Higher DesignsI've never been one to rework old writing. (See the post on flushing what doesn't work - you can't miss it...it's the one with the toilet photo.) For whatever reasons, it's easier for me to develop a new idea and run with it than it is to try training a piece that just doesn't show as much promise as I'd like. Well...I've had my comeuppance this week, and this is the flip side of the coin, if you'll allow me to play devil's advocate.
Considering the holiday, knowing that special hell a writer goes through trying to maintain (weight, writing schedule, whatever else) while entertaining or visiting others this time of year, I was gonna blog something funny about familes and getting together at Thanksgiving, but photos taken of animals rescued during our country's recent hurricanes called out instead. This poor little guy broke my heart, probably because he resembles a "million dollar mutt" (not worth a nickle, but wouldn't take a million for him) who was my buddy for several years.
I have a difficult time *not* rescuing an animal who needs attention. Like my writing projects that are birthed then orphaned, there's something about homeless creatures that tugs at my heart strings. I have the damnedest time not feeding and nurturing anything with a soul. (Here's a closeup of the little fellow, too, just to give you a visual during this diatribe on what's to be done with children of the mind who wind up as strays.)
I've had ideas that were never birthed, those that never made it past conception, but I've rarely had anything "come to me" then die on the vine without at least an attempt on my part of working with it, trying to force it to survive. Force is the operative word here. I'm talking about those stories that appear without warning (i.e. planning), who demand attention then sit like spoiled brats waiting for their lives to come to fruition. Maybe ideas needle me a bit, forcing (there's that word again) me to pay attention. Once I do, poof...they pull a Casper, leaving me gasping like a fish on a sandbar for something to sustain me. You'd never guess by the way I keep house and the way my mind darts from one subject to the next that I'm organised, that I prefer being able to find a place for everything and to even Feng Shui the whole disarrayed jumble so that every time I visit I don't run screaming in horror at the mess in my head or on my computer.
But what of those "pet" projects that refuse to be ignored, not by their demanding intrusions but by that spark of life that you know in your gut exists but can't prove? What of the ideas, false starts, and even hundreds of pages that you work on yet never seem to work into championship winners?
Merry quite often thinks I'm blogging about her when I'm not (especially if I reveal some shared idiocynracy or quirky writer's habit), and this time she may not even read me, but I'm gonna blog about her now just the same. Merry is one of those writers who has tons of pet projects. Tons. Many manuscripts that were birthed and nurtured, but they're not particularly anything but "mutts", for lack of a better word. (And since I'm on a canine tangent, here, indulge my skewed metaphors today, please.) I've done the same thing, but not to Mer's extent. Yesterday I read a piece of hers from the past that still clings to life like some pound puppy who never became a show dog but who definitely contributed richly to her life. Now, I want this pup to survive. There is so much heart in this manuscript, so much not seen to any eye but that of the soul of the person gazing at it. Others have told her (often) "write something new", because she reworks the same pieces, and often they don't appear to change to the critique partners. After re-reading this one (I'd read it a couple years ago) yesterday, however, I had this huge epiphany as to why she's clung to it...it's worthwhile.
I also realized what a hypocrite I am at times--I, too, have pound puppies in my kennel of manuscripts--I just don't have the nerve to show anyone. I felt blessed that Merry shared this one with me again, and I was sorry that I didn't see its value the first time we met. It was the case of an old dog teaching me new tricks, if you will. Visiting her pet pushed me to pull out a few of my own last night and this morning, to examine why I've kept those stories on my hard drive at all. And ya know what? I found a gem or two. Even queried one late last night, knowing I would rework the part of it that displeased me, polish it, and give it one more showing. I also realized that even if it doesn't perform as expected or hoped, I'm not getting rid of it. This manuscript is an old friend who taught me more about writing and characterization than many of the others--it deserves at least a visit now and then from me, even if I'm the only one reading it.
I also realized that I can't force the situation with these projects. They'll come to fruition in their time, when they're ready (when I'm ready).
The beauty of children of the mind is that they never die - they age, but they're still fresh and new if we so desire. They develop character the more we work with them...if that's our purpose. Sometimes they just need a good cleanup in order to be presentable.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.
May your families all get along, with a place for each member at the table.