Karley is one of the people who inspired us to start The Spare Room Project, and we’re excited to feature her writing today! Her Everyday Vignette Project is also the reason we are hosting a Flash Fiction Writing Challenge for the last week of October, to get ready for NaNoWriMo. We asked her a few questions to give you some background the Challenge’s roots.
Just a note for clarification from Karley:
“The Everyday Vignette Project is based on artwork that I see on DeviantArt. I go looking for it every day and then write a 200-word-or-less story about it. I always credit the artists of the work that I feature in the Everyday Vignette Project and direct readers to the artists’ pages.”
The Spare Room Project (TSRP): What prompted you to start this project?
Karley: A combination of factors, really. First, I’ve tried to write fiction for years, but have always struggled with making it a discipline. I knew that if I really wanted to write, I needed to find a way to form the habit of writing, rather than just pecking away at it every few months or so.
Second, I follow DeviantArt on Facebook, and in a couple of their posts they’ve encouraged people to write 50-word vignettes about artworks they’ve featured. I did it both times, and found that I really liked writing short fiction.
The third thing that pushed me to start the Everyday Vignettes Project was following The Spare Room Project. No, really! The whole project got me brainstorming ways to incorporate creative pursuits into my life just a little, manageable bit at a time. And 30 minutes to write a paragraph-long story isn’t terribly hard to accomplish. In fact, it’s downright doable!
TSRP: How have you seen it change your approach to writing?
Karley: It’s made writing a much more accessible activity to me. Taking just a little time to write a little paragraph—or even just a couple sentences—has transformed writing from a huge project to an enjoyable daily exercise. It’s made writing fun rather than a chore.
Also, by self-imposing a limit of 200 words on my vignettes, I’ve found my writing has tightened up. It’s helped me learn how to tell my story using only essential words. It’s becoming easier to spot unnecessary material in my writing, and I’ve had to expand my vocabulary so I can use fewer words while still vividly telling the tale. I’m using far less “verys” and “reallys” in my creative writing.
The limit has also taught me to leverage readers’ imagination in my writing. I can’t spell out everything that’s going on or I’ll blow past the word limit, so I have to write just enough to suggest what’s happening and let readers fill in the details. It leaves a lot open to interpretation, but I’m content with that. Plus, by encouraging readers to fill in the blanks, I’m also encouraging them to exercise their imagination. And I’m pretty pleased with that idea!
TSRP: Has it changed anything else for you?
Karley: Absolutely! Doing this project has encouraged me to figure out how to break down other activities that I’d like to do but never seem to have time for into manageable chunks that I can work into my daily routine. It’s mostly removed the mental block of the enormity of a long-term pursuit. All I have to do is today’s little bit, and then tomorrow I can focus on tomorrow’s little bit, and so on.
It’s also important to note that if I miss a day or two, I don’t beat myself up about it. I don’t do the vignettes particularly when I’m traveling, or I’ve occasionally missed because I’ve been working on a major project that demands all my time. When that inevitably happens, I don’t declare the project a failure or feel like I have to write extra to catch up. I just ensure that the next day, when I’m sitting at my computer and have 30 minutes of time, that I do a vignette right then and there. I keep it flexible.
I’ve also found that doing this creative project has made me a happier person. Adding more stories—more art—to the world makes me happy. When I’m regularly in a creative mindset, I see the world more creatively, which makes the world seem more vibrant, more beautiful, and more full of potential. A creative mindset feeds all areas of my personality, and I truly think that makes me a more interesting person.
TSRP: Why would you recommend this type of project to someone else?
Karley: As I mentioned above, a successful ongoing project like this grants the confidence to tackle other ongoing projects just a little bit at a time. It’s empowering to know that if I can do this, I can do the other things I want to do if I break them down similarly into short, doable pieces that I can tackle each day or as often as I can.
Also, I think creativity is largely similar to physical fitness. A natural inclination towards creativity may make it easier, but anyone can be at least a little creative if one makes creativity a habit. The more a person practices creativity, the more creative a person becomes. But on the flip side, if a person stops practicing creativity, that person gradually loses it over time. I saw that happen in myself before I started the project.
A person don’t even have to be particularly good at a chosen creative pursuit. I’m certainly not a great short fiction writer. But I do it because the practice does make me a better writer and a better person. And most of all, it’s fun to create something and be able to say, “Look, I made this!” with no one telling you how to do it or rules binding you except the rules you make for yourself.
TSRP: What is your favorite piece from this project, so far?
Karley: Wow, tough choice. I have a couple competitors for the favorite slot, so I’ll share just one of them. This is one I wrote based on a photo of a man in silhouette inside an abandoned insane asylum overgrown with trees.
“Time for breakfast, Your Highness,” I say. Amber Verdan is smiling when I come into her cell. Weird. She never smiles.
“Greetings, Arthur,” she says. “Today is a glorious day.”
“Yeah?” I ask as I set her tray down. “Why’s that?”
Verdan’s smile grows wider. “Arthur, I finally have recovered all my power. Today I shall escape this place and return to my kingdom.”
“Oh, ok.” I mentally note to have a watch put on Verdan, though I doubt she’d try anything. Except for the fact that she thinks she’s a fairy queen, Verdan’s harmless. Almost sane, really.
“Arthur, you have long been my favorite. I would have you come with me and be my knight, if you would pledge your fealty to me. I long to show you my kingdom. Will you do it?”
“Sure, Your Highness,” I say. “Why not?”
Verdan frowns. “I am serious, Arthur. If you would be my knight, swear it. Pledge your fealty to me forever.”
“I pledge my fealty to you as your knight forever.”
She stands, beaming. This is really weird.
“Oh, Arthur, you shall not regret this. I have so much to show you.”
Then I notice the vines.