Writing’s Daily Worries

December 18, 2019 § 9 Comments

VictoriaSmith_Author Photo3by Victoria Lynn Smith

Thanks to writing, my worries have shifted. (So has my ability to make sure I put the milk in the refrigerator instead of the cupboard, but that’s another blog.)

I take a break from writing to get some water. In the kitchen I discover dishes are piling up and all the cereal bowls are dirty. But I worry about a story I want to submit to a contest, so I go back to my desk. I reread the story and forget to start the dishwasher. In the morning I’m handwashing cereal bowls.

“The truck needs an oil change,” my husband says.

“I’ll call,” I say, as I worry if a clause at the end of a sentence is nonessential or essential—to comma or not to comma. I don’t seem to have an ear for distinguishing between nonessential and essential clauses at the end of sentences.

Before I started writing, I worried about what to cook for supper. These days supper is a fleeting thought and easily evicted from my mind while I hunt for publications to submit a story. I play matchmaker. Is my story like their stories? Might it be considered even if it’s a little different? Or will some editor ask everyone in earshot, “Did she even read our journal?” My story doesn’t seem to fit. I read it again and wonder, Will I ever find it a date?

When my husband gets home, I’m reminded about supper. But it’s always another five minutes before he comes up from the basement. I keep looking at publications. When he gets upstairs, supper becomes a multiple-choice question: A) heat up leftovers, B) cook a frozen pizza, or C) go out for dinner.

Up from the basement, my husband asks, “Did you call the mechanic?”

“I forgot,” I say.

But I did rewrite the sentence I was fretting about. It lost its rhythm, so I changed it back. I played with the comma again. I put the comma in and read; I took the comma out and read. I raised my hands to the ceiling, threw back my head, and yelled. I thought about meditation, but I’d only think about commas. And comma meditation is an oxymoron. So, when he asks about the mechanic, I’m still worrying: nonessential or essential?

The real fear? I’ll make the wrong choice. An editor will read my story and notice a missing comma, in what she obviously knows is a nonessential clause. She’ll ask everyone in earshot, “How can this person call herself a writer?” It’s of no comfort that Oscar Wilde spent a whole day wrestling with one comma.

I give the comma a break and call the mechanic. If I wait until tomorrow, I might be prewriting a story in my head, and unless the story is about a mechanic . . .

After supper I go outside to pick up dog poop. I hardly notice the robust weeds in my gardens. Before I started writing, they’d registered in my brain like a 6-point earthquake. Embarrassment would lead me to pull the largest ones. But I’m looking for dog poop and trying to decide between two different endings for a short story that I’ve been working on for months. I don’t have any leftover brain capacity to feel shame about rogue weeds. Maybe I should abandon the story. But it taunts me when I ignore it, so I keep rekindling our relationship. I cut the story more slack than I’d give a person who gave me that much grief.

Maybe it would be easier to quit writing, but then I’d have to go back to my old worries.


Victoria Lynn Smith writes short stories, essays, and articles, and she is working on a collection of short stories. Her short short story “Tossed” won first place in the Lake Superior Writers’ 2019 Contest for short-short fiction. In October she received two honorable mentions in the Indianhead Writers’ 2019 Contest, one for fiction and one for nonfiction.  

§ 9 Responses to Writing’s Daily Worries

  • Exactly so. [a fragment]

  • Julie Mcgue says:

    I identified with your new worries and the old ones. Thanks for putting the writing fog into such a great scene.

  • Anna says:

    What a fine collection of our universal worries.

    Oh, commas! I still worry about whether to submit again to a publication whose editor inserted a conspicuously incorrect comma in my piece after I had approved the proof and had no chance to object. When the print pub came out with the error over my name I was astonished, wrote to the editor and pointed out that the offending comma was not merely optional but condemned by every usage guide, and received no reply. But the publication is generally well regarded and has been the venue for writers I know and respect. I have other pieces that would be appropriate for it. What to do?

  • kenkemptv says:

    I’m not a writer, but I do enjoy reading. I do find though, that when seeking a solution to a problem, thinking about it while doing some other mundane task or taking a walk, often brings up useful thoughts on how to solve the issue. So you might spend some time pulling those garden weeds.

    Apologies, if I used too many or insufficient commas and wrote an unnecessary comment with a run on sentence.

  • Marilyn Kriete says:

    So relatable! I had to buy myself a little desk timer so I’d stop leaving things in the kitchen to burn or boil dry. Too many ruined pots! Commas don’t stump me, but working with words makes me lose track of time. Thanks for a fun read!

  • Felicia Schneiderhan says:

    This is perfect for me today, as I’m desperately trying to set aside all the holiday stuff that needs to be done to work on my novel. (As you can see, I’m reading blogs…) I love the daily description of the decisions we make, what we choose to focus on, and how making decisions as a writer puts everything else in a more proper place. (How important is that sink full of dishes, anyway?) That sink is always going to be full. But the creative spark is here NOW.

  • Karen says:

    Beautiful! You capture it so well, one of the values maybe, joys definitely of writing.

  • […] Daily Worries” appeared on Brevity Blog on December 18, 2019, and on Lake Superior Writers’ Blog on January 9, […]

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