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Like 2023

But Better

By Nicky FranklyPublished 5 months ago 6 min read
Runner-Up in #200 Challenge

For my 40th birthday, I invested in myself with a Vocal+ membership. Last year, I wrote 23 stories and entered 19 Challenges to win. Period. You read that right.

When people ask about my weakness, I say, "I suffer from overconfidence." The thing about being a writer is that you have to. You have to think that what you have to say is worth saying. You have to believe that your insight and acumen are just what your reader needs. And you suffer it.

The first Challenge was to write a haiku. I cheated. I used the title and subtitle for context. I had to, I'm not a poet. I can't say anything in 17 syllables. Also, I didn't win. A poet won.

Then I wrote Alex, or Better just for me, without submitting it to a Challenge, because that’s how I hash things out. In poetry. Another not win. I wondered why I was so trash at writing poems and wanted to prove myself wrong. We do these things as writers. We have to.

Then, for the Under Purple Clouds Challenge, I wrote a narrative chapter to a lightworker's handbook, but nobody knows what that is. I didn't win. I knew I wouldn't, so it didn't sting. It was too weird of a story, too stretched to fit the wrong idea. I gave the winner a heart and moved on.

I had a clever idea for the Tall Tail Challenge, so I followed it through. Clever, but weird. You'll sense a pattern here. The winning cover image was as beautiful as the story, reminding me that Vocal is a multisensory platform. I did note that, somewhere, but I didn't take full advantage of it until a few stories later.

Meanwhile, my cover photos suffered. A child's arm, a monkey, an eyeball on a palm in a mirror. Two doors, four legs, and that monkey again. Microfiction Magic had me stupid with images. At best, they were cursory frames of undeveloped stories.

I was failing. Failing to win. Failing to put effort into winning. I needed more time. More inspiration.

And then, there it was. During the fourth Golden Summer Challenge, one word stopped me dead mid-sentence. The prompt said to "include a marigold flower at some point in your narrative."

Oh, Marigold.

Vocal used to be different, for me. I used Vocal differently before. When I first joined, I had a different profile. I was someone else. I watched the platform grow. We watched each other grow.

I joined social media forums and followed my favorite creators. I left hearts, comments, and footprints and gained friendships, collaborations, and mastery.

I might as well say that God himself was in that first cohort, that's what it felt like. We were in the presence of a god of writing. He read my stories and even commented on some. I read his stories, too, the afterglow of which left me speechless and ablaze. A deity of words was there, chatting with us, publishing brilliance on the same platform as mere mortals. We were touched by his presence. And then, he left.

Almost exactly one year before he left, my best friend left, too. I wrote about her passing under my first Vocal account, the one that God himself subscribed to. I published that story at a point when I wrote to write and not to win. At the time, I spent hours searching for the perfect cover image that conveyed my heart. Stories took weeks to write, to come into shape from a doughy blob of thought to a story, rolled and pressed into itself. Slowly, surely, line by line, the way they do.

God himself commented on the story of my friend, Marigold, and the cover image's beauty. Be still, my heart. You know how this goes. Like we all did, I adored that man, and from then on wrote to earn his praise, until the day he left. And when he left, I left Vocal. Something tragic was lost along with him, something irreplaceable, a thing whose hesitancy I still feel.

A couple of years later, under a new Vocal identity, during the 40th year of my life, I rewrote and republished the Marigold piece for my 10th Challenge. Not a winner, but the closest I ever came to a poem.

It felt good. It felt real. I was onto something. Believing that 'something' was adapting and republishing old work, I kept that ball rolling.

The first time it happened, again, was accidental. The Word Hunt challenge presented my three words: scallop, seashell, and tune. It immediately conjured an existing story about a cloned mermaid that I promptly rewrote, immediately forgetting to slow down. Then came the acrostic Challenge, Dancing with Distraction, and another rewrite in that I rewrote my notes from a recent therapy session. Fifty-one words that equaled not another poem. Distraction, indeed.

And then it happened. A second-place win.

Completely out of character, I looked ahead to a few challenges to see not only what I had inspiration to write but also what I had time to write. Micro Heist microfiction. A two-hundred-word story. Not a poem. Check. I had it.

The image was meaningful. The content was creative. Let me be clear here, for a moment, and say that creativity is a process extending beyond the writer. Creativity is a force, unforced. A naturalness allowed to flow. It needs time. The content was creative because it came from not me, not pondering, but allowing.

Once I won and the original objective was satisfied, the words came just to be written. I submitted to a Challenge if it fit. I wrote to heal old wounds, to contribute to art, to let ideas live on the page. I wrote my dreams and made people smile. I blurred reality's borders, writing down to my roots where I could see that they had grown.

By then, the habit of finding the right image for the story was established. Knowing how to frame a story, I chose the perfect one. A clothesline of leaves in autumnal succession from green to red, representing my favorite word in the story. Deciduously. I retold an old story. Old in a new sense. The first time the story happened, it really happened. The second time, it happened in words.

The second time, it also won my first Top Story, ever, under either Vocal identity. Then, it won Runner-Up in the Chapters challenge. Something happens during memoir that probably happens elsewhere but I've only ever felt there. Maybe it's what poets feel when they write good poetry. I wouldn't know.

My entry for the Unspoken challenge was the first new thing I had written in a while. Brand new. Because things take time to happen, and time matters to a memoirist.

I sat in its wake for a while, wondering what came next. It was the last challenge I entered for the year and, therefore, the last bit of writing I worked on until now.

Now, I know better.

Now I know, whatever goal I set, I'll get. I'm that good. Plus, I already won this year, so that’s off the table.

I’d like to say that I’ll stick to my genre this year, but I won’t. I’ll write whatever calls. I’ll heed the creative force that brought us all together the first time, the same one that brought me back to Vocal again last year. I’ll heal the hesitance. I’ll be who I am in writing. I’ll comment more, engage more, tip more, and inspire other creators more.

My highest hope is to save up my earnings and invest in this place that feels like home because I want to be part of its future.

There’s no place like Vocal. You never know your impact here or to whom you are a god.


About the Creator

Nicky Frankly

I love writing !

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Comments (3)

  • Shirley Belk2 months ago

    Amazing journey!

  • Wooohooooo congratulations on your win! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Andrea Corwin 5 months ago

    Wow. This piece is so interesting and full of STUFF, tips without saying “here’s a tip for you” - (we do what we each do, how we want to do it). I’m so glad you shared your journey and felt fine and safe to share it. Loved this. 💕

Nicky FranklyWritten by Nicky Frankly

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