The good folks at http://www.readmill.com recently interviewed me about my writing project. This is what I had to say to them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you and what do you do outside of 300stories?
My name is Dieter Rogiers, I’m 35 years old and I live in Brussels. After dabbling for a while in screenwriting (not all that successfully alas) I now am part of the communications team of Belgium’s biggest political party. From an early age I devoured books and started writing my own stories. And that has proven to be a common thread throughout my life. Since putting my screenwriting career on the backburner my output has diminished considerably though I have published over a thousand online movie reviews over the past decade and a graphic novel of mine called Tunguska was published weekly in a big Flemish newsmagazine in 2010 and 2011.
What is 300stories all about?
I should write more. That’s what I said to myself on the eve of my 35th birthday. 300stories is my way to grab the bull by the horns. My aim? To produce a short story in 300 words or less practically each day for the next year. Some of the stories will be hardly more than a sentence. Some of them will be hell to whittle down to a mere 300 words. It won’t always be easy to keep up the pace and the quality of the stories. But that is the challenge I’m setting myself.
What inspired you to take on this challenge?
A birthday is always a good reason to look back on what you have achieved in your life so far. So when I turned 35 I came to the conclusion that I could have written loads of stuff during the past couple of years but for some reason I didn’t. And I was feeling pretty bad about that. Writing is a craft you should hone each and every day if you want to achieve good results. This challenge will help me do that and I hope it will make me a better and more diverse writer. Augmenting my grasp on the English language is an interesting side challenge as my mother tongue is Dutch.
Why flash fiction?
I love short stories. Always have and always will, with Philip K. Dick and Edgar Allen Poe being among my particular favourites. Short stories don’t waste time with endless character traits or side-plots. Or as William Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet: brevity is the soul of wit. Taking time concerns into account I settled on flash fiction and 300 words struck me as being a pretty elegant number for a year-long writing challenge. It’s also a perfect length to keep the reader’s attention on a computer screen.
Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
Part of it comes from daily life. The main character in ‘Incoherent strumming’ is based on a street musician I cross every morning near the subway station on my way to work. And ‘I love the things I hate about you’ has its roots in a doomed romance. But it can also be a photo I saw in the newspaper or something a friend told me. And then there are times when I just sit down to write a story in a certain kind of genre. Equally often I start by devising an intriguing opening line and see where it takes me.
How do you find time to write?
I work nine to five at my day-job, need about seven hours of sleep a night and one hour for eating, try to watch a movie every day and now and then grab a couple of beers with my friends. Which leaves about 3 or 4 hours a day to sit down and write. Most often I just plug out the internet for an hour in the evening and force myself to write. But I also carry a notebook at all times to scribble down ideas I have. Or I record interesting lines and plot-points on my cell-phone’s voice recorder.
Where and when do you write?
Mostly on my sofa with my computer on my lap, sometimes at work. I generally do my best work in the evening, when ideas have had an entire day to grow into (hopefully) interesting stories in my head. I’ve always been a stream of consciousness writer so the typing of the story itself seldom lasts longer than twenty minutes, after which I tweak for another half hour.
Do you hope to encourage people to write more? Why?
I do hope 300stories encourages more people to write. As to why, I’d like to share with you the following quote from the great cosmologist Carl Sagan, that perfectly expresses how I feel about the subject: “One glance at (a story) and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”
What do you hope to take with you from writing the 300stories?
I hope the experience will make me a better and more confident writer, sure. And I’m definitely planning to take a look at those 300 stories next year and see if I’ll be able to expand one or more of them into a novel. But equally important: I hope it will allow me to entertain the people following the blog. I’ve already had a lot of supportive comments from the readers and that in itself is something very positive and touching I’ll be taking from this project.