“Write a story about the number thirteen. You have a few weeks.”
That’s all I was told by a woman on the other side of the world whom I’ve never met. No theme. No genre. No strict word count. Just... thirteen.
I was intrigued, and terrified. I’ve never written any fiction under deadline or on demand, and now I was going to have to do both if I accepted the challenge. I accepted.
I see Mike Wolfson’s blog post turned into an exercise in utter self-indulgence. I think it’s sad that writers insist on creating such pieces, becoming wholly convinced that everyone will be fascinated with their personal writing process. I shall follow his lead because I, too, am a writer.
My Possible Stories are invariably tales that begin their gestation as minor annoyances, just under the skin, that I scratch distractedly. Most of them are likely relieved at that point and are eternally forgotten before they ever reach anything close to cognition. Some are a little more persistent and continue to itch sporadically until I actually take note of them. At this point I’ll realize mere scratching is futile and they aren’t going to go away unless I concentrate on the area and dedicate some effort to removing the incessant bother. This proves effective for many of the remaining Possible Stories.
Tragically, some take even more concentration and require a great deal of thought and planning before I can figure out how to rid myself of them, but I eventually prevail – usually. You see, I don’t particularly enjoy writing. I never do it for pleasure or the love of the craft. I love having written but that’s a very different thing. So for me to actually write a story – for a Possible Story to morph into a Real Story - it must be a mother of an itch that spreads to become a full body rash that torments my sleep and renders me useless for any reasonable purpose.
I often concede defeat at three in the morning or so, after several hours of having rearranged my blankets and pillows and pretended all the while that my brain is not infested with a million itchy little bits of fibreglass insulation. I will then scream and jump from the bed and race to my keyboard to start writing. Only then am I capable of understanding what insidious factor made the itch so unbearable that nothing less traumatic than writing could cure me of its torment.
Discovering the root is always a pleasure. It’s like a thin cool coat of Polysporin applied upon a maddening mosquito bite that has been mangled and bloodied by crazed attempts to eradicate it from existence.
That root is nearly always an element of human nature that I’d never before considered and am then compelled to share. It’s often an ironic or tragically amusing observation on mankind's ridiculousness (often my own). Once I’ve found it, concocting a fictitious story around it is the much easier part of the process after all that nonsense I’ve already gone through by that point.
I’ll write, then, like a thing possessed. Responsibilities, nourishment, and grooming be damned till I’ve got a first draft hammered out and fluffed up and nicely pressed.
No more itch. A Possible Story has beaten my best efforts to scratch it away and emerged victorious despite the odds.
I realize that’s a crazy method of writing. I’m in awe of those people who have self discipline and write so many hours or so many words each morning, inspired or not. I have no idea how to do that.
So – thirteen. That’s what I started talking about. I forced myself to start writing and luckily the itch presented itself soon thereafter. I was worried that it wouldn’t and I’d disappoint the woman on the other side of the world whom I’ve never met. I doubt that a woman scorned concerns herself much with the trivialities of great physical distances.
Twelve other writers, too, are contributors to Project 13, including The Woman herself, Francesca Mansfield, and the aforementioned Mike Wolfson. Triggerstreet Labs is our common stomping ground, and we do our twittering @TheTSL13.
The anthology should be available before too long It's gonna be pretty awesome. You'll see.