Mining for ideas

BULLETIN: I was just notified that Shell Education has posted something I contributed to their blog about Paul Bunyan. If interested, here’s the link.

Hi everyone,

I’m not finished with the filing. After three days, though, I can see an end in sight.

I would have finished sooner but my mind keeps wandering. Every few minutes I think of someone I need to contact, or answer, or an idea drifts by that I need to capture before it escapes.

The main problem is that I keep discovering bits and pieces of manuscripts that I worked on and set aside for one reason or another. Three or four look like finished pieces that apparently lacked something. I’m reasonably sure that I sent them out but can’t be positive. That’s how old some of this stuff is.

So what do you do when you encounter an old idea? Spend time exploring it again, looking for that certain something that makes you smile and want to share with an editor? Toss it in the trash? Refile it to grapple with some other time? I hate filing. It’s like sorting potatoes into two piles: big ones and little ones.

But Monday is a new week and I WILL NOT FILE ON MONDAY. I will write something!



14 comments on “Mining for ideas

  1. Whenever I am not deeply into a book (or books) that need are not just calling but YELLING my name, I go back and look at old stuff. Often I am now ready to revise it, find that magic moment that turns the thing around. Sometimes I even manage to sell an old piece (as a picture book, as a poem, as an essay, twice as a novel.)

    Doing so allows me to see with new eyes, and also years later there are new editors, new markets (think apps, ebooks that were never around twenty years ago!) and new readers out there.

    Nothing old a writer does, nothing a writer puts in a drawer, nothing a writer cuts out of a mss. is lost. It is the DNA, the protein base, for something wonderfully new.

    Jane Yolen

    • Now see, if I could talk like that, my name would be Jane Yolen. Good and sage advice, my friend. No trashing of old manuscripts for me. I suddenly see filing in a new light! XO

  2. Ditto what Joy said, and–I never throw anything away. As the wise Jane said, it can be seen in a new light. Sometimes I find lines or phrases that spark a new idea or that fit well into a current work. Some of it, no doubt, IS trash, but that will only be determined much later.

    • Maybe that’s the way to go, Jane: have an online garage sale of writers’ files. Trash for one — treasure for another.

  3. David: I think filing is particularly hard for a poet. Poets try to put odd things together. Filers try to put each thing in it’s own place. Filing just seems to go against nature. Or… at least… that’s the excuse I’m using today. ;0)

  4. Aw, come on, don’t be poet-phillic here. I do fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Does this short story go under its own title, under the anthology, title, collection title, under the novel it later turned into, the trilogy or graphic novel it became? The movie?

    My biggest problem with filing (now that I have the Incomparable Heidi to do my filing for me) is to remember to tell her that I have changed the title of the poem/story/novel/series so we have to put them all under (for now) THIS title.

    My advice? Hire someone to come in twice a month and file. Even if it’s your own wife/husband/partner/child/cousin/best friend.Just make sure they know the alphabet. I once had a perfectly charming assistant who was alphabetically challenged, something I didn’t find out until six months later looking for something one weekend when she wasn’t around to help. After Heidi took over, there was a LOT of refiling that needed doing.

    Jane (the Other one)

    • Ha! Everyone has horror stories about where to stash our stuff. Years ago in Kansas City I had a fantastic secretary who had her own magical methods of filing and could always find what I needed on a moment’s notice. Over time she became more and more promotable and eventually had the same job I had when I left the company. The moral is that if you are really good at filing, you too may become an editorial manager some day.

      Jane, I would hire my M.O.W. but she might file everything in the same place and I’d need to start all over. Hmmm. Well no, I guess not.

      One thing I’ve considered but haven’t tried is to use the computer to index every file. Maybe number each one under broad categories — poetry, fiction, articles, talks — and number each folder accordingly. Need that dandy story about the squirrel who couldn’t climb? It’s file number 761. Look it up! You librarians out there, how complicated would that be?

      David (the Wannabe Jane)

  5. Hope you find some oldies-but-goodies, David! Jane, your challenged filer reminds me of a library volunteer we had years ago, sort of a flower child gone to seed, who thought the children’s books would look prettier on the shelves if they were arranged from shortest to tallest. Took us hours to file them alphabetically by author once again!

    • Thanks, Deb. Seeing “old friends” long buried in the debris is exciting. Maybe one or two might go somewhere. We’ll see. Maybe there’s gold in them thar files!

  6. and too, as one sets aside those potatoes, their eyes tend to peer out into the darkness, trying to catch ours, having been conjured into existence, hoping to take root, needing our help to do so

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s