How many of you have That Idea — a story, or piece of art, or music, or whatever — that you know you’re not quite good enough to pull off yet?
Last night I finally said to someone outside my skull that I have one of those. The earliest roots of it, I realized, go farther back than I thought; all the way to high school, in fact. I really wasn’t tall enough to ride that ride at the time, and so the concept never went anywhere other than swimming around in my brain and me jotting down, over a period of years, quotations to feed it in my brain. More recently I’ve taken a semi-stab at it, in totally different form, and the semi-stab isn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s quite what I want it to be. I could try again, but I have that fallow feeling, the one where I need to just let this live in the back of my brain and quietly accumulate some more quotations and thoughts and stories that will nibble around the edges of the idea without trying to swallow it whole, not just yet.
I’m not quite tall enough to ride this ride. Which can sometimes be a dangerous thought to accept, because the way we grow taller for this sort of thing is by doing; if you tell yourself “oh, I’m not good enough for that yet,” you may never get good enough. Sometimes it’s better to try anyway. But — depending on your own personal brain installation — it may be the case that trying and failing with that particular idea means the seed is now dead; you’ve used it up and gotten not nearly enough for your efforts. I’m hoping I haven’t done that with the aforementioned semi-stab. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot better at meaningfully reshaping a story in revision, and I’ve had at least a couple of short fiction instances of me taking a new run at an idea that fell flat the first time, so there’s reason to think I might be able to try this one again. For other people, though, the risk is real. In which case you have to trust yourself to figure out which seeds should be left to germinate for longer and which ones can be used as fodder for growth.
Yes, I know I’m talking vaguely around the actual thing in question. That’s because I have hangups about discussing nascent ideas in public. But if others among you have your own instances of this kind of thing, it would be pleasing to know I’m not alone.