The Story That Insisted.
Last night I finished writing a particular short story.
Big deal, right? I call myself an author, that’s what I’m supposed to do. But this story is different. This is a story I would have rather not written, and under normal circumstances, I would have dismissed it and moved on long before last night. I’ve done it before, many times. A story just doesn’t take off once you write it, or you never wrestle it onto paper in an effective way. The life of an author requires a means by which to judge what story is and is not still worth your time and energy. By all objective accounts and measures, the story I finished last night should not have still been on my plate after so long. I don’t enjoy per se, I don’t love it’s concept, and I don’t feel changed as a person by it. Yet for some reason that I cannot figure out yet, I feel responsible for it. That’s not usually how I operate, and it has me thinking.
I’d been kicking the concept of this story around in my head for over a year, but I only started the actual writing of the rough draft about a month ago, after some reluctance. I didn’t feel, and still don’t feel, I’m in the proper place mentally to deal with it. And to be frank, I’m not sure I achieved the tone it calls for anyway. It might, after a few revisions take a few revisions, if I can muster up the will to do so. Normally that process wouldn’t bother me, as revising and editing has usually gone faster and easier for me than composing the rough draft; I often look forward to revisions, as that is when the best work emerges. Yet given the history of this piece, I have to wonder how easy the next stages will be.
I was relieved somewhat last night to get the highly imperfect first draft out there at last. I’d llike to enjoy that feeling a little longer, so in an ideal world I won’t be revising it right away. I often give myself some emotional ad well as editorial distance before I begin revising short stories. Not as long as I give novels, but enough to see the piece fresh, if possible. But will it be possible with this piece? Or will I be compelled to revise it, polish it, and by officially done with it as soon as possible?
That sounds dramatic, I know. I’m not prone to stereotypical author histrionics, and when I do fall prey to then now and then it isn’t because of a piece like this making its presence known in my mind over and over again.
I’ve not been able to simply dismiss this one after it proved difficult to produce. I’m not opposed to hard work, of course, no writer can be that. But we all only have so much time, and there are many ideas to get to. I may not ever get to all of mine, and at times that means things have to get shelved or scrapped. Not every story seed grows into something, and if something seems to be stalling for an extended period of time, or if I can’t seem to get on with it, I usually decide that it means the story isn’t for me, and I move on, for the sake of other projects if nothing else.
Yet I haven’t with this story. Though it doesn’t feel like any kind of masterpiece, (in tone, concept, impact or prose), it has remained persistent in my thoughts even as i write other things. Patient to an extent, but always asking when I will get on with it.
Again, this is not the normal relationship I have with my fiction.
How to explain this resistance? All authors have it to some degree at some time of course, myself included. But I don’t think it’s the run of the mill resistance.
Some days it was probably laziness. We all get lazy from time to time, more so when we’re not ecstatic about the activity.
Then part of it may be a fear that I wouldn’t capture the tone I envisioned in my head once I actually started it. That the potential tone was more interesting than the actual vehicle. Potential can’t fail, but once I started to actually write it, the possibility of not getting it right became palpable. To an extent, as I said, those fears were realized as the current tone is not quite what I thought it would be, or should be all of this time.
Also the story contains some brief graphic images. It had to in order to make a certain point I was making. I’m not usually graphic in my writing, and the image in question would probably not be considered graphic by today’s standards, but it is by mine. That perhaps contributed to the stop and go nature of getting this one out there.
I know for a fact that one obstacle is that the story contains one of my anxiety “triggers”. I don’t have panic attacks, but the story involves a scenario that I’ve worried about more than once. Not easy to write a story about something you spend the rest of your time trying not to think too much about. Obviously.
Maybe all of the time, thought and energy that I’ve put into the launch of Thank You for Ten is a partial culprit. I think about that a lot lately, of course. A few other projects have gone a bit slower in wake of that.
Then I might feel somewhere that I can in fact achieve the ideal tone, but don’t want to invest the time or emotion into doing so.
Truth be told, a combination of all of these things, and others, is probably to blame for my hesitation to complete it. Yet my main concern is not so much the fits and starts nature of writing this story, as many of my stories come into being like that. What is really getting to me today is, why have I been unable to dismiss this story, after so much fuss and bother? Why did I write it in the first place, if it’s been such a pain in the ass? Why does this one persist?
I don’t even know what I’m doing with it once it’s all edited. Maybe Wattpad. Maybe to a contest, I don’t know. I don’t get to my writing group very often anymore, but maybe I should save it for them at some point, see if they have anything to say. Like so many other aspects of writing this story, I just don’t know. I do know I both want people to read it once its ready, and I don’t want anybody to read it. Not that it’s particularly painful to me personally, or so unusual, but because I’m afraid that after talking it up all this time in so many ways it can’t possibly live up to the unintentional hype I’m building around it.
But I had to mention it to you, readers of this blog and anybody else who happens to come across this. I had to at least tell the story of this story, to see if I could either find out why it has this weird persistence, or if I could cut it down to size and make it seem like just another one of my stories that isn’t unfolding with ease. So far, I’ve accomplished neither of those goals.
In the end, I think I went through with writing it because of the unusual persistence of it in my thoughts. Those thoughts have eased since I finished the rough draft, and like I said, I’ll be taking a break from it, (hopefully.) Perhaps it’s just something that had to be written and left alone. Or perhaps the persistence will continue into the revising process, pushing me forward, despite a partial lack of desire on my part to present it to the world. I’m not a firm believer in “getting outside your comfort zone” just for the hell of it, and I’m not even sure that’s what the deal is with this story. I only know that I was tired of having not written this particular piece, and was motivated in large part to see if it’s presence would ease up if I went ahead and just wrote it.
I suppose, I will find out soon enough.
Have you ever had a story like this?
- Posted in: Writing