This week’s quote comes from Annie Dillard, an American writer who has published works of poetry and essays, as well as two novels. Her 1974 title, ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction.
I have chosen this quote because it is a subject that has been spoken of many times between my writing partner and I. There have been many instances when both of us have wondered whether we have used our best ideas on projects that might not even be eligible for publishing and worry that we’ll have exhausted our pool of ‘great’ ideas, plots twists, characters etc. before they’ve ever really had the chance to be explored.
To know that a writer of Dillard’s quality urges us to give it our all – regardless of the project we are working on – gives me hope that perhaps I am not squandering my best ideas on something that might never see the light of day and that through going with my instinct and giving it everything I have that I will come up with even better ideas in the future.
When a writer comes across an idea that seems perfect it also appears to come at a cost. A writer may start to believe that their ‘magical’ idea is the only one that they’ll ever have and that any subsequent pieces will not live up to the standard of its predecessor. Dillard is trying to make it clear that this is not usually the case, that good ideas are rather like a young tree: once one good idea is sown and cultivated, the tree continues to grow, placing firm roots in the soil beneath while strengthening its trunk as offshoots begin to spring forth. From one good idea comes another, and then another and so on…. until a formidable and imposing tree stands tall with lush green leaves and seeds of its own, some of which will fall to the ground, take route and grow into new trees, ones that, in time, will be just as strong and magnificent as its forefathers.
Ideas are like trees, it does no good to cut them down in their prime. Once a tree is felled, it can never be replanted, its beauty and splendor are lost forever. Ideas are much the same, we need to cultivate and grow them by giving them our all, providing the nourishment and care that they need in order to flourish on the page. If we do not give life to our best ideas and allow them to flounder, whither, and die, then we are doing ourselves and the writing landscape in which we exist a disservice.
Ideas are the seeds of our writing future, without care and attention they will die – along with our writing aspirations.