On Writing: Dead Letter Office

I know I’m not the only writer who comes up with more ideas than they can possibly work with. Just today I’ve seen at least three Tweets from published writers opining on ideas they would love to work on, but alas time is short and other projects loom. These possible ideas may never come to light. And the thought of orphaned ideas kills us every time.

This popped into my mind the other day while I was doing some playing around with a possible future project. I use my daily practice words as a Word Playground just to give my brain a stretch (and to prime the pump, if need be). I had a peculiar waking dream the other morning that I was part of a musical family band — sort of like the Osmonds, only set in the 80s-90s — and thought I’d riff on that. The practice words turned into a ‘Where Are They Now?’ story, in which each member would tell the same part of their shared history, only their views were vastly different. The words came quick and easy, as did the separate character voices.

So, you’re asking. When the hell are you going to get around to writing that, when you’ve already got a bajillion other things going on? That is a very good question. I may get to it, I may not. I really don’t know. Does that bother me? It used to in the past, a bit. But since I’ve been writing for most of my adult life and have worked on a large number of projects over the years that have seen various states of completion, I’m not too worried about it.

It also got me thinking–what about the ideas I like, that I may not ever get around to working on? The ones that sing to me, but not enough for them to take precedence? Are they going to languish in my PC and Dropbox folders and on various scraps of paper, gathering dust until the end of time? I’m not talking about my trunked ideas and novels, the ones I know aren’t going anywhere anytime soon…I’m talking about the Word Playground ideas, the ideas that have merit and have been plotted out to some extent.

I had this crazy idea that, if I was going to sign off on an idea I knew I’d never get to, why let it die in my own imagination? Why not let someone borrow it? And then I started thinking about it more: what if I created these miniature worlds, laid the barest of rules and outlines, and shared them with other writers? It made sense in an odd way–there are countless fanfic writers out there who love coming up with their own stories based in someone else’s created world. Why not donate these orphaned ideas to someone who’ll give them more love than I could?

Of course reality always sneaks in on crazy ideas like this, bringing me back to earth. I wouldn’t be making a dime. I probably wouldn’t even be getting credit. I’d be building the framework, but the creator would change it into something not even remotely me. And so on.

Sure, it’s a wacky batshit idea that I probably should not entertain, especially at my point in my publishing career (read: yeah, yeah, I’ll get a book out eventually). Still…it’s a thought I’ll keep in the back of my mind anyway, just so I don’t feel too guilty about all those story ideas I have that’ll never get written.

1 thought on “On Writing: Dead Letter Office”

  1. I used to have notebooks and accordian files (and then digital files) of story ideas. I would write them down (almost obsessively) as soon as I thought if them/they were revealed to me… And then, a little while later, I realized that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get them ALL written and was stressing out a lot. I have a stream of ideas, so the pressure was intense.

    One day, I said to myself, this stress & pressure is “fear” of losing the story.

    So, I appreciate your solution to the endless stream of ideas. Its something we’ve all got to come up with for ourselves, I think.

    For me, it was telling myself, Self, there is plenty more where THAT came from. Also, if its a good story, it will come back again.


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