And, as seems inevitable, Monday has rolled around once more. It’s amazing how time just keeps on keeping on, isn’t it? I hope you enjoyed your weekend, and that you managed to spend at least some of it doing something you enjoy. As well as seeing my best friend this past weekend, I also managed to fit in two long walks in the cool, clear Spring weather we’ve been having lately, and I ate some lovely food. So, life is good.
One of the (many) things I have on my mind this morning is the elasticity of the brain, and the suppleness of the imagination. I’ve realised this over the course of the last week. Those of you with eagle eyes will notice that this time period coincides (more or less) with my recent focus on the short story form. The changes I’ve seen in my thought processes are quite astounding, and they’ve given me hope that my aged brain isn’t beyond learning something new just yet.
I’ve always been a long-form writer. I always thought in terms of novels, or perhaps novellas. I’ve talked before on this blog about how I found it difficult, even when in school and university, to bring written work in under the required wordcount. For whatever reason, I never really thought of myself as a person who was able to write short stories, and so I never really tried to do it. There have been a few attempts at writing stories, somewhere around the 2 or 3,000 word mark, down through the years (one about post-natal depression, another about an abused woman who begs a vampire to ‘turn’ her so she’ll be powerful enough to take revenge on the man who brutalised her, among others), but I always found myself lacking in this area. So, I’ve surprised myself lately by really falling in love with the flash fiction form. I’m almost bemused by my desire to create a story which can fit into such a tiny space, and it’s the complete opposite of how I normally think and write. My brain’s a-changing, and it’s a good thing.
On Saturday, during the course of my walk, an entire short story popped into my mind. The setup, the characters, the family, the situation, the conclusion, the dramatic arc, the whole lot. I saw it play out in front of me like it was a short film. I’ve been letting it brew ever since, but – with any luck – I’ll get it down on paper today. The most amazing thing about this, though, is that it appeared fully formed in my head as a short story. There was no question in my mind that it should be written in no more than 500 words (so, really it will probably end up being a flash fiction piece). It felt different from my usual story-seeds, ones which bloom gently into my mind and might reveal a character, or a family name, or a pivotal event, or an emotional showdown, all of which will clearly seem like part of a longer story. This was an idea which made no apology for being short. It was no coquettish thought, flirting with my neurons and promising to give me more details if I’d spend several thousand words on it. Instead, it arrived like a boisterous guest at a dinner party – the type that makes straight for the drinks cabinet with a mind to livening up the place. I liked it immediately.
As I walked, examining this little story-gem from all angles, I realised ‘I can do this. I can change the way my brain works, and how it thinks and comes up with ideas. A little bit of practice is all it takes.’ It was quite the realisation. It made me understand that, sometimes, the only thing standing between a person and their ability to do something is themselves. I knew this already, in a sort of abstract sense, but it’s only when you find yourself in a situation where it becomes tangible that you really understand the truth of it. I had myself boxed off as being one particular sort of writer, and I never even allowed myself to try any other way of working; now, when I give it a go, I find I’m enjoying the freedom found in newness. I’m not the best short story writer or flash fiction writer in the world, and I know that. But I’m getting cautiously positive feedback (amid the rejections) from some of the work I’ve been sending out lately, and that’s enough. That’s good enough for me. This positivity, coupled with the fact that I’m really enjoying my experiments with these new forms, means that things are looking up on this sunny Monday morning.
I really hope you’re having a positive start to the week, and that you’ll look for the newness, and the excitement, in whatever your life presents to you today. If things seem tough, maybe stretch your brain to think about things in a different way. It might relish the challenge, and end up surprising you.