I've been going back and looking at stuff that I wrote around this time last year that was also in the middle of a creative period. One of those stories I sent off for consideration for an online venue. Another I'm editing for the same purpose. There are quite a few of them, short stories that I was obsessed with for the time I was writing them. I was excited to be writing them and updated Twitter with my wordcounts for the day. Once they were done, they sat in a folder on my hard drive and languished. I moved on to the next thing that Had To Be Written.
I'm sure I'm not the only writer who has this problem, so I'm going to try to articulate what I think happens and see if any of you agree with me.
It's down and I don't have to think about it any more.
The things that whirl around the large hadron collider in my mind explode together, grab my imagination and I have to write them down. Once that's done, I let it go because it's out of my head and I move on to the next ideas that are racing up to speed. Out of sight, out of mind. Or Fixodent and forget it, if you prefer.
It wasn't any good to begin with.
Well, yeah. That's been the case with several stories for sure. But as I've been revisiting some things, I can see that I definitely reaching beyond my grasp and trying for something I wasn't ready to do. Some of those stories are still beyond me, but now I'm much more aware of my shortcomings as a writer. As a flipside, I'm also not afraid to try something that's beyond me. Sometimes that's brave. I don't think it's ever stupid.
I didn't know what to do with it.
Sending one's work out to be considered for publication is tense and nervewracking for sure. My initial feeling is that no one wants to read my stuff. I would look at listings of markets and what they wanted and I would think: My stuff's crap enough that they won't look at it so why send it. I would also look at the word counts of what I'd written and what the markets wanted and instead of cutting down a story, I would file it away as too long or not the kind of thing they want.
Editing is a pain in the ass.
If the story wasn't any good to begin with, why spend the time editing or rewriting? If it's crap it must be that the idea itself was the problem, and the characters, and my approach to the story. Not necessarily true in every case, but probably true of a couple of the stories that are languishing in that file on my hard drive. No, editing it wasn't an option. Besides there are other stories demanding my attention. Fixodent and forget it. Maybe.
Scared. Scared. Scared.
This is it. I just didn't have the confidence in my stuff to work the stories until they were ready, find a market that would consider them, then send 'em out to see what would happen. One of the great things about being involved in the The Confabulator Cafe is that as a group we're getting more brave and several of us are submitting our work. Peer pressure is one helluva motivator, too.
So if I'm scared, why the hell am I scared? I've gotten published before and I don't necessarily attach my ego to what other people think of my work.
It could be just that
It's a lot of work to be a writer.
You think writing's easy? Sure I just sit there and stare off into space and it looks to you like I'm not working but I am thinking. Rolling thoughts around can be exhausting, especially when you're throwing things down and then asking Why three or four times and then thinking If that's true then what are the implications of that? The process can be extensive when building a story, even a short story, and it's easy to find every little excuse to not write or edit or send the work out.
I'm running out of excuses. My writing is passable to pretty good. I'm much more confident in my abilities and - of course - I'm published. I need to keep that going. Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein have given the two best bits of advice any writer who wants to be successful should follow. I'll paraphrase:
Write every day, whether you want to or not.
Keep that story out on the street until it sells.
I'm a storyteller and I have to get these things out of my head and out for others to see. So I sent a story out on Thursday. I'll let you know what happens with it. I'm working on two other stories and will find markets for them this coming week. Expect updates on submissions from now on. Send me good thoughts/vibes and I'll cross my fingers. As my friend Bruce said this week, I'll accept crossed vibes, too.
Finally, if you're still reading, I have some thoughts on poetry this week at the Cafe. Click over and while you're there, please see what my peers over there have to say on the subject. There's definitely a consensus amongst us.