I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the new year. Though resolutions are cliche and sometimes problematic, they can also provide a needed course correction, a multimedia cue that it’s time to regroup and gather your wits, make sure you’re headed where you mean to go. This optimistic momentum fades over time, and resolutions rarely succeed, but imperfect efforts can still be valuable. We don’t have to improve our lives like the hero in a rom-com, via soulmate and epiphany. We can meander in the general direction of better-than-now and take it as a win.
So what do I want to do with the year? I’m in a pretty good place right now. Safe in my job, safe at home. I’ve got plenty of things to worry about, always, but there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to worry; a little goes a long way. There are no major hurdles to navigate, only a boot to apply now and then, a romance to feed. Some health-related stuff I need to stay on top of. But nothing that needs a focused effort.
I’m free then to consider what I’d like to do creatively. I have a novel marinating on my hard drive. It’s a good story, as played out in my head, but it wants to be either far longer or far shorter than the scale I imagined at the start. I’m not sure which. I’ve been interested lately in flash fiction, which are extra-short stories, a thousand words at most, designed to leave you with the impression of an iceberg under the surface, a story outside the story which can only be inferred. A writer I follow has talked about writing a novella in flash, by which he means a collection of related flash fiction that follows an overarching theme or plot. His stories are linked by a common item, a stolen car which appears throughout. Brilliant, right? Did I mention the car is stolen?
I love thinking about form. I love people who are creative in this way, who push and pull at our ideas of what a story should be. What writing itself should be, and on what terms we allow it into our lives. This is where I repeatedly lose direction, and fall into the trap of assuming I’m a novelist. I’m not. I’m a writer. It’s a distinction worth considering, because it makes such a difference to the kind of life you’ll build with writing at its creative center. To share a novel is to publish, to set out on the long and complex journey of drafting, editing, reorganizing, proofing, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, then trying to shop the thing around or see to its publication yourself while footing all the costs. You understand on embarkation that this is going to take some time. Some precious resources. You may have to drain your reserves in order to get it done.
I’m just not into it. I’m into writing. I like this space, which feels very anything-goes to me just now. I could publish flash fiction right here, as easily as I’m writing this post. I could read my work aloud. I could compile these journal entries after some time and print a single copy for posterity. There’s no damn money in writing anyway, so why not reimagine the end result in terms that will satisfy me. Me, personally. What does a beautiful, finished bit of writing look like in its final iteration? To me, in my mind’s eye. How do I want to share it?
And how can I avoid derailing myself when I do?