To Write or Not To Write

Seated Youth Writing in Book by Raphael

I tried something new on Friday. After a rousing morning of keeping three small children alive, including reading aloud on a sore throat, cleaning about half the kitchen, and putting everyone’s shoes in the closet only to take them all out to go on feet half an hour later, the cold I was running away from all week finally caught me. I lay down for naptime and spent most of the rest of the day in bed with a sore throat that hurt mostly when I talked and a headache that throbbed mostly when I was up and about.

Sick enough to be in my room but not sick enough to sleep = well enough to write.

I had spent some time the day before poking around the Author’s Publish website looking at publishing opportunities with various literary journals. I was researching for my poetry but I found a couple of fiction publications that looked interesting, including one that called for short fantasy stories on the theme seasons.

Well, I thought. Seasons is a nice inspiring topic. What if…

So I started writing. Words came a little painfully, as they often do 1) for new projects 2) during pregnancy. I stared at the empty screen for a while trying to make a plot around a series of events, which is hard to force into existence all at once, and decided simpler was better and not to overthink it. I wrote and wrote and the longer I wrote the more I disliked it and the more I disliked it the more I kept writing, because I knew if I stopped I’d never start again.

After a couple hours, my husband (who, bless him, enjoys cooking nearly as much as I enjoy writing and makes 90% of the meals even when I am not sick or writing or both) announced that dinner was ready, so I dragged my stuffy nose downstairs to eat. After I assisted with a milk spill, prevented several red sauce stains, and listened to the enthusiastic narrations of my children’s bicycle adventures, my husband sent me back upstairs.

Sick enough to escape bedtime, but not sick enough to escape my story.

I lay in bed trying to fall asleep without being tired enough to, edited the poem I’d worked on earlier, kissed all my children goodnight, and opened up the computer again.

I’d been away just long enough to have a few new ideas and reconsider the notion that the story was going to beat me over the head worse than this cold, so I denied my chance to reread it and change my mind again. I glanced at the last sentence to see where I was, and kept writing. Words were coming more easily now, but unfortunately the evening continued to pass and I was losing my chance to go to bed at all early. But I knew that if I stopped I’d never finish. So I wrote and wrote and wrote and finished it.

All measly 2300 words. Because I’m a slow writer.

But

the fact remains

I came up with an idea

that was simple and cohesive enough

to follow through on

in one day

and then I did it.

I suspect there were three things in my mind that built up to this moment. One is Ray Bradbury’s advice, which I read a long time ago and was not actively thinking of that day: …write one short story a week—it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least you’re practicing, and at the end of the year you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done. The idea of producing content that quickly has always staggered me, but the advice has lingered.

(In looking up the quote, I discovered it came from this lecture he gave, which I now must listen to all the way through.)

Another is a suggestion a mentor gave me. Upon telling her I’d written a 50,000+ word book as a young teen but hadn’t managed anything similar since, she suggested I write some short stories to help me refine and mature my storytelling. This seemed like good advice, but there were lots of reasons I didn’t do so right away, like other writing projects, or lack of ideas that felt just right.

The last piece of advice was something I read on a blog just earlier that day, the gist of it being: If you are a writer, stop procrastinating, stop prioritizing other things, and sit down and write.

I’m not much of a procrastinator, but I do prioritize lots of other things over my writing time—which makes sense as a mother, but from the writer’s perspective is actually another form of procrastination. Striking that balance is a great topic for another time.

Anyway, I’ve set a new goal for myself. Write a short story every week. Apparently pumping short stories out at a rapid pace is something I can do—and a very famous sci fi writer once said it’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.

3 thoughts on “To Write or Not To Write

  1. I love Bradburry’s advice, and have always wanted to take on his challenge, but never got around to it. Well, you have inspired me too, and perhaps I should explore this new medium (novel is more my thing, so short stories are new to me). Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your inspiring post! I discovered one advantage to short stories is that you have a completed project much faster than a novel (or even a novel draft), which is encouraging and motivating. Good luck to you!

      Like

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