I’ve said before how I have always struggled with finishing pieces for myself. Writing for publications, school, and work allowed me to help meet deadlines, but the things I wrote about were always for someone else. One would think that this would help me with meeting my own deadlines, but if you say that then you’ve never met the Imposter (the name I’ve bestowed upon my imposter syndrome). Writing stories for myself has always been hard–in fact, I struggle with posts for this blog constantly. Clearly, that’s not going to help me be a better writer. Unfortunately, the Imposter never seems to want to leave me alone. But what to do about it?
If I ever want to be a fully fledged writer, I have to learn to finish something, anything for myself. And, yes, I’m sure these blogs could count, but not for what I have in mind. I don’t finish fiction on my own, which is a problem. So, when I saw a twitter post about a flash fiction challenge, I became quite intrigued.
I’m very goal-oriented and competitive. I can finish something if given a timeline and something to work towards. When it comes to writing fiction for myself, the Imposter always gets the better of me. Every time I have set a goal for my own fiction (i.e. finish a short story by X month), I always succumb to feelings of inadequacy. Once I succumb to these feelings, there’s no one but me (and the Imposter) to hold me accountable (and why would the Imposter ever do such a thing?). As a result, timelines and goals don’t exactly work. I want to improve my writing and make it more available, but the Imposter always tries to remind how much of a pipe dream that is. That’s why this flash fiction challenge was almost perfect for me. It wasn’t for anyone else, not exactly. It was my own original piece that people might potentially read. And I had to do it within a time frame. There was a goal or prize, though I didn’t expect to get it, but trying was enough for me.
So, I entered.
Like I said, I didn’t intend to win, I didn’t even intend on advancing to the next round. I had only one goal: finish a piece for myself.
The day of the challenge came, and I was petrified. I stared, deer-eyed, into the vacant, white abyss that was my computer screen. The blinking cursor mocked me. The Imposter whispered sweet nothings into my ear, telling me to quit, and I almost listened. Most flash fiction challenges give you a set of guidelines. Mine was this:
must use the word “sure.”
must include the activity “cleaning the attic.”
And the best part was that I only had 24 hours to write it.
I didn’t feel capable of writing something in these guidelines. I wanted desperately to chicken out and go back to tending to my plants or playing my game. In the past, I’ve generally had a good amount of time to write something and the topic is usually fairly loose–not this madness! And I’d never written horror before! I started to feel like this was not going to go well. But, I made a promise. I told myself I’d finish. I finally moved my fingers to the keyboard and typed out a story.
I have always subscribed to the philosophy that “more is more,” so having to write under the edict of “less is more” was a huge struggle for me. At the end of that first draft, my story was nonsensical because I hadn’t had the space the expand on my idea. I wanted to cry, but it wouldn’t be a “challenge” if it were easy, right?
I consulted with my partner and other loved ones, I typed out draft after draft, even switching perspectives, until, finally, I’d written something I could be somewhat proud of. (I say “somewhat” because the Imposter was not making this easy for me…nor will it ever).
Then I hit “submit.”
I knew I wouldn’t win (I didn’t). I would have loved to have advanced to the next round (I did not). But I won in the sense that I accomplished my goal: to finish something for myself. Would I submit myself to such mayhem again? Possibly. It was nerve-wracking, but a fantastic learning experience. A few months later, I got feedback from the judges and I was grateful–it’ll help improve my writing. It was solid feedback that pointed out a fairly glaring plot hole and it makes me want to work on this piece all over again. Maybe one day I will, but, for now, I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy.
I awoke in my domed prison that day, same as usual. I studied my sisters in their orbs. They did the same. With nothing to do or look forward to, we could only hope that one day we might be set free. Movement at the edge of the room interrupted my thoughts.
It was a girl.
“Ooh, a Black girl! I’ve never seen one before. What does she do?” Anastasia asked from her globe.
“She’s not a side-show attraction,” I said.
“Funny,” Ming said, “I’ve never seen one…” Ming’s voice faltered as horror visited her eyes.
“…here,” I finished.
The girl was cleaning the attic in which we resided, sweeping the floor and dusting the shelves. It was clearly a ploy, a familiar one.
“RUN!!” I yelled. “Leave before she comes back!”
My sisters joined me as the girl drew closer. I was sure she could hear us.
“GET OUT!!” I pleaded, tears streaming down my face. But she couldn’t hear us and it was too late–The Crone was back.
“Do you like them?” The Crone asked. The girl was transfixed by us.
“They seem so life-like,” the girl replied.
“Thank you. Will you help me with one more thing, dear?”
Just then the woman began blowing a bubble, one we knew all too well. Before the girl’s cortisol could rise, she was trapped. Shaping the girl and the orb down to size, The Crone hummed with delight.
“I needed a Black girl for my collection,” she trilled.