It’s the best feeling in the world, being inspired, I say.
These past few months have been a particularly fertile time, with ideas cartwheeling out of my brain almost faster than I can catch them. At the same time, I’ve been trying to finish a number of pieces I’ve started. The more time I spend hashing out new ideas, the more neglectful I feel about the stories that still want to become what they’re supposed to be and just need a little more time and care.
Yesterday I read a really comforting and encouraging blog post from one of my new favourite writers, Sarah Selecky (author of the gorgeous collection of short stories, “This Cake Is For The Party”) about those abandoned stories that are waiting for you to come back to them.
When you come to a story after time away, ask yourself: where can I find the truth in this story now?
An interesting question for a writer of creative non-fiction. After all, we’re supposed to be telling the truth, from our perspective, all the time with every line.
But her advice spoke to me. From a distance the truth can look different. We can uncover new facets, or dig deeper and touch the stuff we weren’t ready to see before. Our experiences have so much to offer us — so much to offer whatever it is we must write. I believe it’s true that finding the energy, be it a new angle, a new form, a different genre or approach to the material, may be all we need to turn our tired but patient work into something that lives and breathes — and is ready for the world.
I also like to believe that no writing is wasted; from an abandoned piece we can lift at least one or two great lines, stunning images, or at least know that pivotal moment that makes the experience matter in the long narrative we tell ourselves about our lives. That thing we all do to make some kind of sense of our experiences, and maybe our very existence.
As Sarah explains: If you try to go back and write the story according to what you thought it was before, you will miss what the story has to offer you right now. And if you abandon it because you feel like you don’t know it anymore, you will also miss what the story has to offer you right now.
While I don’t want to miss any of the ideas that are trying to climb up and out (all toward the completion of a book idea I’m working on), what is new and wonderfully welcome is this excitement about what those old poems and stories have to offer me — and I, them… my fresh truth — now.