Around and around and around, Kate spun in her office chair. A child at heart but adult in body, she stopped spinning as she had succumbed to dizziness. I should check my second email, she convinced herself. I never check that one enough. Her second email was the same as her first, except this one sported a number two. Her creativity couldn’t be wasted on trivial matters. It’ll only take a minute, and then I’ll get back to work. She pulled up the browser and typed in her login information. This email account was used sparingly to avoid it becoming congested. She deleted a few emails, and that’s when she saw it. CONGRATULATIONS was in the subject line. She was skeptical until she realized that it was from her favorite short story competition site. She held her breath and opened the email. Multi-colored confetti cascaded down from the ceiling. She won! Yes! She held her hands up in victory squealing with delight. Chariots of Fire played as she spun around in her office chair again, this time in slow motion.
“Kate? “Earth to Kate!”
“Huh? Sorry! I didn’t mean to be a space cadet.” Kate snapped out of her thoughts.
“Do you think there was probable cause or not?” Her colleague asked.
“Let’s start from the beginning, and this time I promise I’ll pay attention.”
It was Sunday; the perfect day to write! Kate needed the whole day to crank out one story. Even though it was a short story competition, there was nothing short about her writing process. When she first started posting her stories, Kate was naïve about gaining readers. Now, however, she was versed in the art. Writing a story on the weekend meant the story would be published sooner and more readers would see it. Additionally, Kate learned that one must read and comment on the other stories too, and in return, they would read and comment on hers. It was quid pro quo style. Kate had shared her link with her family and friends, but they just weren’t as excited. It wasn’t that they weren’t supportive, they read some of her stories, they just couldn’t understand how proud Kate became each time she published a story. One of her colleagues, on the other hand, shared her writing passion, so Kate would have long discussions with her about their writing ideas. They did this in between their work, of course.
Kate opened her laptop and sat on her couch. Yes, laptop, she preferred typing on a real keyboard, and in a Word document first. She may still be living in the Stone Age, but the laptop had been a gift from her grandmother. It had endured law school; it was worthy of her stories. Whenever she sat down to write, her cat would always decide he needed attention. Today was no exception. The minute she opened her laptop, he crawled right on top. She pulled him off before his own story was finished, but he just kept coming back. She closed her laptop to give him some attention. That some attention turned into an hour, and Kate had nothing written.
The first step in her writing process was deciding what to write. Part of her problem was she overthought everything. What prompt would she write? How would her story progress? Often times she would think of an idea and even write a small paragraph, but then she wouldn’t know where the story should lead. Hence, a couple of weeks would pass between Kate’s publications. Kate saved her idea paragraphs and on occasion could turn one of those starters into a whole story for a different prompt. Writer’s block was a very real thing, and she wasn’t even a published author. She admired the writers who could publish a story, or even a story per prompt, per week. How did they have that much inspiration? Kate would try typing a story, but her type A personality would become bogged down in making perfect sentences. Sometimes, when Kate was in a rut, she would read the other stories to gain insight. What makes a good story? Occasionally, jealously would rear its ugly head. How could she compete with such talented writers? Other times, Kate would re-read her stories and the comments that she received. They made her smile. They gave her motivation to proceed. She would pat herself on the back and toot her own horn relishing in her own story heaven.
Kate remembered her first story. It was a tough story, content wise. It was sad. It was awkward. Why did she get her feet wet with such a story? She worried at how it would be received. Would the other readers think her ideas were weird? Would they like her writing style? To her surprise, readers enjoyed her story, and Kate became addicted to the feedback. Her ego was boosted with every comment. From then on, once Kate posted a story, she religiously refreshed the site more than she cared to admit, looking for the famous yellow dot. After reading a story about yellow dot fever, Kate was convinced she was afflicted.
She wrote more stories. Some of her stories had her laughing while she typed. Other stories, she cried through wondering why she did that to herself. She soon learned that writing was cathartic; whatever she was feeling could be written. She built stories related to other stories. Her stories had stories! When she re-read her stories, she found commonalities. She was a sucker for romance and drama, and many of her stories had the damsel in distress cliché. She made a mental to work on that. A few of her stories could even be classified as Hallmark, except for the one she wrote about sex. Her goody two-shoed, Catholic side still cringes; a part of her will always be prudish. All of her stories were special to her, although she did have some favorites, which was hard for her to admit because it was as if she were picking a favorite child.
Which is why, after her story analysis, she found herself on her couch trying to think outside of her box. She attempted to create something completely different. Reinventing the wheel was hard. Then, an idea struck her. What if she writes a story about writing a story? All it took was a spark, and she began feverishly typing. It still took her the better part of the day and into the next, but the idea was flowing. Writing about herself made her more vulnerable. It chewed away at the anonymity of her pen name, but there was something more honest about her story; it was real. It was literally and figuratively her story. There were plenty more opportunities for her to live in a fake world, but this week she was comfortable with the real one.
When she reached the end, she thought about her day dream earlier. Did she have what it takes to be a winner? Was there a congratulatory email, or was the yellow dot the bearer of great news. They say you have to dream it to believe it. She had the dream. Perhaps the real question though, was it enough?