It’s been a while, but I’ve decided to participate in Nanowrimo this year. I almost didn’t because I simply didn’t have any ideas, and I haven’t written regularly in a long time. It’s difficult for me to believe I could actually succeed, so I had a why bother attitude.
Then a friend in my writing group told me about Flash Nano. The intent is to write a piece of flash fiction every day in November. My interest was peaked. I’m still nervous because this slump has had its claws in me for so long, but it’s not as scary as trying to write a 50,000-word novel at this point.
Flash fiction stories appeal more right now. Let’s examine the benefits for someone in my position.
- Writing 1000 words or less in a day is less terrifying
- Finishing a short work gives a sense of accomplishment which raises my confidence level
- Flash fiction ideas come from all over so there are more chances I’ll find something to write about
- I already know how to write flash fiction which leads to…
- Once upon a time I wrote flash all the time and I was good at it, which goes back to confidence
- Assuming I only worry about one story at a time I won’t get overwhelmed
- There are many more bullets I could add but I’ll end with writing flash (for me specifically) is the most likely way I’ll get back to writing regularly
My writing funk/slump/block/whatever the hell you want to call it started with a medication making me cloudy and forgetful. I got off that medication, but my current one has a similar if lesser effect on me. This I can probably work through, but there are other issues. I also can’t seem to read. I was always a reader and I adore books. Stories are magic for me. When the concentration issues began, I had trouble getting through a book. Eventually, it became a chapter, working its way to a time thing. I can’t focus on reading for longer than about 10 minutes.
If you don’t read, you can’t write. Not well. In my case, I think it became more literal. Man, did that suck! Then there is the mental toll a problem like this exacts. The horrid cycle seemed never-ending.
Things are slowly changing. Recently I read 40% of a book in a couple of hours. Not long after, I wrote a few flash fiction pieces. I finished that book a couple of nights ago. Then, last night starting at midnight at the Nanowrimo kickoff event, I wrote a 718-word story. There has to be a correlation for me.
I didn’t know what I was going to write about when I started. Nothing was mapped out or even thought about beforehand.
My only prep was while the Zoom call was going and others were talking about what they would write, I looked through some writing prompts. If they interested me, I wrote them on the first line of a new page in a spiral and went to the next page. I ended up with eight prompts but most didn’t spur any ideas beyond the obvious images the prompt seemed meant to invoke. However, there were a couple I almost believed could work.
I say almost because I had no faith in my ability to ‘make shit up’ at this point. Nevertheless, I was determined to try.
So I picked the one my must kept tossing at me. Honestly, of the ones I thought I could write about, this one seemed the least promising.
Rae sat atop the piano waiting for the music to start
When I first read it, I felt a glimmer of a spark, which I quickly dismissed. I kept making my way through my list, but I kept thinking about that stupid piano. I did NOT want to write about a lounge singer. I would not. I had a different prompt all picked out, and at 11:58, I turned back to Rae and stared at my page in disgust. I can only hope I didn’t make the face that matched my feelings because Zoom picks up everything.
Midnight hit and the ML said to start, and I did precisely that. I didn’t know what was going to come out of me, but if it had to be about a singer in a red dress in a smoke-filled room getting ready to sing to a gangster or some shit, I would write it. I was desperate to get any amount of words on the paper.
I’m pretty sure I held my breath as I wrote my first sentence following the prompt. To my surprise, more sentences followed. They kept coming. The story grew and changed and exploded out of me. I wrote with a pen because I thought I might write out the bones of a story, and I like to do that freehand.
My ballpoint pen annoyed me, so I switched to a gel pen. I found myself making a mess on my page, so I grabbed a pencil. What a strange sensation it was using a writing utensil I never use!
The smoke-filled room I dreaded never made an appearance. No singing was heard by my characters. Red dress? I have no clue; I didn’t have time for much description. I was too busy writing what happened as opposed to how it looked. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough. My story centered around ghostly music and a woman trying to solve the mystery of what she heard. There is nothing ‘expected’ about it, which suits my style.
I won’t claim it is the best story I ever wrote, but it is undoubtedly the most satisfying piece I’ve done in a long time. Because I wrote it. I wrote something, anything. More importantly, I wrote a complete story with potential. I find it intriguing, and it will be fun to expand on eventually. I’m sure I’ll pick it apart and destroy it later because I’m a writer. It’s my job to over criticize everything I do. For now, I’ll be happy.
Words are in me, trying to get out. Look at this post, with three times as many words than necessary! I need to keep finding ways to access them. I’m hoping Nanowrimo and Flash Nano will help me.
If I can work up the nerve, I’ll post my story sometime this week but don’t hold your breath. Breaking through shaken confidence is hard! To anyone out there doing Nanowrimo, good luck! Don’t stress, just write.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
I hope you do manage to share your breakthrough story with us, as I enjoyed reading your journey…
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