Circles and Circulation

Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

The last week has been fairly hectic for me, in part because it involved the run-up to Spring Break (and, perhaps less festively, midterms) and in part because it involved the kind of preparatory space-clearing needed to make something of a free-ish week. My Inner Delinquent would like nothing more than to take a deep dive into Elden Ring, but I can see enough enticing deadlines on the horizon to keep the creative gears turning.

To get myself ready I made time for a deep dive: I have seven holdover stories from the latest edition of my submission tracking guide, and I gave myself about a week and a half to revise four of them, normally with a specific destination in mind. In some cases that was simple work–trimming off a couple hundred words, and in one case adding 400–but others involved more extensive reconfiguration. It’s easy to get caught up in the zest of a fresh draft, but there’s real pleasure to be had in spending time with an old friend and seeing how it’s changed since last you met. Still happy with all those pieces more or less as they were and as they now are, and I think it’s healthy to go back and revisit old haunts, if only to see how they’ve changed and how you’ve grown.

The tricksier bit of business is owning up to unreadiness. The two remaining stories from that holdover set are, I think, pretty dang good, but at the moment the places I’d most like to send them are closed to submissions. There’s a sort of insistent impulse to send them somewhere–anywhere!–just for the sake of feeling as though I’ve got irons in the fire and many things to look forward to, but I’d rather see them sent to the best homes I can think of, even if that means waiting for another month or three.

And the same general principle applies to writing new stories, especially in response to anthology calls. I’ll often rattle ideas around in my skull for days and even weeks, but sometimes they just don’t catch (or, with an annoying degree of regularity, they emerge in an underdeveloped form and find themselves shouldered aside by far more energetic ideas with much later deadlines). An older version of me might have forced the issue, trying to write something–anything!–for the sake of maintaining momentum and good writing habits. But I think that’s a disservice to both the editors of the world as well as my own sense of what it means to write good stories. I can be prolific when I try, but I’d rather be a smidge more discriminating.

Circulation, especially during dry spells, can feel quite a bit like running in circles, trying to beat your own best time. But when it comes to writing, and to writing the best fiction I can, the clock or the calendar is probably not the instrument best suited to measuring progress.

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