I try to recycle. I bring my paper, bottles & cans down to the recycling bins in the basement of my building. I attend clothing swaps—shedding what I’m not wearing and getting the rejects from other women’s closets. (Swaps are a great clothing recycling idea.) I even bring my lemon peels, apple cores & egg shells to the composting stall at the Union Square Farmers Market.
But the recycling that is dearest to my writer’s heart is the recycling of story ideas. I’m not referring to “borrowing” a gambit or a mysterious red herring from other writers, or simply riffing on the classics—a favorite preoccupation of mine in my Monsters series—no I’m talking about recycling my own ideas. Reading an old, and less than satisfying, short story I wrote years ago and reworking the essence into something completely different and, I hope, better.
I’ve done this a few times and always with some level of success. It’s as if the idea was good, but not ripe enough OR it was ripe and I tackled it too soon. In a sense, I was simply not old enough, or wise enough, or experienced enough to give the idea its due.
There’s a novel that I have written and rewritten a few times over a period of years. I may try again—one more time. Of course, the last two times I said, “this is it and no more,” but I think the basic story has merit. It’s the voice that isn’t quite there. Will I ever be old, wise and experienced, enough to bring it to life? For now, I’ll be happy about the success I’ve had recycling short story ideas.
Have you had similar experience? I’m curious about other writers doing what many of us call “shopping in our closets” only we’re on the hunt for stories and not something to wear to a party.