Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Reflection is an important part of life. We reflect on what we have learned, the mistakes we have made (and hopefully ensure we don’t make again). We reflect on courage and service (as shown by the Remembrance Day events).
A time to reflect makes us take that time out of our busy schedules to ponder on things that are important. Reflection also makes us slow down, also not a bad thing.
Certain life events also give us cause to reflect. And the last year or so has given us all more time than usual to reflect on what is going on (and generally not liking it much).
But that period of reflection has also made us realise just what we miss most about everyday life. For me, it is meeting up with friends and family, singing in church, going to writing events in person, and just having the freedom to go out or not depending on what I decide I’d like to do. (I have no problems with the restrictions which have happened as a result of the pandemic, I can see the point of them, but I know my fellow writers and I have missed the opportunity to engage with readers directly, just to name one example of “missed” things).
Reflection and the Creative Life
Reflection is an important part of the creative life too. Once I have drafted a story or a blog post like this, I leave it for a while. I come back to it a few days later and it is only then I can spot what is wrong with it (and there always is something. I’ve mentioned before nobody but nobody ever writes a perfect first draft but you do get better at spotting what can be improved and there is where your writing improves over time. But you do have to be open to the idea of spotting room for improvement!). You do need to give yourself the necessary distance away from a piece of work to be able to read it objectively.
I sometimes write character studies such as my They Don’t Understand from my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again. Here I have an old man looking back at the life he shared with his wife. So for pieces like this I have my characters doing the reflecting.
(Stories like these can be moving but I have found they work best when kept short. I also find them a refreshing interlude between more traditional stories where something happens, so to speak. Character studies can make you think about how you would be if you faced the character’s situation – more reflection there! The impact on the reader is stronger as a result of the story being kept short. Flash fiction is ideal for this).
Reflecting on the Writing Journey
This is something every writer does. You have to take stock of where you are with your writing and where you might like to end up. You also need to be prepared to change direction if your first thoughts don’t work out. After all, being open to this led to me discovering flash fiction as a format and now I have two flash collections to my name. So being open can pay off!
But, regardless of that, it pays to have a look at what you are doing with your writing anyway. Are there new competitions and markets you could try? Do you need to submit work to a place you haven’t tried for a while? Do you need to have a look at your marketing and see what else could be done there? Unless you take time out to think about these things, you won’t and opportunities can be missed.
It also pays to accept the writing journey is full of ups and downs. It is not a straight line destination for anyone but you can decide what kind of avenues you would like to go down. In my time, I have had a go at writing the odd script. Interesting experiment but not for me in the long term.
With flash fiction, I responded to a 100 word challenge issued by CafeLit but I did not expect to become addicted to the form. So going down different avenues can lead to all sorts of possibilities. Flash fiction writing has led to me judging flash competitions, talking about flash in an international writing summit, being interviewed on internet radio, giving talks on Zoom etc (and I am pleased to say I have recently carried out another one for the lovely and welcoming Dundee City Writers).
Every so often, I come across new places to submit work to (and I have recently had some 100 word stories on the website Fiction Flash Friday – my latest story on here is Getting It Wrong) and opportunities come up which are at a tangent to my main writing but which I feel are worth pursuing. My writing for Chandler’s Ford Today is a great example of the latter! I hadn’t written non-fiction before writing it here!
But to do all of that, I took time out to reflect on how I could expand my blogging (and therefore my overall profile, which will also help shine a light on my fiction writing).
Reflecting and Learning
Reflecting should lead to learning and you can do this with your characters too. I love reading and writing stories where the character goes through an “experience” and has their life changed by it. Indeed, there is no story without that change. And reflection leads to that change.
In my character study, my lead reflects back and admits to the big mistake he made. At the start of the story, he was not ready to do that. The point of change here is that admission. But that can be true for us in real life too. It is true fiction can mirror life.
To a certain extent, all writing reflects what we experience in life. (The exceptions there are fantasy and science fiction writing as to the best of of my knowledge nobody has yet discovered fantasy worlds they can go and visit. I give that one time…! But we can reflect on what we know here and use that to create our alternative worlds. This is why such stories, when well written, ring true with readers. We are reflecting back to them what we know about human nature and the like. The writer is just extending that out to characters who may or may not be human!).
Reflection – Peaceful or Scary?
It can be both. Reflection, whether directly on yourself or via fictional characters, can open up aspects of our own nature we might not want to confront. Reflection can also be reassuring. (Sometimes that can be as a result of reading a story where Character A is a fiend and we can reassure ourselves, whatever our other faults, we are nothing like that! I think this can be part of the purpose of fiction. There is nothing wrong with a reassuring read and I strongly suspect this last year has seen a huge increase in that, given the reports on increased book sales. I doubt if many went for dystopian fiction – we were living it after all!).
But without reflection, we cannot be open to making changes. Changes are not always for the better of course but we are not meant to be static beings. Every writer always seeks to improve and keep on improving on what we write (and that is so good for us, even if nobody else ever reads our writing).
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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