Lately I’ve been writing short stories. I’m discovering, for one thing, that stories may be short, but the time it takes to write them is long. Another discovery: some stories are inspired, full of heart, creating their own energy as they progress. Others, not so much.
Some of my stories have to be built. They’re not as satisfying to write and not as good to read. The writing feels wooden in comparison to the inspired pieces that flow without effort. As I construct one dull revision on top of another, I know I’m not doing my best work. But I persist. Maybe the story’s mechanical movement will serve as the basis for a lightning strike of surpassing intensity and insight. Maybe inspiration will bring the flailing, conflicted elements together.
Maybe I’ll give it two more (or forty more) tries. Maybe I’m learning something about the short story I can’t learn any other way. I can always file it away on my hard disk. Maybe it’s better than I think.
Probably not. Maybe I have to plod through the underbrush to reach the next story, the one balanced beautifully on the sharp edge of that precipice I see before me. It’s the longed-for piece that will express everything I want to say. It’s the piece that makes the reader inhale and swallow hard, overwhelmed by gem-like truth and beauty.
That isn’t too much to ask, is it? Of course not.