I entered a writing contest this weekend, a challenge from Writer’s Weekly to write an 875 word short story in 24 hours or less. They send you a couple of topic sentences to inspire you around noon on Saturday, and then your story is due by noon on Sunday.
Leading up to the contest I bounced around from relaxed (“It’s no big deal, whatever”) to panicked (“My brain is a vacuum! I have not one single idea in there!”) to super confident (“And lastly, I’d like to thank my husband, for not turning up his nose at dinner of Frosted Flakes on that fateful Saturday night”).
Mostly I expected to sit paralyzed in front of my blank screen, unable to think of a single word or idea to explore. I find writing essays, magazine articles, and advertising copy comes easily to me (blinking sign here – WRITER FOR HIRE, CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP), but writing fiction is like pulling teeth. It’s painful, bloody, and leaves a hole in my head.
I usually take yoga class on Saturday mornings. You might be imagining a class where we do lots of nice stretches and commune with the earth, but my class is more full of lots of impossible positions that leave me communing with my bottle of ibuprofen. But I still thought it would be a good idea if I went – a supple body bringing about a supple mind, as my friend Tudor would recommend. And I do think it helped loosen me up – or at least, brought about a feeling of euphoria that I had survived. My arms didn’t fall off! Only mostly! That’s success right there!
Once the topic was released at lunchtime, I puttered around for a bit, helping make lunch for the kids and thinking things over. Then Sir Monkeypants took the scamps out to the Museum of Nature for the afternoon, leaving me with three glorious, uninterrupted hours to write.
Which I did.
But I also ate.
I ate a whole bag of chips. NOT the single serving kind. And I also had a chocolate chip granola bar. Two. Actually, three. And a big bowl of cereal, and some leftover Clodhoppers from Christmas that were kicking around. And I polished off the chocolate milk.
Apparently, junk food is critical to the creative process. Who knew? If I ever write a novel, I’m going to come out of it weighing 300 pounds.
Anyway, by the time the kids got home the bones of my story were there, and I was more than ready to take a break and help make dinner and pack them off to bed. Then I tweaked for another hour or so, and then, it was time.
I let Sir Monkeypants read it over.
While I lay on the couch with my head under a blanket, body rigid with terror, embarrassment, nakedness. ACK TO THE MAX, DUDES.
But he kind of…liked it. And he gave me a huge compliment by saying that he had no idea I could write like that. I guess the ol’ blog just doesn’t scream “Nobel Prize for Literature” on a regular basis. (Only on occasion. Those Dance Show posts require painstaking research, you know.)
I slept on it, then in the morning I changed a few minor things and then spent an hour agonizing over a title (still SO CRAPPY, alas), then I pressed send. And with one keystroke, I became a real writer in my own mind.
So in the end it turned out…kind of great, actually. I had fun, my story is passable, and most of all, it was a real confidence booster. I can’t thank Tudor over at Two Writers Talking enough for mentioning it earlier this season, and for personally encouraging me to give it a try.
I’m not sure when I’ll write more fiction, though. Life is busy and it’s the time, more than anything else, that is hard to come by. There’s another contest in the Spring…I’ll shoot for that and see how it goes. I hope you all will join me!