A short story a day, keeps the creative merde away…
Beginning in earnest next week, I will be committing to read one short story a day, for a year… as my own weird twist to the 365 Day challenge and also as one area of my professional development for 2010’s Year of the Silver Tiger.
Why short stories?
I write them, but I never read them. Despite my best efforts I find anthologies impossible to get through, cover to cover. At night I’m too tired and distracted to want to make the investment to get to know a new character and go on a journey with them. I want to pick up a book where I already have befriend the character and am eager to continue on with the story. It might only be five pages some nights, other nights it could be 20 or 30 pages.
It seems pretty likely that I am not going to stop writing my own short and flash fiction any time in the near future, so I’m adopting the philosophy that you should ‘read in your genre’ (substituting genre with form).
For the past three mornings I’ve taken the ‘story a day’ for a test drive with some pretty amazing results.
Day One (Monday) I grabbed the first anthology my hand fell on, which turned out to be 10 Short s\Stories you Must Read, a promo anthology (not for sale) from the Books Alive 2009 campaign. Our old flat mate scored it last year and it got left behind when he moved out.
I was in a pretty awful mood, if I’m being totally honest Monday morning. It was my son’s fourth day at school and ‘the empty nest syndrome’ was descending on me like grief shroud, sapping my will to do anything and killing my creativity dead in its tracks. Enter left of stage Robert Drewe and his wonderful story View from Mount Warning.
By the time I had finished it was out of my funk, had drunk my pot of tea and was inspired to get in the car, go home and get on with it. It wasn’t the story per se which was the motivator – it was act of shifting my attention away from feeling sorry for myself and into a creative space which seemed fifteen minutes earlier, was most definitely light years away and perpetually barred from me. It seemed a pretty strong indicator I was onto something.
After Monday I felt a short story was the perfect way to ‘warm up’ for the day and embarked on my second, Kathy Lette’s Hate At First Sight and William McInnes’ Life in a Hotel.
While three days is hardly enough time to ascertain if the committment will last – it has given me a window into how it might work. I’m confident of a few things about reading a short story a day:
- It is a great way to start the day
- It definitely has an easy fit slot into my writing day – simple to start, easy to finish – completed in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea.
- It is getting me reading stories I would have missed or have been meaning to and never got around to.
- It is getting me reading authors I would never normally come into contact with.
- It is giving me a better feel for the form and structure of work which is published.
- It has me wearing all my hats at once; reader, writer and editor in a way where they can all hang out together as equals.
- It has me thinking and writing criticially about what I am reading.
- It is cementing my love of the the short story.
I’m going to continue on for the next 11 days and imagine it will be a seamless transition into the ‘officia’l story a day for a year on the 14th. Care to join me?
Image via One More Chapter.