Unripe Ideas

Frozen durian fruit in a grocery store in Canada

Actually, my ideas are kind of like Durian fruit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned before, I’m bouncing between a couple of different projects at the moment, this blog being one of them. But one thing that I don’t have on board at the moment is a Big Project. Oh, I have a short story that I’m picking at, but it’s at the bottom of the pecking order at the moment. And I have an idea file that I’m chucking all kinds of things into, including a couple of ideas that will eventually, if they live to maturity, become Big Projects. But most of my energy at the moment is going into editing something that’s already written.

And there’s nothing wrong with that: things need to be edited. But it’s unusual for me not to have a Big Project on the go, Big Project being defined as something long enough to sink my teeth and brain into (50,000 words or over). Usually I’ve either got an idea that I’m seriously working on, fleshing out and doing pre-writing research, or a novel in the manic first-draft stage.

So why don’t I have one now? I’ve got ideas, as I mentioned, in the little Running Man arena that is my idea file. Quite a few, actually. I may need to start some elimination matches to thin their numbers, lest they escape and run amok.

It’s simple: none of those ideas is ripe yet. Their time has not yet come. Oh, they’re good, some of them, and there’s a few that make me want to set a few things down and devote all my time to them. But I’ve learned the hard way that doesn’t work for me.

A while back, I had a period of about eighteen months where nothing I started turned out right. Every novel idea, every short story, every everything…they all fell stillborn from the keys. Sometimes it was late, sometimes it was early, but they all failed. Even the ones I eventually typed The End on were fundamentally broken. Lifeless and gutless, that particular run of prose will never see the light of day. I did the digital equivalent of burying them in the backyard at midnight, hiding the evidence of my failures. Or at least hoping they wouldn’t spread their problem to anything else.

And the problem was that I hadn’t waited. I’d picked those ideas too early, before they had a chance to fully mature and grow into something really fucking good. They were like those early pears you get in January up here: hard, bitter, sour, and, ultimately, something I regret eating. In extreme cases, the regret is done from the bathroom, and takes some time. But every now and then, I see them in the grocery store, all shiny and promising, and I think, What the hell. It’ll be fine. They might even taste good.

But they don’t. Same with ideas. When they’re not ripe, they don’t go anywhere for me, except the toilet. Those ideas back in the Great Blight? If I’d let them mature in the idea file, maybe get a few wins against lesser ideas, then maybe they would have had a chance when their real fight came up. But I sent them out too early and unprepared, and they choked. Or I did.

So this time, I’m waiting. Working on other things in the meantime, keeping my game sharp, putting in the time. And just waiting for one of those ideas to jump up and grab me by the throat and say, “This. This is what you need to do next. So put on some coffee, and cancel your life for the next six months. We’ve got work to do.”

And when it happens, I’ll be ready.


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