Here's the situation, summary-style. I studied writing in college. I wrote a few short stories, and did not suck at it relative to the other beginners in my class. Over the next few years I wrote a few more, but a couple of attempts at writing novels later - both of which ended when I reached the middle of the draft and realized that I didn't have a useful plan - I was discouraged enough to think about other life-path options. I'd discovered along the way that I was pretty damn good at creating art, so I shifted over to the form of creative expression that came more easily to me and offered instant gratification. I did that for ten years or so, with occasional attempts at writing a new short story whenever the mood struck. There was no point when I entirely gave up on the idea of writing fiction, and I know this because I kept buying books about writing. It took me a long time to accept the truth that was written in every one of those books:
In order to be a writer, you have to write every day.
I guess my 20-something self thought that I could get out of that, skipping over the work and going straight to greatness. Ha. There's no greatness to be achieved in writing, or anything, without consistent practice. Earlier this year, feeling the need to write fiction again, I finally accepted this thing that the respected and published writers had been telling me all along: Every day. Butt in chair. Really. Yeah, human beings take breaks, but more days than not, butt in chair.
My time to write is limited to an hour or two a day. Since I started writing every day (ish) in March, I've written two long first drafts of stories that might be good once they are revised. My plan is to write a rough draft of a story, put it away for a month or two, write another rough story or two, go back to the first and revise it, and then alternate between writing new stories and revising old ones until I have stories worth showing anyone. I've learned that my standards for my own fiction have risen, so that's good. I struggle with being resistant to writing due to perfectionism, but I'm teaching myself to write the roughest rough drafts I can, to have something to revise later. I still need to learn how to revise well.
(I hope no one thinks that the blathering voice of my journal entries is anything like what I try to accomplish with fiction.)
I'm writing this now because revising the short story I wrote in April is overwhelming. I feel like I don't know what I'm doing at all, but I hope that knowing what I don't know is some kind of sign of competence. The story isn't ready for input from anyone else. I'll have to experiment and attempt to regain a sense of playfulness while doing so. There are moments when it's fun, and moments when I'm too impatient, too ambitious, and too hard on myself.
More on this topic later, I'm sure!