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.