What Happens to the Stories That Never Get Told?

Are they sad they’re never told?

All writers have fears. Whether we speak aloud of them or not, they’re there.

I used to be afraid that if I let someone read a story I’d written, they would pretend it was good — that way adults hang up children’s scribbles as if worthy of awards — even if it wasn’t. It stopped me from sharing my work for a long time, until a teacher told me my work was worth setting free.

I have very abstract fears, as someone who spends a lot of time imagining scenarios that may or may never happen. It makes me a very creative human, but also plagues me with constant worries about things other people probably never stop to think about.

Example: What happens to the characters in a book after it’s over? Does my dog secretly understand what I’m saying and know I’m talking about her Christmas present?

And another: What happens to the stories that never get written?

I think about this a lot. So much that I, of course, am just getting around to writing a blog post about it.

My biggest fear as a writer is that a story will come to me, begging to be told, and I will not do it.

Perhaps this is the fear that drives me to create so aggressively — tearing through a project as if it will slip from my fingers if I do not write it fast enough.

But it keeps me up at night — some force within me pleading that I not forget a line of dialogue or a string of events I hadn’t been informed about until laying my head down on a pillow. Remember, it says. Remember to write this part because it might disappear forever if you don’t.

I am terrified of letting a story die in my hands, because there’s a chance no one else will ever tell it. Would I be responsible, then, for the disappearance of something that could have changed the world?

There are many reasons we abandon projects before finishing them. We grow beyond the idea, we have to direct our energy to other things, we have to put everything on hold until we can unpause but never actually return to The Way Things Were.

Sometimes we can’t help but let things go. I’ve done it. I’ve had to make the hard choices and hoped I was making the right one.

But how does that work? If it’s only a story I can tell, and I don’t, does it stay with me until I’m gone and never resurface? Is that it? Am I solely responsible for its creation — or a lack thereof?

I want to believe there is a place where all abandoned ideas go. Somewhere safe. Somewhere they won’t be alone.

I’m sure most people don’t grieve the loss of stories that were never fully formed. But I just wrote an entire blog post about idea cemeteries. Clearly I am not most people.

I hope those forgotten stories understand why I had to let them go.

I hope they know they were loved. That they played a part in my growth as a writer. That if I had room in my head to remember them all, I would.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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6 thoughts on “What Happens to the Stories That Never Get Told?

  1. Your posts always cause me to reflect on more than just my writing. I sometimes wonder where my writing comes from. I feel an invisible hand guiding me along this remarkable journey.

  2. Ooooh…….good one, Meg. Made me think. This week I was talking with a friend about the courage it takes for me to share a story. She reminded me of the impact it may one story may have even on one person’s life and the ripple effect. It’s a story just waiting to be released into the world……..or not. I may overthink things, although, when I hear you say it…….goosebumps appear. Thank you for sharing your story! Erica

    1. You’re welcome. That’s always my hope – that if I dare to release something into the wild, it will do more good than I could have done without writing it.

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