I once wrote a story that was entirely set in a therapist's waiting room. OK, I didn't actually write it but I had a couple of really good scenes, and one of the characters' names was Jacob Mellor, which I think is a good name.
Another story I nearly wrote was called Bowled Over, about a girl who, when she was five years old, got hit by a bowling ball at her birthday party and woke up the next day with Foreign Accent Syndrome. That one would have required a fair bit of medical research, which put me off a bit, but it did make me think of a story about a bunch of people miscommunicating, either because of language barriers, medical problems or simply relationship issues. Some of those characters became "maybes" for the therapist's waiting-room story.
I also tried my hand at postcard stories and asked a just-starting-out photographer friend to illustrate them, but she thought they were too dark and not really her thing. One was called A Coat to Die In and another was about a woman who chain-smoked and wrote angry, awful lists about her mom. My photographer friend went on to have a very successful career creating beautiful images. I went into therapy.
A lot of my story ideas feature a twenty-, thirty- or (now that I'm in my 40s) fortysomething woman who drinks and thinks too much and never gets around to reaching what she thinks is her full potential. One of the reasons that I don't get around to writing them is because I am worried people might think they're autobiographical.
At one time, I figured it would be easier to write a book of short stories. I don't know why I thought this. Writing multiple stories when you can't write one story is obviously much harder. But I like coming up with titles, and for a while I had some real crackers. My thinking behind creating a title first is that it's a bit like "fill in the blanks."
I work in television, where title is king: Come up with a great show name, fill an hour with content of the same, and presto -- you've got a hit. Look: Ice Road Truckers, Storage Wars, Kitchen Nightmares, Boom! Boom! Boom!
But one of the short-story titles I came up with was Heavily Into Your Arms, and it was a bit hard to come up with 15 pages. Or even an angle, if truth be told. I do still like that title, though.
During my midlife crisis (which I can't wait to look back upon), I admitted to myself that I have dreamed of writing since I was 11, and that writing was, in fact, the only dream that I'd ever had. (Although my sister likes to remind me of my early childhood ambition to be either a farmer's wife or a Pan's People dancer when I grew up). I've got a vivid imagination and a slew of pretty good life experiences to pull from. I've been told I tell a good story and I can manage about 50 words a minute. So why the hell am I not writing? Correction: Why the hell am I not writing more than four sentences per story idea?
In my paying job, I develop and write television shows and I've been pretty successful at it. And I think I know why. I come up with an idea for a series and that's it. My job is done. I don't have to actually make the series. Oh sure, I have to write up a great pitch, maybe produce a short demo, but then I hand it off to a series producer. For my part, it's all about the idea. See? I have a hard time following through.
Even #twitterfiction, at 140 characters, tries my concentration. Now, of course, there's the possibility that this has nothing to do with attention-deficit disorder and everything to do with not having what it takes to write a book. But, to be perfectly honest, I've never seriously contemplated that theory. In other words, I am absolutely convinced that I have a book in me. And people believe me. I have friends who are just waiting to be named in my acknowledgments, as certain as I am that it will happen. Yes, I have very good friends.
And then, the other day, I started thinking about all the books that I loved the idea of -- but that I'd never actually read -- plots and story lines that delighted and thrilled me and that I am sure made for amazing reads. And I realized, suddenly, that sometimes that's been enough for me.
Now obviously, plot, premise and a promise is not enough for a book. But it is enough to keep me going for now. And I know that I'm certainly not alone in this situation. So I'm thinking of kicking off an, "I'm Sure I've Got A Book In Me" Book Tour." Sure, I'll have to come up with a few more titles, characters and loose story arcs but, hey, it's got to be easier than writing a whole book, right?
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