Sep 6, 2007

Birthdays and Short Stories

Valerie J. Steimle

It’s my birthday today and I am happy to post this extra bonus entry to help Heather out.

It has been a time of reflection and writing all week long. Other than the fact that I’m two years closer to a half a century without my husband around, I thought about how writing is like having a birthday. Or better yet, giving birth to a baby.

I had the opportunity to write a short story for a magazine contest this week and it was like giving birth. I think most women writers would agree that it is the process that is sometimes very painful. When I read the prompt, an idea popped into my head and I immediately started writing my ideas on paper. Then I rewrote the ideas to what I thought might be a pretty good story. I let it alone for a while to go cut the lawn. As the day progressed, I kept coming back to rewrite. The process of cutting the lawn some, then writing some more, then cutting the lawn some, and writing some more helped me to think clearly on exactly how I want to word my story. Then more cutting and more rewriting. Kind of like laboring to bring a child into the world.

Hours past by and I had finished the lawn cutting but not the writing. Then when I thought I had the story completed, I sent it off to be critiqued. Suggestions came back and another rewrite was done. So now the story is done, right? Not yet. I always let my writings go for a couple of days so when I get back to it again, I have another chance to reword something I missed or catch a typo. This is the best process I have found to write and I don’t think I am the only one that does it. Every writer has their own system to write and keep writing but I think that there are general similarities in writers.

So now I wait. I submitted the story for the contest and only time will tell what will happen. But I’m not anxious about whether I win or not. I think the experience of writing the story helps me to be a better writer. Even though my forte is non-fiction, it is good to accomplish writing in other genres to improve my writing skills.

My non-writer friends are absolutely amazed at what I have done. Not only this week but in the past when I have written other articles or essays, they are truly amazed. I have thought about what I have accomplished in the last 20 years as a writer and I have to count my blessings. I can express myself in writing as there are some who cannot or will not. When I think about all that I have written; it is truly an accomplishment. If you are a writer, I think you will feel the same way as I do. We should all be grateful for our talents and don’t forget to use them.


  1. We have a lot in common, Valerie. I also work for awhile, then do something else, then go back to my writing, etc. One of the things I really struggle with is when to stop going back to the WIP and declare it finished. When is enough enough? I learned in art classes that you have to learn when to leave the project alone and let it be what it is. I think that applies to writing as well. So I'm looking for advice? How do you know it's finished?

  2. Many times when I go through the process I come to the time when I feel as if it's complete. It is a feeling really. After reading it so many times and not having to change anything when reading, I feel it is done.

  3. Yes, writing and birthing have a lot in common. I, however, happen to have easy labor and delivery, and I fear my writing is the same. When it seems too easy, can it possibly be good? And as to when to stop editing, Mitchner suggests it's when you just can't stand to do any more. (That may have been said in jest.) Come to think of it, my babies, not I, decided when to be born. Maybe the characters in a story, or the feeling of satiety in non-fiction decides for the author. Or could one just flip a coin?

    Thanks for stimulating my thinking.

  4. Thanks, Valerie for sharing the idea that the creative process is a lot like pregnancy AND DELIVERY! There is a little bundle of joy at the end. I think, too, as do you, it is useful to our fragile egoes to take time and look at what we've done, and say to ourselves, "It is good."


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