A while back, before this site even existed, in fact, I started a site called wikidstory (.com). The idea was to have visitors to the site collaborate (hence the ‘wiki’ in the name of the site) on fiction stories. Long or short, whatever we were inspired to do. My hope was that someone would start a story - a paragraph, a page, a chapter, whatever - and another member of the community would add to it, taking it in a totally new direction.
I thought it was a splendid idea but I think, looking back, there were some significant flaws. Chief among them, though, was me. As I’ve mentioned on more than a couple occasions, starting is easy. What’s hard is continuing and, eventually, finishing. So while the idea of collaborative storytelling is a good one, it wasn’t a good one for me. At least not at the time. Why? Because it wasn’t the beginning thing I needed to work on. It was the finishing thing.
I’m only guessing, but I’m willing to wager any fiction author would tell you that coming up with the original story idea, the premise upon which the rest is based, isn’t the challenge. It’s the consistent application of mental focus and discipline needed to bring that idea into the world, and to fruition, that takes effort. Courage, even.
I could sit down right now and start 50 stories without too much trouble. Any hair-brain idea will work to get things rolling. But the challenge in that reality, for me, is recognizing that 50 story starts simply cannot compare to one finished story. People start amazing things every day, but it’s not until those beginnings travel down the road a ways and start to take shape that they truly have an impact. And it’s only in finishing that their real power is unleashed, most notably their ability to begin something again, something that wasn’t visible before.
This strong off the starting line, weak on the finish is something that’s limited my own impact for a long time. Wikidstory was just another example. What I’ve found, though, the silver lining, if you will, is that these starts leave clues. They hint at my potential, and point toward the things that move me, that transform me into the person I’ll one day be.
So I’ve decided to repurpose my Wikidstory idea
Wikidstory was born out of my love of writing, and the immense power I’ve found in storytelling. But it was wrong to ask others to do my heavy lifting. It was pure folly to think that the gratification and pride I feel when I’ve written something great could possibly exist at the end of a short-cut. Because as with so much in life, we don’t want the trophy, the recognition, the destination. We sometimes think we do, but we’re wrong and we know it. We want struggle that delivers the trophy/recognition/destination.
I ran a 50K in the mountains once, and I can say without hesitation that the best part of that accomplishment was the training that led up to it, and the running of the race itself. Crossing the finish line was nice, and certainly felt great at the time, but when I look/think back on it, I remember the effort that went into preparing for the race. I remember the pain. I remember the mental battle that was fought every time I went on a training run. How easy it would have been to give up, or to justify not running on a given day. Overcoming that kind of resistance it what makes us great. What makes us worthy. Not just once, but every day.
I’m neither great nor worthy today. But I have been, and I will be again, and writing is an equivalent struggle for me. It offers resistance sufficient to bring out my best, but not on the backs of others. On me. On my daily decisions to overcome the fear and self-ridicule that almost always show up when I sit down to write something significant.
Truth is, I don’t know much about writing fiction, and maybe that’s why Wikidstory had so much appeal. But I’ve used ignorance as an excuse long enough, so today I offer you a story start from some years back, and this time, it comes with a new commitment on my part. I aim to finish it. Here, on HTM, in some sort of serialized fashion. I don’t know for sure yet, but I’ll work through that as I go. Best (and easiest :D) to get started and worry for the details along the way.
It’s always hard to breath in August. It’s not just that it’s hot, it’s that it’s unreasonably hot. Oppressively hot. Hot like a polar bear would be if it suddenly found itself in the middle of Death Valley. Hot like every bad soul will be if Rev. Jones has anything to say about it. Yes, hot like every hot thing in the world, rolled up in one big ball, and doused with boiling hot water for good measure. Only hotter.
In spite of the heat, breathing remains possible, if only just barely. That is, as long as you don’t get yourself sandwiched between, well, a rock and a hard place, literally. So tight that your lungs can’t fill up, or even exhale completely (for fear of letting the squeeze tighten). Unfortunately, that’s just what I did.
The woods behind my house have always been my private kingdom, one I explore on a regular basis. And though there aren’t any fences to limit my adventures, I had long ago constructed imaginary boundaries I chose not to breach. Until today. So much for trying something new.
The thing of it is, I didn’t even know it was happening, until it happened. I didn’t fall suddenly or have something suddenly fall upon me. I was just exploring a new ravine and didn’t notice the sides were getting mighty cozy until, it seemed, it was too late. You know how sometimes you climb up something…a tree, a rock, whatever…only to find you cant get down quite so easily? It was like that, only I wasn’t climbing up something, I was climbing through something. I knew the minute I’d gone too far, the point at which I was no longer bearing my full weight, but was instead somewhat lodged between a large flat rock and a tree root jutting out from the opposite side. My forward foot was on the ground, the other was semi-suspended a few inches above the ground. It seemed I simply didn’t belong there.
So there I stood/sat/hung, cardiovascularly-challenged, planning my next move. I could see light ahead of me, but I knew what to expect behind me. As I thought about my options, the root gave slightly and, my weight being on my front foot, I fell down and forward. Staying on my knees, I quickly crawled toward the light (hoping it wasn’t THE light). What I found was, on the surface, very much like what I’d left behind…woods. But something was definitely different. I couldn’t at first comprehend what it was. And as I stood there taking it all in, I almost brushed that feeling off…the feeling that it was different in some important way. Just woods, I was thinking, just regular woods that I had yet to explore. But then I saw it.