As a writer, publishing a finished piece of work is the ultimate goal. A feeling of ecstasy and accomplishment. It’s an intrinsic sensation of achievement unlike any other emotion you’ll experience in your writing journey. But when you don’t finish something– when none of your projects are near publication quality and you’re constantly stuck in the drafting/editing circle of death–the exact opposite effect takes over.
Worthlessness. Failure. Defeat. You don’t feel like a real writer: what have you done? You don’t have a book in your hand or a website link to send to loved ones. You’re not going to throw people crumbled notes and scribbled pages of your WIP as proof of your efforts; it won’t make sense. You can’t begin to explain how much time it takes to edit and plot, to develop characters or conflicts. So much of the writing process will never be translatable to anyone outside of the industry. And as hard as you try, the input of others will matter. It will always matter. A lot.
When you feel like you have nothing to show for your writing career, or at least your current project, that’s when imposter syndrome loves to creep in. That crushing disease that makes you think you’re wasting your time or a silly hobby. So what’s the answer to keeping these negative thoughts at bay? It’s surprisingly simple– smaller projects and shorter pieces.
Finishing small projects boosts your moral
So, distractions, you might be thinking. Sort of, but not quite.
Shorter pieces of writing are certainly a niche for some, but these small projects can serve as a constructive distraction for writers who feel stuck on longer pieces. These works may have nothing to do with your WIPs, and they will certainly take your efforts away from your novel. But my friends, I’m telling you, the feeling of success that arises from completing a piece, any piece, is worth the break.
The act of finishing something is priceless for our mental health. In fact, our brains are naturally wired with the need to complete tasks to stay balanced. Studies show that when you check things off your mental to-do list (groceries, responding to emails, running errands, etc.) your brain rewards itself. You feel elated, accomplished, full of dopamine bliss. The same can happen when applied to your writing career.
Submitting a shorter piece of work that can be read on a website, social media page, or in a collection suffices your brain’s need to be productive. Your writing is getting out in the world for readers to see. Sure, it’s seeping out in fragments, but it’s out there with your names stamped all over it.
Shorter pieces can change your writing goals.
Smaller projects get your brain thinking, make you question your message, and allow you to hone in on your craft. Editing a shorter piece doesn’t feel as daunting as a 50K novel or a collection of emotionally charged poems. You can rearrange, delete, rewrite, all without sacrificing months of work or creating unintentional plot holes.
From my own experience, shorter pieces can inspire new stories to come to life, even more, powerful than the ones already in drafting mode. A few months back, I was dragging my feet on joining the #writerstowriterschallenge, a flash fiction challenge to help support writers gain reach on social media. I thought it was just going to be a distraction, a waste of time. That it wasn’t going to help my writing goals at all.
Yep, you guessed it. I was wrong.
Not only did this simple 500-word flash fiction contest challenge my brain, but it also inspired the next plot to my new short story. A short story that turned into a novella. A novella that quickly turned into another novel I am thrilled to see come to life someday.
By posting my story on Instagram, I was introducing my writing style to potential readers, readers who were responding and reacting positively to the piece. Ideas began flowing everywhere, and my daily word count was twice the amount it had been before the challenge. A few months later, when I hit another rut, I searched for the next small project to keep my mind moving: an anthology submission. I submitted poems and a narrative to different projects, both of which were accepted.
No, I didn’t have my own book. But my work was going to be seen, published, with my name. The ultimate goal achieved, just in smaller bits at a time.
It’s not going to be a waste of time…trust us.
As Moms Who Write, our time is limited, something to be treasured. We know we need to spend it wisely and make the most out of planned writing sessions. We know we need to take advantage of random free moments, buckle down and get serious about our goals. But sometimes, it’s hard to find the motivation to write with stagnant feelings of defeat. Even in a quiet house with no distractions, coffee, and comfort, the lingering feeling of accomplishing nothing is crippling.
When you find yourself here (and I think we all do at some point) smaller projects can be the fuel you are craving to keep your writing aspirations alive. I’m not going to lie, withdrawing from your WIP will feel terrible, temporarily at least. You may be cursing yourself with every keystroke and second-guessing your efforts. Trust us– it’s not a waste of time.
All writing projects are learning opportunities. Some are profound and others are just snippets of success to bridge our momentum till our book is finally ready for its debut. Heck, some short writing projects can even include your WIP, a way to tease the crowd with scenes from your story or test out characters you’re looking to expand.
Where to submit short writing pieces
Modern writers are lucky. There are endless opportunities to submit short pieces for all sorts of publications if you just take the time to find them. For instance, we offer our group members several opportunities to submit shorter pieces to keep those creative brains moving: our first Anthology set to publish in the spring, and the #writerstowriterschallenge and KISS prose challenge on Instagram.
Here’s a quick list with some more suggestions:
- Flash fiction challenges
- Anthologies (all genres)
- Short story collections
- Multi-author poetry collections
- Vella series
- Social media posts on your personal page
- Author blogs (guest and personal)
- Writing contests through publications
- Creative writing websites (Medium, Her View From Home, Scary Mommy)
I didn’t list them all…there are too many. But you get the idea. If you’re feeling stuck, defeated, ready to throw your book in the fire, try a shorter piece. Dive in, pour your heart out in a different direction for a second and ride the wave of success that comes after.
About the Writer: Shell Sherwood is a poet, fiction writer, freelancer, and creator of silly children’s stories, who could live on coffee, pastries, and romantic tragedies. She lives in Hudson Valley, NY with her fiancé and three boys, and aspires to own a small writing getaway in every climate. Shell is currently working on her debut poetry collection. Learn more about Shell and follow her writing journey via her author blog, Instagram, and TikTok.