Writing Throes vs Writing Woes

I have been avoiding, pondering, hemming and hawing about what to write for this month’s post. Nothing like a looming, then encroaching, deadline to spur a decision. Hence, this new post rather than either of my two (old) drafts – I’ll let them simmer a bit longer, what’s a few more weeks when it’s been a few months already?

Somehow, early April was busy, especially the first… two and a half weeks? Mainly due to a season that rhymes with axes, and getting shocking news about NYC Midnight’s Short Story contest.

I realize now I forgot to mention I was participating, back in January, I’ll just say it slipped my mind as I’d signed up for it last year. I just so happened to be in Switzerland for the 8 days we were given to write a 2,500 word story using the assigned genre, subject, and character. Which meant being six hours ahead – and no, staying up until 4am, barely coherent to submit by the 11:59pm EST deadline, is not typically my idea of fun. But, that’s what happened.

The shocking news about that, is that I placed?? For Round 2!? I swear it didn’t hit me at first. I found my name… and, well, see my actual reaction:

Blame it on the results coming out after 11:30pm, I forgot the top five (not three) stories were selected!

I don’t think it’s quite sunk in, still, despite spending that following weekend, three whole days, writing a brand new story of up to 2,000 words. It was agonizing, and yet thrilling, because the muse visited, and I actually finished the story a day early! Only to spend the next (and last) day cutting out most of it, and writing out parts that needed filling, but the result? I like the result.

I try not to think about getting the results for Round 2, but when I do it’s with excitement, hoping that this new story – which feels better than Round 1’s – is enough for me to go through it all again the first weekend in June. (Wait a minute… No, don’t think about it.)

The feedback I received combined with the (shocking, extraordinary, validating) good news of placing? Powerful. Almost powerful enough to dislodge my impostor syndrome, those persistent disparaging thoughts, and the stabs of worthlessness. (For maybe an hour at a time, if I’m lucky.) I’ve spent the better part of the last five years feeling disconnected from writing (among other things). The joys of starting a new story, let alone finishing it, few and far between longer stretches of just… not writing. The idea of it so overwhelming and daunting that it became much easier to avoid entirely, because not writing means not dealing with my perfectionist, ready to strike before the first sentence is even complete.

I miss being carefree when writing. My younger (less critical self) could just go with the flow: new idea? Excellent, let’s start writing and see where it goes! Ohh, what about a plot twist? Done!

Part of it was inexperience, part of it was a lack of (or much more subdued) inner critic. Because now, I know there’s “good” writing – and I know “good” is highly subjective (let’s not get into that) but in terms of skills there’s at least two levels (or even three, but I haven’t thought too deeply about this): beginner, and experienced (the third would be skilled? I don’t know).

As a beginner, the mountain isn’t daunting, it’s exciting. Venturing on a new path, building new muscles, exploring new horizons… Once experienced, well, it’s easier to see what’s lacking than the progress already made. The gap between remaining on this path and veering to the one reaching the summit requires more. Sometimes that’s knowing a story doesn’t flow quite right but not knowing what’s off about and how to fix it (like my Round 1 story, the feedback made me go “ohh” because of course). It’s at that point, now being experienced and losing a bit of that beginner naivete and enthusiasm, that frustration bubbles, and where one is more likely to quit (or so I’ve read).

I might’ve been stuck here for a while, or maybe it’s a recent (re)discovery, but I feel that dichotomy, between the words I’m writing and the story I mean to tell, and it’s frustrating and more than a little discouraging when after rounds and rounds of edits, the story’s still not where I want it to be.

I’ve spent… probably the last five years, on and off, feeling disconnected from writing (among other things). Either I’m all in, invested, excited about it, or it’s this unreachable state of creativity I can barely remember and dream to dream of. That’s where I’m at this month, fallen off the wagon of a semi-regular writing “practice” and willing myself to be otherwise, with very little success so far.

But tomorrow’s another day, and I can always try, and try again.

(Or, as Yoda would say “do or do not, there is no try.” Guess I’m stuck doing, in that case!)

Here’s to an uplifting May, because I sure could use some good vibes. 🌸

Take care,

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