Battling Guilt and New Ideas

Battling Guilt and New Ideas

By Natalie Bright

Deadlines loom, whether self-imposed or not, on our writing. The fact is, you must have loads of self-discipline because writing doesn’t come easy. Distractions assault you from a multitude of sources.

This past year, I found myself being more and more consumed by new story ideas. I had been focusing on a series of middle grade westerns featuring a feisty eleven year old by the name of Silver Belle. Her adventures wake me up at night. However, the urge to finish an inspirational book about the loss of our baby tugged at my heart. That project is now an eBook. GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is available on Smashwords.

Time to tackle Silver Belle’s second adventure? No way. The story about a frontier kid and a Comanche brave who form a friendship at a Texas Fort continues to pester my brain. Good grief; more research.

Guilt: for missing two contest deadlines, for abandoning Silver Belle in mid-adventure, and for feeding my family take out every night for a week. Even so, thank goodness I agreed to volunteer at the Scholastic Book Fair at my son’s school where I discovered a lovely book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, EMILY’S FORTUNE.

While learning more about her work, I found this on the Houghton Mifflin Reading site:

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor says the hardest part of being a writer is focusing only on the book she is currently writing. She constantly comes up with new ideas and characters. Every time she gets a new book idea, she puts the title of the book on a three-ring binder. As she thinks up characters and scenes for that book, she jots them down in the notebook. She usually has about ten of these idea notebooks on her shelf while she is writing a book.

Isn’t that the best inspiration ever?!!!  I do keep an idea notebook. For every story idea noted, there’s at least one ignored with the thought that I’d never have time to research and write it.

In the coming New Year, I promise myself to never abandon new ideas and to joyfully write in my idea notebook, guilt free!

Have you started your idea notebook yet?

Sending wishes that you have a blessed and productive New Year in 2012!

Natalie Bright


Outtakes 23


I work in the complaints and correspondence department of a major annuities company. I’m often required to review old documents to verify names, dates of birth, contract ownership and so on. Clients have provided wonderful glimpses into their lives by the materials they send. I’ve received French Canadian birth certificates, Mexican marriage licenses, hand-written records, legal documents that appear to have been typed on old onionskin paper. But the most interesting was entitled Non-Relative Affidavit.

Even though it was scanned into our files, the age and fragility of the document was obvious. The shading indicated the page had yellowed over the years. Wrinkles and tears marred the submission and made reading the information difficult. The affidavit verified a birth in 1929, but the verification was not entered into the county records until some fourteen years after the birth. The age and unique format fueled possible reasons for the delay in filing the birth of this child.

My speculation went along these lines. This was a point in our history when home births were more common than hospital births. Perhaps a doctor did not attend the birth and record it. If the parents were not married, the event might not have been registered in an attempt to spare the mother and child embarrassment and ridicule. Was the child of minority origins? In the Old South, were minority births always registered? Some folks did not trust the government; therefore they might not want to have the birth registered. With this in mind, I realized I had the beginnings of a possible short story. I have not filled in many details;  so for now, this sketch will go into my story ideas notebook.

The point is that our story inspiration comes in many forms. Why not take a few minutes to go through boxes of old paperwork molding in the attic. Or maybe visit the archives in your local library or museum. A name or a place or a piece of paper might just trigger the next best seller.

Cait Collins


I Never Knew

When we packed up Mom’s belongings, my sisters and I did not take time to read through all the papers in her cedar chest. We looked for the necessary documents and dumped the rest in a box. I started sorting the files one winter afternoon. Mom kept every transfer order, citation, and shipping inventory from Dad’s service career beginning in 1939 when he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps to his retirement from the Air Force in 1969. I learned things about my father.  He served in two branches of the military; the Army Air Corps in World War II and then was recalled to the newly formed Air Force during the Korean War. He was an expert marksman. His fitness reports indicated he was respected by his peers and his superiors.

I enjoyed these revelations. They brought me closer to my dad, but I treasure his green notebook. You see, I met my grandfather that day. Frank Brown died in 1941; six years before my parents married and ten years prior to my birth. But when I read Dad’s handwritten stories, I met a wise, simple man who loved his family. I also learned where Dad got some of his homespun declarations like, “You will finish high school even if I have to take you to class and bounce you on my knee.”  I’m thankful we have this notebook.

Journaling and maintaining family records might seem frivolous, but they have a purpose. For example, they validate history. Think back to your history classes. How many times was a journal or set of letters cited to verify the facts surrounding an event? Mrs. Dickinson’s writings detailed the battle of the Alamo. Letters from the American West to families back East told of the hardships involved in settling the frontier. Homemakers’ recipes spoke of canning vegetables and making jams and jellies to feed the family during the winter months. These personal glimpses of history are priceless as they involve the common man and not just the historically famous names.

While I don’t believe it necessary to record putting the carrots in the Crockpot, I do suggest recording special events for posterity. I wish I had listened when my parents and grandparents spoke of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl days. I further wish I had recorded the stories. My nieces and nephews will never hear about the events from the viewpoint of a family member. There is nothing to pass on to them so that they will know their great-grand parents and great, great-grandparents contributions to history. My father was wiser than I. After all, I got to meet my grandfather seventy years after he died.

Cait Collins