Yes, it’s the “write more flash fiction and short stories” thing again. How many times over the past 22 years have I lamented that I want to get better at that, and to publish more short stories? Too many, and it’s time to take a deep dive into why I keep giving up on this goal. I press forward with the novels. What is it about short stories that causes me to keep backing away?
That answer is obvious: it’s been almost a year since I got paid for a short story. Other than that, it’s been flat rejections. I even looked back at this blog and found an entry from a few months ago where I referred to short stories as a “crapshoot.” Self-publishing has made it easier to make breakthroughs with novels, but no such help is out there for short stories, unless you post it online yourself with compensation. It’s still very much like the traditional publishing industry: you win some, but you lose most, and the truth is that most of us get burned out from frequent/constant rejection fast.
But how much rejection is it really? I looked at my writing resume, and was surprised at how much I’ve published. Short stories might be a crapshoot, but I’ve had many published over the years and won lots of contests. It’s just been spaced out over these past 22 years, and it seems the most prolific times were when I was doing a lot of writing. Meaning that I might have written 30 stories before 1 got published.
So what’s the cure? What kept me going back in the early to mid-2000’s that I kept on writing anyway, despite infrequent success? I kept saying that I got more invested in my novels, but that’s only partially true because there’s plenty of time between drafts to work on this. The truth is that I was writing more short stories because I enjoyed it. I liked writing them and enjoyed posting them on Writing.com and interacting with the writing community. Maybe only a handful got paid publication, but there was plenty of joy along the way, and I connected with other writers more in those times. Clearly, what changed was my motivation, from writing short stories because I enjoyed it to writing because I was trying to replenish the secondary savings account. And wrong motivations will build walls that trap you quickly, which is exactly what I did to myself.
That’s humbling. Fortunately, it’s fixable. Demolition doesn’t happen with a single blow, but each swing puts another crack in that wall. Eventually, there are enough cracks to finally tear it down. It’s time for me to start swinging again. Write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s insufferable crap. Not everything will suck and eventually, I’ll get another hit. The point is to keep trying. Keep failing, because I improve from it. And by gosh, just find joy in the journey. That’s the most important part: not the payout, but the joy of experience.
It's time to tear down this wall I put around myself with short stories, so I’m resuming my pandemic goal of writing at least two short stories a week. I know some will be insufferable crap, but the good news is that I can delete it next week if I see no merit in it. It’s time to fail again, because failing means that I’m trying, and that everybody knows that I’m looking beyond where I’m at and that I know my worth and potential. I can’t improve if I don’t write. I can’t succeed if I don’t risk failure. I can’t accomplish this goal if I don’t take the same attitude that I have with my novels: that I love writing because it brings me joy, and I’ll do it whether you read it or not. If it’s just a journal entry to release stress from a bad work day, that’s alright and it does the job if I feel better after typing “the end.”
It's baseball season, so here’s your bat. What walls do you need to swing at today? Let’s make a goal to get started, and put some cracks in that wall. It’s the only way to tear it down.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.