In my writing community there’s a buzz about the upcoming Whispered Words Anthology prose competition. I’ve entered stories for their last two years’ competitions with disheartening results. (Although one story that didn’t make it through the first tier judging found a publisher immediately following its rejection.) I have been thinking that a short story is not something that one can just knock off on demand; for me I either have a short story that fits the criteria or I don’t. And besides, I told myself, a little defensively, I’m writing novels. Am I really expecting myself to just shift gears into short-story mode? My focus has two intense objects (a finished novel and one that is forty pages in) as well as one background object (that memoir again), so how can I expect to spin off into an entirely new direction?
But (and here’s the rub) potential editors and agents understandably want their authors to have a track record, preferably an extensive one. And so… published short stories are one of the best ways to achieve that goal. If you want them published you have to write and submit them.
I was turning this conundrum over in my head, and I suddenly switched my line of thinking from all the reasons why I couldn’t write a story for this competition to considering what I might be able to write. Two ideas lifted out from under the pile of resistance and floated right in front of my eyes. One story tickled me under the chin and said, haven’t you wanted to write me for a very long time? And I admitted that, yes, in fact I’ve wanted to write about this particular thing for over thirty years.
Long story short, literally. I sat down and wrote the first draft in a couple of hours. Just like that. I suppose it’s not that surprising, since the thing has been composting for decades, but I had envisioned it much differently. A play, a movie, a novel, maybe, but not told in a thousand words.
I like surprises. I like it when I get out of my own way and let my hand move. It may not be magic, but sometimes writing feels very much like magic.