An idea has settled over me and I can’t shake it off. If you’re a writer, you’ll be familiar with the signs: the queasy excitement, drifting focus, the sense of impending doom. The curse is come upon me, cried the Lady of Shalott. A story looms.
I keep asking whether I have to write it. Will it fuck off and leave me alone, or will it be there every morning at 4 a.m., watching me sleep, waiting to pounce as soon as I open my eyes. Can I pare it down to nothing, write it and be done? Or will it morph and get out of control and take over my life. I’m thinking of the last story I tried to write, for which I sacrificed morning after morning, week after week after month, only to come away with a sheaf of nonsensical garbage and the story in full flight. I’m still bitter about that, and disappointed with myself. I like to finish things.
For this reason and many others, I’d much rather write something short. But the problem for me, which dates back to my days as a photographer, is that I have not been able to master the snapshot. I don’t really understand the structure of short fiction. I don’t know how to frame it, where to crop the edges, how to pluck a moment from the continuum and situate it on the page. Yet I realize, on writing this, that I haven’t actually studied the matter. All my focus has been on novels, and shorter work like flash fiction and poetry has only been for play. So I think what I’ll do, before succumbing to the lure of this particular story, is try to round up some resources and do a little homework. I found this book and this one, and of course I have plenty of story collections already on my bookshelf for inspiration. Maybe I can learn.
And if nothing else, I will have given the story a chance to bugger off and find someone else to annoy.