Oh Dear. Another Learning Experience

When we started the Confabulator Cafe a year ago, I was the rebel. I was going to be the one writer posting from the nonfiction perspective. After all, I am a nonfiction writer, it’s been buttering my bread for many years. In fact, looking back at my posts, there’s even one in which I pretentiously declare that I am too serious a writer to do anything so plebian as to submit a story for publication. [0]

Yeah. Some days I need to just get over myself.

The appeal to blogging for the Cafe is that it would require me to stretch myself, to commit to a long series of voluntary deadlines, and just release stuff out in the Universe and see if it flies [1]. Develop, in public, as a writer. In Cafe editorial meetings we talk about expanding our readership to beyond ourselves and maybe our immediate families. I sit quietly and try to pretend that I’m not glad that our readership is modest; that deep down, the idea the future employers can Google me already freaks me out. I haven’t even told my own mother about the Cafe [2].

As far as developing as a writer, though, the most educational assignments have been the short stories. As I have stated repeatedly, fiction is not in my wheelhouse. Short form fiction, written within the stated limits of the Cafe, and posted online is so far out of my comfort zone that you can’t even see the soft, fluffy pillows and high-loft comforter and cats snoozing in front of the crackling fire from there. So safe. So dull.

I need to be out of my comfort zone. I need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into situations that befuddle and terrify me. Recently I wrote that the best gift you can give a writer is experience [3]. This is an experience I have needed.

Each story begins, “Hmm. An interesting idea. I’ll have to think about that one.” Then, as the deadline looms, there is despair [4], panic, head pounding on my desk, furious walks to burn off the nerves, a last-minute effort to put together something half-assed, and by the time I click on that pretty blue button labeled, “Schedule,” I’m so tired of the whole damn thing that I don’t care what anybody thinks about it.

The weird thing is, I’m getting better at this fiction stuff. This year’s Nanowrimo project was the best yet— not only do I not hate the characters or the story, I want to take it to the next level and actually rewrite the piece of crap zero draft into an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end. One that I would not be unwilling to show a friend. Or someday even a publisher.

[0] I won’t link to it; you can look it up if you like. I’m rather hoping you won’t go to the trouble.
[1] Some of it flies some of it attracts flies.
[2] She has been known, on occasion, to Google me.
[3] Not a book. Books are terrible gifts for writers. Books are to be read safely, lounging on soft, fluffy pillows, snuggled under a high-loft comforter, with a gaggle of cats purring in the background.
[4] Nothing! I got nothing!

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