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  • Writer's pictureKate O'Connor

Let's get serious...

I've been thinking a lot lately about getting stuck into some short story writing again. Obviously my muse has deserted me as far as the novel goes for the moment (or is that just an excuse?). So perhaps focusing on short stories for a time would help me to flex my literary muscles, while having the added bonus of adding to my portfolio and giving me something to submit to competitions and online publishers.

The problem is that I am notoriously impatient. Submitting online for competitions or publishing is a great move and basically mandatory for anyone who wants to write seriously. But it's the turnaround time that I struggle with. Weeks? Months? How am I supposed to wait? What if they don't like it? Surely if it was good, they'd call me immediately and gush over my talent, right? Am I allowed to submit the same story elsewhere in the meantime? Where are the rules? Can someone get me some juice? I need an adult!

Ooh, they're playing a Harry Styles song on the telly. "You're so golden!" Love you, Harry!

Oops. That's another issue. My attention span. I know they make pills for that, but I'd rather learn to reign myself in without pharmaceutical aid. Except that learning is taking an awful long time, and in the meantime I'm ageing at a rate of knots and before I know it (17 years I realised last night at 1:17am!) I'll be 50 and over the hill and it'll be too late for all my dreams. I know it's never supposed to be too late for dreams, but some of mine are decidedly age-dependent. I won't share them. Yet, anyway.

Short stories. I really should put some more time and energy into them. Lately, when I haven't been able to sleep at night, or I've been listening to music and it's taken me off on a trip somewhere inside my brain and it takes a while to get back, I've had a few seemingly great ideas for short stories that might really be something. Maybe I'm afraid that when I start writing them, they'll take on a mind of their own and turn into novels and then I'll end up with even more half-finished works and still nothing to put out into the world. Nonetheless, the more I write the more I flex those muscles and hone my craft so it's something I can't avoid if I want to find out whether I really do have any kind of talent.

At the end of the day, I think that's my true problem. The crux of the issue. I've been saying for years that I love to write and I want to be a writer. I tell everyone I'm working on a novel. I have this website and my Facebook page. Basically, I'm pretending I'm already the real deal. Fake it 'til you make it, right? But what if I don't? What if I spend all this time and energy on writing a novel or two, sending them out into the world, and they never get picked up? Or what if I self-publish, and no one likes them? What if I can never make a living from writing and live the life I dream of? Which is mostly drinking coffee on the edge of a beautiful lake somewhere with a typewriter in front of me and a stack of paper and nowhere I need to be.

That good old fear of failure. I hate it. Because, regardless of everything else, it makes damn sure that I'll never find out the answers to my questions of whether I'm any good, if I could make it in the writer's world. Stephen King always mentions that he had over 60 rejections before he got his first publication. But he'd also been submitting since he was 12 years old. I'm way, way behind. Does that make me a bad writer already? Should I have been following this dream for years? Has my hesitation sentenced me to failure before I begin? I don't even know of 60 different places to submit my work to! I know that's only a matter of research, but it's daunting nonetheless.

Sigh. I'm completely ignoring Rule One. Write with the damn door closed. I should be writing just because I need to tell the story. Everything else should come afterwards. I need to be less focused on what happens once the story is finished, and direct all my energy into telling the tales the best that I can.

God damn anxiety. I do have the pills for that.

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