I’ve been struggling with emotional upheavals and whacked-out hormones of late. I resist the word ‘depression’, so let’s just call it the blues. They happen. I have a hard time writing through these periods, so I read myself through them. As in, I just keep on reading like the worst of all stubborn mules until I start feeling better. It’s how I cope.
This did not work with my last bout, however. Everything I picked up was awful. I tried a few of my favourite authors. Blech. I tried my favourite genres. Ugh. Nothing was good enough to break me out of my mental reality. I kind of panicked, to be honest.
Then, at the end of an empty, awful day with no fictional escape, I sat up in the dark, flicked on my bedside lamp, and pulled out my notebook. I wrote down a short list of what I wanted from a story in that moment. I poured out all my reader’s frustration into a manifesto of the story that I so desperately needed.
It wasn’t a list of a characters or plots, it was just a sequence of vague ideas:
- I want a story where the character gets what they need, but not they wanted (cue the Rolling Stones)
- I want a story where the character goes through hell and we get to see them through
- I want a story about a character who doesn’t think they have any value but finds a way to prove to themselves that they do
After this was on the page, I felt purged and peaceful. I turned out the light and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning with a quote I saw drifting around on social media repeating itself in my mind:
A short story premise I’ve been struggling with jumped in and asserted itself. As I watched, it disrobed from the characters I had assigned to it and dressed up in new ones, older ones, and darker ones. The magic it had lacked began to buzz about the edges. It demanded I apply my list and get to work.
Several hours later I had the first draft of a new story. One that makes me tingle with excitement. I love this story! I don’t like every story I write, but every so often one comes along that surprises me and demands I believe in it. Best of all, I got the story I needed to read, and I feel so much better.
What about you? What story do you need to read? Have you ever written it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.