If you happened to wonder why I haven’t been writing this summer, it’s because, well, I’ve been writing. I took a couple months off from blogging to focus my attention on fiction. There were two big deadlines I wanted to hit this month – the Memphis Magazine fiction contest and the University of Memphis’s Moss Workshop application – and as of June 1, I didn’t have anything ready to submit. In fact, I hadn’t actually completed a fiction piece since 2007, when I wrote a short story/possible first chapter that was rejected by both of the aforementioned entities. I won’t say that the disappointment from that Summer of No-Love quashed my inspiration for the next four years, but it didn’t do a whole lot for my motivation. Perhaps because I’ve always considered writing a career path rather than an artistic endeavor, it’s hard for me to take the time to write if I don’t see any productive results from it. If it’s not earning me money or at least generating useful feedback, then what’s the point?
But then, this past July, while we were vacationing on the Gulf coast, I had an idea. Not just the start or premise of a story, but the whole idea. The beginning, the end, and, most importantly, what it was actually about. I started writing it up as soon as we got back. I changed some of the major details I had begun with, but the original plot concept held steady. In two weeks, I did what I hadn’t managed in four years. I finished something.
Buoyed by that experience, I took a look back at another piece I’d been fidgeting with. I realized as I opened it up that I had begun the story one year before. To the day. (Yes, I put the start date in the file name of everything I write, because I like to wallow in my inactivity.) I’d wrestled with it last summer, hoping to get it into shape for the fiction contest, but just never knew where to take it. Looking at it all those months later, the path suddenly became a lot clearer. I took the two extra weeks granted by the extended Memphis Magazine deadline and reshaped the bits and pieces into theme and plot. Two more weeks, another story done.
Now, I’m optimistic, but I won’t say my hopes are sky-high. I know there are a lot of strong writers in our muddy little local pool, and I’m already telling myself that the public result isn’t as important as the process. The most significant outcome of completing these two stories has already happened: now I know that I can do it. That’s really the best prize I could get.
Although if I happened to win that national magazine-sponsored short story contest that I entered yesterday … well, that would be pretty good, too.