Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?


Lately, my attention has been hijacked by the Editor Unleashed / Smashwords Flash Fiction 40 Contest. It’s a great contest with a simple premise: write a short story under 1000 words and post it in the Editor Unleashed Forum. Forum members will vote, the editors will make their choices, and the top 40 stories will be published in an e-book by Smashwords. Simple, right?

Well, not really.

Let me explain: This week, I posted my entry, “Mirror, Mirror.” I felt good about it and figured I had a strong chance of making it into the top 40. I’d been reading other entries in preparation for voting. My “no” list was miles long, my “yeses” and “maybes” tallied in the scraggly handfuls. Many of the stories were laden with fundamental errors. Starting the story in the wrong place, errors in syntax, weak or nonexistent character arcs, stilted dialogue, you name it.

During this first phase of reading, I’d describe my experience as enlightening and affirming. I was learning a lot about life with the slush pile. I felt positive about my work.

Lately, my feelings have shifted. I’ve been fortunate to read several truly exceptional entries. With each, I’ve seen my chances dwindle. I’ve been forced to look at my work honestly and I can see there’s need for growth.

I don’t know why exactly that bothers me. I already know I have lots to learn. I already know I’m the sort who makes progress through hard work rather than by possessing literary genius. And I know there are MANY non-geniuses who make six and seven figures as writers. They find their niche and they know how to work it.

But it still brings to mind many questions. Should I push myself as hard as I do? Am I being distracted by platform and market positioning? Where can I best fit into the publishing hierarchy? Am I doing a good job of balancing writing with my life? But the biggest question I don’t have an answer for: am I still having fun?

Big questions, and no easy answers. Seems to me there’s a fine line between getting somewhere and enjoying the journey. One little contest sure has given me a lot to think about.


... Paige said...

You have to remain, retain some happiness from the process of writing otherwise you will loose the will and want of it. the wheels will stop turning.
I'm sorta the type that if it is supposed to happen for me it will. I submit my work and try to grow my skills but I don't stress about it. I'm sure that is because I don't make my living writing.

There is also nothing wrong with striving to be better, wanting to be better, working hard at getting what it is you know you want.

Now you know that stress shortens a life span and how fun can that be? Can working hard and doing your best to be better be stressful or is it something you are willing to do because it is what you desire, have a passion for?

J.C. Towler said...

You know what's the good news? Those stories you so admired: their authors are looking at your contribution and having the exact same doubts as you have mentioned here.


Stephen said...

What you write is true, Greta. Reading the submissions has been a learning experience, as well as a humbling one. Both are good experiences to have, as they serve to make us better writers.

I've been having the same type of questions roll around in my brain lately. How does my writing stack up? Will I ever find the right touch in telling a story? And the one thing I'm learning is that no writer can ever hope to achieve success with all readers. There are those who like Evanovich; there are others who don't. The thing you need to take away from this season of learning and growth is that your readership will continue to develop as your writing does, and one day you will have a large audience who will proudly proclaim, "I'm a Greta Igl reader."

I already count myself as one of those.

Keep up the good work, and keep the faith.

Greta said...

Who could ever stay down for long with friends like you to cheer me on? Thanks, guys. You're terrific :)

Jodi MacArthur said...

I just read your entry and all I can say is WOW and you have NOTHING to worry about.

I was reading down the list and yours just stands out like a icy Popsicle on a hot (hot hot Texas) day.

There is nothing like reading that kind of talent.

Linda said...

Greta, yes. Everything you say - yes. And everything everyone above me says - yes.

You know I am a fan. Big time.

I hope we journey through the joys and insecurities of writing forever. Peace, Linda