I’ve written three complete novels, but ask me to write a short story or a poem and I freeze in fear.
Even my letters to friends (when we used to all write letters) were so long people called them novels. There is a comfort level for me in having the time to spin out the tale, slowly getting to know the characters. Besides, the few times I’ve gotten brave and wrote a short story, when I shared it with my writing group they all wanted it to be a novel…sigh.
What about the Haiku poems I write?
I first started writing Haiku when I was in high school, for an assignment. It intrigued me because it was to be based in nature…it could be something small and not easily noticed by others, or maybe a big thought put into few words. Being close to nature is a big part of who I am. So I found enough courage (and the need to finish my school assignment) to give it a try. Over the years I’ve continued writing them and have been told I’m getting pretty good at it. I enjoy it because I feel confident while writing them. And let’s face it. They’re quite short!
I do not feel confident attempting a long poem. So I’ve never tried it. I know I should write more short stories, but I procrastinate. Don’t we all hate that feeling of being a novice? Don’t get me wrong—I love learning new things. I just don’t like the feeling at the very beginning, when I have to admit I suck at what I’m attempting to do! I want to perfect it NOW. So, I’ve taken the easier route. I’ve stuck with my fictionalize characters and plots and places. I’m comfortable with them. I know them. Or do I?
Lately I’ve been forcing myself to peek into corners of my mind not yet thoroughly explored in my fictionalized world of novels. Books, like the one from Judy Reeves Wild Women, Wild Voices encourages me to dig deeper into my own memories. Make myself look under the bed and in the closet for those lurking monsters that I’ve been able to keep safely tucked away all these years. And she helps us find those glorious moments of pure joy we’ve encountered, so we can revive them and keep those treasures close to our hearts. She teaches us to find our voice and howl at the moon and dance under the stars. In other words, find our courage to be who we really are. There are other books as well, bird by bird by Anne Lamott, and The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. These authors all inspire us to keep at it, digging deeper and deeper. There’s a big reason why. I knew it in my heart, but I pushed it away. I was afraid.
Now I’ve had to admit to myself that only by looking deeper inside can I make my own fictionalized characters even more complex, more believable and more relatable to the reader. This is something I need to do, to better my craft. Which gives me the motivation to dare to move forward.
So—Yes, I’m going to try my hand at writing poems. Yes, I’m going to write more short stories. Will they suck at the beginning? Yeah. But I know from past experience that if I keep at it, they will improve, and who knows what I may discover about myself—and my writing? I’m not afraid any more.
*Note: since posting this in 2015 I’ve since had 10 haiku poems published in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry (issues Winter of 2016 and Spring of 2017), and a long poem featured in an online Avocet Weekly. And I’ve finished two short stories and have an idea for a graphic novel, all while I continue to write my full-length novels.
Will You Dare to Dig Deeper?
What books have helped you dig deeper as a writer?