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Done and dusted

Another challenge has bitten the dust. Another month has been spent checking emails and chewing on the end of a pencil while waiting for inspiration to rear its ugly head. Another file on my pen drive is full of little stories, all hoping I will try to turn them into something palatable for the outside world.

Last year’s short story challenge went pretty well and I decided to publish all the stories in a book. I won’t be doing that this year. Not because this year’s crop are particularly bad or I’m ashamed of them but, more because they feel more personal than last year’s.

The thing I enjoy most about the challenges is that I can make it my own. If I want to use the briefs to inspire me to write something that I can then take and expand, improve or adjust, that’s what I do. On the other hand, if I want to use the briefs to have some fun or try out something new, I do that instead. It doesn’t always work and sometimes my cursor hovers over the ‘do not read it’ button when I submit because it feels like this piece might just be the worst thing I’ve ever written, with bells on!

But that’s the joy of The Literal Challenge – it's a safe place in which to try and fail spectacularly if you want to. You will not be judged and in fact if you go on the forum you realise everybody else is in the same situation as you, and can share your highs and lows with them.

In any month of daily writing, we’re all bound to have some clangers, but it’s especially true in the new normal that we’ve experienced this past month. People have lost jobs or had to adjust to new ones, they’ve become a teacher/counsellor/nanny/housekeeper/hairdresser/chef and everything else all rolled into one. Some of us have been confined to tiny flats, some to houses with gardens and some miles away from their nearest and dearest. And during all that we’ve written every day, or at least tried to.

In a month where we’ve all had 101 other things to worry about, think about and plan for, we have taken the time to write.

Hooray for us!

We’ve written about elephants (probably), dances, racism, storytelling, rubbish (literally and metaphorically), sadism, fantasy, gloom and solstice.

We’ve written using narrators and verse. We’ve left out letters, cut whole stories in half and explored things from different angles. We’ve listened to music, looked at art and tapped into our absurd side. We’ve ticked off exposition, conflict, action, climax and denouement… crammed as much as we can into just 24 words and stretched ourselves to fill a trilogy.

All at the same time as socially distancing and watching videos of all sorts of DIY so we can live life at some level of normality.

There will be many more challenges to come – both of the writing sort and the real-life sort, but what I do know is that I am proud of myself and all of you for what we’ve achieved this month and I look forward to signing up for the next one.

For now I'm going to take a few months off, while I work on my next novella and look for a video on how to fix the toilet… don’t ask!

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