Essays, Misc, Stories

‘The Task’: Flash Fiction Story

I’ll be writing more about setting writing goals later, but I took matters into my own hands today and did that and wrote my first flash fiction story in a while. I’ve been focusing on short stories, finishing my novel, and blogging so it’s been a while since I went back to this fun yet challenging activity.

I wrote ‘The Task’ out of desperation. The story that follows is a fictionalized representation of a real situation. 2015 started off rough: my brain was stuffed with disorganized plans and ideas, leftover goals from 2014, and a lot of anxiety about what to do next. Also, coincidentally (?) I ran into a lot of posts about setting writing goals and knowing what it is you want from your writing experience. Even the site I got the prompt from, StoryADay.org, had some info about that on their home page. Anyhoo, here’s the story. Enjoy! And drop me a line about how your 2015 writing year began and what your goals are. I’d love to hear them!

From www.blogging4jobs.com
From http://www.blogging4jobs.com

The Prompt: feeling overwhelmed

The Task (381 words)

The pencil tips snaps, leaving an ugly gap in the line. What the heck was I writing again? I scan the nearly blank page, and vague memories, like blind men in fog, come stumbling back to me. Oh right. That.

I change pencils and hit the page again. The words come, haltingly, but at least they come. Grey lines begin to fill the page, and slowly there is more grey than white. My anxiety decreases, excitement and confidence rises. For the first time in weeks, I’m in control. The mess of nagging thoughts, doubts, insecurities—the chaos–finally tamed.

You’ll never amount to anything. All your work is in vain. Who reads your stuff anyway? 

I flip the pencil around, jamming the eraser across the page. Shut up!

Why are you pushing yourself so hard? You really think anyone cares about your work? 

Pink bits of eraser collect in piles on the page. The white of the page begins to dominate the grey. Soon, I’ll tear through the sheet. My daughter did that last night when she struggled with math. She’d had to tape the hole closed and then write on wrinkly paper. I’d been mad at her for being careless. And now, look at me.

The evil voice laughed in my ear. It didn’t have to speak—it’s message was loud and clear.

Shut up! I’ll finish this!

 No you won’t. You’ll give up. You’ll fail. All your scribblings won’t matter in the end.

Damn you, I won’t!

You will.

Shut up!

The paper rips. I stare at the pile of pencils scattered around my desk. Jagged wood pokes into the air where the tips have all broken off. There is paper spilling out of the garbage bin, enough to be a fire hazard under the right conditions. But I am finished.

Writing Goals leaps up in grey letters from the page, followed by a clear, detailed plan of my writing intentions for the next two months. I sweep a hand over the page, grandiose. Victorious. Eat that! I throw down my pencil, push away from the page and hit the computer.

The evil voice is silent.

I smile. And get to work.

‘Goal number 1,’ I mutter under my breath, as my fingers fly over the keys, ‘start writing again…’

Copyright@ 2015 by Dyane Forde

Essays, Misc

Writing is a Marathon, Not a Race

Writing fatigue.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Oh, no, here she goes again!’ Well, yes and no. I have been writing a lot on this subject because that’s where I’ve been living for the last little while. And though it might not make for the most interesting subject to blog about, I suspect that, somewhere in cyber-space, other writers are suffering the same thing. Some may be even a little shy to be open about it because, well, let’s be honest we know writing is hard work. How often do you come across those memes or quotes that say ‘Never give up!’ or that ‘Keep your eye on the prize!’ or ‘Victory comes to those who stick it out!’

Blah.

Blah.

Friggin’ blah.

The thing is, despite my sarcasm, I believe them. Succeeding in any venture, whether it’s business, art, our 9-5 jobs, or anything we want to do well, requires time, effort and sacrifice. But what I’m also learning–the hard way, is that as much as there are moments to strive, there are moments when we have to rest.

Rest? How can that be productive? We live in a Go!Go!Go! world. Didn’t you hear that rest is for the weak? Don’t sleep! Work, work, work! That’s the method to the madness I have been following for the last few years and though it has produced some great results, it burned me out.

I felt it coming around August. For more than three years, I worked on building this writing…career I’ll call it, since that’s what I hope it will become. From past posts, some of you know the route I took to get here, but for those who don’t, it included writing groups, critique groups, finding a writing partner, trial and error writing—which included receiving plenty of lambasting–learning how to build a writing platform, social networking—you get the picture. It’s a ton of work to do when you have a regular job, and a family, who often doesn’t get to see much of me when I’m ‘in the zone.’

But over the summer, something cool happened. I started blogging. The first one on Blogger did alight, but when I moved to WordPress—wow! Things really expanded and, suddenly, in addition to writing I had this other passion to nurture. It was great. I got sucked in. I went willingly, happily, but—

I was already drained by then. And it only got worse.

I’m a goal-oriented person; I’m at my best when I have a challenge to crush. That’s just who I am. Probably the pressure to ‘make it’ was fuelled by anxiety—I couldn’t rest. I had to keep getting better, I had to keep producing. If I wanted to make it—thereby ensuring that the sacrifices I’d made didn’t go to waste–then I had to keep pushing. What’s that expression? ‘Sleep when you’re dead?’

Almost. Or that’s sorta how it felt at times.

I threw myself into writing, tortured myself by reading other people’s work that was better than mine and, out of a sense of inferiority, set out to create something I thought was just as good. I read business articles and platform-building post after post so I could beat myself up over all the things I wasn’t doing. I literally could not, and would not rest.

It was insane. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been through this.

The kicker came the day I asked a friend for a prompt. I was so tired but I hadn’t written anything for a few days. Despite the fatigue, that story was one of my best up to that point. Yay! Then I tackled another challenge, one which led to the writing of Mad Mac. I remember sitting that night with the laptop on my lap thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’ But somehow I did. It felt like pushing past the Wall in running—I was (mentally) exhausted but something else took over and pushed me past my normal limits to finish the job. But something ‘crashed’ inside me that night.

Image from wonderingfair.com
Image from wonderingfair.com

For a long time afterwards, just the thought of writing made me feel tired; a heaviness fell over my hands and a fog clouded my mind. My brain just said, ‘No.’ Despite the need to write, I instead turned to drawing, blogging, focussing on marketing my book—anything except serious writing. At first, I was nervous. How long would this last? What if I’m blocked for good? But as much as I was concerned, I decided to let it go. I felt free for the first time in a long time. Despite not writing anything creatively while fighting the words, ‘A writer has to write every day!’ I managed to say, ‘Screw that. Not today.’

I’m past all that now. A few things have changed. Primarily, I managed to find myself again. Probably, if you reread some of my recent posts you’ll notice a trend—the drive to succeed led to a disconnect with myself and why I love to write in the first place. I don’t read my G+ threads anymore, nor do I read writing ‘how to’ posts or other people’s writing (except books). Perhaps I’ll go back to that stuff in the future, but right now, the peace and quiet is sublime. I also found a few books with which to relax my mind and to feed my creative self. One of them inspired me directly to get back to writing. The day after I finished it, I picked up my current, unfinished manuscript and got to work.

I think the point of this post is to say that it’s okay to admit you’re tired–and maybe spinning out of control. And that it’s okay to stop. To take a break to find your centre; it will come back to you. The world doesn’t stop spinning, it never rests, but sometimes we have to.

 So, what about you? Anyone else have thoughts to share on this subject? I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading! 🙂