How many times do we, as writers, get an idea and discard it because we don't think anyone else will love it as much as we do? I'm sure it happens more often than we'd care to admit. As writers, we want to believe that we're devoted to the ideas which come to us, that we'll fight for our right to tell any story, any time. However, I suspect there are many stories which don't see the light of day thanks to a fear that they might not be able to find an audience, or that we won't be able to do the story justice.
I know I have set aside more than one novel in progress because I lost the passion for the story. I've stopped writing stories because they suddenly didn't feel right, or because I felt no-one would be interested by the time I finished it.
And then, there was one I didn't even begin because I feared it would be a waste of time in spite of my excitement for it. All the same, it wouldn't leave me alone, and kept knocking at the door of my imagination, insistent to the point of seeming nearly frantic for my attention.
But I kept shoving it away, kept silencing the characters whose voices were growing clearer and louder with every passing day.
One reason I was refusing to listen was because I was polishing a manuscript already and didn't want to lose focus on it. I had a start-up publisher making eyes in my direction, hinting at their interest in that novel. Since the people involved were online friends of mine, I wanted it to be ready as soon as possible if they decided to take it on.
In short, I had no time for dealing with another work-in-progress, much less one which would likely end up abandoned in my own personal slush pile.
In July of 2009, I met in person one of those online friends interested in my novel. I was visiting relatives in my hometown in Kentucky, and had arranged for a lunchtime get-together with Jason Horger and his wife, Angela. We met at a Mexican restaurant and chatted for a while over our meal, discussing a number of things, which included the novel they were interested in (Ask Me if I'm Happy) and various anecdotes about Italy and our lives in general.
Soon enough we started talking about the story ideas we were bouncing around, and I mentioned the idea refusing to leave me alone. It didn't hurt that I'd come to our meeting immediately after watching the live coverage of the Tour de France on television, and my inspiration stemmed from that.
I told Jason I couldn't shake this idea and mentioned some of the aspects of the story I found so interesting and which I wanted to explore further. I expressed my frustration at not wanting to write it, and he looked rather puzzled to hear this.
"Why don't you want to write it?"
"I'm not sure there'd be an audience for it." I laughed and shook my head. "I mean, there's not exactly the biggest demand for stories about bike racing, is there?"
"But do you want to read stories about that?"
"If I could find them, sure."
I think that was what some people refer to as the "light bulb moment", because I almost literally felt one go on over my head when I answered that question. Still, it was his follow-up statement which sold me on the idea at last:
"If you love it, write it," he said. "What have you got to lose?"
After lunch, we said our goodbyes and parted ways, planning to meet again when my husband arrived from Italy in a few weeks. I had a long drive back to Tennessee to ponder everything we'd discussed, and that idea I'd been denying for so long finally took root.
I started writing it that night – just a few sketchy scenes, just a few vague ideas on the page – but the story started taking shape at last. Whenever I found my confidence in the salability of the story shaken, I just focused on the memory of that afternoon in the Mexican restaurant, and what Jason, soon to be my trusted editor, had said.
"If you love it, write it."
I no longer worry about finding new ideas for stories, or whether people will want to read them. If I want to read them, I know others will, too.
Because I love them.
Kimberly Menozzi has her own website and can be contacted via Facebook and Twitter too.