Writing with Growing Ideas
by MW Cook
The funny thing about writing a novel is that life still goes on while you write it.
My first book, The Foolishness of God has a very definite agenda to it. An agenda that I don’t really subscribe to anymore. It seemed scary when I started to realize how separated I had become from that book. Because when you write something, you immortalize it. You set it in stone.
An idea is a living thing. It grows and changes. Sometimes it gets cancer and starts to die. Sometimes it mutates and gets super-powers. Often it just keeps getting harder and crustier and kinda ugly. But it’s always doing something.
I sometimes feel like I was a kid who found a caterpillar. I was so excited about this neat critter that I killed it, pinned it to a board with a clear little label, and preserved it under glass for all the word to see. Little did I realize that the caterpillar was destined to grow into something else. Did I kill its beautiful destiny?
But that metaphor isn’t perfect, is it? Because the caterpillar still lives. The ideas are still growing and forming and fighting in my mind. So it’s not like I killed the critter. Rather, I took a picture of it.
Suddenly my old novel has a new purpose. It is a chronicle of where I used to live. A photo of my heart and mind five years ago. And, just as suddenly, I’m no longer ashamed of it. It has a place. I don’t know what sort of place it would occupy in your heart, but it has a special place in mine.
So it’s not scary anymore, either. I can write my stuff, knowing that three years from now, my outlook on the universe may be very different. But that’s okay, because each work is a snapshot of the artist’s soul. It’s like taking pictures of your kids as they grow up. You don’t throw out the old ones because they no longer accurately reflect what your kid looks like. You treasure them, fondly remembering the people they used to be. And, looking at that cute but underdeveloped child, you appreciate where they are now. And that’s a special thing.