People have preconceptions, fast beliefs that may not be of much importance, but are all the more difficult to change. I know because I have many, had more, am always curiously surprised when one of them falls. I like to think of myself as open-minded, but then I’m a stubborn s-o-b who clings desperately to things I feel rather than know.
Literature is a special place within this paradox, both in reading and writing. As a German, I’m predestined to be a snob about it. We have, after all, the history to prove that we’re literary geniuses. And thus, we read with distinction. Or so, our teachers taught us from first grade on. Or maybe not taught us, but strongly implied it, and forced LITERATURE down our throats.
If I write LITERATURE, it’s implied that it’s high brow. You know, Goethe, Schiller, a little bit of all the Manns, and possibly Büchner. Know your Faust, everything else is Trivialliteratur (trivial literature, low brow). And it’s so very hard to get over these beliefs, these implied distinctions.
But some of them were never even implied to me, some I simply made up. One, that poetry is easy as pie and therefore nothing worth. Two, that the novel is the highest form of writing, but only because plays are for enacting not reading. Three, that short stories are not worth the effort it takes to open a book for them. As I said, I’m a snob.
I’m also a writer, or like to think of myself as one. Or maybe I’m simply a scribbler. Be that as it may, I always aimed for the most rewarding medium, the novel. To me, most rewarding. Yes, I wrote poetry, but only to fill time, only if I couldn’t write anything else at the time. I did it in class, I did it on the bus, I did it sometimes while walking through my hometown in the evening (and that’s a beautiful thing to do), making it up in my mind, not even writing it down. Poetry to go.
Short stories, tho… no. Didn’t have time for that. And what for? Can’t publish just one short story (and, no, I hadn’t even heard of anthologies). Short stories were things they might make us write as homework, a punishment in itself. Write about your holidays, if you didn’t go on holiday, make something up. Punishment, indeed. And how do you learn to change such a belief if your education system fails you so thoroughly?
I don’t know. There was this one short story I read and I just loved. The Waltz by Dorothy Parker. I guess I went from there. But I still wouldn’t write short stories, still thought they were a waste of my time.
Well, somehow I did change. Maybe seeing that you can publish one short story in an anthology with other stories by other authors (this concept remains strange in my family, I don’t think even my mother who’s an avid reader understands why such books exist), better authors, better stories than yours. I find the concept compelling, thrilling even. And so, I wrote another short story and maybe it will appear in an anthology, maybe not. The important thing is that I change my view of things, whether these views are German (due to an unimaginitive and old-fashioned education system), or simply working class (because I haven’t been brought up in an academic household), or maybe just stubborn ideas of someone who so wanted to appear educated.
I don’t know. This post is not quite what I imagined it to be. I merely wanted to tell you how great it is to write a short story, to disappear in a small slice of imagination, to know more than the story could contain, to be god to that little piece of the world you just put on paper. Instead I wax (almost) poetic. I guess I’m just astounded by the ways my views change. But really, short stories are awesome!