Peak Time

I’ve lately started participating in more writing challenges and events as a way to draw in more traffic, invite more feedback, and meet other great writers from around the web. I’ve submitted a few short stories that have attracted a fair bit of praise, and that’s led me to grapple with a feeling that I’m sure all writers have faced.

What if this is it? What if I’ve already done my best work? Maybe that little horror story or that funny poem is the very height of my storytelling abilities. Anything I do from here on out will just be a sad attempt to match that. Any attempt to better that might just leave me out of my depth, revealing to the world that I’m not a good writer, but just some dude tapping away on his computer, hitting all the right keystrokes occasionally.

Damn, that was melodramatic. Okay, so it won’t be quite so bad. I’m sure there are people who’ll like my future endeavors just fine. But the problem is, you see, I’m an overthinker. So whenever I write a story, I constantly question if it’s good enough. There’s a lot of my work that I’m not entirely satisfied with. But there are certain gems in my collection, stories that I’m proud of for one reason or another. I just hope they’re not the only ones to look back on in the future.

Praise is also a double-edged sword for me. I love it when people enjoy my work, or it speaks to them on some level. It’s a real confidence booster. But….I also feel pressured to deliver on that level again. My next work has to be at least as good, though ideally better, than the last. It makes me second guess myself and can hamper my writing process, letting doubts creep in over a piece that might be fine as it is, and forcing unnecessary changes upon it.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been a major issue so far. I haven’t completely butchered a story to please some unseen critic. I’m just hoping that as I wade deeper into the waters of writing challenges and critique groups, I’ll be able to keep my head afloat.

Stagnation

It’s not easy being a neurotic blogger. Or just neurotic, generally. But when you add in a social platform, things just get worse.

I started blogging as a sort of writing exercise. A way to practice doing what I enjoyed, and to tell a few fun stories that I had in mind. I wasn’t sure if mine voice was a voice that people wanted to hear, though I hoped that would be the case. Things were slow in the beginning, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Would it be better just to shut it all down? Scribble my thoughts in a journal that nobody would ever read?

But then, things started to pick up. I started my blog over from scratch, and created a second blog dedicated solely to fiction. And people were reading! It was amazing to see my view and like count rising day by day. I was picking up new followers by the handful. Maybe I’d made the right choice after all. Blogging life was good.

Then over the past week or so, there was a downturn. My stats took a pretty sharp dive and don’t seem to have recovered from it. What happened? I have a partial answer to that question. The rush of new likes was too addictive. I forced myself to publish something every day, even when I couldn’t think of anything to write. I’d try and cobble a story together and send it off into the world, hoping it would survive. That seemed to work for a while. But I think I overtapped my creative well.

Surely that’s not all of it, though? Have my recent stories been that dull? I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating something even when I didn’t have a solid concept in mind, and the process of forming a little tale out of thin air. I’m actually quite proud of the ones that come out of nothing. But few seem to agree of late. I’m not entirely sure if this is a temporary slump or if I’ve taken a wrong turn with my blog. I have no idea how to get things back on track. What if this is the future of my blog? Part of me knows that’s a ridiculous idea, but currently, a bigger part of me is freaking out.

I’m not as concerned about this blog because it is, ultimately, about my personal ramblings. Some people will appreciate them, others will shrug and go on with their day. As long as I’m reaching out to someone out there, it’s all good. But my fiction blog is my baby. I want it to be seen, I want the stories to be liked and to be discussed. There was just one major fear holding me back from publishing it in the first place: What if my writing isn’t good enough? About two weeks ago, that fear seemed laughable. Now, I’m not so sure.

I guess all I can do is keep writing.

In Brief

I’ll keep this short.

That’s usually what I say to myself when I sit down to compose a blog post. Something in the region of 300 to 400 words. Nothing more than that, unless I’m talking about a really major or personal topic. And yet, when I start typing, my fingers develop a mind of their own.

Paragraphs later, I find myself staring at a 900 word behemoth, looking not so much to lure in the reader as smother them with verbosity. There are certain topics, such as my fitness history, that were only meant to cover one or two posts, but turned into mini sagas. I just like including details when I tell a story. Small details. Unnecessary details. To me, they help set the scene, to build up the world.

It’s especially difficult to be economical with words when talking about my history. Perhaps because I haven’t discussed my past in so much detail before. I’m not much of a conversationalist, and when telling a story, I always feel like I’m droning and that the other person is fighting to stay interested (or feign interest, as the case may be). Writing seems like a better outlet for discussing my past because my readers don’t have to deal with my boring voice, so I can pile on the descriptions without any inhibition.

The end result weaves together a richly colored tapestry (I hope), but what should have been a wall hanging ends up a mural. Take this post, for example. I had wanted to write a 100 word post on brevity, and how it’s something I intend to practice in my future writings. Yet here I sit, almost 300 words in, refusing to give up the keyboard.

It’s probably best to wrap up now before things get too unwieldy, and focus instead on my next post.

I’ll keep it short.