The Witching Hour

February 12, 2008 at 6:22 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve spent the day finishing off a short story I wrote whilst in transit yesterday. It’s only 1,500 words, but I had to type it into my computer from my trusty little moleskin pocket notebook (I love those things), finish it, and redraft it a number of times on-screen (thank god for computers – I don’t know how Don DeLillo does it, working on a typewriter when the whole world knows there’s a much easier way…!).

The genesis of the story is interesting because the idea – and it’s only a small one, nothing to get excited about – came to me during a recent bout of insomnia. I’ve been having a lot of those lately. Maybe it’s the crazy weather. Maybe it’s because I am living in a perpetual state of rigid anxiety about the effect of my job’s (a job which beyond non-fiction freelance work there’s absolutely no evidence I am any good at, by the way) not being a ‘real’ job with a real salary and real benefits like superannuation and annual leave (excuse me, I’m just going to step outside now to SCREAM MY HEAD OFF). Maybe it’s the chocolate before bed. Whatever is keeping me up at night, one thing’s for sure: there is a certain creative madness that comes with a zero ‘z’ count.

Awake, awake, still awake, dum de dum, one two three four five six seven eight nine ten, still here, still awake, la la la, wake up Llew, tired, very tired, wide awake…

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Around this time, I’m starting to get angry. And I’m probably moving around a lot in a very uncharitable attempt to disturb Llew from his usually peaceful slumber. This is unforgivable, I know, but in my defence he always does it to me whenever he can’t sleep, and I think pretty much every couple in the world does it too. Homo sapiens are a very mean-spirited lot.

But the other night, somewhere along the line, I had my tiny weeny idea for a very short short story. Better yet, I remembered the idea, crazed with sleep deprivation though I undoubtedly was, the next day. And then yesterday, I found myself travelling across town by ferry and train with time on my hands, so I started writing it. And now it exists. All 1,500 words of it. It’s not much, I grant you, but it’s mine. I won it at the insomnia carnival.

I am still waiting to hear about that other short story I sent off to a mag two and a half months ago. I checked their website again today, and where I thought it was a 2 to 3 month wait for a response on unsolicited material, it’s actually 3 to 4. It’s an incredible amount of time to wait for almost certain rejection.

Is it any easier getting a short story published in this country than a whole novel? You know what, I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect it’s still extremely tough and competitive. But part of me hopes it is a bit easier. I could really use the validation. But I do know that regardless, short story writing is an excellent exercise for anyone wishing to write anything longer. I think a decent short story requires a very particular and difficult to acquire set of skills. So it’s unquestionably a valuable departure from my work on the full-length manuscript, not to mention a nice change of scenery.

Let’s hope sending this new one off into the world will help me sleep a little better tonight.

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