too.

I’m less than half way back through the blog.  Having done this,  I found so many great things written by all of you.  Since I have begun getting organized, I wanted to tell you to get in gear too.  Make sure you have your postings saved and organized on your end.   There are things you posted in the blog that are far too good to lose.   Really good work, and all yours.  Find them and make sure you have kept them all.

You are in a Small Train Station

You are in a small train station. It has long, old-fashioned marble benches along the walls with two down the middle of the room. The ticket office has a window with a set of six vertical cast iron bars, closely carved, with a half an oval opening at the bottom where the ticket man would take your money in exchange for a ticket, if it wasn’t closed. Posters are carefully tacked to a board, giving train schedules, rules for proper etiquette on the train, and one poster for a circus performance. No one is around.  You can’t figure out is why the large wall clock has the number twelve at each hour on its face. And why is that large rope hanging from a ceiling beam with a knobby knot in the end? It nearly reaches the floor, hanging between the two middle marble benches.

Not the Ending You Expected

Sometimes you can tell how a story will end. The boy is going to get the girl. The bad guy is going to lose. Grandpa is well loved, but he’s going to die. The Sheriff retires, but no one will leave him alone. Surely we can do better! So here’s the start of a plot, and you have to come with an ending that absolutely no one would have expected.

Plot: Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

Now what?

Ode to Joy

Weird title, isn’t it? And yet, this is the title of the last movement of the last symphony Beethoven wrote. He was old and so deaf he could not conduct the orchestra playing his creation. He was on stage, however, though unable to hear the music. One of his soloists had to turn him around to face the audience when the piece was over so he could see the standing ovation he was receiving. If you have ever heard this piece of music (and play it loud!), you’ll find yourself swept away by the hope and glory of the music.

Life is not easy or fair. What a crippling irony that Beethoven—the possessor of one of the finest musical geniuses of all time—had to suffer from deafness. But he did not stop creating, even though he could only hear the symphonic music in his mind.

My challenge to you here is to write about a contrast you’ve experienced where you had to struggle with tragedy and find your own way to survive and then thrive. Can you write an Ode to Joy?

Creating a Character

I want to invite you to our imaginary college class: Creative Writing 101. The setting is a typical institutional room with individual desks, arranged in rows. Florescent lights cast a dull white light. A white (not black) board covers the wall in front, and the teacher has a table to arrange his/her materials on. I am not the professor for this class, but I may decide to add a student character or put some words into the instructor’s mouth.

I’d like each of you to create a student character.  (Or two.)  How does your character act? What’s his/her role in this group of twenty students? Is this character going to sit up front or hide in the back? What is this character’s body language saying? What is he/she wearing? What questions does he/she ask?

This is not the first day of class. In fact, the students are responding to an exercise where the instructor asked them to point out three details about the room that they believe no one else will notice.  It’s a lesson in paying close attention.

Don’t rule out interacting with the characters that your blogmates add to the room. This may even be the opportunity of a lifetime: You can act up anyway you want in school without getting into trouble. Live out your dreams!

Of course, if you want to create the professor character, that’s fine too. Just add a character to help populate our room. Let’s see how creative we can be in coming up with an entertaining class period.

How You Write

Long ago there was a magazine called the Saturday Review. It was devoted to literary news, articles, and short pieces. One of the regular columns showed where famous authors wrote–one author and setting per week. We saw a photo of their writing space and whatever they gathered around themselves when they wrote.

How about sharing something about your writing habits? Where do you write? Describe your favorite writing tools (computer? tablet? special pen?). What time of day do you tend to write? Do you use any writing aids (tequila? favorite smoke? required stimulants?). How about music? Is it a requirement or something that must be avoided? What kind of music? Show us your chair, your desk or table, your room. What else is in that room? What is on the walls? Any special lighting? What else makes up your particular writing habits?

We’ve been writing together for quite a while. You’ve all described a burning candle; now show us your writing routine.