Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Thrilla' in Manilla (Folders)

by Brian Mullen

I come up with ideas faster than I can write their stories. While this is undoubtedly a blessing in the long-term, in the here and now, I suffer from guilt. They sit in their respective manilla folders, shoved in a plastic filing case, and they stare at me. "When are you going to write about me?" they cry. "I'd make a great novel, wouldn't I?"

"Yes, you would," I think, "but I just don't have the time to dedicate to you just now. I've got to work on this other story first."

"That's what you said two stories ago." And that's the truth. The list of my projects gets larger and larger but my time just seems to get consumed in too many other things.

Last month, while taking a quick lunch-time walking break at work, I thought of a scenario for a short story mystery. Ideas just kept popping into my mind all day and, when I got home, I cranked out a first draft of the first "chapter". I passed it to my critique group and some friends and family over Christmas. Earlier today my mom called. "When do I get to read the next chapter?"

"I, uh, haven't written it yet."

"Well, get to it. I'm intrigued and want to read more."

But I'm in the middle of a project. A very long project but my interest is high and I'm trying to stay focused on it. But I want to know how that story will play out too. "What about us?" cry the files.

I just need a little more time.


Martha Reed said...

Brian, I'm with you. I think of unwritten stories as ideas, bubbling away in little pots on the back of the stove. I've learned not to stress out about it, just crack the lid every once in awhile and give the idea a stir.

Sometimes I forget what's in the pot, and it's a pleasant surprise; and every once in awhile I lift the lid and BAM, the idea is ready to serve.

That's when I pick up the draft material and start to edit. If I try to do it too quickly, I have trouble with the ending. I've learned it's just not done yet.

I haven't had any stories trying to use guilt on me, though...

JennieB said...

I'm right there with you too, Brian. So many ideas, so little time. And lots and lots of guilt. Or maybe not guilt exactly. I think it's more frustration on my part. I WANT to write all the ideas, get all these people with their demands and their stories out of my head. But I can't, there's just not enough hours in the day to write everything, and it's horribly frustrating.

Gina said...

Yeah, Brian, I know how you feel. I get so many ideas I don't even bother to write most of them down, in (probably misplaced) reliance on an assumption that as long as they're still in my mind somewhere, they will recur. I really wish I had your organizational skills. Files, even! If I put anything down at all, it's usually just a few words scrawled on whatever paper happens to be at hand. My short story "Night of the Squirrels" grew out of a cryptic note, "squirrels," that I wrote on a piece of scrap paper at a stop light and lost in my car for a few years. But when I found that srap of paper, I not only remembered the story idea, I remembered the circumstances under which I'd written it -- at the stop light at 5th and Beechwood, while watching a squirrel scamper across a wire above the road. So my stories don't call to me from files, they just rattle around in my head like submerged otters who bob to the surface occasionally, wanting to play.

TOR Hershman said...

Sounds like you got 'Da Vinci' problems.

Stay on groovin' safari,