On Monday, I felt the urge to write a short blog post about Memorial Day. Nothing big, nothing complicated. Just a nice little Memorial Day post.
In the middle of this little holiday gem, I referenced a historical event. My fact-checking and anti-embarrassment instincts compelled me to verify that I had the stated date right.
While double-checking that information, I ran across a reference to another historical event. Out of curiosity, I did a little research into that and realized it was an even better example for the post. I did a little more homework on this particular event. Then I did some more. And that made me think of something else. And that new thing seemed to tie into the original post idea but also had a connection to yet another little chunk of history.
You see where this is going, right?
Now I have a folder stuffed with material about a post-Civil War US military excursion in Asia, the nature of Ireland in the waning days of the potato famine, the nature of immigrant recruitment by the US Marine Corps, the 7th Cavalry Regiment’s participation in Reconstruction efforts, how three Americans died at the hands of spear-wielding Koreans serving a hermit king, a biographical sketch of a gray-eyed Irish carpenter named Hanrahan, the story of an old Irish drinking song’s use in Custer’s army, a series of quotations about faith, snippets of dialog from Clint Eastwood’s lousy Grenada invasion flick, and more…
That little post became a bigger post and then moved right into A Very Big Idea for something that couldn’t be a single post. In my mind, all of these little snippets of history and the stories they tell are slowly but surely clicking together in the form of a story. A novel, perhaps.
I didn’t write the post. I saved the notes. I put them in a folder. That folder is stuffed with other folders. Each of them has notes about an idea of some sort.
Not Quite Raisins in the Sun, but Still a Lousy Situation
I rarely crack those folders open. It’s sad.
I’m not saying that every one of them contains something unbelievably awesome. I’m sure most of them don’t. A few of them might, though. Who knows, if I toss in a few vampires, a murder mystery, a busty Kentucky belle with an eyepatch and three Zombie Sioux warriors in the hull of a warship, my Memorial Day thing might actually become a hit!
All kidding aside, some of the ideas really are good. Or at least I think they are. And I feel a real urge to test them or to prove them.
But I spend my days writing to keep the fridge stocked and the kids fed, you know? I spend non-writing time lining up more work, perfecting systems, etc. The free time I have goes elsewhere. Those moments of inspiration, excitement and ideas don’t get the attention they should.
I’ll make a few guesses:
- Most writers have these moments of inspiration and ideas to do something new, different, creative, smart or interesting.
- Most writers don’t revisit those ideas with any frequency.
- Most writers don’t transform their ideas into actual work product.
- Some of those ideas have the potential to be Truly Great.
And that’s why I’m a little bummed. I’m thinking that these potentially awesome, heartfelt, genius pieces aren’t in progress and that few of us are going to write them.
I’m not just talking about the random novel ideas, either. I’m thinking about the interview you’d love to do or the article inspired by that other article that takes a new angle on an issue. I’m thinking about impassioned essays and short poems. I’m guessing that the idea folders of the writing world are holding onto more great comedy bits and more tear-jerking eulogies than I can imagine.
And they sit there, rotting while we chase paydays and clock hands.
It’s a bummer.
Am I Alone Here?
Maybe I’m all alone on this and the rest of you find a way to tackle your great ideas and to bring them to life. If you do, share your tips for making that happen, please.
But if I’m right, and I’m part of a big crew of writers who are leaving plenty of ideas and dreams deferred, I’d like to do my little part to encourage folks to push back at the stockpiling of ideas without followup.
I’m making a point of revisiting my ideas folder and picking something each and every week upon which I can spend some time and effort. I’m not going to let the ideas sit in purgatory indefinitely.
A Challenge… Interested?
How about you? If you’re in the same boat, would you consider making a commitment to bringing some of your ideas to life–the ones from which you’ve walked away?
If so, consider this a challenge.
Fill the comment sections. I want to know how others handle (or fail to handle) this and whether they feel just a little guilty for letting great ideas sit around day after day, too.