No one likes to admit she failed, but in failure there always sleeps a lesson waiting to be aroused. I set out to post every day for the month of June based on one writing prompt or another. I wanted to write twenty minutes a day--a story, poem, or essay--and post it here. But as John Lennon said so well--life is what happens while you're making other plans.

What lesson was asleep in this recent failed challenge of mine? Of course, the lesson is when you commit to something you need to follow through, but we all know that. And it is significant to the writer because you can't publish if you don't write. But there is another lesson that perhaps slept a little more deeply. The lesson, or question, of finding time to write so I can follow through on my commitments. I did find twenty minutes a day to write--exactly where I'd left them each morning.

I've been a writer of "morning pages" a la Julia Cameron's suggestion in her book "The Artist's Way" for many years. Taking out my spiral notebook and filling three pages of curlicued blue letters and words is as much a habit as brushing my teeth, washing my face and eating oatmeal. Over and over in those pages I have complained about not having time to write my novel, or start a new short story, or work on my memoir. I complained about other things too. And I wrote many pages about what my goals were, what genre I wanted to focus on, where I was going with my writing--was it for publication or just for fun? But this morning I took that sleeping lesson and woke her up.

Instead of three pages of rambling thoughts and complaints, I started a new short story to submit at the end of this week in my online flash fiction class. In twenty minutes I had four and a half pages of the story written. And this is flash ficiton, so that means a first draft is just about finished.

How did I complain all those years about not having time to write when all those mornings I was writing--just the wrong things. Twenty minutes every morning can create a first draft flash story every day. It can be three to four pages more of the novel. Or it can be the opening of a new personal essay. How stupid could I have been all those years? Using my writing time to complain about not having time to write. That alone should make me ashamed.

But I am exposing that fault right here on my writing blog to prove--to my readers and to myself--that with a little flash of thought I can solve this dilemma. I am challenging myself, yes again, to start a new flash story every morning from a prompt or an idea and to complete and revise that story at night. If this works it could become as much a habit as morning pages were. And at the end of the week instead of pages and pages of whining and moaning I will have at least 7 first drafts of stories to polish and send out to journals.

I'm off on a new challenge! Wish me luck!


  1. I've discovered that in life sometimes what we view as a "failure" was actually just a detour that leads into a new and better direction. I'm glad your "failure" led you to find a way around your time constraints so you can get back to your challenge because I've been enjoying your stories. :-)

  2. "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill

    Good luck on your new challenge!

  3. Hi Renee - thank you for sharing this and I can relate.

    I spent many years hiding behind my children, mostly my son the youngest claiming that he was such a handful, I never had time to be 'inspired'. Now that he's 21, I look back now and think of all the years wasted and think "man I could have already published not just two books, but a dozen!"

    But we can only change things moving forward, so you start ANEW today :-)

    Take care!


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