I came to writing quite recently. I quit a bad job a little over a year ago, started writing more than I ever had, began submitting, had some acceptances, a lot of rejections and met a lot of people. I discovered the medium of flash fiction through investigating various means of publishing and have been enamored of it ever since.
That was a first attempt at writing this post, which was to describe my relatively recent introduction to flash fiction and its impact on my writing. Until I realized that my story is not particularly unique or interesting. And that it would involve the dropping of names and publications. And that I could not be much less qualified to provide guidance to anyone likewise situated.
The part of my first attempt at writing this post that felt most real and honest was discussing my own motivation for writing and continuing to write flash. Yes. I love the challenges inherent in telling or suggesting a complete story in so few words. I love the conciseness that writing flash demands, the requirement that every word serve a purpose.
But there's more. I started writing flash fiction at a significant point in my life. The unique part of my story is not the introduction but the circumstantial benefit that created and sustained my devotion to the form.
I was unemployed for fourteen months and have only just recently gone back to work. During that time, my identity was blurred. I had no job title, nowhere to go in the morning, no easy way to describe who I was. My life was stalled.
I wrote my first piece of flash very quickly. One hundred and seventy-seven words. It was a story. It had a beginning. It had an end. It took far less time to write than anything I had written before. I submitted it. It was accepted. It was published. The last part doesn't always happen but the writing part is, for me, a satisfaction of that need for completion, for doneness, for "the end."
Writing flash fiction makes me feel competent. My former boss was abusive. I left the job with little self-confidence. I questioned my skills and intelligence. I don't think those doubts will ever completely disappear.
Since I left that job, I have been published around thirty times. All but one of my published pieces was flash. Other writers have many more publications to their names at journals that are much more difficult to crack. I'm okay with that. I write. I revise. I complete. I submit. I rinse. I repeat. It always comes back to completion.
Fact: I can write more flash fiction than short stories in the same amount of time.
Fact: More submissions yield a higher likelihood of acceptances.
The correlation I draw (that I hate): More acceptances mean I'm a good or better writer.
Fact: I am lazy. It's an embarrassment, a character flaw. I sometimes keep stories shorter because I don't want to work on them anymore. I want to finish. I know with some stories there is more to be told; it's easier to just not. For me, it always comes back to completion.
Fact: This is more confession than commentary.
I truly love reading and writing flash. I wonder if our motivations for writing in the forms we write are even relevant. Does it matter if a person writes a good piece of flash because of a class requirement, or a sense of competition or envy, or a need for immediate gratification, or to feel like they have finished something? Probably not.
Does it make a person a better writer to examine why they do what they do? I have no idea.
Lauren Becker lives in Oakland, California, where she writes flash fiction and spends too much time inside her head. Her work has appeared in some amazing places and will appear in some others soon. She is fiction editor for DOGZPLOT.