The first time I heard of Story-a-Day, I thought, “That’s madness.” I also thought, “I can’t write short stories. I write novels.” I’m not a snob about novels. It’s weird when some people say that short stories are just stepping stones to novels or that they’re easier or some other nonsense. Short stories are an art form. They’re hard in their own way.
Seriously. Write what you want.
I have always wanted to write novels. Since I was kid and sat on the floor at Waldenbooks in the Winter Haven Mall or carried home a stack of books from the Winter Haven library, I have wanted to write. As a kid, I thought short stories were things grownups read in magazines. In school, I liked the short stories we read, but I loved getting lost in a novel for hours at a time.
I wrote a few short stories in college, but…I’m glad they’re lost.
These days, there are many short stories I love (All Summer in a Day, Uncle Vernon’s Lie, On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning), but I’m far from mastering the art of crafting a gem of a short story.
Maybe having done NaNoWriMo multiple times made me more susceptible to crazy writing challenges, but for some reason I signed up for Story-a-Day May, and now I’ve been back every year since. And a few of my Story-a-Day efforts have been published! (Here, here, here, here, and here.) But why do the challenge at all? If you want to write a story, write a story. Right?
Well, sure. And challenges don’t work for everyone. No one needs to justify why they don’t want to, can’t, or hate the idea of Story-a-Day May. The writing life has many paths. Pick the path that works for you.
But here is why it works for me.
NaNoWriMo and Story-a-Day have taught me something about myself. I like specific goals that end with a metaphorical pat on the head. I just do. Maybe a therapist could talk to me about that, but I don’t care. It works. I’ll take it.
“Write a story a day!”
“Look, I wrote a story!”
“Yay, you! Good job!”
I guess I’m still 8.
Obviously, this doesn’t meant the story is good. First, that’s what rewrites are for. But at least I have something to work on. Second, having the goal of just-get-it-written allows me to overcome the anxiety it-will-be-terrible. Without these contrived goals, I dither. I flail. Very little gets written.
These challenges have some structure, which I need, but not too much structure, which I hate. And they come with a community. Now, I have never been much of a joiner. Just ask my dad how I reacted to his efforts to make me a Brownie and then later a member of the Girls’ Club of America. But these challenges have the kind of community I enjoy. We’re together, but we’re doing our own thing. We cheer each other on and offer support, but we don’t tell each other what to do or how to be. And it has end dates. So, a little community but not too much community. Ideal for introverts!
Writing can, for some people, be hard and isolating. No matter what, you have to go off by yourself to write. You may be part of a community, but your story is in your head. You have to deal with it on your own. But it’s been good for me to know I’m not the only one doing this. Seeing others struggle (struggle and fail and struggle and succeed) is motivating. It keeps me going. It’s good.
A lot has to do with who is running the show, so to speak. Julie, who created Story-a-Day May, is an ideal leader for a writing challenge. She’s created a positive community, and she pushes you to do more than you think you can and yet supports you in whatever you manage to do. Now, even when some years have seemed too busy or stressed to take part in the Story-a-Day madness, I think, “But I want to hang out with Julie for a month!” So, I’m here. And next year, I’ll be back.
Thanks for reading!