From July 2015 to March 2016, I managed to write 200 stories, more or less one story a day. At the time, I just wanted to set down the many crazy ideas I had, without much thought of the final product. It is only in hindsight that I see a progression in the manner of my writing.
Whereas the earlier stories read more like things that I wanted to say, the later ones don’t seem to be trying to say anything in particular. Whatever values I hold are reflected only when taking into account the story as a whole, as opposed to any single voice.
Now I see what was most important about the past year’s writing project: I lost my agenda. Previously, I’d attempted to put down my grand visions of the time, and with such an end in sight, the resulting effort came across clunky and contrived, if not manipulative. I suppose that this time around, it was the focus on the habit or process of writing, as opposed to the goal of changing the world, that made for a difference.
Is ‘losing the agenda’ valuable only in fiction, as opposed to nonfiction? I thought so at first, but when I recall the times in conversation that I’d tried changing the other person’s beliefs, as opposed to making clear another point of view (mine), I was met with understandable defensiveness if not resentment. Even when writing essays, focus is just as important as substance.
Has my writing actually improved since before writing the 200 stories? I’d like to think so. I don’t get bogged down as much in irrelevant technical explanations inserted in the text just because it seems ‘important’ to mention. To the degree that I’ve been detached from an agenda, I’ve been better at making characters’ voices distinct from one another. They sound less like my mouthpieces.
Maybe more importantly, expressing diverse viewpoints has been a means of forgiveness, of others, and of myself. The struggle isn’t over; there is always something more to say.