It probably won’t surprise anyone when I say that Cassie is a spoiled dog. I can’t seem to go anywhere without bringing home a toy for her. A couple doors down from Hicklebees, my local independent children’s bookstore, is a thrift shop. First I buy books for me then I go next door to buy her a stuffed animal. I don’t think she ever had toys when she was a puppy so I find myself wanting to give her back her puppyhood. Of course I can’t do that but it doesn’t seem to stop me from bringing home toy after toy after toy. It took us a while to figure out what toys she loved best. Stuffed ones. Big ones for gutting and little ones to carry around and use for playing fetch.
I love to watch the way her eyes light up when I ask, “Did I bring you something?” She dances around on her hind legs like I’m waving a steak in front of her nose. When I give her the toy she runs off to the other room, tossing it into the air then stomping on it to hold it down while she growls and barks at it. It is a pure joy moment, much like those writing times when the idea captures us and we write for an hour or two or three with no knowledge of how much time has passed.
Cassie has so many toys that I think it starts to boggle her mind – what do I play with next? So periodically I gather up a bunch of them and put them in a box in the laundry room. A week later I can take a toy from the laundry room and introduce it like it is a brand-new, never been seen before toy. Her eyes light up and she is off and running.
Ideas are like that. Sometimes I have so many of them that it’s hard to focus on what to write next. I dance from fiction to poetry to articles. I open files, reread old pieces, old beginnings and get excited about the piece as if it were a brand-new, never been seen before idea.
We writers get a lot of advice about powering through no matter what and how we need to get a crappy first draft down so we will have something to revise. Most of the time I agree that it’s the right thing to do. But not always. I put Hugging the Rock away several times because I couldn’t find out the right format for the story and then, once I had that figured out, I had to put it away because I was afraid to write it the way I knew it had to be written. I’ve put Flyboy away a dozen or more times over the last twenty years.
It might make me a slow writer but it doesn’t make me a failed writer.
If a piece isn’t working for you, for whatever reason, it’s okay to put it in the box for later.
Perhaps a little time is all that’s need to make it seem like a brand-new idea, the idea of a story that will bring you pure joy to tell.