As writers, we face two main challenges within our craft. Firstly, finding inspiration: where does the next great story idea come from? If you are anything like me, I spend an awful lot of time wondering when the well will dry up, versus actively feeding it. I’ve become better at increasing the supply of creative ideas, so that fear isn’t quite as strong.
A third challenge is the belief that writing should be a joyous activity. The delight of being a writer is that we get to play again as adults. Sometimes, of course, it is difficult to find the time to do so. There are endless tensions between the things that we ought to be producing, and those things we want to produce.
Working on projects for other people has been a challenge that I have had to overcome. I am not referring to my MA project in this, which has been and still is a delight. I just wish I had more time to dedicate to it whilst persevering with another project. It was during this time that I remembered tanka, the other form of Japanese poetry. Rather than haiku, which demands three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables respectively, the tanka adds an extra two lines of seven syllables. Much as I love haiku, the tanka is another beautiful way of creating a vignette. Within five lines, you can create a complete sketch.
Amidst the remains
I realized who I was
Simply not myself
Adrift, at sea, suffering
Lost in my own deep sorrow
by Casey Bottono
(Originally published in Lyrical Passion Poetry ezine)
For the time-crunched writer, short-form writing represents a kind of play that has been forgotten, or buried under the responsibilities of adulthood. Whether you’re writing stories or poems, such writing is a good way to keep the machine oiled so that when you finally return to the projects that ignite that spark, the magic can flow.
Writing is, after all, a form of magic. There is something about the written word which isn’t specific, but it is nonetheless a lure towards balance. The inability to find time or inspiration to write creates an imbalance within us which culminates in an intense fear of the blank page. Though we know it, though we know it intimately, and we know that we will fill it, the terror remains. Short-form writing is a way to disrupt that terror before it begins.
Short-form writing is both a beginning and a continuation. If you’ve never picked up a pen or tapped at a keyboard before for creative purposes, short form writing provides a useful jumping off point. For the experienced author, it is a kind of writerly First Aid kit, something to which we can return when necessary to replenish the well.
If you are struggling with a project or with motivation or some other aspect of the craft, I urge you to indulge in some form of short form writing. It greases the wheels, and might just get you going again.