I started looking through some of my stories, some of the stuff I’ve worked on over the past year or so, and I ask myself, “why the hell did I write that?” It’s not that the stories are bad, or that the writing is awful (that does happen, and I call it writer’s remorse, but I’ll talk about that another time). Instead, it’s more trying to figure out what the muse was that caused me to write a particular story.
As an example, I have an unpublished, unsolicited piece called Community Service about a white collar criminal on a prison bus who encounters what he thinks is a monster, only for it to turn out to be a deer hunter, just in time for the final, horrific twist. I have no idea what sparked this story. I think maybe it had something to do with a movie I watched, but I can’t for the life of me remember what that might have been. I can’t even feel the “spark” in the story that led it down the strange and winding road it follows.
Will I ever solicit it? Probably, maybe with a bit of a re-write to make it work a little better, with the twist ending and the middle twist with the hunter worked into a single, story ending switcheroo, but right now I can’t say when I might do that. The thing is, I know I needed to write that story at the time. I know it, for lack of better words, wanted out. So I put the story to “ink” and there it is, sitting on my thumb drive waiting patiently for the day I’ll need it. Maybe I’ll find an anthology market that is looking for a good prison story, or perhaps I’ll submit it to a magazine that likes twist endings. In any event, the magic that made that story happen has become so alien to me, I can’t even recall what it was like.
That’s what writing is to me some times. I try not to write what I have to, and instead write what I want to. Maybe this makes my stuff good, maybe I’ll end up with a flash drive full of useless stories, but either way, it’s what I do.