A Writer's Process: Paula Harmon

One November day I wrote a story.  Was it razor sharp in its dissection of the human soul?  No, just silly; it had Santa in it.

I saved it on the cloud rather than the hard drive.  Don’t know why.  Next morning I couldn’t access my story without a password I’d forgotten.  All that effort and the world was safe from reading it.   

At my first job interview, I answered “where do you see yourself in 10 years” with “writing” as opposed to “progressing in your company.”  Didn’t get that job but didn’t become a writer either. 

Paying the bills, building a career, raising a family - yada yada.  This year, I decided to change.  I entered a competition, posted stories on Facebook, signed up to do Nanowrimo (write a novel in a month) and a Flashnano challenge: 30 days of short pieces.  By 2nd November, I decided I was mad.  I had my novel outline, but the prospect of writing 50000 words while working full-time, ferrying teenagers, remembering to talk to my husband and running a home seemed impossible. 

I took my laptop on train journeys, wrote in my lunch break, ignored all but the most essential housework.  On one train journey a young woman behind me read over my shoulder as I typed and started a conversation.  I was so deep in 1943 that when she spoke, I screamed out loud - just a little embarrassing. 

Originally, I wasn’t convinced I would be able to summon up one story let alone more than thirty.  But the truth is that although coming home from work after a bad day, driving offspring around, meeting my daily Nanowrimo target and trying to think up a story including the word “orange” seemed too much -

I got on with it anyway.  Meanwhile in the background drums and pianos were practised, teenagers & husband offloaded and dinners burned. 

At the end of November, with my husband's support and encouragement from friends, I’d written 50000 words (just), all 30 shorts plus a few more. I felt more relaxed and fulfilled that I have done for years. 

The flashnano challenge was over and I missed it so much I set myself a different one - an advent calendar of flash fiction.  I’ve put 25 words in a jar (candle, angel etc) and I will pull one out each day and write a little piece prompted by each one. 

I just don’t want to lose the momentum.  I have learned that all the excuses I made (too much to do, too much noise, everyone will be annoyed) were simply excuses. 

By the way - I managed to retrieve the silly story from the cloud - the world is no longer safe from it.