Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Cleaning

by Matt Sinclair

Call me crazy, but I’m thinking about tossing away story ideas.

Sure, I’ve been asked the same questions you probably have heard: Where do you get your ideas? What made you think of that? Did that really happen to you?

Those are not exactly the ideas I’m talking about. Most of those are the snippets of life that spill from your muse while you’re writing. They’re subconsciously woven into your nervous system and accessed by the magic of creativity, when a word or smell or that je ne sais quoi causes them to be transformed from brain zit to written word.

I’m talking about story ideas. I keep a folder of story and book ideas—fiction and nonfiction—and every once in a while when I’m unable to think of something, I look into it. But when I rap my knuckles against them, they usually sound hollow. So why hold onto them? Not that they take up a lot of space in my hard drive, but maybe it’s time for a little spring cleaning.

To tell you the truth, it’s the ideas I don’t even need to look for, the ones that are always within easy reach, that cause my synapses to fire up with energy. My brain starts to say, “Is it finally time? Can we get moving on that one? Cool!”

You might ask why I’d put those perfectly good ideas aside. Lord knows I’ve asked myself that question often enough. But sometimes I can just tell that I’m not the writer I need to be yet to pursue them. There’s one, for example, that’s an end-of-life, final-act story. And while I learned a lot when my father passed away a few years ago, I don’t see myself being able to write that particular novel yet. There could be any number of legitimate reasons (and probably three times as many illegitimate reasons) to not start a project yet. If you're honest about it, you'll know.

What I’m getting at is that it’s ok to let some of those glittery ideas you once liked go away. The ones that keep coming back, those are the real keepers.

What do you think? Do you try to write all your ideas down? Do you fear losing good ideas?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published its latest anthology, The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, which is available via Amazon and Smashwords. Earlier in 2012, EBP published its initial anthology, Spring Fevers, which also is available through Smashwords, and Amazon. Both anthologies include stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette; R.C. Lewis and Jean Oram also have stories in The Fall. EBP is still accepting submissions for its next anthology, which will be published in the summer of 2013. Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68


LD Masterson said...

This question solved itself for me. I kept all my ideas on a lovely little digital voice recorder. I'd even worked out about 2/3 of a new story on there.

Then I lost it.

Suzanne Payne said...

Seems like my ideas come when there is NO way to write them down. In the shower and sometimes driving. I've started keeping the voice recorder on when I'm driving, which helps, but nothing can be done about the 'shower revelations'. If it's gone when I get out, then it probably wasn't a good idea anyway. I only write them down if they're vivid enough to remember.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks for sharing.

Debra McKellan said...

I had a whole trapper keeper of story ideas that were like that. They got lost in a garage flood I think, but it to a point where I felt like if I wrote down the idea, it never got written. I still have some of them in my mind, but I know I'll probably never work on them.

Matt Sinclair said...

I have way too many. I'll never live long enough to write them all. And even though my "good ones" are written down too, I don't need to look for them when the moment comes. They keep poking at parts of my brain stem.