Anytime I think of writing a journal entry I can’t think of anything specific to write which undermines, in my mind, the point of writing. If you have no ideas, then what is there to write about? Anything else is just faking it and feels so pointless. But that is the wrong way to look at it. What I need to do is put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Damn the torpedoes, I don’t actually need something to say to go on about it. And really, the point of a journal isn’t to write something amazing each day, it’s to write something each day. To have daily writing established as a habit. Maybe I’ll ramble. Maybe I’ll draft interesting articles and plan my future. Maybe I’ll drool on myself. In any case, I’ll still be writing.
Right now I’m in a write stories mood, but as per usual that interest doesn’t translate into any actual writing. I don’t know what story to work on in any moment, and any I consider just seem too big for that moment. Like many, I dream of writing some epic novel, but I need to focus on just writing. Ray Bradbury's advice is to write a short story a week. After one year you’ll have 52 stories. It’s impossible for them all to suck. And suck or not, along the way you’ll have written tons of stories. You’ll have the writing habit, you’ll have that writing experience.
I, of course, don’t have enough story ideas to write one a week, but creativity is a muscle. Good ideas aren’t something to be saved for that perfect moment. Let them loose. The more you set free, the more your mind will think up. I’ve learned this again recently with Twitter. I marvel at some accounts and how witty they can be, but I also notice the more I post, the more I reply, the more things I think up. I have exercised that muscle, and little by little it gets stronger.
I do have several stories that I like enough to be full books, so “demoting” them to short stories always seemed so wrong. J.K. Rowling didn’t come out and wow the world with a collection of short stories. She came out with Harry Potter. And who doesn’t want to be one of those authors who seem to appear out of nowhere with a book that sells millions—never mind all this authors who first spent decades writing short stories—and captures the imagination of the world. Ahh to dream. But it’s silly to seriously consider coming out of nowhere with one first real writing and have it magically become a smashing success. It’s silly to imagine writing something so good that it should even be a smashing success if you don’t have any real experience with writing.
I used to write poems in verse. Songless song lyrics I called them. I wrote them because they were short, and I could commit to finishing one without having to sign the next 6 months of my life away. Small bites; chew thoroughly before swallowing. I should do that with stories. And never mind choosing which should be a short stories and which should be ‘saved’ for a novel. All should be written as short stories. If some turn out really well, there’s nothing stopping me from expanding on them or rewriting later—and I’ll have a good foundation to build upon in the “rough draft” of the short story. If some don’t pan out, I still will have gained the practice and experience in writing them.
Basically, in quantity vs quality, I always chose quality, so essentially I waited around for some magic lightening bolt to hit me and I would suddenly spew forth greatness. So I put off quantity. All of it. Zero quantity has zero quality. Last year I learned that “talent” in drawing is less some inherent gift given at birth and more the marriage of technique and practice. I have no inherent talent to draw, but learned I could draw things I never would have dreamed of being able to before. It needs to be the same with writing—something I do have at least some in inherent gift for. I can build on that if I just do it. Quantity is my weak spot. If I take care of that, quality will take care of itself.
I had no expectations for this entry when I started. I had no ideas of what to write about, just a rare urge to “oh what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.” I am happy with how it has turned out, both in composition and purpose: I was able to put ideas down without rambling too much and in the process I organized old thoughts, conjured up new ones, and gave myself more clarity here at the end than I had at the beginning.
And that should be the point in writing these entries.