Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holding On

I tend to hold onto more things than necessary. There are times I think I take the term "pack rat" to new heights, even after throwing out at least seven large bags of garbage in my move from the apartment to the townhouse. I have over a hundred read e-mails in my mailbox, just in case I may need the information later (I don't know that I've looked at any of them again). I have programs from plays that I attended years ago (one from 1986). Dice from a high school production of "Guys and Dolls". Wooden nickels that I got when I was a camper. Grandpa's old cigar boxes. Book collections from Grandma. Cheap plastic footballs and basketballs from college games. T-shirts from events as far back as college, some of them tattered beyond recognition. Piles of stuff that have sentimental value, but do little but take up space on shelves. And I still have multiple boxes that I haven't unpacked. I can assure you that once I get around to them, the list of items being kept solely for sentimental value will only grow. Someday, I'll need to go through those things and thin them out. Maybe.

There's one item that's been around for a long time that I don't intend to let go. It's just a board with some note cards stuck on it, but it represents a lot to me. As a writer wanna-be, I consider myself a relatively creative individual. I have a fairly decent collection of short stories that I've written, as well as the first draft of a novel that I wrote with the help of a good friend about a dozen years ago. I'm proud of having finished that novel, but I decided not to pursue it any further, as it just wasn't a story that I felt was worthy of publication.

Not too long after finishing, I had the glimmer of an idea for another story. I felt like it had serious potential, but it was incredibly vague. I tried to work on it but couldn't get anywhere, so I set it aside for a while. A few months later, it was still in my head so I came back and wrote a scene or two. Unfortunately, I still couldn't get it to come together as a full-fledged story. So before I banged my head against the desk any more, I decided to set it aside again. Some time later, I began putting together a storyboard in hopes of sparking a more cohesive storyline. I began writing scene ideas on note cards and taping them onto a board that sat next to my desk. There have come to be around 20 scene ideas there, some of which led to fully-written scenes which are safely tucked away somewhere in my hard drive (I hope). It didn't lead me to finishing the story, but I still believe in the idea. I have a new house with a new desk, but the board is still sitting right there in the office.

There were definitely points where I was ready to chuck the whole thing and eliminate all evidence of the concept from my life. Something has always stopped me from doing that, though. I recently came across an interview with one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. He had just put out "The Graveyard Book" at the time, and was talking about the process of writing it. He said that the idea for the story came to him 23 years before the publication of the book. He said that at the time, he realized that he wasn't ready to write it and it's a better book now for setting it aside and waiting for the right time.

I'm not in exactly the same situation, but it was enough to give me that glimmer of hope that I need to continue to let the board sit next to the desk. I turned it around, note cards facing the wall, so I don't obsess about it every time I walk past. But I know it's there, and I know that it will wait until the right time. I hope.


  1. I'm glad you haven't gotten rid of it. It may seem like you want to, but really you don't. I know that eventually you'll continue with those scenes. And those scenes will become bigger scenes. And those pages will start to pile up. And eventually you'll have a novel...or a screenplay...or even a very long short story. But I'll be one of the first to pick up a copy. Keep working on it. Remember that writing time is fluid. And all stories find their way out.

  2. Thanks, Cat. I know you understand how frustrating it is to have an idea that won't quite come together. Sometimes the patience just isn't there to accept that it'll take time. But it's not worth killing myself to try to make it work. It's nice to have a few people that I can count on to be the test readers when it does come together, though!