Here are all the ways it went badly.
The prompt “horizon” arrived in my email. The task was to write a story of up to thirty words inspired by and using the prompt, tweet your entry, tag Writers Victoria (@Writers_Vic), and hashtag WVFlashFic22. I’m a nervous overthinking Nivita unsuited to the fast, savvy highway that is Twitter—and usually too busy feeding the chickens—so I don’t tweet (as my bio says). But a good friend of mine was taking the challenge daily, and her diligence put me to shame. I felt I should enter at least once.
Also, for writers, Twitter seems almost required. Journals ask for links to your socials with submissions, and most of them prefer Twitter, whereas I prefer hiding under eggshells writing. I can’t be the only one who’s unsettled about being overly noticed? Still, the micro fic competition seemed a somewhat not-frightening way to do some writing practice, sharing and (drumroll), profile-raising.
Five or so minutes later, I’d written:
To her surprise, the circle she’s drawn takes flight. Round it whirls, going nowhere. ‘My best self-portrait yet!’ She sighs, begins again, and draws a faint horizon line.
I promptly changed the final sentence:
To her surprise, the circle she’s drawn takes flight. Round it whirls, going nowhere. My best self-portrait yet!’ She sighs and begins again, drawing a faint horizon line.
Better. I guessed.
A couple of hours later, after a couple of glasses of red and a movie, I thought, ‘How could it hurt?’ and tweeted the story. The time: minutes to the midnight deadline. Kudos to me.
Ways it went badly #1
Upon my tweet going live, and of a sudden, I couldn’t get past the lack of “she says.” It made the story sound rushed instead of a story craftily taking its time.
I hit delete. To my knowledge, therefore disqualified myself from the competition. Then I thought, OMG, I’ve disqualified myself. The people at Writers Vic will see I’ve deleted my story. They’ll know what a frightened not-writer I am.
Less than two minutes left to retweet. Or not? What if I retweeted and no one liked it? I’m never on Twitter, so who’d like my story? Why would anyone? How many people were up seeing this shemozzle?
My hands hovered over the keyboard. I felt hot and not in a good way, and I thought about how I’m not a bird and shouldn’t be tweeting. Stressful noise filled my head.
‘Oh my god!’ I yelled. ‘I’m shaking!’
My husband came running to help with what was obviously a dire emergency. ‘What? What’s wrong?’
While relaying the actual emergency, I hastily typed an altered version of the story and with seconds to go, tweeted:
To her surprise, the circle she’s drawn takes flight. Round it whirls, going nowhere. ‘My best self-portrait yet!’ she says. Beginning again, sighing, she draws a faint horizon line.
Good, I thought, good. It reads slower. It’s clever enough not to be hurrying, even though it’s only a thirty-word story. And no one’s going to see it anyway. Who do I think I am? No one cares whether or not I write four sentences on Twitter. Get over yourself, me. You’re not that important.
Crisis averted. I went to bed.
Ways it went badly #2
OH. MY. GOD. I told my husband at one a.m. while he tried to sleep.
‘What?’ the poor man said wearily.
‘I can’t believe I posted an ambiguous story full of ings in a public space. People might see it. The gatekeepers might definitely see it. I am NEVER going to be published in any journal now, and the brilliant poets and writers who are for some reason following me will unfollow me and then I will have no Twitter friends left and I’ll look like a twit and I am a twit and I’m definitely never going to get published now. Oh my god!’
I also took a moment to stress that my character was sighing. I hate characters sighing. Especially with an ing. By this point, I had my hand on my forehead and was exhibiting the opposite of a restful bedtime vibe.
‘Wow,’ my husband replied. I heard a mild shock overcome him. ‘You usually enjoy writing. I’ve never seen you so stressed over it.’
‘Of course I’m stressed! This is very bad, awful,’ I replied reasonably.
From his well of calm philosophy and in his gentle manner, my partner said, ‘Well then, fuck em.’ Then seeing my panic added, ‘Hey, they all seem like kind, supportive people. The writers. The ones who follow you. I’m sure it’s all good.’
‘Oh my god,’ I said. ‘I’m getting up to delete it.’
‘Don’t,’ my husband said. ‘Don’t delete your beautiful work. Not for anyone.’ And you’re in love with him too at this moment, aren’t you?
Ways it went badly #3
People did see it. Three hundred and fifteen people. Saw it. Admittedly, those are the analytics as of today, and we’re not up to today in events yet. But since we’re talking about bad writing, being askew of the plot seems appropriate.
Three hundred and fifteen, though!
Ways it went badly #4
The next day (after #2), forgetting the wisdom of c’est la vie, which as a nervous obsessive, I have trouble with, I continued putting my poor artist in her fifth-floor apartment through the wringer. At one point, she was maniacal laughing. She threw back her head to laugh at least once. While she was off around the bend, and after all the initial fuss about the absence of a dialogue tag, I cut “she says”:
To her surprise, the circle she’s drawn takes flight. Round it whirls, adrift its page, going nowhere. ‘My best self-portrait yet!’ She laughs and begins again, drawing a faint horizon.
I rewrote in circles. I drew some circles:
What could make this story better or make my writing better? Why was I such a bad writer? How could anyone be such a bad writer? Finally, I gave up and swore off Twitter for good. I’m a slow lane writer. It takes me years to write a poem and at least days to write a story that’s more than a draft. I don’t do legible work without time. I don’t need to make my drafts public for everyone to see how bad they are. No, I don’t. Not ever. Again.
Ways it went badly #5
The next evening, after arriving home from a stay at the river, I read another prompt in my email: oasis.
In my notebook, I wrote,
Dear teenage daughter,
Ovulate again somewhere in Siberia. This is an acrostic. It is also my definition of “oasis.” Love, your mother, in the next room, in Australia.
Needless to say, I didn’t tweet it. Because learn your lesson already.
Also, I wasn’t happy with Siberia. I wanted somewhere bizarre and remote, but all I had was an annoying Skyhooks song in my head. And I was worried about teenaged/teenage. Basic grammar. Also, I still had a partner. He hadn’t yet banished me to Siberia or expressly away from his person, and I wanted to keep it that way because I like him.
Two days later, this prompt popped up in my email:
‘Oh my god!’ my inner panic told my flailing sanity. ‘Now they’ve created a prompt in response to my poor writing. “Lacking vividness. Clearness. Strength.” My laughable ambiguous writing, my awful story, had inspired mockery and the day’s prompt.
‘What’s wrong?’ my husband asked over coffee. It was Easter Monday. We were home from the river for a planned day of relaxing together.
‘Nothing,’ I lied.
Because writers are pains, and you can’t subject other people to your painfulness all the time, can you? ‘Suck it up and oh my god,’ I told myself.
Ways it went badly #6
A further two days later, the prompt “waver” arrived in my inbox, and this popped into my head:
The plain is pale-skinned today, spectres stretched on its boneless face. It will take leave of its light as you did—final breath, the wavering of a distant wildflower.
‘That doesn’t suck,’ I thought. ‘Give or take the second comma.’ It was nine a.m. I decided to get on with my day and tweet it later once I’d considered it properly. Tweeting something legible might redeem me from my previous folly.
Sometime after three p.m. and minutes before leaving to pick my daughter up from the city centre, I loaded the tweet. But at the last moment, I changed “the wavering of” to final breath wavering in a distant wildflower. Something about fewer words or something. And for some reason, although I had until midnight to consider said change, I tweeted it. Now, I had pale sombre spectres suddenly dancing with wildflowers (how very uncharacteristic of them). And an increasingly embarrassing Twitter feed. Why, oh why? Disaster.
I entertained a mild panic while picking up my daughter and was absolutely deleting that tweet upon arriving home, vain as that may have been.
When I arrived home, I discovered my tweet had been retweeted. Twice.
Alack. My lack. What was I thinking?
Ways it went badly #7
‘Oh my god!’ I yelled. (The next day.)
My husband came walking, having learned not to run. ‘What’s up?’
‘My weird ____ story got accepted by ____!’
‘Hey, congratulations! That’s excellent!’
‘I know!’ I agreed. Me. Me. Me. Again. Poor man.
But there are a lot of Declines in my Submittable list, and with my recent confirmation that I am a not-writer twit, this acceptance meant/means such a lot. It would have meant a lot to me without the recent confidence-destroying tweets. The story and inclusion in this particular journal were/are each close to my heart. I didn’t dare hope. But I’d been hoping.
In my rapture, I opened Twitter to read other people’s #FlashFic22 entries and be happy for them about their skilful writing and slather them with likes. There, I discovered an actual dire emergency.
The journal that accepted my work were/are on Twitter.
Ways it went badly #8
Three days later, I was sitting at my computer *fixing a story* a journal in the US had asked for a rewrite of then rejected—probably as a result of seeing my awful tweets (and albeit with a lot of lovely feedback)—when a prompt popped up. “Inkling.”
*Add obsessively checking for emails looking like this: "Sorry, we made a mistake. Regards, The Editors (of the brilliant journal who accidentally accepted your work before seeing your tweets)."*
Within minutes, I’d typed:
‘What am I then?’ demanded the contemporary pen. ‘If not a proper inker?’ The dip pen furrowed its nib. ‘Oh, I don’t know. An inkling, I suppose.’
I took a moment to consider the appropriateness of referring to a personified pen as “it.” Also, to obsess about the actual meaning of inker versus how I’d used it. And whether the dialogue sentence should be one sentence or retain its full stop. And then I made a coffee. And everyone was still asleep and the chickens had nothing to say, and I was bored. And then I hit tweet.
I ask you?
Thirty people liked my story, which was so lovely, and writers are so kind, aren’t they? But where is my Learn a Lesson bone? There is a lack in my overall makeup.
~ ~ ~
There’s more, to be honest. I was giving those who need it an out. However, there’s no punchline. I didn’t win. Deservingly not.
Ways it went badly #9
I wrote/am writing this entry, of no value to anyone, to post here on my website, which is not a blog.
Purposefully, I do not blog. Safer to keep my mouth shut (Exhibit A: my Twitter feed/ B: this post).
I have nothing. Or, five things.
- The competition itself was valuable and fun. I loved writing to the daily prompts each morning. My aversion was/is to my tweeting them. But since I don’t learn from my mistakes, I’m sure more tweets are on the #horizon for next year’s challenge.
- Here is Amanda Scotland’s #horizon story from the comp.
3. Again, surely I can’t be the only person perturbed in life. (Add frightened. Add vain.)
4. I’ve thought a lot about sentences and plots and my shortfalls in crafting them. I’ve particularly critically pondered the three stories I tweeted. I’m not sure what this means in relation to 1.
5. If I’m not a twit, and the jury’s still out, I am at the very least expressly not made for Twitter.
“Swallow it down”ALANIs
graphics for this post were made on Canva by a not-designer