Last week in my Groundhog Day update I said, “I had planned a more thorough discussion, especially of my failure to get any traction on my second resolution”. Here we are.
My goal has to write a short story a week. I have finished one. It was started back in January. I have another one I started last year. I have been rewriting from the beginning, but it is no further along than it was. I have another I started from an exercise in Immediate Fiction. Both stories need less than 2000 words of work. The later might not even need that much. This past Saturday was the third since I last finished a story. In 21 days I could have finished the former at less than 100 words per day. Instead I began the exercise story.
Why can I not write 100 words of fiction a day?
I think there are two somewhat overlapping issues.
The first is an old one that has inhibited me for quite some time, perfectionism. The story I self-published is not that great. It is possibly the best story I have finished. The one I sent out in my newsletter last December is the only contender. The one currently making the submissions circuit is not that good. Yet each of those is infinitely better than the dozen or so unfinished ones setting in folders on my computer. For each of those stories I will willing to accept they were the best version of that story I could tell when I wrote it.
Accepting that is almost impossible for me.
It isn’t just impossible in writing fiction. It kills my music writing. It hampers my wood working where the imperfections are more obvious in mismatched joints and crooked cuts. I haven’t finished much since the workbench in the link above.
The related reason is fear. I am afraid of doing bad work. Bad work is not the same as imperfect work. My workbench is imperfect but it isn’t bad. It does what it has to do, hold things for me to work on them. I am afraid of stories that fail to do their job, tell a story. In a post that’ll be on this coming Sunday’s Sunday Reading a wag comments that literary fiction is a genre if genre is defined as having a formula. The exact formulation is “So ‘personal issues’ plus ‘vague ending’ does not equal formula?”.
I think K&L might succeed as literary by that standard. If I squint that is; otherwise it isn’t much of a story.
It is this fear that Ira Glass addresses in his famous do the work bit. When I finished Lost Daughter of Amazons I immediately listened to the clip below to remind myself. I think I’m going to listen to it at least once a day to remind myself that right now I am in that doing the work phase. The [Bradbury Challenge] is that schedule Glass talks about so I just need to do it.
I want to write. I need to not be afraid to write because it’ll be bad.
If you enjoyed this post, sign up for my newsletter. Once (and sometimes twice) a month you'll get updates on my writing, life, and brand new fiction.