Imagine a red devil jumping for joy, wagging its deadly tail, and applauding with hooves ablaze — that’s me, cheering for writer Joe La Dowdy, who just published her 365th creative blog entry, marking a full year of dark flash fiction and devious poems inspired by the 365 prompts in my book, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side!
That’s right. She wrote 365 stories. Jealous? You should be. I am! READ THEM.
Joe-La’s accomplishment is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of stamina and discipline to return to the computer, every single day, to do yet another exercise, stretch yet another creative muscle, break yet another block. It takes guts to turn away from household duties and shun beckoning friends just to get the next paragraph written. It takes fortitude to strive to improve, sharpening your axe, day after day after day, cutting down another story from the imagination forest. It takes drive to do this, and while many professional writers already know full well how this is the work that we do every day, when you’re getting started, it’s hard to know if it’s worth all that time and investment of energy just to train. You have to keep that dream on the horizon and keep running toward it, no matter what hurdles get in your way. There is not secret magic to this. It’s all work. All you can do is keep the faith, write every day, and PERSIST
Joe-La is living proof of what happens when you do that. Sure, my prompts might have given her some starting blocks to kick free as she booked into a full-fledged run, but this marathon was won entirely on her own legs. She knows I’ve been applauding her from the bleachers. I featured her in my Instigation Showcase shortly after she began this journey. I’ve even prodded her to keep going through emails and tweets. But she’s written a year’s worth of stories that never existed before — adopting a range of moods and personae — and I couldn’t be prouder. It gives me the same feelings I have when I see a student I’ve known for years finally walk across the graduation stage.
“I have walked through the inferno with you as my Virgil, leading me until just when I thought I would never see the other side, I am there…Paradiso. Have I come out the same person who went in? Absolutely not. A small idea…turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my life. I AM a writer! All because I found this little gem of a book…” — Joe-la Dowdy
I never met Joe-La prior to accidentally stumbling upon her blog, but we’ve since become colleagues. When we finally met each other at StokerCon last April, it was as fellow sickos, writers of the strange, not as strangers. Her stories — always a hoot — speak for themselves… she has that bent outlook and impishly perverse sense of humor that — in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe — signifies a person who “gets” horror. Her “self-training” on her blog and in various publications has earned her some bones as an author, and she’s only getting started. At StokerCon she took courses in “Horror University” from several notable authors. She recently was accepted into the graduate school where I teach, as well, launching her work on a novel with the help of several acclaimed writers and other talented newcomers in the genre. Her “petulant muse” will no doubt serve her well as she continues to write; I look forward to watching her career take off.
There is no “prize” for this kind of work. As in all writing-related exercises, the writing IS the reward. You learn by doing in this industry, and you have to go through a lot of keyboards before you start getting traction on a career. But I wanted to give her a big pat on the back by writing this tribute to her achievement. I’m going to send her a gift anyway, too. And I hereby award her the first “#Instigation365” badge, pictured above. She is the only one in the world who has earned it! I dare the rest of you scallywags to try your hand at responding to an Instigation prompt a day for a full year, in an attempt to earn the next one.
Joe-la and Steve Dowdy at StokerCon 2016.