This month I started a writing challenge; write a short story every week. It’s part of a Ray Bradbury inspired challenge, which starts with his advice to read a short story, a poem, and an essay every night. He mentions this should be done for 1000 nights so you’ll be so “full of stuff”. In other places Bradbury talks about writing a short story every week, since it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.
Reading a short story is easy. There’s a backlog of digital magazines on my Kindle to work through (Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Asimov’s), as well as online publications like Strange Horizons. And my collection of short story, uh, collections. Being a huge fan of short stories puts me a little ahead on this one. The hardest part is figuring out what genre and which author to read that night; currently I’m working through Cat Rambo’s amazing Near + Far, a digital book that I really want to own in hard copy. It’s some of the best short speculative fiction I’ve read in a long time.
Poetry is harder. I’m defaulting this month back to my favorite living poet, Koon Woon. I ‘ve gone back to his The Truth in Rented Rooms since I first picked it up over 20 years ago. “Song of the Village (In Water Buffalo Time)” draws me in so much I have to stop from just reading that over and over. So the issue here is I need to branch out more, but I don’t have the depth of a collection like I do for short fiction. It’s taking me more to the Internet to research, a dangerous thing when you just want to not waste time.
For essays I’ve included longform posts from sites like The Correspondent. I know that’s against Bradbury’s idea, but again, essays are in not usually in my collection, so I’m still stretching my arms here. Last year I read through Slouching Towards Bethlehem and fell in love with Joan Didion’s style, but it’s too early for just a readthrough of that again. I’ve been diving into magazine articles again, histories of racing from Car & Driver, upcoming advances in Scientific American, that sort of thing.
And where I’ve fallen off nearly completely is the writing. My kids (twins, now 3) had a birthday this month that rocked my schedule, there’s no avoiding changes in the world of COVID-19 now, and general “emergency! Wait, nevermind” panics at work conspired with my waning energy levels to make it so easy to avoid writing.
I mean, I still wrote, and it was magical, and I always feel better after writing, but it was a slog to get to the desk some days. In the end I’ve gotten 2.5 stories done. I’ll finish the .5 today, but 3 stories in 5 weeks isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
But! Can’t focus on that. Three stories is three more than I had on July 1st. August is a new month, a fresh start, and I’m ready to dive in.