I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.
About craft. About writing. About finding my element (thanks, Dr. Robinson — your book has really opened doors).
And, after all this consideration, there’s a few things I’ve noticed.
There’s a lot of pressure in the publishing world. A lot. There’s pressure to sell, there’s pressure to be a ‘NYT Bestseller,’ there’s pressure to write literary, there’s pressure to write “the in thing.”
And most of all, from my side of the pond, there’s a lot of pressure to write novels.
You see, people in the larger part of the publishing industry sneer at short stories. They say they don’t sell. They say “people don’t want to read that,” and maybe they’re right. I was almost completely turned off the medium by some of the “great literary” (ahem. DRECK) tales foisted upon me in high school. I’d certainly be turned off of them if I read the modern literary selections. (Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very, very good, but it takes a very special writer to pull it off. Many of them, however, aren’t.)
This notion, that to be a writer of any kind of worth you have to write a novel, is poisonous. It’s horrid. Writing, no matter the form is worth something. There shouldn’t be this insidious prejudice floating about.
But there is.
In the last two weeks, on the recommendations of a couple people, I’ve been trying to write a novel. And it’s been going really, really well. But, despite the fact that it’s been going really, really well, there’s a problem.
I’m bored. I feel listless and flat. My creative edge, my spark, feels smothered.
A writer should not be bored with their writing, but I am. A writer should not feel smothered. Listless. A more practical person would say “I’ll write the novel, because the novel will sell.” And it’s true. Novels sell.
But, I’ve always been the type of person to follow my heart in doing things rather than following practical advice. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes they don’t. And, I guess what I’m trying to say is,
I am a short story writer.
There’s no real use in denying it; it’s my love. I love poring over word-choice, I love the beauty of absolute brevity. I love the challenge of it. Reading a well-crafted short story completely makes my day, and I’m giddy and excited like I was on my first day of college. My favorite, best-loved books have been books of short stories.
A girl came up to me at work the other day and said, “Hey.” She looked at me out of the corner of her eye, a little shy. “You’re the short story writer, aren’t you?”
I said “yes, that’s me,” and she smiled.
I’d never been happier, and I felt this beautiful, sudden swell of pride for the moment.
I am a short story writer.
Maybe I’ll finish this novel. Maybe I won’t. At this point, I’m not sure.
But short stories…. There’s millions of them out there, countless ideas, endless situations to play with. Just thinking about it sets me on fire.
That’s who I am.
I can’t not be who I am.