Rats in the Belfry

Mouse bites2A recent foray into the slush piles boxed in my garage revealed that I have numerous rodent-gnawed manuscripts, most of them now ruined, that I’ve been hauling around for years. The fact that I am surprised to rediscover these stories got me thinking, and has lead to a question I have for all of you – what are you packing around that you may have forgotten about?

In thinking about my nibbled manuscripts there is something to be said about the temporary nature of the things we create. The creative process is momentary, bit by bit, like a factory that produces a new gadget every few moments and then passes it down the conveyer belt before producing another, sometimes similar and sometimes completely different, until an entire warehouse of things has been created and, like my manuscripts, stored away and forgotten – except we don’t want to forget, though we will if we don’t manage our inventory well.

The other day I tweeted that it is imperative for writers to keep a notebook handy for jotting down ideas as they come along. This is old advice and something everyone who endeavors to write should know, but it is an idea worth reinforcing. Memory is as important to our process as the act of writing itself. Without memory we have no source of story, no mind for detail, and certainly no ability to track the inventory of our completed work. The virtual rats in the attic of our minds are as apt to shred our mental manuscripts as are the literal ones busy chewing up our paper stories. Safeguards must be taken.

In the moments of creative insight we tend to feel most alive as writers. When inspiration strikes it is so vivid we cannot imagine how easily the idea will be forgotten. If ever there is evidence that this will happen, however, it’s in the stashed and stored boxes in the garage, under the house, and in the attic where so many forgotten stories lay in waiting. So I ask again – what have you forgotten about? I urge you to go see. Pull up the old files, open the boxes, and bring out your stuff. Chances are you’ll find renewed inspiration and perhaps a story or two that can be re-written, sent out to find new life and a potential home in a journal somewhere. Far better than leaving them to dwell in a dark vault, frequented only by rats, to be turned into a rank temple for some Templeton who hasn’t even the courtesy to send the best parts on to the more clever spiders in the barn.

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5 comments on “Rats in the Belfry

  1. This is excellent advice. I never write stuff down–I just don’t carry notebooks with me anymore–but maybe I should get a phone…

  2. When I was younger, my philosophy was if I had a good idea, I didn’t need to write it down because it would endure…while all of the other inklings and would-be stories died by attrition. Probably, this was an excuse to not write anything down because if I jotted down the details of every potential story, that’s pretty much all I’d be doing all day.

    These days, I still don’t religiously write down every creative thought, but I’ve gotten better at writing down some bigger ideas…the more fertile stuff that could one day grow into a tale worth writing. But only if it makes a big impact in my mind and/or lingers for a day or two thereafter.

    I suppose the problem is I’ve always had more ideas than time to explore them!

    • Always more ideas than time to write them all. I look for ways to combine concepts if I think it will work. Here’s my problem – right now I have three journals sitting at my bedside so full of ideas and scribbles that I have to read them like a novel to rediscover some clever bits that I wrote long ago and completely forgot about. Ah, but if I had not written them down in the first place they’d be gone for good. I don’t know about you, David, but organization is not my strongest quality!

      In other news I have begun journaling again. I don’t really like the exercise but popular wisdom encourages it.

      Thanks for your comments, as always.

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