Yesterday after spending the better part of the day with my 101-year-old grandma and doing my grocery shopping, I came back home, took off my bra, put on a Youtube playlist of Minecraft videos, and worked on a story that you will probably never read.


"But, Abby!" you'll exclaim. "Why would you write something if no one will ever read it?"


The notebook open in front of me right now has four different stories started. One of those stories is a version of what will be the next novel, but you wouldn't recognize it as such. The other three are, at present, absolutely nothing. There are a lot of reasons why a story might sit on a hard drive or in a notebook in a box and never see the light of day. I can't claim that this will be a comprehensive list, but this will be an examination of some of the primary reasons I leave stories to rot.


Reason 1: These characters are boring/annoying/distasteful. Sometimes I think up characters and think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread, but as soon as I start writing their story they turn out to have that one interesting thing about them and everything else is rather boring for me to write about. Or they turn out to be someone I can't stand, which makes for a challenge when they're supposed to be the main character (there's a separate blog to talk about writing characters you personally hate).


Reason 2: The story is boring.

The best characters can't always make up for a bad plot. One of the things that has stuck with me from my college fiction classes is the question "why do I (the reader) care about this story". This can be as simple as "this character is interesting and I want to know more about them". But even the most fascinating character has to be put in situations and allowed to walk around. Occasionally, in the process of putting a character through their paces it turns out that the world they inhabit is not interesting to me. No matter how hard I practice my writing, I have yet to figure out how to make a plot that is boring to me into a bigger story.


Reason 3: A better idea comes along.

I never know when a new story idea will catch my fancy and distract me. That new story might not turn out to be anything, but if I can't stop thinking about it, I need to write it down to stop it from keeping me awake at night plotting.


Reason 4: I was writing to keep the writing muscle in shape.

I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember. In a box somewhere in my house is a Trapper Keeper filled with faded pieces of paper that were the pride of my elementary-aged self. These will never be read by anyone but me while I am alive. Occasionally it is good for me to go back and read old stories to remind myself how far I've come. A while back, I read a novella I wrote some years ago and live-chatted my reactions to a friend. A highlight of the conversation was:


I was laughing as much at myself from that time as I was the story that I created. Every one of the stories that fails paints a picture of my life at the time I wrote it, which leads to:


Reason 5: I just needed to write something down.

There are more than a handful of stories I wrote because something happened to me that I needed to process and I processed it by turning it into a story. The point of most of these stories is just for me to write out my own reactions and the potential reactions of other parties. Often, these are idealized versions of all involved people, which is cathartic for me but doesn't always make for the best of fiction. You may want to read my therapeutic fiction, but I don't necessarily want you to read it.


There are approximately a million more reasons I could think of that would help explain why a story might never leave the dark corners of my computer, but the reasons above are the easiest to explain. Now I'll attempt to go back to yesterday's story going nowhere and see what comes of it. Maybe the next blog will be a treatise on why I keep watching Minecraft videos.

I have been thinking about what it means to feel safe, both mentally and physically. We live in uncertain times for many people. Many, including myself, are feeling less safe now than they did just a few short years ago.


This is not to say that I felt 100% safe all the time even then. There are too many potential hazards for that. So I have a big dog, I check the locks twice, I stay alert when I’m out walking (with the dog or without). I have developed a sense for when someone is behind me, and I will turn back to see if they’re still following regularly. Sometimes I try to keep it casual, sometimes not. If I pass someone going the other direction, I peek back to make sure they didn’t turn around to start following me. Walking down University Avenue every day for years taught me a confident stride and a grumpy look on my face kept people out of my hair (I didn’t get told to smile as often as other women do, but I did hear it a handful of times – enough to develop a habit of turning up the corners of my mouth when someone else and I catch each other’s gaze). As much as I don’t want Charlie to scare anyone, I’m not too concerned if someone I don’t trust gives us a wide berth upon seeing the 90-lb black dog at my side.


I have always struggled with watching the news. My own anxieties keep me plenty busy as I lie in bed at night trying to fall asleep. It never seemed wise to add the cares of the world to that list, but in this era of social media, it is nigh impossible to avoid everything. Even though I am not actively watching the Kavanaugh news, I hear enough of it via my Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Part of feeling safe is knowing that you’ll be believed if something horrible happens. You won’t end up on trial because no one believes your story. I believe Dr. Ford. I believe you, even if you aren’t ready to share your story with anyone. We have to stand united and support each other. As a society, we have to acknowledge the horrible things that have been done to black people, to LGBTQ+ people, to women. Beyond acknowledgement, we have to commit to ending it.


Instead of fighting over Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem or over the stories of women like Christine Ford, Anita Hill, Andrea Constand and so many others, we need to do what Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher did to Jeff Flake. We need to stand in the elevator and make our leaders look at us. Our government works for us, so there is no reason for any representative of the people to be too busy to listen to what we are saying. If they are, then it’s time for us to replace them with someone who will listen.


And if you just want a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on, I’ll listen.


He always starts out raring to go. It is nearly impossible for him to sit still so I can put his leash on, though he waits fairly politely while I lock up and start the app to track our distance. And then we're off. He bounds out in front of me, sniffing everything he possibly can, excited to be out in the world and letting the neighborhood know that he lives here too.


About halfway in, he gets a bit tired and starts to drag behind. I can hear him behind me, panting. But he still walks along at a steady pace, toenails clicking on the pavement. Occasionally, he stops to sniff something that I assume is where another dog left a scent. There are particular corners he finds extra interesting, so I know to plan for a longer stop there so he can add to the waypost. Sometimes, we come across people with their dogs, or standing waiting for the bus. His ears go up and he picks up the pace, curious about who this new friend might be.


In the last block or two, he gives in to the exhaustion and plods along behind me. I have to pull him along, encouraging him that it's not far now. That we're almost home. He half-heartedly sniffs at things, but he's a tired boy and ready to lie down and sleep for the rest of the day. But I can't carry a 90-some pound dog on my shoulders at this point in my life, so he's got to walk for himself. Besides, I know he can do it. He made it the whole way yesterday and the day before. He's just being dramatic.


When we get home, and the walk is finally over, he drinks some water and then looks at me expectantly. If I were to put on my tennis shoes and get the leash, he'd be ready to go again. As excited as ever to be going out into the world with me. But I have writing to do today. I've got that next book sitting on my hard drive, waiting for an ending.