For years now, I have been hiding my ideas. Squirreling them away.
I bury mini-inspirations in files on my hard drive. I jot down plans for books, essays and short stories in notebooks, in between lists of groceries I need to buy, or the phone number for my dentist, or calculations on what might be in my savings account. This past year I started leaving these kinds of notes to myself in Google Documents and Google Notebook, too, which hasn’t helped my organization any.
I suspect actual squirrels don’t remember where they’ve buried most of their snacks for winter, and that’s true for me, too. Sometimes, when I happen upon a Word document I’d forgotten about, or a scribble in the margin of a notebook I’d long ago stopped using, I think, “Wow, that’s a great idea, why didn’t I follow through on that?”
But sometimes, not so much. Today I opened a file mysteriously-but-oh-so-optimistically labeled IdeaForMemoir.doc. The date was about four years ago, before I started my MFA program. I read the file – it was a short list of topics/events that I thought should be shaped into a full-length nonfiction book. And it was, I now see, a terrible idea! I can no longer see the promise I once apparently saw in that concept. The idea of writing such a book…ugh.
It occurs to me that it’s possible that the ideas that stick, the ones that persist, are those that I don’t write down. Maybe writing them down sucks the life out of them. Or maybe writing down those I subconsciously know are bad allows me to get them out of my head. I don’t know. I do know that I need to find a better system. Even if it was a bad idea, four years is too long to wait to open a file so boldy named as IdeaForMemoir.doc. What if it had been a good idea? Squirrels can’t wait so long to find food.
*Minus the cheeks stuffed with food (at least most of the time) and the fluffy tail.