Apparently there is a magic story length that exists and when I write a story of that magic length, I get a fabulous “finished story” feeling afterward.
I do not get this feeling with shorter short stories. But I do get it after writing longer/longish short stories or very long novels. Not sure that 3000 words really cuts it, but 5000 and up does, for some reason.
July 2015 was a terrible month for me, for various reasons. I have chronicled the difficulties of the month and how I still managed to crawl out on the other side with nearly 8000 words of stories in a blog post for The Wordwraiths, so I will spare you the details here. All you have to know for right now is that I was about to give up multiple times throughout July … and not just on the current story I was trying to finish with a self-set deadline of July 31st, 2015, but on writing altogether as a whole.
However, I did not give up. On either. Although many times I was tempted to at least allow myself a bit more leniency due to the extenuating circumstances, I just kept thinking of something that was said in the book Write. Publish. Repeat. And that was that you should set deadlines for yourself, which I do. But it also said that the deadlines you set for yourself should not be as firm as wet tissue paper.
Meaning, take them seriously. Don’t just blow through them because YOU set them for YOURSELF. Treat them like real, outside deadlines, and don’t blow them off.
So I didn’t. I took my own deadline seriously, which I’m usually very, very bad at. It was a little easier this time because I had my whole writing group on the same deadline with me, and I saw a lot of them struggling against the looming date as well. And they were doing it. So I determined to do it, too.
And I did it. I finished the short story at 5600-ish words on July 31st 2015. And I was very happy about it. It made me feel, once again, like, “Hey, I can do this thing, no matter what happens in the rest of life.”
And then I got that “finished story” feeling. I LOVE this feeling. I don’t get it often, because it either takes me a VERY long time to finish novels, or because the stories I finish in between the novels are too short to illicit any kind of emotional response. But, when it happens, I try to relish it, and just enjoy it for a few days.
Since I want to write as a career, I am never finished writing. There is always always always always something else waiting to be written. But a story has an end, and on the rare occasions when I devote a significant chunk of time and effort toward writing one, and it’s finally complete, a very serene contentedness comes over me. Even if the story itself isn’t very good. Even though it always needs extensive edits and a lot more work before it’s shown to the world. But none of that matters right after I write THE END.
All that matters is that the first draft, the hardest part (for me) is done. I have something COMPLETE. I have PROOF of HAVING WRITTEN. It is extremely satisfying. It generates a kind of happiness I don’t quite get in doing any other type of work. It’s as if, for a glorious few days, I can see the world so much more clearly. I can be in my life in the moment, in the now, because all the story-stuff leaves me alone for just a little bit.
I can do house chores without feeling guilty that I’m not writing instead. I can play with my son without fretting in the back of my mind about how I’m also going to fit in my daily word count. I can do my day job without the constant nagging anxiety of “I’d rather be writing”. It’s such a nice break. Such a relief. I usually allow myself a few days off at this point, to fully enjoy this reprieve.
Today is the third day of this break, and I can feel it now beginning to turn into motivation and inspiration for resuming work on the other two projects-currently-in-progress. I will likely pick back up into actively writing again either later today or tomorrow at the latest. Yep, vacation’s over. Time to get back to work.
But while I had a head unmuddled by story and deadlines and word counts, I thought I’d take a second to come document this feeling of clarity and calm.
I can’t wait to experience it again …