1000 Short Stories

About

Written By: Bonnie Jean Schaefer

Author Bonnie Jean Schaefer (aka D.K. Deatherage) is on a quest to write and share 1000 short stories.

Some will be factual stories based on her own life experiences, but most will be fiction.

Some of the fictional stories will be stories that stand on their own while some will become part of a series.

And some of the serial stories will blend together to eventually form a novel.

Whether fact or fiction, the goal is simply to entertain and inspire. It all started in January 2012 with The Story of 1000 Stories

The Story of 1000 Stories

The magazine on the rack spoke to me from across the library lobby.  Lured me in.  Drew me to it like a magnet pulling at my soul.

Without warning, I found myself standing in front of it, longing to pick it up.  Flip through the pages.  Absorb and identify with the information between its covers.

I tried to walk away.  Forget about it.  Move on.

But my heart wouldn’t let me.  The fire burning inside needed to be fed.  It needed the fuel only the contents of this magazine could provide.

I looked to my left.  I looked to my right.  I glanced behind me.  Satisfied that none of my fellow college students were watching, I snatched the magazine, hid it under my arm and scurried to the most remote cubicle in the most remote part of the library I could find.

Cautiously, I placed the magazine on the cubicle countertop, leaned over and used my arms to create a double-walled barrier to protect against prying eyes.  I took a deep breath, bit my bottom lip and drank in every title of every article waiting for me on the inside.

Dare I open it?

No one told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t.  Then again, no one told me I could or should, either.

No one knew about this buried desire of mine.  No one knew because I lacked the courage to share it.  I lacked the courage to share it because I lacked the faith in me needed to choose a path no one in my family or circle of friends had ever taken.

I soon started to get a little lightheaded and realized I was still holding my breath.  After forcing a few deep, calming breaths, I dared myself to do what I had never done before.

I opened the cover of the Writer’s Digest magazine.

With the simple turn of a page, I finally admitted to myself at age 20 that I wanted to be a writer.  I proceeded to read that magazine meant for writers from cover to cover, then put it back on the rack with as much ninja-like secrecy as I acquired it.

I sighed as I walked away from the magazine and tried to shake the desire to write.

Being a writer was such a ridiculous, illogical, impractical dream.  Making a living by telling stories just seemed too good to be true.  Besides, I had resigned myself to the idea that I would have to choose a career that bored me, a job that was practical and logical and made sense to my family.

A year later and mere months away from graduation, I still hadn’t figured out what career to choose.  I feared graduation for it brought with it a black hole of uncertainty.

What was I going to do?  Where was I going to go?  Who was I going to be?  How was I supposed to find a job with a degree in Bible?

School had been my safety net.  As long as I had classes to attend and projects to complete, I didn’t have to face my future.  Once I graduated, though, I would have to endure reality and that sick feeling that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be: a writer.

At least that’s what I thought until I showed up for class on February 12, 1999.  That day, my professor discussed the difference between Dreamers and Doers (why, I don’t know; I wasn’t really paying attention to the first part of the lecture).  According to my professor, Dreamers dream about what could be done while Doers make things happen.

I wanted to be a Doer.  I wanted to believe in my dreams, in the possibility of turning them into memories.  But I knew the truth.  I was just a Dreamer doomed to dream big dreams that had no hope of coming true.

Depressed by the realization that I was nothing more than a handicapped Dreamer, I started to once again tune my professor out and return to my daydreams.  Fortunately, though, my professor wasn’t done.  She recaptured my attention by quoting Psalm 37:3:  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

God wanted to give me the desires of my heart?  How could that be?

I had taught myself to be practical and logical and rational.  I had taught myself to believe that I needed to ignore my passions in order to please God.  Now I discover I’ve been wrong all along?

As soon as class ended, I went home and read the first six verses of Psalm 37 over and over and over again.  They were real.  These words were actually in the inspired word of God.

When I thought about it, it made perfect, logical sense.  If I was seeking God, I would want what He wants.  My desires would match His when I was committed to following Him.

My greatest desire was to be a writer.  For the first time in my life, I realized I could, with God’s help, make that happen.  I could do what I dreamed.

I could be a DREAM DOER.

Filled with hope, I found the courage to admit to my family and friends that I wanted to be a writer and proceeded to start the draft of my first novel after graduating.

The problem I faced, however, was that admitting I wanted to be a writer and actually believing I could be were two wildly different things.

The doubts in my ability so plagued me that it took me nine years to write and publish my first novel.  In the three and a half years since that self-published book debuted on Amazon, I’ve struggled with writing its sequel.

The internal demons of doubt eat away at every word and chapter and draft.  I have a hard time believing that the characters I write about and the situations they find themselves in are entertaining to anyone but me.

So I keep my words and works to myself, lacking the courage and confidence to share them with others.

The doubts are so severe that I’ll go for months without writing a word of fiction, then feel guilty for abandoning my characters and leaving them stuck in unfinished stories.  I’ll thus begin writing again, but I’m so uncertain that anything I write has even a hint of quality that I’m soon ready to put down my pen and step away.

In the meantime, I’ve had to earn money to pay for pesky little things like food, shelter and bills, so I’ve spent the last twelve and a half years working a string of jobs to get me by.  Some jobs I enjoyed, like coaching, carpentry and working in the campus recreation department at Wake Forest University.  Some jobs I hated, like being a mail carrier, customer service representative and waitress.  And some jobs I endured, like teaching and secretary work.

As a writer wanna-be, I developed this ridiculous notion that I had to work jobs that would just barely cover my expenses.  My reasoning was that if I committed to a “real” job with a stable salary, I would get too comfortable being financially comfortable that I would lose my desire to write.  I thought the pain of being perpetually broke would motivate me to write as a means of improving my life.

This belief that I had to struggle financially plus the belief that I had no genuine writing ability got me exactly where I am right now:  nowhere.

Although I like my current job at Starbucks and have been there for more than two years, the challenge is gone.  The work has become too easy, and I’m becoming—as my boss pointed out in my last review—stagnant.

Hearing him use that nasty little word to describe me stung.  It stung because it was deadly accurate.

I’m stagnant and feel stuck, like I’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to offer.

Unless I finally decide to believe in and chase my dreams.

Unless I finally decide to trust God enough to lead me where He’s been prompting me to go since I was a little girl who used her fingers and toes as characters in her made-up stories while lying in bed.

Unless I finally decide to trust me enough to find a way to live my writing dreams.

It’s a dream that’s not going to go away no matter how much I doubt it or try to ignore it.  So I might as well just go for it.  I just wasn’t sure how until a few weeks ago in the middle of a run.

As I ran, I thought about how boring and unadventurous my life was.  I was wondering how, at age 34, I had missed out on life, on those simple things people around me seemed to enjoy:  entertaining evenings with friends, vacations, dating, marriage, kids.

Life was passing me by.  Instead of living with passion and purpose, I had relegated myself to simply watching everyone else live their lives.

In that shameful moment of self-pity, I suddenly realized how pathetic I sounded.  After all, I was the one responsible for my life and the results I was experiencing.  I wasn’t a victim; I had just mistakenly created a life for me that I didn’t much like.

But I also realized the amazing gift God had given me:  my imagination.

Just like I had imagined myself into a life of working too many nights to enjoy outings with friends, a life of not making enough money to travel and a life of perpetual singlehood, I could imagine myself into a life of adventure and romance.

Granted, I couldn’t change my life immediately.  But I could crawl inside the hearts and minds of people I naturally create when writing stories, let them live the adventures and romance I long for and thus experience the world through a thousand different eyes.

A thousand.  That number struck me.  Forced me to an abrupt halt in my run.

How much fun would it be to write a thousand different stories about a thousand different people?  Incalculable!

I began running again.  My pace picked up as the passion kicked in.  Oh, the places I could go.  The people I could meet.  The things I could do.

But wait.  It took me nine years to write and publish my first novel.  Granted, it was told from two different perspectives, but still.  At that rate, I’d never be able to experience all I wanted to experience in the world of my imagination.

My pace slowed at the daunting reality of never being able to fulfill such a big dream.

As I continued to run, though, I remembered the lesson I learned from running:  every race didn’t have to be the mighty marathon.  I began to love running more when I began changing up the kinds of races I ran and the distances involved.

I had already started experimenting with short stories and was enjoying the process.

So why not write 1000 short stories?  I could have fun playing with a variety of writing styles and characters and genres while constantly practicing and improving my storytelling skills, thus making my books better.

Hmmm…a thousand short stories.  How long would it take to write that many stories?

As I started another lap around the running track, I crunched the numbers.  If I wrote a story a week every week for a year, I would only end up with 52 stories.  Plus I might need a break for a week or two throughout the year, so being able to produce 50 stories a year seemed realistic.

At the rate of 50 stories a year, it would take me 20 years to achieve my goal.

Rather than feel crushed at the enormity of such a long-term commitment, I felt energized.  Alive.  Excited.

I’d been searching for a goal to commit to, one that would drive me and force me to use and improve my dormant writing skills.

This was it.

I didn’t have to sell a million books to consider myself a legitimate writer.  I simply needed to write and master the art of storytelling.

I left the park that day energized yet unclear about the purpose of the stories.  Why write if I wasn’t going share the stories or earn any money in the process?

I also had plenty of doubts about my ability to produce stories week after week when I wasn’t in the habit of being such a prolific writer.

To silence the doubts and create accountability, I decided I had to publish a story a week on a blog.  Earning money from the process at this point was irrelevant; learning how to be a writer—how to write and share stories—will eventually become a priceless habit.

The fear of sharing my work scared all the doubts away.  Writing I enjoy; letting people read what I write is torture.

Although I’m rather partial to keeping my thoughts and feelings guarded, I have to be vulnerable when I write because I have to feel what my characters feel and find a way to express those feelings with words.  Little pieces of me are bound to become intertwined with my characters, and I’m afraid I’ll expose too much of me in the process.

I also fear those who know me best won’t be able to see my characters as the separate individuals I’ve created but will identify the thoughts, feelings and desires of my characters as a façade for my own.

In addition to those fears, I’m also afraid that those who know me won’t like my stories or will feel obligated to read my stories because they know me.  Then they’ll either refrain from candidly sharing their negative opinions or avoid me because they’ll feel guilty for not having read the stories in the first place.

And if they tell me they like the story, I’ll have a hard time believing them because I’ll think they are just being nice and protecting my feelings.

But like I’m learning to trust God and myself, I need to learn to trust my family and friends.  So even though it terrifies me to publish my stories on a blog for the world to see, on that blog they will go.

I’m certain I’ll make plenty of mistakes along this short story journey.  I’m certain many of the stories—especially those in the beginning—will be flops and not worth writing, much less reading.

But in order to become a master storyteller, I have to be willing to be lousy at the beginning.

So I’ll publish my stories whether I consider them bad or good.  I’ll of course do the best I know how to do, but I have a hunch my best won’t be very good at the start.  How can it be?  I’ve never done this before.  I need to practice and learn in order to hone my skills and become a great writer.

What am I going to write about, though?  How am I going to tie all the stories together?  What’s the big picture that makes it all make sense?

Occasionally, I’ll share a true to life story like this one when the story on my heart comes from my life rather than a fictional character.

Since most of my stories will be fiction, though, and since my novels need characters, every main character in every short story I publish will appear in one of my novels in some way.  They may take on a life of their own and get their full-blown story.  Or they may show up as supporting characters in other people’s stories.

Figuring out how all of my characters somehow fit together and cross each other’s paths will be an intriguing challenge, one I am far from figuring out at the moment.

I have no idea where the short story journey is going to take me, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be inspired to find a way to live your dreams, too.

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