I personally believe that the short story is one of the most, if not the most infuriating forms of Literature. Unlike the novel, the short story ends up being read as though is simply bloomed onto a page, as oppose to being carefully written. The short story is a glimpse, or as Joyce suggested, they are ‘epiphanies’. However, although the short story has none of the ostentation that the novel has, a successful one will still have to have as much of the power. It is infuriating to write because the writer has to consider what is left out with the same scrutiny as what is put in. The story has to consist of little tremors rather than volcanic eruptions; delicacy has to be at the forefront.
I question whether short story writers are a different breed of artist to the novelist? I mean, they produce a different kind of art and they use different tools. However, I cannot help but wonder, regardless of this, surely all writers share at least one point of reference; they are all watchers. Writers gaze upon the world and the human condition and have the gift of the ability to turn their relentless stare into a story, or an epiphany.
I have always been of the opinion that as a writer one should not wait or even consciously search for inspiration. I believe that a writer who always has their mind and eyes open, whilst never taking a day off from writing (even if it is garbage) will create the inspiration they seek.If the imagination that they depend on is always clear, open, and watered everyday, then there is always the room and the chance for a story to seed and bloom every time they write. A quote from Dan Poynter explains this view ideally, “If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter”. Hence why I ensure that I write every single day! Don’t get me wrong, half the time (or more) the writing is not great. However, it’s okay. Writing is a craft, and just like the artist the more practice the higher the standard of art.
I would like to share some of my favourite quotes by writers about writing:
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly” – C.J. Cherryh
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that” – Stephen King
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit” – Richard Bach
“Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.” – Ray Bradbury
For any fellow short story writers reading this who also ponder why it is sometimes so difficult to perfect the art of the ‘glimpse’. The only advice I feel is worthy to offer is to read and write every day. Even if you are having a lackluster day, never ever stop because you never know what you might one day return back to. What you may consider to be garbage now, could be inspiration down the line.