THE LITERARY SHORT STORY
Sitting on a wooden bench, surrounded by blooming flowers and the scents of blue bells, moist earth, and some sort of exotic mint, I spotted this doorway. Two rows of trees whose branches arched together to frame the entry to a garden bracketed by a red brick walkway and leading to a fountain that sprayed cool crystal water into the warm sunlit air. I sat mesmerized and understood at once that this was the doorway to my new world.
On the brink of retirement, only 5 weeks away, I have been struggling to make some creative decisions about what my new life will be like. Where will my creative focus be? Will it even be focused, or will I continue to bounce from one art form to another? I feel as though I must make this decision before my first day of retirement on July 1 so I can jump right into whatever it is I am meant to do. Will it be novel writing? Making mixed media art and scrapbooks? Writing poetry? Writing short stories? Do I abandon the novel or just dive into it anew on my first day of freedom?
These last few weeks of work have given me more stress than the past ten years as an Assistant Principal. How can I demand of myself that I make a reliable decision under this pressure? Yet I seriously wish to have made my choice by July 1.
Then, as if by sublime spiritual intervention, it fell into place.
Dividing my writing passions with my interest in art is simple enough--writing is the work while art is the hobby that I can turn to for a break in the writing. Poetry is a clear choice. It's what I've always written and read, it's what I love, and I will never give it up.
It's the decision between novels and short stories that seems to provide the biggest dilemma. But as I said, like that spray of clear water from the fountain, it seems to be delightfully raining down on me like a soft and soothing shower.
Last night I began to read Michelle Richmond's book "No One You Know." I knew it would be good as I've read her other novels and thoroughly enjoyed the stories and her writing which delves deep into the lives and thoughts of her characters. And it came to me. When I am writing my novel I've been trying to mold it into the style of commercial fiction. But that is not my voice. As a poet, my prose--personal essays and short stories--have always leaned toward a literary, poetic voice. That is the voice of Richmond's books and it snapped some loose pieces together in my brain. All along I have been fighting my voice.
This morning I got up and the opening of my story came to me in my literary voice and after writing it down I realized what I was doing wrong all this time. I am sure I will write in my own authentic literary voice from now on. I believe this novel can take on the form of a short story if I refine and hone it, cut and trim its essence, and write a short story from the heart and guts of it.
With a clear understanding of who I am as a writer--a poet and short story writer--I can confidently step through this branched doorway and enter the sunlight of a writing career path that fits me.
It will be difficult to wade through the next five weeks until I am free to finally follow my path. But I will make it and step bravely into my new life, my new world, where the scents of spring, summer, and pen on paper will guide me and comfort me.