I’ve always enjoyed reading short stories, probably moreso than novels. Some of my favorite living writers started in short fiction, and to date, I still regularly read collections and anthologies.
There’s an art to writing a good short story, and I think a common misconception is that they are easier than novels, which in my experience is most definitely not the case. Writing a short story is an act of compression. There could easily be a novel’s worth of ideas in a single five thousand word story, but they’re condensed to the point that no word is wasted. Good short stories are a remarkable display of efficient writing.
Short fiction aims to achieve an effect, to elicit an emotion from the reader, much like the most memorable scenes in a novel. Achieving that effect can be difficult, which is why so many short stories fail. To me, a good short story sticks with you long after it’s over. I love re-reading short stories, particularly when I’m looking for a specific feeling or emotional reaction. It’s not about the plot, or the characters for that matter, but the overall effect created by the balance of storytelling elements.
I think writing short fiction is important for writers of all persuasions, despite the fact that there’s little money in it. Writing short stories can teach you lots about craft, economy of words, effective description, the subtlety of language, and how to grab the reader from page one.