I seem to have lost the knack of writing microfiction. It was never something I thought about. Much. Or ever, to be honest. But then the pandemic hit and the first lockdown came along and throttled all my writing efforts quite utterly to death.
Lots of people said to me, oh yay, lockdown, great time to write. Well, no, not actually. My life was structured in a way that I had time to write every week anyway and I’ve always treated it professionally. I sit down at my desk at the same time every day and work for the same number of hours. I didn’t have any problem with staying home during the pandemic. In fact, I really liked it! So I shouldn’t have had any problem with my writing during the lockdowns. After all, not much had changed, right?
But there were two aspects that had: one was the anxiety. That first lockdown was pretty grim. No one in the world knew what was going to happen. Nor did we know how long the lockdown would last. “Over by the summer” was obviously not on the cards. Suffering from major-league anxiety at the best of times, this shouldn’t have made too much difference to my writing either.
It’s only in hindsight that I’ve been able to work out what it was that almost killed me off a writer: working from home. My desk space, a sacrosanct area in the corner of my teeny tiny lounge (usually full of washing), was no longer just my writing space. I had to do my Real Life job there as well. I tried very hard to keep the WFH job apart from my writing “job” using all sorts of tricks to separate the two activities. I used a different keyboard – for the WFH job, I used the keyboard that came with my current desktop, a keyboard I really hate. When I write, I use the old one from my last desktop (which I had to stop using because the OS system went out of date). I used a different mouse. I tried to wear different clothes (I was getting desperate). I drank my coffee out of different mugs.
It didn’t work.
Slowly, the WFH job began to encroach on my writing. My computer felt contaminated with work stuff. My desk was cluttered with work stuff. I got sick of swapping keyboards around all the time. I found myself checking work emails on days I wasn’t even meant to be working (it was a parttime job). I couldn’t get space from my job which meant I couldn’t get space from my writing either.
My writing began to suffer. Everything I wrote was rubbish. My ideas died. Then I stopped having ideas altogether. It felt as if I’d never be able to write again. This is where microfiction comes into the story. One of my lockdown walks took me down to the river which was quite wonderful without the traffic. There were some pleasure boats parked on the river which had wonderful names and while gazing out fondly at them, a tiny piece of descriptive writing suddenly popped into my head.
That was the first piece of microfiction I ever wrote. It’s still my favourite! I still see those boats too! After that, I used microfiction as a way to push my imagination. I needed to teach myself how to get ideas again. And it worked!
I certainly don’t see myself as a proper writer of microfiction – it has a number of rules and regulations and stylistic expectations which wasn’t what it was about for me. Someone on Twitter said to me that I wasn’t writing microfiction, I was just writing first lines for a story. Hmmm, well, no, not really. In my tiny paragraphs, I could see entire novels, but then, it’s probable that I was the only person seeing those novels. The tiny paragraphs worked for me but perhaps not for others.
I could generate ideas again. I could write. But more importantly, I could write something I actually liked. My confidence as a writer returned.
The microfiction remained as a legacy to that difficult period and I ended up only writing fifteen pieces. Here is one of them. To see the others, click here: MICROFICTION