Onion Starts

So much of life is about choosing. I’ve blogged about it before, talking about “saying yes” and “saying no.”

Down here in Central Texas, spring is nearly upon us. Now that I know I won’t have a fellowship, it’s time to plan both my garden and my writing for the rest of the year.

While I put my Michener application together and took the GRE, my novella revisions got pushed onto the back burner. Instead, I focused on shorter works and exercises. In November, I did my own personal National NovelWriting Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, writing a new story “start” nearly every day. The whole exercise was wonderfully fun, and I ended up with 27 story starts. Of those, there are about a dozen that I think I can turn into viable stories.

In January and February, I participated in a flash fiction contest with one of my writers’ groups. A couple stories from that are already in submission and I’ll be sending a couple more out next week.

Looking over what I’ve produced over the winter and thinking about what I want to accomplish this year, I can see that I have far too many open projects.

It’s time to hunker down and face the hard part. Choosing. While Heinlein famously said “finish what you start,” adhering too strictly to that rule doesn’t allow for the kind of writing exercises and noodling in my journal that are an important part of learning how to craft a story or build a character.

Still, choosing is hard! Even the most cursory writing exercises produces images that stick with me, or lines of dialogue that keep whispering in my ear. Reading them over, I can’t help but think,  with a little water and sunlight something could really grow from this start.

But time constrains us all, and I’ve come to understand that not every start has to be finished. As long as I’m being productive in terms of completed and submitted stories, then there are some things that I can set aside. In other words, as long as I continue to finish things, I don’t have to finish ALL the things.

But, once I commit to a story, I have to finish it, because choosing is hard but finishing is harder.

I finished the first draft of a story yesterday, and it wasn’t pretty. I mean I just limped across the finish line. It felt like I was writing garbage. I’m reading it over and revising it today, and while the last third is a bit of a morass, it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was when I was miserably wading through it. 

Things almost always get harder in the middle. Quitting one project to start something shiny and new is the trap to avoid. Each project comes with unanticipated demands, requiring me to stretch and learn in new ways. Choosing, and the commitment to finish, is where we grow.

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