Clarity (and Gestation) of Writing Multiple Stories at the Same Time

Speaking of not being afraid when you write, I see that I have evolved quite involuntarily two habits that make me not afraid. One is the habit of starting every story in the notebook, where it is under no pressure to be a story; the other is that quite often I do what I did today: I sit in front of the typed pages of a story that is nearly finished and that I am not trying to finish, and instead of working on it, I begin another story in my notebook and write that out until nothing more occurs to me. It is easier to do that—to begin a story—when that is not what I had planned to do. My unconscious, or whatever part of the brain works hardest in writing something new, is very relaxed and comfortable because there is a clear-cut task to go back to when I have nothing more to add, for the moment, to the new story.

Meanwhile the typed story just sits there. The same thing may happen the next day. Sometimes I have four or five, or more, stories in progress at once. It is nice to feel that there is too much to work on rather than nothing at all—the blank page. Some stories, not quite finished, may get pushed out of the way in all this activity and may be forgotten for a while—even months. But sooner or later I come back to them and finish them, and it does not hurt them to let this time pass. I see them more clearly.

Lydia Davis, “Revising One Sentence,” The Paris Review