Everyone seems to agree that daily journaling is a great habit to get into. Journaling can lower anxiety, it's great practice for aspiring writers, and it makes you look interesting when you're hanging out at the coffee shop. But some days we all find ourselves staring a blank piece of paper, trying to wring some words out of our tired brains. Need a quick hit of fiction to kick your mind back into high gear? Here are a few brilliant short stories to inspire your daily journaling.
It's strange to say, but I think a lot of people forget about short stories. They're not as glamorous as novels, or as confusing as poetry, but it still takes an incredible amount of skill to pack all that pathos and humor into a few hundred words of fiction. Short stories are an art form all their own. And short stories make for perfect writing inspiration.
Your journaling could continue the story, try out the author's style, rewrite the story in your own words, or just simply use the story as a jumping off point for a wholly different idea. So take a few minutes, and pick up a short story before you give up on that daily journal entry:
1'St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves' by Karen Russell
Karen Russell's short stories are charmingly bizarre. In St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, for instance, a group of human children are removed from their werewolf parents to be "civilized" (lycanthropy skips a generation, apparently). Try putting a new twist on a folkloric monster in your own journal entry... or, you know, just write about your worst ever school experience.
2'The Cheater's Guide to Love' by Junot Diaz
This is How You Lose Her is pretty much one big gut-punch of a book. But The Cheater's Guide to Love is especially sad, infuriating, and all-around brilliant. Does this story inspire you to write your own "guide"? Or to chronicle your own love life over the last few years? Or to call your ex sobbing? Whatever happens, it's well worth the read.
3'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates
...actually, on second thought, don't read Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? It's too creepy. Arnold Friend is maybe the devil. It's definitely not going to inspire you to write your own horror story in which the only actual horror is the slow build up of dramatic tension between two characters. Just forget I mentioned it.
4'Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies is a Pulitzer-winning collection of short stories, and every last story deserves a read. Lahiri is unparalleled when it comes to capturing the ins and outs of daily life. The title story, however, is a must-read for anyone who's ever felt limited or defined by their occupation.
5'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien
Read The Things They Carried. Even if you can't stand "war stories," read The Things They Carried. O'Brien gives us a portrait the Vietnam War through the lens of, well... the things that people carried with them on those long, excruciating treks. It'll certainly make you think twice about the contents of your purse.
6'From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet' by Harlan Ellison
From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet (reprinted as part of the collection Strange Wine) is not actually a short story. It's twenty-six very short stories, from A to Z, on more or less unrelated topics. The "stories" range from sci-fi to humor to trivia, and I guarantee that once you've read it, you'll feel the need to write your own "alphabet."
7'The Thing Around Your Neck' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Even if you haven't lived the exact experiences of the protagonist in The Thing Around Your Neck, it's a story that will probably feel intimately familiar. A young woman travels to a new place, struggles to survive, and sort of even falls in love. What can you do in your own writing, to distill a transformative experience into a few sentences the way that Adichie does?
8'Hills Like White Elephants' by Ernest Hemingway
Yes, it's a ridiculously famous short story and yes, Ernest Hemingway hated women. But Hills Like White Elephants is an absolute master class in writing subtext. The subject of the couple's argument is never said out loud, but that only makes the story work even better.
9'Everything That Rises Must Converge' by Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor is well-known for her expertly executed short stories, and this is no exception. Her stories are never as simple as they seem. A young man takes his mother for a bus ride... but the undercurrents of racial tension force the reader to examine the politics of public spaces.