I really love to write, but I often get into a rut — one that lasts for months and sometimes even longer. What happens is that I get an idea for a novel and I have some idea of how I want it to work out and then I sit in front of the keyboard, white screen staring me in the face. I really want to start the novel but I am not sure how to start it so I just keep staring at the screen until I decide to do something completely different and then move on to something else. This staring procedure happens again and again until I give up on the novel entirely. I then get another idea for a novel and the problem starts up again — this is why I have only managed to write exactly one book in this lifetime but I have ideas for many more.
I have recently made a wonderful discovery and it is this — when I am faced with the void of the blank screen, one of the best cures is actually to take a story idea and write a short story. There are many ways to write short stories but at the end of the day you actually accomplish something and sometimes in the process I have found that I get genuine inspirations for my novels which I am able to use later and get past that initial blank screen.
Part of the fun of writing a short story is that you know before you even start that your story will not go on and on but have a fairly brief beginning, middle, and end. Every month, for example, I write a ten sentence story for the 10txt blog, where I write stories that are exactly ten sentences long — not nine sentences, not eleven, but exactly ten. In January I wrote a story about a gentleman who is stuck in a high school mentality which I then followed with a story in February about the same gentleman who is fed up with styrofoam cups.
When I thought of writing the first story it was based on people I knew that were just like this and it baffled me so much I felt that I had to get it out. The second story featured the same character again — I hope to keep him around this year. Depending on the story I either write it in a strictly linear manner or begin at some point — middle, even the end — and work my way around it until I have a full story.
I would like to challenge you, dear reader, to put a blank slate in front of yourself and write a short story. Pour your heart into that story and when you are finished, share it with us here. Will it lead to a novel? Perhaps. Even if it does not, you know that you made something special with your time and did not waste your evening with silly games.