“I’m calling them guidelines because if I say ‘rules’, you might have the expectation that it will be true every time. As you know, there are many exceptions in English,” I remember telling my students.
After a Sunday morning conversation with my life coach, I realized that this could be applied to my writing career as well. I recently started and finished a short story in just 5 days. I didn’t set out to finish so quickly. Rather, it started with me commuting to work with nothing in my ears, just listening and taking in my surroundings. I began thinking about an idea for a short story I had last year and the ideas flooded in, weaving in the sights and sounds that greeted me during my walk. I could not get to my desk fast enough to sit and write it all down. The next few days continued like this and before I knew it, it was done.
The amount of time itself is for sure amazing, but what is even more meaningful is that I finished a piece of writing that I started. I struggled for a long time with devaluing my gift for writing as not being anything special. Who hates music? Who isn’t excited by a good dance performance? But not everyone enjoys reading, I would say to myself. This limited thinking led to years of starting ideas for short stories, essays, and novels, of which I only finished a handful.
There was also the internal pressure to be like the “real” writers I saw:
I thought I had to do NaNiWriMo.
I thought I needed to download software to organize chapters and research.
I thought I had to map out the life story of my characters before I could even start writing.
I thought I had to wake up at the same time every day to write.
I thought I had to take a writing course.
I thought just having an Instagram account and website was not enough to get my writing out there and I needed to make accounts on other platforms.
For this short story, I just wrote in the Notes application of my phone. I loved the convenience of picking up my phone and adding to the story in bed, on the train, or at the office. I wrote freely and unhindered, letting the story be what it needed to be, composing it my way. It brought back the excitement that drew me to writing in the first place, and I’m already working on other pieces.
I don’t write at the same time every day; I don’t even write every day. I don’t have a word count in mind: I just set aside some time and write whatever I’m thinking. I don’t use any special writing tools: I just use what’s convenient, whether that be a dollar store notebook, my phone, or a Google Doc. I don’t have a degree in literature or creative writing: I just know I write words that people want to read. It’s not to say that those who do the former are wrong and I am better for doing the latter. Insights from others serve as useful guidelines for getting started. It’s worthwhile and insightful to hear about others’ experiences, but I have the right, through trial and error, to pick and choose what works for me. That doesn’t mean I’m any less passionate about writing, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not a real writer. We all have the right to our own process.
Note: I submitted the short story to a lifestyle magazine, so I hope I will be able to update you about it in the near future!