Giving up on a story: sometimes, it’s for the best.

So I gave up on the short story that bound me for a year.

After persisting for so long and so futilely, I decided to pursue volume writing and blogging. I wrote a fiction short short story, and when I cataloged it, I couldn’t help but notice the date of the last completed short story.

November 13, 2012!!!

I realized then, that giving up was absolutely the right decision.

I started Waltz on Water during WCU’s Spring Literary Festival. Listening to all these awesome writers speak charged me with writing vigor and inspiration, and I hit 3,000 words within two days, but then as the festival wound down so did my muse. I hit about 6,000 words by the end of spring and then I kept getting stuck at the same damn point.

I’d write, feel good, and then go back the next day and recognize some flaw so subtle but not in line with the rest of the short story. I kept repeating this series of “try again, fail” until I evaded writing outright.

I can’t identify the problem, because I think Waltz on Water simply surpasses my current writing skill. Maybe hanging around all those great writers allowed me to channel their grace and unlock my full potential, if only for a moment. I lost the beautiful spirit that I drew from those writers and now, Waltz on Water evokes only a gray pain.

When I listened to Paul Harding speak at the Aspen Literary Festival (On Youtube), he was asked the question, “have you ever abandoned a short story?” and he answered “no” quite emphatically. That drove me to finish my short story, but I just kept getting stuck at the same point and I realize now that I don’t have the answer. I attribute some of my stubbornness to my own little ego, which absolutely adored Waltz on Water.

I write because I can’t find what I want to read, what I truly love to read, and if I just finished this short story I could just point to it and say, “I love stories like this.” It would define me as a writer, but I realized now, quite late:

I’m still not sure who I am. I know the parameters, and could tell you what I’m not, but I could not summarize myself with a single statement.

Fairy tales? Magic? Fantasy meets reality? The merger between surreal worlds and realistic people? Yes, but there’s more, and I wrongly assumed myself complete.

You can’t shortcut sheer writing volume.

To borrow from the Bill Bellichick school of thought: nobody makes a Super Bowl team. Create the best team possible that can take a shot year after year, because even when you go all-in you’ll probably fall flat on your face, as I did.

Here’s to quantity over quality! Or at least enough quantity for said quality to matter.

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2 thoughts on “Giving up on a story: sometimes, it’s for the best.

  1. Stephen King talks about ‘the ideal reader’. That person, you have in mind as you write. I think, in your case, it is you. Which is cool. But it can cause a few problems.
    My IR is my wife……. she gives me honest feedback and, apart from wanting all my stories to have a happy ending!!!! she is a good judge of what works and what doesn’t…….. So I listen to her but I don’t always agree.
    Like you, I write that which I would like to read. I like lots of stuff so my writing can bounce around a bit.
    What have I learned from posting my stories here? Lots of stuff but one of the really interesting things has been that readers react to different stories in different ways, and they don’t always get off on the stories that I think are my best……. isn’t that interesting.

    The most important thing I have learned is ……….. don’t be too hard on yourself.
    I have come back to stories that I have put down more than a year ago. Never delete an unfinished story, there might be something in there that you can use somewhere else. Never consider a story unfinished……….. there is always an answer out there…….. maybe, in your case it just means that you need to visit some place, meet someone, lose something, find something, or just simply live for a number of years…….. I really don’t know what it is, but no story stays unfinished forever.
    Being a writer is hard…… not that that is a bad thing, anything this rewarding should be hard, but the world will be tough enough on you. Your job is to be kind to yourself.
    P.S. Never wait for your muse to arrive [more Stephen King], he/she might be at a bar or off getting laid, just sit down and write……… do your words for the day and come back tomorrow and do it again.
    I’m sure you have but just in case you haven’t……..Stephen King ‘On Writing’
    While you are at it……….Mario Vargas Llosa ….. ‘Letters to a young novelist.’
    Terry

    • Thanks for the advice :). I forget “Your job is to be kind to yourself” a bit too often. I’m definitely going to try and come back to it at some point I just… yeah, later ^_^.

      I haven’t actually read Stephen King yet. I got into writing as a fairly late affair in life, and I started on very current authors like Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrow. Been working backwards so to speak.

      I’ll be sure to find Stephen King’s “On Writing”, and Letters to a young novelist too. Thank you very much for the advice.

      I appreciate it.

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