Challenges

I feel very insecure about writing fiction. I wrote a short piece (I think it was less than ten pages) for an Intro to Creative Writing class last spring, and while I wasn’t particular amazed by my work, my professor seemed pleased.

Now, I’m trying my hand again. For my honors class, we have been assigned to take a work of art (painting, book, poetry, music, etc.) and translate it into another medium. A few weeks ago, when I was brainstorming about what to do, I thought about doing a series of paintings based off of a written work, just to try something new. Then I remembered that I really had no experience painting, so I gave up on that idea. I decided to translate a photograph into a work of fiction. A local photographer had presented some of his work in another class of mine, and I was really drawn to one photo in particular. I got his permission and a copy of the photo to use as my inspiration.

I’m about ten and a half pages in to my story, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I worry that my characters are flat, my plot is dragging, and my overall work is thoroughly boring. Also, probably at least two of those pages are disconnected scenes that I’ve yet to fit into the larger story.

I’ve always been more drawn to writing poetry or flash fiction; I like the brevity, and the low-commitment. The whole reason I wanted to write a longer piece for this project is because I want to get some practice and experience in a form I don’t usually use. The final draft needs to be at least fifteen pages long, and it’s due in less than three weeks.

I’m afraid of utter failure. I’m afraid I’ll do an injustice to the photograph, and I’m afraid I’ll turn in a piece that I’m not proud of.

I think it’s clear: fiction frightens me.

It’s odd; I wonder why it’s so difficult to write good fiction? I’ve certainly read a lot of good fiction, as well as some bad. I know when I like something (e.g. Harry Potter) and when I think it’s a disaster (e.g. Twilight). So why can’t I get it right on my own?

I know, I know. It takes practice, and time, and trial and error. I’ve tried brainstorming exercises and reviewing Janet Burroway’s “Elements of Craft”, but that only seems to help to an extent. At some point, you’ve just got to sit down and write, for better or for worse. My goal is to have a complete draft done by this weekend, so I can spend the rest of my time revising and revising and revising until something passable (hopefully) comes out of it.

Honestly, this story should be the least of my worries right now. I’ve got a thesis to plan and classes to register for and group projects to keep up with. Not to mention my back-logged algebra homework. Maybe the reason this is bothering me is because it’s a creative pursuit, and not an academic paper (the kind of writing I’m most used to doing, and pretty good at). And if I can’t come up with something good when I’m trying to be creative, what does that say about me? Am I a bad writer? Am I not as creative as I’ve always wanted to be, and hoped that I am?

Funny how something as (seemingly) simple as writing a short story can bring my self-esteem and pre-conceived notions about who I am crashing down.

I’m being dramatic. I’ll get over it. The story will get written, and will be what it will be. It does not define me.

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