Tag Archives: stories

Flash! Friday – ‘Unforeseen’

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.  Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, promotional still from 1936.
Public domain photo, sourced at flashfriday.wordpress.com

Unforeseen

It’s there, in my mind, like a weed. This was too easy.

She’s never left the cage unlocked before. Not even for her cigarette breaks, or to eat – though she doesn’t eat much, now. But this morning she rose from her desk, mid-sentence, a ribbon of smoke rising from her ashtray, and left the room.

My cage stood open.

I ran, of course. Who wouldn’t? It’s not that she mistreats me, but captivity is a torment. I’m a free spirit. I’m –

Oh, Zeus. She’s coming! It’s been so long since I was loose that I can’t remember where I am, or where to go. I must hide! But she keeps me in rags, barefoot, and anyway I may not leave this dwelling. Separated from her, I will die. Is that irony? I should know.

Every writer needs a Muse, and I am hers, soul-bound. She doesn’t need to cage me, but she can’t trust me to stay.

I reach a dead end. I turn, desperate, but she is behind me.

There you are,’ she croons. ‘Enjoy your run? Had to get your blood up, somehow. You’ve really been underperforming lately.’ Her smile is a sudden blade.

Ah, me. My fatal flaw? Plot twists have long been my undoing.

***

So – yay! This piece of flash fiction has taken me *hours* to complete, but hey. I finished it. It’s mine! I did it! It’s been so long since I entered any sort of flash fiction competition that I half-expected never to complete a piece again, so I’m glad I proved myself wrong. My old brain cells aren’t firing on full power, as is clear from the Titanic struggle this story caused within me, but heck. A challenge ain’t a challenge if it ain’t hard, right?

So. You’re going to head on over to Flash! Friday and throw your name in the ring, right? You’re not going to leave me hanging? Good friends don’t do that sort of thing. Go on. Go on. Go on, go on, go on, you will, you will, go on…

Small Imaginations Hold the Most

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite stories was by Astrid Lindgren, and it was called ‘Nils Karlsson, the Elf.’

Image: gimmesumhunny.wordpress.com - also on this blog, there is a full transcript of the story, which pleased me hugely. I hadn't read it in a long, long time before this morning.

Image: gimmesumhunny.wordpress.com – also on this blog, there is a full transcript of the story, which pleased me hugely. I hadn’t read it in a long, long time before this morning.

It tells the story of a lonely little boy named Bertil, left alone each day while his parents go out to work. Beneath his bed is a nail, which – when he touches it and says a magic word – makes him small enough to play with a tiny elf named Nils Karlsson who happens to live in his bedroom. So, the story tells us, Bertil was lonely and afraid no more when his parents left him alone, because now he had a friend to keep him company, and the whole world looked new and different when he was no bigger than a thumb.

I loved that story then, and I love it now. I love it because it makes me realise how much a child’s imagination can hold – how many worlds, how many characters, how much magic. I loved it particularly because Bertil can grow big again when he’s finished playing, and so he has his parents on one hand, and the magical world of Nils Karlsson on the other. That, to me, was the perfect story.

This past weekend, my husband and I visited one of his oldest friends, a man whom my husband has known since they were both about four years old. This is particularly wonderful because my husband’s friend now has a daughter who has just turned four, as well as a little son who is just over eighteen months old. It was amazing to see my husband and his friend fall into the speech patterns and comfortable-ness of their shared youth while his wife and I played with the children – and by played, I do mean played. The four-year-old has an imagination the size of eternity.

During the few hours we spent together, this little girl, her brother, her Mummy and me took a plane journey across another galaxy in order to find a beach in China where we could swim with all our clothes on. We had a safety belt to hold us in our seats (which, when not moonlighting as airline security equipment, is a skipping rope); we had one ‘crash helmet’ (which was a witch’s hat left over from Halloween) which we had to share between us; we suffered alien attacks, volcanic eruptions, inter-stellar fuel difficulties and a severe make-believe coffee shortage until, finally, we arrived at our magic beach.

It was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.

I was amazed to hear the constant patter of chat from this tiny girl, all the time making up more and more elaborate tales, constructing story world after story world, taking changes and twists into account. Everything became magical – her scooter became a rocket, her parents’ bedroom a mighty sea. Her own bedroom was a magical cave. She read to me from her books, and told me better stories than the ones written on the page.

And then, like Bertil from my favourite story, when she wanted to return to her ‘own’ world it was a simple matter of refocusing her gaze. Her magic rocket became her scooter again, and her house stopped being an inter-galactic cruise ship just long enough for her to reassure herself that her Mummy and Daddy were still there, or for her to get some juice or finish her dinner. Then, when she wanted it to, her beautiful imaginary world clicked back into place and it was all systems go once more.

I think there’s something very profound in that little lesson.

It also made me wonder whether my own imagination, old and dessicated as it has become, is big enough and flexible enough to hold all the worlds that children can imagine so effortlessly, and so fluidly. I can but try.

Image: omtimes.com

Image: omtimes.com

(Note: my husband drew my attention to this article, a blog in Scientific American, about the value of pretend play to a child’s development. It’s very interesting, and rather relevant to my own little post. So, check it out if you like!)

A Little (Short) Friday Fiction

Some of you may know that, most Fridays, I take part in a flash fiction competition over on Flash! Friday; I’m not sure whether the stories I write there have actually been read by anyone but me, and my lovely fellow competitors. So, because it’s Friday, I thought I’d share some of my work in a blog post.

All of these stories are my own original work, and they first appeared on the Flash! Friday blog; the ones I’ve selected are some of my own favourites. The image that accompanies each story is the ‘prompt image’ supplied by the Flash! Friday crew, out of which the story was born.

I hope you enjoy them!

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

Image: vi.wikipedia.org

 

Inspection Day

By the time word of the Demonstration reached the Workshop, the Inspectors were already on their way. There was so little time, and so much to be done, and everyone knew what that meant.

‘Grigor must be recalled.’ It began as a whisper, from throats both flesh and iron.

‘The Collective has need,’ went the grey recitation, up and down the corridors of the Workshop, reflecting off the dull metal surfaces, absorbing into the grease. The words of the summons soaked into the threads of every bolt, and flowed like ichor through the pipes. ‘We are the Collective. Bring us Grigor.’ Every hiss of steam called for him, the hero-Worker.

Eventually, the call reached the Infirmary.

‘They ask for you,’ murmured the nurse at Grigor’s bedside. A machine hummed, removing the oil and filth from his body, making him fit to work once more. The nurse kept an eye on its readings, observed its pressure as though it was an Engine. Grigor’s eyes remained closed. He’d known, of course, that he was needed. He’d known from the first.

‘Will you go?’ The question was gentle, but Grigor said nothing. The nurse’s fingers flicked, adjusted, monitored, maintained; she saw the increase in his pulse, and realised she had been answered.

Without a word, she unhooked him from the equipment, and left him alone.

He returned to the Workers’ Mess carried shoulder-high, the Engines hooting and hissing their approval, and the Foremen allowed themselves a smile. Nobody mentioned the Breakdown, and nobody could find the words to ask him how he felt. Grigor was silent, and they were glad.

The following day, the Inspectors arrived.

They were welcomed with banners and the clanging of wrenches on pipes; they were applauded as they strode toward the Engines.

‘Productivity,’ said the Inspectors, ignoring the tumult. They were focused. ‘Commodity. Output.’

The Foremen gazed upon their inscrutable faces as Grigor stepped out of the crowd.

‘You are the Collective?’ they asked him. Grigor made no answer besides to pick up his wrench and settle his grip on its worn-smooth handle.

As he bent to his task, he remembered the pain, and the dark exhaustion. He remembered how it had felt to break and fail. He closed his eyes and took the strain.

The bolt was loosed before anyone could stop him.

Nobody stood a chance when the explosion came.

 Image: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.comImage: clayscowboychronicles.blogspot.com

Standoff

‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.  Image: newrepublic.com

Dust storm, Texas, 1935.
Image: newrepublic.com

Stormbringer

Most nights, I’d dream about the cloud. Hard not to – I mean, it hung on the horizon, day and night, fair weather or foul, like the frown of heaven. Those mornings when I woke up feeling like I’d eaten my pillow, I could be pretty sure it’d been in my head all through the night, trickling in through my ears, through my pores. Settling inside me with every breath.

When I was a kid I used to think it was like a thick black blanket over the Old World, keeping everyone beneath it warm and safe. I’d say this to Ma as she tucked me in at night, and sometimes she’d give me a tight little smile, and sometimes not.

Nobody lives in the Old World now. How could they? No air to breathe, no light to see. It’s just us, over here. Far enough away to be safe, Ma said; close enough to be scared, is what she meant.

Some days it boiled, the cloud, like it was stirring to move. Others, it just sat there, placid, looking well fed and sleek. Sometimes it rolled like the sea, stirred by an unfelt wind.

‘What is it, Ma?’ I used to ask, staring out our tightly sealed windows, across the miles of barren land that separated us from it. ‘What’s it made of?’

‘Hush, now,’ she’d say, dragging me away with her poker fingers. ‘Don’t ask questions.’

There’d been lots of theories down through the years. ‘The will o’ God,’ some said; ‘the work of Ol’ Nick,’ said more. ‘The gover’ment,’ muttered others, ignoring the shushing noises from all around.

I woke one morning with my mind full up. Houses emerging from murky, inky darkness; people inside like husks, sucked dry. The cloud retreating, drawing up its roots and pulling free. A roaring noise, an angry howling. Rocks and twigs and bones flying, whirling. Blackened skin, sunken eyes, yellowed teeth gritted in a final, pointless battle against an enemy that couldn’t be fought.

I blinked the dream away and ran to find Ma, to tell her the cloud was coming, but she already knew.

 

Stories and Tellers

As I write, I am sitting in my parents’ living room, working from my mother’s laptop computer (upon which I will lay the blame for any typos, being as I’m unused to the keyboard, and all); I owe this pleasure to my husband, who suggested we take a trip to my hometown to celebrate the fact that he’s on leave from work for a few days. So, we made the trip, and here we are. It’s only a flying visit, but it’s been wonderful. I haven’t been home in ages, and I’ve really missed it.

However, coming home, as well as being a fantastic chance to catch up with my family, has also taught me a very useful lesson. Sit back, get comfortable, and I’ll tell you all about it.

On Saturday evening, my family and I spent some time in my local pub, whereupon a certain amount of alcohol was, I have to admit, imbibed; as well as this, though, something else happened – something which I believe is rather special, and important, and worthy of sharing. As well as the laughter, and the companionship, and the happiness, there was something which is connected to all these things, but also a separate wonder, all of itself – there was Storytelling.

Image: theabundantartist.com

Image: theabundantartist.com

Storytelling is an important part of Irish culture – we still value the storyteller and the act of storytelling in Ireland, something which has its roots in our earliest history – but from the point of view of my family, it has a hugely important personal significance. My parents have told my brother and I stories as long as we can remember – stories about their lives when they were young, long before we were born; stories about local ‘characters’ and people famed in our hometown for their abilities (or, sometimes, lack of ability) to do certain things, and stories from their own parents’ time, from far back into the history of our town and its foundation. My brother and I were raised on stories of my father’s friend Wilf, for instance, a man who took on heroic proportions in our eyes because of all the tales Dad spun about him, and we were regaled with sagas of the deeds of our grandfathers and other men of their generation, all of whom seemed to have immense intelligence and wit. This weekend was no different. We revisited some of the old favourites, and some new tales were added to the treasury, particularly those told in memory of a few friends who have recently passed away; they may not be with us any more, but their stories and their memory will live on. As I listened to the tale-telling, however, something struck me – something so important, it’s amazing that it never really occurred to me before.

I love to write – it’s what I want to do, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. My brother is similar to me in many ways, especially in his love for words. Sometimes, I’ve wondered why this is – why my brother and I are so similar, on such a profound level, despite the fact that we’ve chosen to do different things with our lives. Writing, and reading, and tale-telling, are among our favourite things, and something which we both treasure. Listening to my father telling tales on Saturday, and keeping me as rapt as ever, despite the fact that I’ve heard most of them before, made me finally realise something.

My parents are storytellers. They may not be writers, but they are tellers and creators and repositories of stories, local history, cultural history and family history. My brother and I have been raised with these stories, we’ve been fed them and nourished on them all our lives. It’s no wonder, really, that we both want to create stories, and we both love words and the power they possess. We’ve learned it all our lives.

The stories my parents tell are more than just a way to pass the time; they’re a way to bond, to create links between people, to unite communities, to store memories, and to honour those who’ve passed from our sight. They’re the most important thing we have. Most of my favourite family recollections from my childhood involve storytelling of some sort, whether my parents or grandparents or our family friends were the ones doing the regaling; all my parents have to do is mention a favourite story, and we’re all primed to listen, not only to a treasured tale but to all the layers of memory, all the happy recollections of all the times that story has already been told and enjoyed. I’ve had this wonderful trove of story all my life, and I never fully appreciated it until this weekend.

My parents gave my brother and I the best gift anyone could give. They gave us the history of our family in a series of stories, memories crystallised into tales we can treasure and keep safe to pass on to a new generation, and – as if that wasn’t enough – a love of sharing and telling and creating stories that both of us have used to enrich our lives in ways our parents probably couldn’t have imagined. If ever a parent wondered whether it was ‘worthwhile’ to spend time making up silly or funny stories with their child, or whether it was a good thing to encourage imagination by telling tales, or whether encouraging a child to enjoy language and the feeling of accomplishment gifted by the creation and retention of a treasured story was something to be aimed for, then I hope this post will answer those questions for them.

Yes. Yes, it is. Yes, it certainly is.

Happy Monday. Happy new week. Go and create some stories, and make sure to tell them, and retell them, and turn them into treasures.

The Dry Season

Friday greetings, my people.

I hope everyone is well, and looking forward to the weekend, and remembering to always keep focusing on the good stuff. Not an easy thing to do in today’s world, especially if you make a habit of watching the news, but we’ve got to do our best.

Words of wisdom, Hannah... Image: healthandphysicaleducation.wordpress.com

Words of wisdom, Hannah…
Image: healthandphysicaleducation.wordpress.com

Anyway.

This morning, my most recent story was published. If you click here, you’ll be able to read it. It’s called ‘ShipShipShip’, and I’m very proud of it, and if you take the time to have a look, I hope you like it.

As well as being my most recent piece, though, ‘ShipShipShip’ also marks a sort of story-boundary for me; it’s like a roadside inn on the rocky mountain path that has been my writing career to date. It’s a little uncomfortable to admit, but it’s the truth, so here we go: I don’t have anything else, in terms of upcoming publications, in the pipeline at the moment. That’s not because I haven’t been writing, or sending work away, or anything like that; I’ve submitted plenty of stories over the past few months, but I’ve had a lot of work rejected. That’s absolutely fine – it’s par for the course, and completely normal, and something for which I prepared myself many months back. Those of you who have been following me for a while (thank you, by the way) will, perhaps, remember me gearing myself up to be knocked back, over and over and over again, right here on the blog. I’m dealing with it, and it’s surprisingly okay.

But now I’m in a position where I’ve pretty much exhausted my submission opportunities, and there’s a yawning gap of nothing between now and the end of June, when my next major deadline starts to kick up. That’s a frightening feeling, in a way. I’m looking into the next few weeks and all I’m seeing is a dry riverbed, with the odd tumbleweed drifting on through, and I don’t like it.

I’m trying (as I am wont, though I don’t always succeed) to see the positive in this – I have a lot to focus on at the moment, and so going through a fallow period where I have time to regroup and make some plans for the future may not, in truth, be the worst that could happen. But, having said that, it’s an amazing thing to have a story published, and it’s a little disheartening to know I won’t have that experience again for a long while. I love the feeling of receiving that elusive ‘yes’ from someone to whom you’ve entrusted your work, looking forward to seeing it appear, and finally (if you’re me) proudly adding a new link to your ‘Writing’ page.

It is, of course, also a little scary: ‘What if people hate it? What if I offend someone? What if this is the absolute worst piece of writing that anyone has ever read?’ So far, though, I’ve managed not to enrage anyone or cause an international incident, which is a relief.

Image: blog.propertyhawk.co.uk

Image: blog.propertyhawk.co.uk

So, where to from here? Well, I’m always on the lookout for more places to submit work. I do have a few on the far horizon, and if I’m lucky I’ll unearth a few more. I have some short stories that have been bubbling away for the past few weeks; they’re eager to find a home, so I’ll be revisiting those and polishing them up, straightening their collars and wiping their sticky little faces, and hoping for the best.

Oh, and yes. There’s also the small matter of the fact that it’s now time, finally, to start contacting agents. I am, I hasten to assure you, all over it.

So, like I said. I have plenty with which to be occupying my mind. Perhaps the distraction – a pleasant one, but a distraction nonetheless – of having stories published is something I can do without over these next few weeks; to everything there is a season, after all. I’m in a preparation phase, a planting phase, and I’m hoping for a strong rainy season a few weeks down the line.

Happy Friday, happy weekend, see you tomorrow for a review of Emma Pass’ fantastic novel ‘ACID’, and until then, take care.

Word-Babies

So, I got the news the other day that another story of mine has managed to find a home in an online literary magazine. I was, of course, gladdened at the news.

There may even have been a bit of this kind of thing going on:

Wahoo! Image: catherinepowen.com

Wahoo!
Image: catherinepowen.com

Strangely, though, this time around, getting the good news felt even more satisfying than ‘normal’ (it still feels strange to think of my life as a place where I know how it feels to be published – so bear with me!) It was as if I wasn’t just pleased that a story of mine was being published, but also that this particular story was being given a chance to go out into the world and (hopefully) be read. All the stories I’ve written mean something to me, of course, and I only submit the ones I really liked to write and which I feel have some merit as a readable piece, but this one… well. This one’s special.

The story is, I think, even more a part of me than any of the others. It has a basis in medieval romance, it features some of my favourite legendary characters – revivified and made my own, of course – and it allowed me, when writing it, not only to express myself through language but also to display some of what is closest to my heart. I think this story is far more than just 1500 words of text which I have written and drafted and redrafted and formed into something that holds water as a story; it’s me, in textual form. Writing it was instinctual, almost obvious – as soon as I got the spark of the idea behind this story, the words lined up obediently in my mind, waiting their turn to settle onto the page. Of course, I then had to hone and redraft and re-read and redraft some more, but essentially the story has stayed the same. Writing this story truly was one of those magical moments you read about, when you feel like all you’re doing is taking dictation from somewhere ‘else’, and the words are coming to you from a very deep place.

I know, for sure, that not all my story writing experiences will be this profound. That’s why this one stands out so much, and was so memorable.

At the same time, I wonder if it’s a bad thing to be so emotionally attached to a piece of work. If, for instance, this story had not met with editorial favour, and had been rejected out of hand, and had been scornfully thrown back in my face (not that this sort of thing really happens – everyone I’ve had a rejection from has been very nice, even apologetic, about it!), would it have been an emotional disaster for me? Would I have felt, even more keenly than usual, that it was me, and not my story, which was being rejected?

Writing is, of course, a very emotional and personal business. Everything you write, to a greater or lesser extent, is a manifestation of who you are. The story may not be based on your life – in fact, sometimes, it’s better to avoid autobiography at all costs! – but the writing of it, the images you choose, the settings, the time periods, the connections between your characters, the relationship dynamics, and so much more, all reveal a little about you, how you think, how you feel, and how you see the world. In that sense, then, all stories are ‘word-babies’ – precious, treasured and rare. But is it healthier to see them strictly as pieces of work, in the same way that a block-layer would view a wall he’s just built or an architect a building she’s designed? You do your work to the best of your ability, until you’re proud to stand over it and call it yours; you submit it wherever it’s going; you leave it behind you and move on to the next project, clear-minded and full of enthusiasm. You don’t send everything out on submission with your heart in your mouth, terrified that it’ll be rejected, and that it won’t find a home anywhere, and that people will think you’re ridiculous for even having written it. If every writer worked like that, nobody would submit anything, and we’d all be in hospital with nervous exhaustion.

I just can't do it, Herbert! I can't have another haiku rejected! Image: criterion.com

I just can’t do it, Herbert! I can’t have another haiku rejected!
Image: criterion.com

So, I’m proud of all my stories, and all of them reflect an aspect of me, whether it’s a fear I have, or a dark imagining, or a childhood memory twisted into something that never was. All of them, I hope, also express something about the world – they have a larger comment to make on society or humanity or whatever it might be. This recently accepted story, though, my real and true ‘word-baby’, says more about me than it does about the world. It’s more my affectionate farewell to characters I’ve loved all my life than it is a larger cultural statement, and it’s probably closer to my heart than is healthy or advisable. I’m very glad it was accepted for publication, then, both from a health and a craft point of view; I hope, even if it had been rejected, though, that I’d have been able to pick myself up and start again with it. I hope I’ve learned enough, even at this stage on my writing journey, to know that a piece of work which means so much to me is worth fighting for.

What do you think? Should writing be about creating ‘work’, from which you can easily emotionally detach, or do you find that your writing is more a part of you, from which you hate to be parted? Or a bit of both, or neither? Do tell.

On Being Brave

For some reason, several people in recent weeks have taken the time to tell me how brave they think I am. I presume this means they think I’m brave for putting my dreams on the line and for following the impulse to write, or perhaps for entering competitions and submitting pieces of work for publication.

I don’t feel brave, though. Not at all. I feel like the biggest quivering chicken in the history of the world. Surely, if I was brave, I’d feel more like I was channelling Queen Boudicca instead, taking on the might of the Romans with little besides a bow and some facepaint. Isn’t that how it works?

It’s hard to feel brave when you have to force yourself to check your email in case there’s a note of rejection in there. It’s hard to realise a piece you’ve written is really not very good – and it’s especially hard to realise this after you’ve submitted it. Some of the stories I’ve entered into competition over the past while have been catalogues of rookie mistakes, and I’m learning the wisdom of the saying ‘measure twice and cut once’ – or maybe, in this case, ‘read twice before submitting’! I don’t feel brave because I’ve started this process; I simply feel like an amoeba in a very big pond, realising just how much I have to learn.

This is me. Hello!Image: resilience.org

This is me. Hello!
Image: resilience.org

I feel like what I’m doing at the moment is an apprenticeship, something everyone who wants to write has to go through eventually. I’ve done things in the past which I’ve needed bravery for, sure – giving lectures in front of hundreds of people, for instance. Taking an oral examination. Going up in front of a funding board made up of six senior male professors, and arguing for the validity of the research I was doing at the time. I still can’t quite believe I’ve done all these things, because even the memory of having done them makes me quake in my boots. All those things made me sick with fear before I did them, and I felt like I’d accomplished something when I’d managed to get through them.

Submitting stories for publication feels more like a compulsion, though – and, like any compulsion, it can sometimes be impossible to resist. I feel like I have to submit something I’ve written, perhaps before it’s ready, because the urge to do it is overwhelming. It’s only afterwards when I realise ‘perhaps that piece could have done with a bit more maturation time.’ But it’s too late, at that point, to retract it. It’s almost like my enthusiasm gets the better of me and a certain recklessness gets into my blood. So, off the story goes. Submit in haste, repent in leisure!

This isn’t to say that the pieces I’ve submitted haven’t been my best effort at the time. I feel like there’s something of value in everything I’ve entered into competition, and I’ve done my best. But it’s the same with everything; after the fact, you wonder if you could have done better, and what you should have changed to make the piece stronger. But if you followed that logic to its extreme, you’d never submit anything. You’d spend the rest of your life tweaking your first piece of writing until it’s beyond recognition, and nobody else would ever read it. The process of writing and submitting and being rejected is a terrible crucible, but it’s absolutely necessary. I know I have to go through this process of learning in order that something I submit, somewhere, someday, might meet with approval.

So, I don’t feel like it’s brave, as such, to send things away for other eyes to read. It’s horrible and I don’t like to do it – but I don’t think it’s the same thing as being brave. However, there’s a certain amount of facing your fears involved in living through the days afterward, when you’re waiting to hear the results. You may never hear how you got on, of course. There are a lot of voices clamouring for attention, and I know it will take a long time before my words will warrant any recognition. The process is somewhat analogous to shouting into a hurricane – your small contribution is swirled up into the whole and becomes lost. But the value of it still lives inside you. You know that you tried, and did your best, and over time the process gets easier (hopefully, at least.) In my case, it’s even true to say that every submission makes me feel a little better about myself – at least, until the doubts start to creep in. But I don’t think doing what you have to do is brave, really. This is a process I have to go through, and I’m just doing what I must. It does make you feel vulnerable, and it’s not entirely pleasant. But, given the choice between doing what I’m doing and trying to live any other life, I’d happily choose what I’m doing.

I do appreciate being considered brave, though. I try to remember it every time I’m faced with the prospect of entering another contest, or laying my work out in front of someone else like a merchant laying out her wares. I remember it every time I have to check my email, or every time I wonder ‘should I enter something into this contest?’

Maybe that’s what being brave is all about, though – taking a chance on something even though you’re not sure what the outcome will be, and hoping for the best. In that case, every one of us is brave.

I'll never be as brave as this lady, though. Let's hope it's never up to me to stop the onslaught of a tyrannical Empire...Image: listverse.com

I’ll never be as brave as this lady, though. Let’s hope it’s never up to me to stop the onslaught of a tyrannical Empire…
Image: listverse.com