Flash fiction prompt month is over!

What has messy hair, no make-up, and just finished a month of writing flash fiction prompt pieces?

Colour photo of Tanya Simpson with red hair and black-framed glasses

Meeeeeee! I cannot believe this month is over. It has been a massive challenge, way more so than I thought at the end of December when I decided to do this. Including today’s wrap-up that you’re reading right now, I have posted 27 times this month. I combined some of the prompts and missed a couple of days posting due to giving myself hefty eye strain from excessive screen time, but I did the thing.

The prompt for 31st January is “Thanks Jan” so I want to focus on what I’m thankful for about this experience. Here goes…

It wasn’t easy. I know that might not sound like something to be thankful for, but the last few months have been full of change and my health, both physical and mental, hasn’t exactly been amazing. Making a conscious choice to take on a month-long project and finish it, however difficult it may be, then actually completing it has served as a much-needed reminder that I am capable of meeting challenges.

I fell in love with writing fiction. I knew when I started this that I might reach the end of the month and never want to write fiction again. I’m so glad that isn’t what happened. I need a bit of a break, but I’ve rekindled a passion that I thought was lost to me and I’m so excited about what comes next. I know almost nothing about publishing, including self-publishing, but I’m planning to get stuck into learning how the industry works and figure out the next step.

Characters and concepts appeared and refuse to go away. I have a couple of ideas for books. Actual books! I know “write a novel” is on at least half the existing bucket lists on the planet, and it’s been on mine since forever, but I feel closer to really doing it. I have a lot to learn before I start on that mission because I’ve never written anything of length before, but the internet is full of information and advice about how to structure stories and other important things so it’s all there waiting to be learned about and put into action.

I have written things that are a million miles from my own life experience. This month I have explored genres from queer trash romance to apocalypse noir. I have written from perspectives I have never experienced – murderous siblings, undercover operatives who fell in love with each other on the job, suicidal politicians, drunk drivers in prison, women exacting revenge on violent husbands and many other characters and worlds that are nothing like my own. I have learned how execution by electric chair works, how cults recruit vulnerable people and what parts of the human body a pig cannot digest. My search history is amazing and terrifying, and my horizons have been infinitely broadened.

I found my writing posse. When I posted on Facebook that I was planning to write flash fiction for a month, a friend invited me to a writing group she’d set up. It has turned out to be the most supportive, encouraging and inspirational creative community I could have hoped for and I feel blessed to have found these people.

I conquered my fear of imperfection (sort of, mostly). Writing and posting a new piece of fiction almost every day meant that I was pretty much sharing first drafts with the internet, something that absolutely terrified me before I started and most of the time I was doing it. Honestly, you have no idea what this did to my “everything must be done perfectly, yesterday, with no help and the illusion of minimal effort” mindset. It was awful. I knew I was putting stuff out there that wasn’t finished but I did it anyway and guess what? I’m fine. Still twitching slightly when I think about it, but generally fine.

I got to know myself a bit better. I’ve been avoiding reading any fiction or watching any films or TV shows for the last month that might influence my writing because I really wanted to see what came out of my brain when left to its own devices. I know it’s impossible to literally avoid all influence, but I’m aware I have a tendency to be affected by what I’m reading and watching so I did my best to not let that happen. It was interesting to notice concepts and motifs that emerged and to consider what these patterns mean to me. I’m now going to binge on sensory input for a while – read and watch all the things!

People read what I was writing. This month wasn’t an exercise in growing an audience. In fact, I was aware going into it that posting every day might put people off. I did it because putting things online helps to keep me accountable and motivated, but unexpectedly hearing from people who have been following along throughout the month and seeing my posts being shared by other people has been genuinely amazing and I’m so grateful!

If you’d like to see the index of all the January flash fiction prompt pieces, you can find it here.

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