Written But Not Read

You’ve probably heard of Octavia E. Butler’ s quote, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff…” Well, I’m a proud possessor of an absurd collection of short stories.

It was when going through my archived content with the hope of recycling some that I landed on a forgotten folder “Written But Not Read” that contains short story drafts, I wrote many years ago. Boy oh boy, such crap I was churning! I mean I could write 4000-word stories, now I can’t even produce 140 characters.

But my badly written stories made me laugh, and still do now reading them after all these years. It actually dawned on me that I was then writing to entertain myself; a way of dealing with culture shock in a new country. I wasn’t calling myself a writer then, I was simply writing and with no intention to share any of those stories with anyone else. I did knock myself out. Such freedom!

Lydia Koidula’s Writing Desk

I also remember at the time being convinced that I loved writing short stories. A puzzling thing, when I think of it now. Because writing short stories is the most demanding thing I’ve tried with my writing, thus far. I was perhaps a little more in love with the idea. In fact, a note (in that same folder) is equally interesting, “I don’t know what I was smoking to think I love writing short stories!”

But I wonder if, as a creative, you still allow your imagination free rein. Or has your art become burdened by all the social ills, we face today? As a reader, what short stories have you read lately, and also had you in stitches? Please do share!

note: I’m linking to Writers’ Pantry at Poets and Storytellers United. And oh, if you could use some encouragement with your writing, follow the link!

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and blogger. Her blog focuses on poetry and creative nonfiction, and also features poets and their books.

43 Comments

  1. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff…”

    Nice one to start this Sunday

    Wishing you a Happy Sunday.

    Much💛love

    MY POST TODAY

  2. Yes I agree wholeheartedly with much you say here Khaya, as a more mature writer that oyu are now… All the more important now I think thta we seek to both chase and share the light now, especially in these challenging times… Regards Scott

  3. We writers must have started somewhere and produce work that perhaps is nowhere near as good as our present pieces, but this is the point; you have attempt writing and slowly refine it to the extent that not only you but others like it too.

  4. My art can’t help but be affected by what’s going on around me, both in the larger world and my personal life. I think some of the frustration of the former and grief of the later is definitely making its way into my shorter pieces and I see the threads of it in my larger work.

    I still love writing short stories. I find I get twitchy if I go too long without doing them. Though working on the novel…. whoo boy… that’s a challenge. I think I like it though. And goodness yes, there are stories that maybe one, at most two, friends have seen that will never ever see the light of day. I’d like to think I’m getting better though. 😀

  5. I think it’s quite common that story writers start out wanting to entertain themselves. And it seems to be a good basis for it; if you can’t entertain yourself, how can you hope to interest other readers? On the other hand, when I was I was making poems with the idea that no-one else was going to read them, it allowed me to write carelessly, not bothering to prune and polish. I guess the ideal is to improve the writing while keeping the fun of it. I’m not a fiction writer myself, but I love reading short stories and I do think they must be a very demanding form to write well.

  6. Hi Khaya! I don’t think my writing or imagination has become a burden…I believe I choose to “protect” it more. ☺️ I’ve placed others and others before it. I’m finding my way back though. The last short story book I read was Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due; a fascinating, educational read. It introduced me to a new genre of reading.

    I also love when we trace back, remember the love that carries us through. Be well. Extend grace. Shine anyway. Writers Write. ~Michelle 💞

  7. You aren’t alone. I have many of those. Some of them I read, and wonder, What was I thinking? What did I mean? Bwahahaha!. They are fun to read. And often, they are a fantastic mine for ideas to rewrite.

    Since last month was Short Story Month, I read many–five collections and many single stories. I can’t remember laughing a lot. But they were very entertaining.

  8. It all starts with a love of words and a determination to put them together!!!

  9. I have lots of good umm crap. 🙂 Writing is healing for me so I keep writing my good, bad, and ugly.

  10. Khaya, that photo includes a whole lotta pages, for it not to be good. You know I’m always looking for a book in someone lol

  11. I feel you should always allow your imagination free rein. Let your soul always to speak! Be true to you! I love that you wrote all those short stories! Big Hugs!

  12. Hello! My imagination does run free …. when I am writing poems. I hope that never ends. I enjoyed this, thanks!

  13. We all start somewhere. When I read over my OLD stuff I see the glimpses of good and what it would come to after all these years of plugging away. I’m always that any of us even want to do it!

  14. I have attended Murphy Writing workshops and one thing I like about them is that the directive is to produce a shitty first draft. This helps remind me that in all likelihood, my first draft probably isn’t a masterpiece, and also helps me actually produce some crappy first drafts by lowering the expectations (and imposing a time limit). Love this!

  15. Khaya, I often think I’m glad I didn’t know how difficult it was to write short stories before I started the craft!😀 I would not have had any confidence to even begin if I’d read so many experts’ opinion before setting pen to paper. Luckily I was a lot more naive and like you, just started writing for fun! I do reread some of mine now and then and I notice my love of drama and darkness!

    I like the name of your folder ‘Written But Not Read’ and think I need to create one for my new rough work!

    Hope you’re keeping well and safe .. and enjoying lots of creative time! hugs xx

  16. I like the slowly refining part a lot, Robin. I think it’s vital, more so nowadays that publishing one’s work has become so easy. But we owe our readers the best and refined work we can produce.

  17. I hear you Rommy with this, “My art can’t help but be affected by what’s going on around me, both in the larger world and my personal life.” We can’t completely escape writing about this collective loss of normalcy, our personal losses and grief. I see it as recording events of our time for future generations

    I’m glad to hear that even you as a brilliant short story writer, you have some pieces you don’t intend to share with the public. 😀 Good luck with the novel. Challenge is good, remember to have fun with it!

  18. I agree Rosemary. We can’t hope to interest readers, if we can’t even entertain ourselves. I try this with poetry writing but I somehow end up with sad poems. But I’m constantly working at writing something light, for a change. I’ll take your advice about keeping the fun of it. 🙂

  19. Hey Michelle, I find it useful to trace back and see how far one has come. It helps in seeing the glass half full than the opposite. I think you are wise in protecting your writing and imagination, and no longer placing others before it. Welcome back to yourself. 🙂

    Thank you for the short story collection recommendation. Reading through the reviews, it sounds like the book will make for a good autumn read. Wishing you a restful weekend, and let’s keep writing! <3

  20. Bwahahaha! I would love, love to get a glimpse of those stories. 😀 I imagine they are a rich mine for rewrites.

    Entertaining is good too. I guess I’m looking for some kind of escapism, which I normally find in novels. But right now, I can’t commit to reading a novel, and since the pull towards short stories.

  21. And so I’m learning that crap is good, too. 😀 But you’re right, writing is healing. I don’t know how I’d survive these crazy times if it were not for writing.

  22. That photo is not of my stories…lol 😀 but of a writing studio of an Estonian poet, Lydia Koidula. She is one of my favourite poets. I always visit her museum, whenever I’m in Estonia as I simply love how they keep her memory alive. I think I wrote a post, few years ago, about one of my visits at Museum of Lydia Koidula.

  23. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this, Helen. Thank you for reading. It’s encouraging too to hear that your imagination runs free, even when writing poems. I live in hope!

  24. Hi JYP, thank you for the visit and such an encouraging comment. I think I need a workshop like that, because there’s certainly fun in producing shitty drafts and, as you so well put it, lowering expectations!

  25. Hej Annika, how luck you are for having written your short stories, when you did! Expert advice can be crippling at times. I think we should always have fun with our writing, and let go of the expectations imposed by ourselves or others.

    Now that you mention drama and darkness, I’m curious and eager to hear what you are creating. I eagerly wait…no pressure. 😀 As for the folder with unpublished works, it helps remind me that the writing goal is not always to publish. These drafts do feed other works. So, there’s no harm keeping one.

    Be well and safe, my friend! xx

  26. This experience resonates with me! I have boxes and notebooks and journals and hard drives of old writing. All of them are like time capsules to former states of my mind. I definitely think I was more “free” when I was younger. Less aware of the world around me and all its weight. I wrote unencumbered, for better or worse. It made my stories more flippant and narcissistic but less considerate, thematic, and empathetic. I can feel the fun and the freedom when I read over it, but I also see all the things I had yet to learn about the craft. I think my writing has improved, but all that deliberate effort has definitely changed it.

  27. Oh yes, there’s certainly a kind of freedom that comes with being young and unburdened by the injustices of this world. It would be really nice to that maintain that spirit of playfulness and do art for its own sake, even as our craft improves. I’m glad to hear that you are also a hoarder of old writing. Who knows, they might inspire a masterpiece! 🙂

  28. Nice! One of first lessons in writing was to never throw anything away. Never know when it may come in handy, lol. Blessings my dear.

  29. Thanks so much Tammy for your visit and kind comment. I’m also glad to make the acquaintence, I’ll catch up on your blog soon. Blessings your way, too.🙏🏽

  30. I find short stories hard to write too, Khaya. They have their own set of requirements and discipline. We find our niches though and hopefully come to love most parts of the process. I love it that you saved all those stories. Perhaps some will find new life! Happy Writing. 🙂

  31. True this, “We find our niches though and hopefully come to love most parts of the process.” It’s true for my love for poetry and even the sometimes messy process of writing it. 🙂

    Wishing you a lovely Sunday, and a wonderful summer…xx

  32. The year was off to a rocky start, and current events has dampened my spirit, but I am trying to connect with myself again. I look at what others have been through and realize I don’t have much to complain about by comparison.

    It is interesting to read things I wrote some time ago. The lens of older eyes has perspective.

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