It never fails.
Every time I encounter someone who asks, “How’s the writing going?”, my heart siezes and gets lodged in my throat.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being asked the question (despite my knee-jerk emotional reaction). It’s a sign of support. It’s a sign of care. Of interest.
But what leaps into my mind isn’t that incredible short story that I recently submitted to a contest. Or that article that took a lot of work, but was deeply satisfying to see in print. No, the only things that come to mind are the broken stories that never made it to the eyes of a reader, and the failed ambitions that make me want to crouch in a corner and whimper.
I see that romance novel I wrote that never made it to the shelves. That Young Adult fantasy novel that never made it to revision stages, even after an agent enthusiastically asked me to send her the full manuscript the moment it’s polished up. That new idea, the dark fairytale re-imagining that I was so excited about, I even told people about it as a way of accountability, forcing me to the finish line with supporting friends/family looking out for it.
When my cousin recently asked me The Question the other day, I found myself hanging my head and saying, “I don’t know, you know? Maybe novel writing isn’t my thing.”
I then wanted to kick myself. I wanted to tell him about the short story I wrote about a middle-aged man who met an Arabian princess on as subway train (Death Over Coffee), or about the post-apocalyptic novelette about a community of survivors learning just how important it is to rely on each other (Pretty Little Ponies).
I wanted him to read them.
And you know what? Maybe novel writing isn’t my thing. So what? Novels aren’t the Mark of a Writer. It isn’t the only way to tell a story.
Take Jason Reynolds, the extremely talented poet who writes raw and real stories exactly as he sees them. His novel “A Long Way Down” is a beautiful, quick read compared to the average young adult novel as thick as a brick.
Or what about Stephen King? Sure, he has novels to his name, but his short stories are the favorites among many of his fans.
In THIS VIDEO, Robert McCammon says this about writing short stories: “You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you’re telling a unique story that would never be told unless you tell it.”
I swear I’m not trying to compare myself to, or place myself in the same category as, big time authors. I’m not trying to justify my failures.
But I am pointing out what they did RIGHT.
They didn’t give up.
No matter the length, content, genre popularity, these guys just plain wrote what was in their head. They let the story just be what it is.
And it WORKED.
So that is how it should be. That is how it will be. That is what I’ll do.
I’ll write on.