Saturday, December 04, 2010

Short Stories, or Out of the Past


David Brin (see yesterday’s entry) calls writing magic. Boy, do I believe that. A writer, he says, creates a reality that the reader inhabits. He even used the example of ‘pointing the bone’ that I wrote about in my Nov 20 entry (I Can’t Believe My Own Eyes) on this very blog, to illustrate how powerful imagination is.

Ever notice how ideas get into the ether and suddenly everyone has the same thought at once? Is it like a virus, spread by physical contact but no one knows where it first began? Or is there a more mystical source? I’m sure it’s something infinitely more prosaic than Muses or an Oversoul, but what the heck, I like that idea better than the thought that it’s a mental epidemic.

Much to my bemusement, there has been a lot going around in the writerly world about short stories lately. I’m bemused because a couple of weeks ago I decided that I could use a switch-up in my writing life and thought I’d try doing some short stories again. I say ‘again’ because for many years, short stories and poems were all I wrote. Then when I began writing novels in the ‘eighties and ‘nineties, I quit writing shorter pieces altogether. When I sat down recently to write my first short story in about ten years, I discovered that my short-form muscles need building up. If you don’t practice the instrument for a decade, you’re in danger of forgetting how to play. Fortunately, there seems to be some sort of muscle memory going on, and it came back to me pretty quickly.

Having tapped into that long-buried well after all this time seems to have dredged up the serendipity genie, too. Last week I dug into the chest at the end of my bed, looking for something unrelated to writing, when I came across a box containing scores of short stories that I wrote over forty years ago. I had completely forgotten they existed. It took me several days to re-read them all. Many were unfinished. Most were pleasant little diversions. Some were embarrassing. A few were surprisingly good. But what impressed me the most about all these stories is that I never tried to get any of them published. I had written every one of them for the sheer joy of it, with no thought of monetary reward. Then again, when I remember what was going on in my life during the sixties, maybe I was creating my own alternate reality to inhabit.

2 comments:

peter_may said...

Strange, Donis... I recently found some "freeform" writing that I had done on my eighteenth birthday (don't ask how long ago that was). Not short stories as such, but the teenage mind struggling to find expression in words to explain in an abstract way all those hormonal growing pains. Not sure I succeeded, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone else to read the stuff. But all part of the learning process.

Donis Casey said...

I wonder if there is some odd star configuration going on. Perhaps if Jupiter aligns with Venus in the third house then pieces of the past come to light.