By David E. Sharp
It’s the end of October, and my latest writing endeavors have had nothing to do with novels, short stories, poetry, or any of the other usual suspects. Instead, it is a murder mystery game based loosely on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
A fellow librarian and I collaborate each year to fill our library with clues, secrets, and plots for our visitors to unravel. Portraits and descriptions of the suspects hang from the walls. A stack of case file folders sits near the entrance filled with newspaper clippings, old handwritten notes, and other incriminating bits of evidence to sift through.
Sit down with the least expectation of yourself: say, "I am free to write the worst junk in the world."
I often consider the week a success or failure based on whether I achieved my word-count on short stories or novels each day. I find I produce a considerable amount of content I don’t even plug into the equation.
Even when I am not “writing,” I am continually writing! For library programs, presentations, distractions for my children, or just pointless drivel to kill a dull afternoon. (Oh, and blog posts. I write those too!)
The adage is that when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. There is wisdom here. My hammer is a word processor. While it’s natural to lean into your strengths, I’ve had a few hard lessons that some problems won’t be solved by creative storytelling.
I have found at work, as a parent, in the minutia of everyday responsibilities, or in confronting new and challenging problems. I can usually find a way to inject plot and character into the situation.
Creativity is a transferable skill with a wide range of applications. And while much of the “content” I produce will never see the inside of my writing portfolio, it forms the elemental protoplasm from which I draw ideas.
Which makes me wonder: what were all the in-between writing projects of Dickens or Hemingway that we’ll never get to see? Did the Bard of Avalon ever write a Weird Al-style parody for the private amusement of friends and family? Perhaps it’s best, we never know.
Meanwhile, in the thick of plotting novels and short stories, I often forget about the half a decade of annual mystery party games I’ve helped to pen. But I shouldn’t. Because they were fun, and they have a kind of worth of their own.
What are your in-between works? Have any of them become something more than they were meant to be?
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