On Being a (Foolhardy) Late Bloomer

It took me a great many years to write millions of words, a mountain of story starts that refused to solidify, so many, it is embarrassing to look at all those files, but sometimes I do, after seeing an announcement, a local fiction contest perhaps, 4500 words or less, offering the winner a chance to be recognized at the spring book festival (and $300!), right here in town, and I think, I must have a story, buried among all those false starts; with so many years of diligent work, there must be one little gem I've forgotten all about.  So with great hope and a heaping bowl full of masochism, I spend the morning opening one file after another, reading a few paragraphs, a sentence, a word, before clicking each shut, my hope quickly draining, replaced by a familiar nausea rising from the strain that leaks through the lines I crafted under the duress to achieve perfection, stuffing my creative urge into the prepackaged form of late 20th century American short story, not because of a profound love necessarily, but because that's what you do if you are a serious writer intending to get published in a highly respected journal. I wanted to see my terse bio on the contributor's page. Of course, I had read a lot of advice to the contrary, the well-seasoned writers cautioning: Examine, most carefully your motivation, and follow, not a desire for attention, but for expression.  I, of course, remained foolhardy, honoring more the perch from which they advised, than their words.  Deep inside I knew my motivation was flawed, but I didn't know what else to do.  How to change course when you are so firmly entrenched in a well-defined rut?  What would have happened if I had been brave at 28 and done something radical instead of following the familiar?  What if. . . so many things, I can't even begin to innumerate?  One thing is fairly certain: If I hadn't spend all those hours struggling to write short stories that never went anywhere, I may never has been able to arrive at what seems to be my proper diagnosis of being inflicted with a terminal case of whimsy.

envelope paper by Beth Watson

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