Entered another Flash Challenge at Liberty Hall yesterday. I didn’t finish within the time limit, so I won’t qualify for any awards, but I was pretty happy with the story anyhow. At this point, the peer recognition is secondary to the opportunity to seed a new story and receive critiques on it.
As I was mowing the lawn this afternoon, I began to ponder the value of the flash challenge. I could certainly pick a picture or quotation off a random website on my own and set myself to writing about it for 90 minutes, then send it to a couple of friends for review. It doesn’t take a writing group to do that. However, the group format provides two huge benefits for me:
1. Accountability. It’s a lot easier to not write or not finish if I’m the only person involved. I can always come up with something more important to do and put off writing for another time…a time that never comes. I’ve done this for years.
2. Forced Bypass of the Stupid Filter. Even if I pull random ideas for story seeds, I still have a great deal of difficulty getting past my personal “Stupid Filter.” I grab an idea, consider it for a few minutes, declare it “stupid,” and discard it. In the organized flash challenge, I have to roll with the provided trigger, whether I like it or not. Thus far, I’ve written some of my most successful stories based on triggers that, at first glance, I was convinced would never work.
For example, this weekend, the trigger idea was, “Write a story involving a common disease and an unlikely patient.” I looked at this for a few minutes, said to myself, “Right…dragon with chicken pox. It’s been done. It’s stupid. Discard it.” Left to my own devices, I would have hit a brick wall. The combination of time pressure and peer pressure kept me going, and I came up with a little story about Death getting treatment for the effects of repressed guilt. That’s probably been done before too, but the point is that the competition got me past the Stupid Filter to a story that I liked and can continue to develop. Fewer “flashes in the pan,” more stories that might see publication some day.