I have never been a full-time writer. I have always either been working outside of the house or, for the last two years, home-based, looking after my son.
Even as a hobby-writer, I cheat. I have several projects on the go. Usually it’s one novel and then subsidiary projects like short stories and poems.
What I like about this mix-up is that it gives me a break. A novel is quite a commitment. Donna Tartt said, when I went to hear her speak in November 2013, if she knew at the outset how long it was going to take her to complete a novel (think 10-12 years in her case) she probably wouldn’t start. It’s possible to get painted into a corner or find oneself taking numerous wrong turns in the maze of a novel. A short story can be a break from that. I can plan a short story in an hour and hammer out a first draft (of just under 1000 words) in a further hour. After that I can pick at it, edit and hone it in a more relaxed way.
What I have with flash fiction is almost-instant gratification.
I can also try new ideas and styles while only getting my feet wet – not having to immerse myself entirely in something that is experimental.
This may be cheating, I’m not sure. The experimentation definitely gives me a little boost of inspiration and enthusiasm but it might also be helping to shape me as an author. It might be making me a better writer. I certainly hope so.