Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

There’s something elusive in the short story; something that lets the word ‘indefinable’ in, when what you’re really looking for is something definite.

I know the stories I like most, and they cover several hundred years of writing between them. From The Cobbler Blondeau (14th Century) to Next to Godliness (21st Century) they all have that something, and like the philosopher’s rock, you feel that if you could get a grasp of it, a glimpse of it, an inkling, your own stories might become as worthwhile.

The fact that you can recognise its presence must be in your favour. The fact that you can differentiate between stories that were worth reading, ones that were not, surely must give you some sort of handle on stories that are worth passing on, or, if you think that’s what you’re doing, or creating.

I’m not sure you have to know even why they are worth passing on. Simply ‘knowing’, having that gut wrenching certainty that there is something there, even when you can’t see it – the certainty you get when you know one has been worth reading, even though you can’t define that indefinable reason.

I keep coming back to that reviewer’s put down I read so many decades ago, about poems written ‘because they could be,’ and to Patricia Oxley’s more recent quest for writing ‘with feeling’. They were writing about poetry, but the short story sits close to the poem, and isn’t any writing of value worth more than the sum of its techniques? What feeling is it, I ask myself, that isn’t just a ‘could be’, but is a ‘must be’?

I read often enough of writers who say they are driven to write, that they become themselves through the activity; that without it they would be lost. But being driven to write is not quite the same as being driven to write something specific. Having to write might well be a necessity, but it won’t necessarily make what has been written something that it was necessary to write, or that will be worth reading.

There’s also the issue of what you write if, and when you don’t have to, and why you might choose to!  There’s the issue of what you might try to write, even when you fear that you can’t.

Perhaps it’s to do with what you feel it is important to communicate, whether you’re looking in a mirror, or through a window. Here’s wishing you some writing that has to be written in 2017. Happy New Year.

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