My grandmother was known to have a saying for about any situation. One of the many I heard as a child was “The cobbler’s kids never have shoes.” Once I figured out what a cobbler was, that saying started to make sense to me. Maybe it was a painter working on Grandma’s dining room and talking about how his wife had wanted her own kitchen painted, or the carpenter fixing her steps and talking about the bookshelf he hoped to build for his kids.
When it comes to writing, I have turned into the cobbler. I love my work, and I love the fact that I get to spend my days learning so many new and different things. In this week alone I got to interview the owner of Atlanta Discount Music, write about an ice machine that wouldn’t make ice and research information about arthritis and Arthritis Awareness Month. But I’d also like to be working on writing personal essays, making an outline for the romance novel I’ve told myself I’d write, or researching for the novel idea I had years ago.
I’ve done all of the things we (as editors) tell writers to do. The way to get better at your writing is to practice your writing. I’ve set New Year’s resolutions, I’ve bought pretty journals to try to inspire me to practice free-writing, I’ve set goals for myself, and I’ve even tried setting aside time for my writing. The New Year’s resolutions get forgotten by February, the journals sit on my nightstand mostly empty, and the time I set aside to write gets swallowed up with projects from paying clients that have hard deadlines. Sure, I could probably make time to write somewhere in the day, but like that cobbler who comes home from work so tired of making shoes that he can’t find it in him to make shoes for his kids, I never seem to have any creative juices flowing after a long day at the laptop.
So this year I tried a new tactic. Realizing that having deadlines was what helped me get the paying jobs done, I made a deadline for my “creative” writing ventures. I entered the NYC Midnight short story contest. The allure to me was the deadline, once I paid I felt like I had to stick to it. But the other great part of this contest is every entrant is promised feedback. That’s even more impressive considering the number of entries this contest gets.
I was given three things to shape my short story:
Subject: Witnessing a Crime
Not only did it help to have a deadline, it helped to have a starting point. Then I got a little creative about finding time to write, taking my laptop with me and hiding out in the backseat pounding on the keyboard while Carter had scouts. I didn’t get selected to move on to the next round, which means this story won’t be published by NYC Midnight. But at the NCWN’s recent Spring Writer’s Conference, I overheard someone saying that publishing these days is as easy as posting something on the internet. So I decided to gather up my courage and publish this short story (linked below, Symptoms). I feel it’s a good example to other writers reading this blog that sharing your work is as important as writing it. Hopefully there will be more stories to keep this one company!
Symptoms, by Karen Alley, January 2019