I’ve written short stories since I was about 10; which is when I won my first and only literary prize! It was a story about an old green door knocker in the shape of a goblin which once you grabbed it to knock the door, held your hand and wouldn’t let it go until you had answered 3 questions.
I think short stories are harder to write than long ones; 400 word articles are even harder. Last week, a couple of people emailed me to express how much they appreciated last week’s article in the Newsletter about cherishing the present moment. Nice to get feedback. One person also asked – how do you start your articles?
Here’s my attempt at an explanation. You might approach it very differently, but I begin by sitting in front of the computer ( sometimes my ipad) and focus on an image on the screen. And, I just sit still for a while. I have always found much pleasure in stillness. Then, a few thoughts begin to emerge, like small clouds on the horizon making their way toward me. Gathering. Merging. Shifting. Also, it’s a bit like playing with plasticine ( or play-doh) – as you push and poke the material a shape starts to appear, and then imagination takes over and ideas begin to cluster. Each idea acts like a magnet attracting fresh words and thoughts, and before you know it a short story has emerged. For me, it’s as organic as that. Sometimes a story is activated by an event, or something I’ve seen, heard, or read about. Often, its theological – triggered by Sunday’s texts. It’s always a gentle exercise in extraction and allowing thoughts to come to the surface.
Often, I try to put myself into the mind of the gospel writers and wonder how I would craft a story about Jesus and the kind of world in which he lived. How would I tell the story in such a way that my grandchildren might be inspired to live caring and compassionate lives? What would I try to explain differently?
An exercise in futility? Perhaps. A fruitful exercise? Probably.
Anyway, I think I would start with an interview.
“So Jesus, you’ve just turned 30. Why have you chosen right now to go on the road and ‘speak truth to power’, to confront the people who run the Temple. You must know how that is going to end”?