The Saga of the Difficult Flash Essay Continues

Ziva and Cabela, my walking buddies

Yesterday I blogged about my struggles while trying to write a flash essay. By the end of the blog, I decided to write my story as fiction. The plan was to walk my dogs and brainstorm ideas.

Well, I walked the dogs. And I thought about the essay as fiction. But every story path I went down rang false.

When the dogs and I returned home, and after I gave them treats, I looked at the rough draft of my flash essay. It didn’t read as badly as I thought it did when I’d spent time with it the night before. Maybe we just needed a break from each other.

Yesterday afternoon I revised and edited then emailed my essay to some readers, both writers and nonwriters. The feedback was good, so I think I’ve done okay. I can hang out with the essay for a week before I have to submit it. I’ll check on it a couple of times a day, making sure it still looks okay.

Something about the event in my essay wouldn’t let me turn it into fiction. I had to find a way to make the real story say what I wanted it to say, as best I could. Then I had to accept that it would never completely hold what is in my heart.

Years ago when my father and I were driving around his hometown, he pointed to different houses that had been built by the same carpenter. I’ve forgotten the name of the man but not the wisdom of my father’s story. The carpenter told my father that each time he built a house, he tried to improve upon the previous house he’d built. He wanted the new house to have a better floor plan and better function. He also told my father that each time he finished a house, he knew he hadn’t reached his ideal, that he’d always find something about the house wanting. The carpenter told my father that he came to realize he would never build the perfect house, no matter how many houses he built.

That’s good wisdom for a writer. Because that’s how I feel about each story or essay I write: It doesn’t match the ideal in my head, but sometimes I get close.

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