By the time I entered my second fiction workshop in college, I was infamous for my 20 page stories. I think I naturally lean towards novella-length stories, which are around 30,000 words, because once I get an idea for a story and the characters come to life, I want to make sure I share everything I can about them and their world. So, when my professor gave us an assignment to write two flash fiction stories, I audibly gasped.

Flash fiction stories are less than 1000 words—and I couldn’t imagine how to tell an entire story with such little time on the page. I ended up reading over twenty flash fiction stories to try to understand how other writers achieved this feat, and what I discovered was that these writers were paying attention to their stories on the sentence level and cutting away ANYTHING that didn’t need to be there—including words like “and,” “the,” and “a”, words I didn’t realize you could pull out of a sentence.

This occurred at a point when my writing was starting to feel kind of stagnant and disorganized. I was bored with the same style and same type of story that I always wrote. And when I finally finished my first draft of what would become “Rituals,” which is published at Eastern Iowa Review and was nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology, my writing came to life again and my excitement and joy for writing returned. Flash fiction became something freeing, experimental, exciting.

Since this experiment and experience, I’ve begun to read more stories from literary magazines as I search for writers who can show me something new that can be done in a story. If your creative projects are starting to feel a bit rusty, take more time to explore other artists’ work. Find something that reignites your excitement for your writing, photography, painting, whatever your creative hobby might be. Writing and other forms of art can be lonely hobbies and careers to have, but it doesn’t have to be! Find other artists and connect with them on Twitter, keep up with what others are doing in their work, and give similar techniques and styles a try with your own spin.

Your work will be much better anyways if it’s in conversation with everything else you consume (read, watch, listen to)!

What’s renewing your excitement for you creative projects lately?