I’ve been thinking a lot about my progress on the Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. So far, I am doing well on toward my total of 5000 photos for the year, currently at just under 40% after only 2 and a half months. That’s 1904 photos in 10 weeks. In 2008, before the arrival of my new camera and my decision to embark upon this theme for 2009, I only shot 2325 photos. After the new camera and my 2009 theme decision, the total was 2084 photos, but I think that the former count is more representative of my pace than the latter. 1904 photos in 10 weeks versus 2325 in 11 months. It is clear how much more productive I’ve been this year in regards to my photos.
I think that’s because I’ve not limited myself in any way regarding what constitutes a “photograph”. Well, I did make a differentiation between test photos and photos I keep, but that is, to me at least, quite clear. Test photos are just that—for testing new equipment or familiarizing myself with equipment I haven’t used in a little bit. Obviously I shoot more test photos with new equipment than with old, but test photos are test photos and don’t count toward the 5000. In case there is any curiosity, warm-up photos DO count. Specifically, warm-up photos are whatever photos I shoot at the beginning of a shoot while I am still getting into the feel of the thing. Sometimes they can be as many as 100 or as few as 10, but there are always warm-up photos. Since I shoot these with the same intent I do with later photos in the set, I count them. Test photos are shot with little concern for subject matter or composition; warm-up photos are just the bad photos early in a set while I’m getting my bearings.
What about my short story count, then? An astute reader would notice that the count in the box on the left has read “0/50” since I put the box there on January 14th. What is the difference? I’ve been cranking out the photos, but why not the fiction? After the creative submission for Hunter which I submitted on January 31st, I took a little breaky-poo from writing every day. Then I went on vacation for two weeks to CA. But, now I’m back, had plenty of time to get something done, yet there is still nothing to show.
I think it comes down to the terms I set for myself initially. While my standards for photos are quite broad, my standards for short stories are much more regimented. I think the thing that’s fucking me up the most is the lower word limit. I have ideas, but then there’s this nagging voice in my head that says, “Well, can you really stretch that idea to 1500 words at a minimum?” and then I get stuck thinking about that stupid, arbitrary number I established. The point of the number was to get me thinking about what I’m writing, not to limit my output because I get hung up on it. It has served exactly the opposite of the intended purpose thus far. Not good.
Therefore, I submit this change to the terms of my definition of what constitutes a valid short story.
Here is the original definition:
Short story – a short story is any piece of narrative writing between 1500 and 10000 words. It can be about anything at all, but needs to fall roughly within those two limits. The upper limit is looser than the lower. 1500 words is a bare minimum, but ok since, once I get rolling, I’ll bang out 1500 to 2500 words in a sitting.
And here is my revised definition:
Short story – a short story is any piece of narrative writing up to 10000 words. It can be about anything at all and in any style, but it must be fiction.
Much better. Much less restrictive. Is it possible that some of my stories will be longer than the old minimum of 1500 words? Of course, but it’s just as likely that they’ll be 900 or 1000 words, below the old minimum, but nothing to scoff at. I have no intention of using this new lack of a lower limit as a way of copping-out on the assignment I’ve provided myself for the year. What would be the point? This is just a way of opening the door a little bit so I’m not artificially restricted, allowing my brain to breathe and focus on the task at hand—writing—rather than hitting 1500 words.