When I left the day job almost a year ago my goals were lofty and crowded: complete my three screenplays, apply for a fellowship/competition or two (or three), keep up several weekly blog posts, work on some short fiction. Except I made these goals unprepared for the realities of being present and open with a toddler 24/7, finding time to exercise and read/study movies, and managing a household. I could have accomplished some of my lofty writing goals, but at what sacrifice? Is it damaging to exist in the house with my child but not pay attention to her need for my love, teaching and acceptance because I am focused on my goals (remember my Type A focus does not multi-task well and gets ferocious when I am disturbed)? That became my gut-level conclusion, and I am at the place of acceptance and forgiveness (ahem, pay attention Type A brain) of my present reality. I am foremost a mother and one who wants my child to have a creative and playful foundation to build on before she starts preschool and dance classes this year, before she starts moving on her own in the world without me to guide her every moment.
Time constraints have forced my writing sensibilities to survive by evolving into the concise: tell a full story using a minimum of words (no back story, no interior monologue, no drawn-out descriptions) and let the reader fill in the blanks. I have been working on one-paragraph, then one-sentence stories (some told to my daughter at nap or bedtime). Hemingway did it best in his six-word short story:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Enter two words: flash fiction. I stumbled upon the 100 Word Story (and a market for flash fiction) in a recent article by Grant Faulkner in Poets & Writers. Eureka! AND, the exercise of writing very, very short fiction is not wasted time. Screenplay is a distillation of a story told in images, not words. 100 pages…lots of white space…easier said than done. So, my takeaway here is that any available time is enough time improve as a writer.