According to WordPress I have 15 unfinished, unpublished blog posts waiting in draft purgatory. I hate them because I can’t go back. Sometimes I try, I re-open the writing space and I try to start again with those ideas, but they don’t work. They aren’t right. Nevertheless, I haven’t deleted them for the vain hope one day I can salvage some words from the wreckage.
I am trying to write a short story for a contest. I am struggling. I feel pressured to succeed because I call myself a writer, but I have not written a story since high school. I don’t write “stories.” I write prose, or poetry, or prose poetry, but I shrink under the pressure of a plot. I cannot seem to construct a narrative, a conflict, a rising and falling action.
So I am seeking to write a different type of story, my type of story, in another vain hope that the contest judges will appreciate my lack of norms. It is vain. In French university I have learned to not expect praise for being different. Granted, I learned this in middle school and high school too.
I wrote feverishly throughout middle school but my work was not appreciated by my 8th grade teacher. My papers came back full of red marks and question marks and misunderstanding. At the time, my teacher’s rejection fueled my desire to write more and more. I continued to write, with a few high school teachers supporting my work. But by senior year I was losing again. My English teacher was not a fan of my “style,” and this time I stood up for myself. I left the lunch period early one day and stepped into his empty classroom. I defended my writing. He accepted my defense.
A long time has passed since then. I have not stopped writing, but my style has changed. These changes are sometimes difficult to understand and difficult for me to accept. Suddenly it happens that I am not sure of my own voice. It doesn’t sound like me, it doesn’t read like me. I struggle to express myself in speech. I repeat myself. I stumble on words. I start sentences and I cannot finish them, or I start them and then I start them again. I repeat the first few syllables of a word, and then I stop. I speak slowly if I am responding to information I have just received.
Writing this short story has been the same. I type something and I delete it. I type it again. I type it in a different order. I delete it. I think for hours with nothing appearing on the screen. I type the same sentence over and over. I type a sentence and then I type a different sentence and then I repeat the first sentence. I cannot advance. I loop. I do not progress. I stagnate. The story ferments in front of me.