Thoughts for Friday – 25th April 2014

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This week’s quote comes from James Thurber, a writer who is perhaps best known for his cartoons and short stories, many of which were published in The New Yorker magazine. Thurber’s work has also recently been brought to the public’s attention once more in the shape of the new film adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller.

This particular quote resonates with me because of my recent foray into flash fiction. Some of you may have read my first attempt at Thain In Vain’s Flash Fiction 52 Challenge and probably had a quite giggle to yourself at my poor effort. My willingness to post my attempts at flash fiction has an ulterior motive or two…..

The first is that I am much more at ease writing novel-length pieces rather than short and snappy ‘500 words or less’ stories. Thain in Vain’s challenge is a great way for me to push myself beyond my comfort zone and perhaps learn a thing or two about brevity along the way.

The second reason has much to do with this week’s quote. I am well aware that my first few attempts at flash fiction will probably not be all that great (and I don’t say that with any sense of false humility – they probably will be pretty turgid), but it is important to remember that writing is something that needs to be practiced continuously. Think of it as a muscle than needs constant training in order to become stronger – that’s the way I see writing.

The law of averages states that not everything I write will turn out to be something noteworthy or fantastic, but that perhaps one in every ten pieces I write may turn out to show some promise. It is this theory that I cling to as I enter the brave new world of flash fiction and writing to prompts issued by another writer. I know that I’ll write more bad stuff than I will good, but if I can write a handful of short stories that I’m proud of out of 52, then I’ll be satisfied that I’m actually learning something and gaining a new skill at the same time.

Not only is the Flash Fiction 52 Challenge an important one for me, I am also attempting to write pieces for submission and possible publication. This is a brave new world to explore and Thurber’s words come to mind once more; I need to remind myself that not everything I write will be of a high enough standard to be published, but that the more I write and the greater the volume of pieces completed increases my chances of at least getting one or two considered and possibly accepted by a publisher.

And so I go forth into the murky land of submissions, rejections and possible publication with James Thurber’s words resounding in my ears: Don’t get it right, just get it written.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Thoughts for Friday – 25th April 2014

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post. You hit on a common theme for us writers–fear of not being perfect. You post is a good reminder that we need to practice our craft and “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

    For the record, “Lord of the Flies” was a terrific little tale! TiV

    • Thanks so much for commenting!

      And thank you also for your kind words about my first flash fiction attempt. I have already started working on a response to week 17’s prompt and am hoping to post it on Tuesday.

      I think all writers tend to be their own harshest critic and so I like to remind myself of Thurber’s words to keep telling myself that it is not important for a first draft to be perfect, what matters is that it gets written in the first place! 😆

  2. Wise words! I agree that flash fiction is a great way to practice self-discipline in one’s writing. You’re forced to get to the point – and quickly.

    Good luck with those submissions! I have faith in you. 🙂

    • Awww, thanks, Kate!

      Flash fiction is fun way to practice the art of brevity and I’m having a lot of fun playing with a different style of writing than I’m used to. I’m working on developing a thick skin for when the rejection slips start filtering through…. 🙂

  3. A great post and good point. Sometimes you just got to get it out and worry about the rest later 🙂

    • Exactly!

      First drafts are meant to be messy and meandering – well, mine are anyway!

      I think the best way to let your creative side out is to just unleash it without much thought as to what you’re writing. Going back and making sense of it is what editing is for…. 🙂

  4. Everything we do as writers serves as a lesson for the next project we undertake. It’s a learning curve that no one really masters. But too often, the one thing that holds us back is our reluctance to take that final step and post/submit our work. Our stories will never be perfect in our own eyes and there are times that we need another pair of (reader’s) eyes to see what we’re missing.

    If nothing else, the challenge is a great way to learn how to cut down excessive verbiage and it’s fun to boot. Welcome aboard.

    • Thanks for the warm welcome, Chris 🙂

      I absolutely agree that writing is a learning curve that can never be truly mastered. I know that I will always find ways that I could have/should have improved on things before submitting or posting but I guess that is because I am my own harshest critic.

      I do need to just take the plunge and start getting my pieces submitted to various publications. Even if all I get is a bunch of rejection letters at the end of it, I’ll at least be learning what does/doesn’t work 🙂

  5. I adore flash fiction, it is one of my favourite ways to write. It forces you to use really strong verbs instead of adjectives to cut down on your word count. I find it a great way to strengthen your writing.

    • I completely agree!

      Flash fiction is something that I’m still fairly new to but I am finding that it has already helped to strengthen my writing as a whole. It really helps to get rid of all of those superfluous words that tend to creep into my writing. Plus, it’s fun too – that helps! 😆

  6. I’m a fan, Heather. Just go for it and don’t think too much! Congrats on making the cut for DC’s internship. Make it happen, Girl. It would be a fantastic experience for you!)

  7. Hi Heather. Good for you. Just keep going. I totally agree with this quote. I think I mentioned to you once about a book I was reading called, “The War of Art”? Anyhow, this author talks about how resistance is art’s greatest enemy. He could find so many other things to do, except sit down to write. He says that it doesn’t matter what you write about, or if you did well or not on a given day, but that you just simply did it.
    “Think of it as a muscle than needs constant training in order to become stronger”
    –As one that is certified in fitness and nutrition, I can truly appreciate this analogy. And it’s like anything in life, or any talent that one has. If you don’t do anything with it, it lays lament. The more we do something, the better we get. Just like the age-old saying, “practice makes perfect”.
    Thanks for the post Heather.
    🙂

    • Thanks so much for your wonderful comments, Staci.

      Yes, I do remember you mentioning the book ‘The War of Art’ and I have been meaning to add it to my reading list. I totally agree that the most important thing is that, as writers, we need to sit down each and every day to practice our craft, regardless of whether what we write could be deemed as being any good 🙂

      Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to writing. Honestly, my first forays into writing were pretty bad, but I’ve found that the more I write, the more polished it becomes (I hope!)

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