There’s a gem of an anecdote tucked away in Michael Feinstein’s book Nice Work If You Can Get It. George Gershwin had accidentally left a satchel of his music behind in a public restroom. By the time he went back to retrieve it, the satchel and all of its contents – the idea scraps, the half-completed pieces, the fully fleshed-out works – had disappeared. Apparently Gershwin’s nonplussed response was, “Well, there is plenty more where that came from.”
Just yesterday, I had the great pleasure of presenting a three-hour workshop on writing for the children’s literature market. It was a real treat for me. For a Monday afternoon, the workshop was well-attended. Most of the fifteen had been plugging away at the market for a good bit. They were delightful, good-natured participants with well-considered questions.
But what jumped out at me was a common refrain. “My story is about...”
There’s a subtle message in that line that frustrates me – the belief (or fear) that there are a finite number of good ideas out there.
Think about it. “My story is about…” This story. My one story. Over and over, I talk with writers at critique groups and in children’s literature classes and at writing retreats who are revising and polishing and pampering their one story. Maybe even once in a very long while they will muster the courage to submit the story to a publisher. But then they don’t move on. They don’t continue to write during the long wait – to generate new stories. And when that manuscript comes back rejected, they pore over it again, now even more hesitant to send it back out into the cruel world. It’s as if they are convinced this one good story, which maybe truly is a terrific story, is the only good story they’ll ever have.
Maybe we will never reach the George Gershwin level of self-confidence, but we can be assured that this world is filled with outstanding ideas waiting for us to grab and to play with. So create! And then let your creation take wing, and create again. And again. Truly, there’s plenty more where that came from.