I recently started writing short stories for a weekly short story contest hosted by Reedsy. The contest begins and ends every Friday.
I hadn’t written a short story for this past week. I’d tried almost every day, but I never got any idea that stuck. Reedsy gives you five prompts, but none of them seemed to be working for me.
Yesterday, at around one-thirty, I got an idea for a short story. The problem was I would have to complete it by nine at night.
I scrubbed everything off my to-do list and started writing.
Unfortunately, I ended up writing a couple of hundred words that were just me discovering what the hell the story was about. I groaned, realizing I still had to write the story.
“It’s fine,” I thought. “Just write it.”
So, I started writing the story, but some paragraphs in, I found the endless flaws in it, which I should’ve expected. I started figuring out the answers to my questions and got clear on exactly what had happened and what needed to happen.
It was around four that I was finally one-hundred percent clear on what my short story would be about.
But I didn’t think I could do it.
Just try and see what happens
I had five hours to write and edit a short story. I didn’t even know if that was possible for me.
“I can’t do this,” I told my sisters. “It’s not possible. Maybe writing it is, but editing too?” I groaned, disappointed that all I’d done was waste time.
The pity only lasted for a moment because I lifted my head from the bed and said, “Well, maybe I should just try and see what happens. Maybe I’ll finish.”
And I did.
I wrote and edited and ended up with 1,700 words — with forty minutes to spare. (I’d even worked out and showered before editing because that was a non-negotiable task.)
Don’t assume you can’t do something
People have a bad habit of assuming what they can and can’t do before they’ve even given themselves a chance to try.
You can’t assume you can’t.
If I would’ve continued my whining and didn’t try, then I wouldn’t have had the chance to prove myself wrong.
I wouldn’t have discovered what I was capable of.
Don’t stop yourself from writing because you assume you’ll never publish a book. Don’t stop yourself from pursuing your dream of being on Broadway because you believe you’ll never make it.
You have to try and see what happens and assume you can. There’s a chance you may fail, but there’s also a chance you’ll succeed.
It doesn’t make sense to limit yourself before you’ve tried.
That’s your fear talking.
You could win
I was afraid I would fail last night. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to write the short story — let alone edit it.
If you stop yourself from taking a risk, you spare yourself possible feelings of disappointment and failure. But that’s not the only thing you’re blocking.
You also block the potential feelings of fulfillment, success, joy, and pride.
If I hadn’t managed to finish that short story, I would’ve been disappointed. But at least I wouldn’t be filled with regret wondering what would’ve happened if I had just tried.
That’s what you want to avoid the most: regret
Regret hurts more than failure and disappointment ever will. You can bounce back from defeat, but you can’t go back in time to change your actions. Whatever chance you didn’t take is already gone.
You’re stronger than fear. You can do the things you assume you can’t. You’re more capable, intelligent, and stronger than you believe.
Even if you don’t know what’s going to happen, take a chance. You might end up surprised by the result, and that’s the best part.
It’s in these situations that you learn more about yourself
I didn’t think I could sit for a whole hour and a half (sorry, legs) and write. I didn’t know I was capable of such focus and getting lost in the zone like that.
When you go on the Reedsy page, you can see how many stories people have submitted. On Friday, they announced the new prompts, and by Saturday, there were already twenty or so submissions.
I was shocked. I remember asking myself how the hell those writers did that. I even remember thinking, “That’s impossible. I could never do that. It takes me the entire week to get mine done.”
But I did it, and now I know if I ever need to, I could probably do it again.
If I hadn’t tried something new, I never would’ve discovered what I could accomplish.
Stop fearing these situations. Dive in and see what you learn about your craft and yourself. You’ll end up surprised by what you can achieve.