Or…When Yogurt Leaves a Bad Taste in Your Mouth
Sometimes life mimics writing, and I think this time it was spot on.
My youngest and I like Greek yogurt (much better than normal yogurt) and the little flavored packets are so convenient (horrible, I know). So when my husband and I noticed Costco was carrying Chobani 100 calorie flavored Greek yogurt, it was a no brainer. Not just for me, but for keeping around good food for my son, who will eat healthy if it’s available, but not so much when nothing much is around.
The logic was perfectly sound. What we couldn’t have accounted for was that 50% of the yogurts would be a flavor that is vile to both of us. Unredeemably so. Even deciding that for every Verry Berry we ate we had to choke down a banana honey didn’t work. We both started avoiding the yogurts all together, negating all benefit.
Well, when I make a smoothie, I use a touch of honey for sweetener and add bananas for potassium. So I figured we could use up the yogurt in smoothies.
My son had different ideas. He wanted to just add fruit to disguise the taste, but do it in the blender so it’s fully distributed.
Then the last of the farmer’s market peaches turned out to have gone bad. They’d wilted very quickly, and I’d cut off the really bad bits and put them in a fresher keeper plastic in the fridge, but even that wasn’t enough to save them. We should have eaten them right off. Sigh. Instead, into the compost they went.
But we had an heirloom watermelon from our own garden. My son wanted to try it. But he wanted to try it in the yogurt. I gave in only after we each had a bite to see how it tasted before diluting it with that horrible yogurt. In case you’re wondering, it was wonderful.
Watermelon, however, is quite watery. So after he blended three cups of the yogurt with three cups of watermelon, I got my wish of a smoothie…only it STILL tasted off.
So he tossed in frozen peaches, strawberries, and blueberries, which was fine with me (amazingly, the strongest flavor was the watermelon still beyond the yogurt) and the last three of the horrible yogurts (on the theory of getting it over with). He still tasted the yogurt too much, so added a drop of vanilla extract.
The good news is that the yogurts we didn’t like are gone, and we’ve learned our lesson and will not buy that flavor (or any mix with that flavor) again. And it wasn’t like the resulting smoothie wasn’t full of goodness with all the fruit and yogurt, so we didn’t waste them.
However, bottom line is that we turned something neither of us could tolerate into something tolerable.
How does this relate to writing? Well, a similar waste not want not mentality often affects writers. I have kept every piece of writing I’ve done since I started writing on computers (and more than that in faded, smeared pencil on lined legal paper). I faithfully move everything from computer to computer, and I let the folders guilt trip me because a lot of those stories I’ve never gone back to, some I haven’t even finished.
Many of them are wonderful to mine for thoughts, but others are locked in genres I don’t really want to bother with, or the initial idea didn’t resonate with me enough to create something compelling, or I’ve changed too much to be true to the story. Like the flavors of Greek yogurt, the yogurt might be sound and healthy, and other people might adore the flavor, but writing, like taste, is subjective.
A few years back, I added a folder to my file structure and a category to my writing database: Archive.
This is where I stash those stories that just didn’t have legs, and never will.
I’m a good enough writer now that I could probably turn any of them from dretch into good, but good isn’t good enough. It’s like adding more than twice as much to upgrade awful to tolerable. No one is going to seek out tolerable, and I don’t want my name tied to tolerable. I want to focus on the stories that have the potential to be great, fabulous, wonderful, memorable, not the ones that would earn the labels of good, proficient…tolerable.
So, have I tossed all my older stories into the archive? Absolutely not. There are some waiting for the right moment, some that have a solid idea but it should have been expressed as a novel, some that I never finished but the story still pokes me…
The ones that head to the archive are largely my straight fiction (but not all of them because some had that extra oomph instead of being bland), early POV exercises for class assignments that were bizarre to say the least and not in a good way, and some others where I may have had a solid idea to start from, but I never wrote down the solid idea, and what I did write down as the starting point isn’t enough to figure out what that solid idea might have been..
In the medical world, I believe this is called triage. I need to assess my stories and determine which are never going to be more than they currently are, then figure out if what they currently are is outstanding, or something I’d have to bury in other elements in the hopes no one would notice. It’s the first that are worth my time and energy. The second are just taking up space.
So, do you assess your stories? Do you have an archive equivalent? Or have you ever tried to rework an idea that never had the legs in the first place?