1500 or less . . .


This past week I entered a short story writing competition!  Yay!  Go Court go!  The story had to be 1500 words or less. And there were a few challenges I hadn’t expected.

My story started with too many resolutions, too many characters, and not enough conflict.  And lets not talk about the conundrum I had deciding between 1st and 3rd person, and past and present tense for the narration.  I had to go on a trip back to middle school grammar rules.  So between reading articles regarding plot charts, characters, short story techniques and listening to a few short stories, the 1500 words were costing more in effort than I initially thought.  Should I have been surprised?

At first, I thought 1500 words, will I be able to fill that?  And quite quickly I loathed it for the opposite, 1500 words weren’t enough.  Not enough ______ or too much ______ are wonderful excuses and/or fears that can aid in delay.

“You lack nothing.  Use what I gave you.” – God (meme of Instagram)

I started brainstorming on this story at the beginning of October, the deadline was Tuesday, November 15th at 11:59pm EST.  I finished and submitted on Nov. 15th at 10:30pm EST.  I felt exhilarated and relieved that I had followed through and made the deadline, but unsatisfied with the story itself.  I’m not 100% confident that the story will win, that’s not me being negative, it’s me being realistic in evaluating my work.  If it wins great, and of course I hope it does!  If it doesn’t, I’m still proud of the new risk taken, and what I learned.

  1.  I procrastinated when I encountered challenges, by taking a long time to think about the problems versus being active towards solving the problem.  1st or 3rd person for example, I made more headway by just writing and getting the story out, then going back to edit, versus trying to decide, then write in hopes of cutting down the need for edits.  Make smart mistakes.
  2. Procrastinating provides false protection from failure and actually aids in failure.
    • If you don’t do well, you can blame it on the time & effort you didn’t give to this/that
    • If you do well, “oh wow, I did great, and could’ve done even better.”  But will you do better, considering the minimum effort got you some success.
      • Stunts your growth
  3. If you work diligently and give your all, and don’t succeed, win, or reach the goal . . . then what?
    • You learn valuable information on how to get better and you can try again.
  4. Competition motivates me.
  5. Competition can not be my main motivator.  The exploration and discovery of the work itself needs to be the goal.  Winning (growth) doesn’t happen without practice.  If I only write stories when competitions are available, then my growth is determined by an outside factor and by how many competitions I enter.
  6. Limits can help me focus and simplify, get rid of the fluff/waste.  I went from approximately 2200 words to 1496, and the story was still communicated and more effective.
  7. Anything worth having or doing requires effort and work, and how much can not be determined by past expectations set by any institution (school/work, etc.) or person (teacher/parent).  Each job has it’s own requirements, it’s best to go forward prepared to give more than what you think it’ll take, and know that the work is good for you.

                  “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.”                                 – Ecclesiastes 11:4

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” – Proverbs 14:23

“Evil comes from the abuse of free will.” – C.S. Lewis

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”             – Proverbs 13:4

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, . . .” – Luke 12:35

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” – John 9:4

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, . . .” – Colossians 3:23

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24

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  • November 19, 2016 at 1:44 am
    Elaine Prentis Margulis

    Dear Courtney,
    I’m not sure how to address a blog….yours is the first I’ve ever read, so please have patience.
    The C.S. Lewis quote “isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different”. I’ve always loved that, but what is interesting to me are the biblical references you make. I consider myself a spiritual person but not religious. The Bible is a mystery to me, although I was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith.
    I feel as if I am on a beautiful journey with you, through some difficult times. Some of the references you made: “To those who use well what they are given, and they will have abundance. But for those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away”. Matthew 25:29
    Procrastination! “I am going to read this to my 11 year old granddaughter, who needs to face a test soon for a school acceptance. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-its painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in his way.” Hebrews 12:11
    Do not accept defeat. There’s power in focus.
    Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” Proverbs 4:25
    You are a beautiful and amazing women, which I knew when I met you in the bowling alley! I have read all of your blogs, and I am finding peace in each one. The bougainvillea, Douglass, bless his heart wanting to pee on grass….where else should he go? You are an inspiration to me, and I’m sure you will win your writing competition. The fact that you are “doing” is the point. Sorry this was so long, but I wanted you to know how blessed I feel to be learning and enjoying your writings. Always looking forward to hearing from you. I do remember Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia from my art history classes. Scary guy, but at least he spared Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! Much love and best wishes in your writings, acting, and the best news BABY girl!

    • November 21, 2016 at 8:50 pm
      Courtney Lindsay

      Elaine, you have no idea how your words have blessed and encouraged me. And no need to apologize for the length, I read and absorbed every word you said. I hope your granddaughter does great on her test and I hope for your continual growth and achievement in all areas: spiritually, acting, family relationships, and the desires of your heart that I don’t know. And yes, we are certainly on this journey together! All of us are connected and here together at this time for a reason. XOXO! Thank you again!

  • August 3, 2017 at 11:38 am

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