I’ve been thinking about writing something for the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge for about nine months, ever since I discovered Chuck’s blog via a Big Idea on Whatever. In August, I got really motivated, decided the time was NOW. But that wasn’t the time.
Two fiction writing workshop classes had bruised me at that point. It wasn’t that the stories I wrote for them were bad, or that I didn’t get a good grade or that the other students were mean. It was that I had discovered that no matter what I did in those classes, nothing seemed to be making a difference in how I approached writing. I didn’t understand what I needed to do to improve. Everyone had suggestions, but no one was able to articulate in a way that made sense what the problems were. We all spoke in terms of things that we did or didn’t like, that did or didn’t ‘work’ for us.
I was discouraged. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn if classes and teachers were not the answer. I had written and submitted several short stories before the classes, so I knew that I had some work to do before being publishable, but exactly how I was supposed to do that work, or even what that work was…? My dad had sent me a book on writing, but it was more for ‘fixing’ already completed works. It helped me figure out ways to critique my peers; it didn’t really give me any insight on why what I was writing didn’t work.
After a semester of a technical communication class, I found myself itching to write creatively again in December (aided always by keeping up with those addictive writer’s blogs). I had come to the conclusion that although I know how to string words together into sentences and paragraphs with a modicum of skill, I lacked an ability to string those pieces into a coherent story. I turned, as I always do, to books.
I read with some eye to taking notes on interesting concepts, but mostly I read these books on how to write stories like I read fiction, quickly. I wanted to get an overview of the available advice before picking one or more ‘bibles’ that I would actually purchase rather than check out from the library. Some of the books didn’t precisely agree, many had different terminology for the same basic concepts, but they all pointed me in a different direction than the paralyzed hopeless one I had been staring down.
I know that I have a lot to learn about creating story, a lot of work to do, but I felt that I should start the new year by actually going for those Flash Fiction Challenges. After all, there are these lovely guidelines to help point me down a path, and a deadline to make myself churn something out without agonizing over it for weeks before tossing it. So I started thinking about doing it, but not until this last week of January did I actually sit my ass down and get it done.
I generated my choices on Friday, and set to thinking about what story I might tell with a motif of mirrors, in the erotic fantasy subgenre, set on Route 66. The choices sat in the blogger draft and the concepts bounced around in my mind. Once I had an idea, I settled down to write it on Sunday night.
Nothing came. I stared at the screen, the little list of parameters jeering at me, and I decided to make an erratic tactical maneuver. I went back to the challenge post, back to random.org and regenerated myself a whole new set of choices. I changed my little edit box listing to reflect the new story I was going to write. Then, I closed that post, opened a new one and proceeded to write the story I’d been thinking about all weekend from the original parameters.
Apparently my version of ‘writer’s block’ is susceptible to reverse psychology.