Monday, August 22, 2011

If the Shoe Fits

Post by Jenny

I don’t currently subscribe to any magazines, but my mother-in-law occasionally hands down her Good Housekeeping for me to leaf through and cut out recipes I have every intention of trying. Recently, I noticed that the deadline for the Good Housekeeping Short Story Contest is coming right up. Last year’s guest judge was Jodi Picoult. This year’s is Elizabeth Berg. Those GH folks, they have some pull, right?

Entrants are invited to submit a story which reflects “an aspect of women’s lives today.” Okay, that’s pretty broad—maybe too broad, because it instantly sent me into brain-lock. None of the stories I’ve been working on seem to be a good fit. And as for coming up with something new…well, I already mentioned my brain-lock.

In an effort to loosen up the tentacles wrapped around my creativity cortex, I told myself to forget theme or characters or plot and just think up first lines. I didn’t even write them down as they popped up in my brain and then disappeared. I was only trying to get something started. After a while, the process began to feel strangely familiar. It took me a few minutes, but then I realized…it was a lot like trying on shoes.

In college, I worked in a shoe store. The Wednesday night shift was the best because we usually weren’t very busy, and—here’s the clincher—the truck with new merchandise had arrived earlier in the day. With time on our hands, beleaguered stock boys at our beck and call, and a thirty-percent employee discount, we tried on a lot of shoes.

Some shoes I knew at once were not for me. They pinched or wobbled or looked out-of-place at the ends of my legs. Other shoes…well, I needed to walk around for a while to get used to them before I decided. But on the rare, Cinderella-like occasion, I knew a shoe was perfect the moment I put it on, even if it was not “my” style or color, even if I had nothing to wear with it (and its partner) and would have to build an entire outfit around them from the ground up.

And that’s what I’m searching for with ideas, too: the one that sparks my creativity, that gets me thinking outside the (shoe)box, that feels as if it’s made just for me…maybe even by a team of elves burning the midnight oil, though that’s probably asking for a bit much. If I’m lucky, this will happen by the GH September 1st deadline, but if not, there’s always next year.

Have you had an idea lately that feels like a perfect fit?


Eileen Astels Watson said...

Sorry! Nothing flowing here that seems a good fit. But I sure hope one comes to you and you get it in on time. Good luck!

Dean K Miller said...

I've delved into a story that is pretty close to a perfect fit, and subsequently it has overtaken the WIP I thought had a lot of steam built up. So I'm trying to balance the two...guess that's a good problem to have. I have two other ideas that keep stirring the pot, and my shoot one of them out during NanoWriMo (or whatever it's called!).

BTW: The story of Cinderella is proof that shoes can change a woman's life.... :=}

Marlena Cassidy said...

Sometimes it happens, but I usually don't realize it until much later, when the idea sticks and refuses to go away. It's like when you see a pair of shoes you like, try on, and then leave in the store because you think they're too expensive or something. But then you come back and buy them because you realize you can't live without them.

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