About a year ago, I set a challenge for myself: For one month, I wanted to write a new short story each day. Too ambitious? Oh, without a doubt. I didn’t even come close to 31 stories. However, I learned a lot from the endeavor, and I’m still feeling the effects from it.
The challenge was built around a couple of things I’d noticed about my writing ethic.
1.) I seemed to have a tough time finishing stories. I would start off with this great idea, get a few pages in, realize I didn’t have anywhere to go with it, and move onto the next idea. I wanted to break that habit, so I promised myself that even if it’s just in outline form (and even if it is the most ridiculous and contrived ending ever imagined) that I would find an ending for each and every story I began.
And 2.) I only wrote stories when inspired. I wasn’t quite as confident I could fix this as with the first issue. It bothered me that I was just sitting around waiting for the muse’s good graces before I could write something. If it was a skill that one could learn and produce at will, then I wanted to learn it.
At the end of the month, I believe I had opening scenes and outlines for 23 stories, 15 of which were workable notions that I intended to go back an develop. (Actually, one of these has been published! Remember my story about Angels and bracelets? Read it Here. Another of these stories got an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future.) It was one of the most exhausting challenges I put myself through, and yeah I’ll admit it: I had a few weepy mornings where I was too burned out to write another word.
That was the point, really—to use up the well and prove to myself that I could still create story ideas. And I did, and I was proud of many of the ideas. So, definitely list ‘confidence boost’ under benefits. But it was more than that.
In my struggle to find endings for each and every idea I pulled to the surface, I kept hoping to find a magic formula for tying up plots, but there wasn’t one. What I did learn is that a story’s ending doesn’t have to be shocking or contain a huge twist to be satisfying: it just has to show that something is different now that the events of the story have taken place.
I also finally convinced myself that writing bad stories doesn’t make me a bad writer. I don’t mind telling you: I crafted some horrendously bad stories over that month. Olivia of the past would keep writing and rewriting a story for all eternity figuring that there HAS to be some way to make it work. Olivia of the present is able to judge when the story’s root idea just isn’t viable, and move on to the next thing.
Most importantly, doing this has sufficiently battled and conquered the fear that I only have so many short stories in me and someday I will simply run out. If that’s a fear you carry, you might want to consider giving this challenge a try. You are far more creative than you’ve ever imagined.