Short Stories as displacement activity

I started writing a short story soon after I got back from Florida last April. I had convinced myself that it was a good idea, that it would improve my writing, that I could get it published in a magazine and that having a publishing credit would look good when I finally finished my novel and was looking for an agent. The real reason was that I was stuck about two thirds of the way through my book and couldn’t see my way forward. Finishing seemed a long way off and I was getting impatient. Displacement activity alert!

But the thing is, writing a short story is hard. I had an idea for a SciFi story about a wannabe private detective who leaves his virtual reality existence and returns to his body in order to track down a missing person. I worked on it and then got stuck about two thirds of the way through. Sound familiar? But I pressed on, finished it and started submitting it to magazines. Encouraged, I started a second, then a third before I finished the second, then a fourth. 

Then I got my first rejection. Bizarrely, that made me feel like a real writer (weird I know) but the second rejection just sucked. And the third. I sent off the second story, titled “The third thing that made me kill myself”, and that got rejected too, which hurt because I thought it was way better than the first. By now I’d got two complete short stories, one that I wanted to think was complete but privately suspected wasn’t, and another incomplete.

And suddenly I started writing my book again. I have been ever since. The short stories are exactly where I left them. Maybe I’ll come back to them. Maybe I won’t. Maybe they’ve served their purpose.


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