At the beginning of 2016, I was feeling bored with my writing. I had been working on revising two separate novel manuscripts in the two years prior, but hadn’t created much of anything new when it came to short stories. I happen to love short stories; they’re the literary writing I first took to, long before I imagined ever writing a novel. I love to read them, especially from writers who have a unique voice and perspective. Authors like George Saunders, Aimee Bender, Lorrie Moore, Rebecca Makkai, Seth Fried, among many others, are my favorites. What short stories I had that I was still revising because they hadn’t been picked up by any literary journals were boring me as well. In other words, I need to shake things up, to remember what it was like to play at writing and experiment, because the writing I liked best, of my own that is, was what I produced when I took risks and liberated myself from the confines of the expected and unsurprising.
I stumbled upon the well-known Ray Bradbury quote sometime before the beginning of the year: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” And I devised a plan. I would set aside time each week to start a new short story. Sometimes I would use a prompt (Brian Kiteley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany along with Poets & Writers emailed prompts have been helpful), sometimes I would dig into my folder of notes and scraps of paper and start from there. Forty-one weeks into my “2016 Story a Week” project, I’ve written 21,000 words, despite missing a few weeks, had two flash fiction pieces of work created through this program accepted for publication, and have at least a dozen other pieces with some “legs” to them, as one of my favorite writing professors would say. The plan for next year is to work on revising what I’ve produced this year.
Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, something I’m sure I’ve read somewhere. If you’re in it for the long haul, you will inevitably experience slow spots when you’ll feel less inspired or in a funk and tired of your own stuff, like I did. The trick is to recognize those times as temporary, have some faith in yourself as a writer that it’ll all come back to you, while also doing something to encourage that to happen sooner rather than later. Take a class, read like crazy, and make a habit of practicing writing regularly. I’ve never been the type of writer who sees the process as tortuous, maybe because in a past life I had a 9-to-5 job that was truly unfun. What I have to sometimes remind myself of is the joy I get out of playing around and creating new stuff.