I’ve been put to shame. Last weekend, I had the privilege of judging entries in flash fiction for the the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The program, almost a hundred years in existence, solicits and awards the efforts of young writers and artists in seventh through twelfth grades. Some notables who were recognized throughout the program’s history are:
- Truman Capote (1932)
- Andy Warhol (ca. 1945)
- Sylvia Plath (1947)
- And even Robert Redford (1954) and Zac Posen (1998)
While a range of student writing abilities were observed, I was blown away by many of the entries. These young people demonstrated an incredible talent for building a compelling story within the constraints of flash fiction. Their skill and creativity assures me a number of them will provide me with reading companions in a not too distant future.
Why am I ashamed? Well, they most certainly devoted a significant amount of time to writing in order to produce the fine work that they did. I do not.
I am reminded everywhere that if I want to write, I have to devote the time to writing. Stephen King’s On Writing bluntly tells me that if I don’t give the time – then don’t write; among many good tips I’m given in my critique groups, from Bob M. among others, I’m nagged about not making the time for writing; and every little webinar or article I read chastises me for my lack of commitment to the time needed to build this craft. I’m amazed at how I can ignore all of that and fall back on my well stocked hoard of excuses.
After all, I have spent most of my adult life making those excuses
1) When I was raising kids on my own and working full-time: “I want to write but when am I supposed to find the time?”
2) When my kids were older and I was working full-time: “I write all the time, scenarios for my students’ science investigations, education journal articles,… Just when am I going to get time for creative writing for me?”
3) My kids are raised, I’m retired working part-time: “I want to write but I have this big house that’s a mess. When am I supposed to have time to write?
Well, let’s see:
JK Rowling and Mary Higgins Clark
2) Think :
Ayn Rand – a tour guide and movie extra among other things;
F. Scott Fitzgerald – wrote slogans for trolley car placards and fixed roofs of train cars
J.D. Salinger – failed at being an apprentice in a Polish slaughter house (so he could go into the family business). He came back to America and worked as an activities director on a Caribbean cruise line.
3) Really? Take a look around – I still see a big mess.
Recently, on-line, I read an article by Joseph Finder*, a prolific writer and author of The Fine Art of Feedback. The title of the article? Just Write the Damned Book Already.
“Okay, Joseph, I hear ya’,” Judy said hopefully.“
(Sorry, Mr. King, about the adverb. But I did say “said” instead of “acquiesced”. Can I get points for that?)