Write a story every day, part 11: The Set-Up

To help you write a short story every day, decide on a physical set-up and use it to your advantage. I keep a dedicated notebook for my short stories, and I write all of them by hand, in sequence. From the onset I gave myself a rule: to finish my short stories at the bottom of a page. I might write one, two, three, or four pages—the number of pages isn’t important—but the story can’t finish in the middle of a page. Any one page I start writing on, I must finish. I’m on my sixth notebook right now. Each notebook has had different dimensions, so my short stories have varied in length from about 300 to about 900 words.

To some degree, to restrain your creativity can actually make you more creative. It was T.S. Eliot who said that writing free verse (that is, without a metric structure and without rhyme) is like playing tennis with the net down. It’s not much of a game; in fact, it’s pointless and boring. Put up the net, follow the rules of the game—then you have a challenge, obstacles to overcome, the potential for success and failure, the flow of adrenaline… My modest finish-the-page rule makes for a slightly harder game, more challenging. And my creativity responds! “I’m up to it. Restrain me, and I’ll expand against your restrictions.”

Could you write your daily short story at the computer? Sure. Could you vary the length at will? Sure. Could you skip a day? Sure. The only thing is, there are risks and dangers in every situation without exception. Your creativity might interpret “the right to skip a day” to mean “the right to skip, period!” One day becomes three becomes ten becomes eternity. But, hey! You’re boss! To live is to make choices and to own the consequences of the choices you make. Choose to write every day, or choose to write only when you feel like it; and live with the consequences. There are very successful writers who don’t write every day, and writers who write nonstop without achieving a thing. The task really isn’t to write every day, but to find your creative flow and fulfill your potential in whatever way best suits you… and this may or may not be writing every day.

Lesson #4: Do as you will. There are no recipes.

In my next post, I’ll bring this series to a close with a list of some of the secondary benefits of writing a short story every day.