Slaying Sacred Cows

Day Thirteen: 19,555 of 50,000

This is a good month to slay a sacred cow.

What I mean by a sacred cow, is that story we’ve been wanting to write for years. You know the one. Maybe it’s even the story that made us want to start writing. It’s a perfect idea, one we must do justice to, one that has to be written perfectly from the very start of it because it’s sacred, untouchable.

And it goes “moo”.

I’ve started this particular sacred cow maybe fifty times in the last fifteen years. Every time, I know it’s wrong, I’m not good enough, I suck. But in my mind it’s such a beautiful idea, that I can’t bear to mar it with actual words and plot. I mean, what if it turns out to be a totally awful idea, and I lose my vision? What if I’ll never be a good enough writer to do it justice?

The good thing is, I’ve been practicing this story for a long time, so I have a good chance of writing it fast.

The bad thing is, it’s kept me from writing other stories. Any time another idea comes close, I shut it down. I’ve got to save my great writing for this One Story, this Great Story, this sacred effing cow.

This month, after my illness, I found myself in the unique position of being utterly behind, and with the irresistible reward of an iPad when I finish this month’s book. There’s no time to do anything but to just do – full steam ahead, no chance for doubt or remorse. No chance to stop and think at all, actually.

So when I realized this was going to be crunch time, I decided it was a perfect time to slay the Moo Beast.

The issue with sacred cows is that they have to abide by the same laws as everything else we write. They require really shitty first drafts, edits, weeding out of ideas, and the possibility of being totally worthless at the end anyway. It’s what happens when ideas hit reality  – they have to get real, and real means flawed. No matter if we write that perfect story now or in twenty years, we’re still going to have to risk sucking at it.

So, write it. Write it when you don’t have the time to worry about perfection.

That’s what I’m doing, and so far it’s working. I really don’t have time to think about how much this isn’t perfect and beautiful and gorgeous the way I always imagined it should be written. And that’s a good thing, because it’s always better to have it written, even if it sucks. And it just might – I haven’t taken the time to notice.

My sacred cow is: A man finds a girl nearly frozen to death in the woods by his house. He takes her home and warms her up, and she turns out to be a mystical being who sacrificed everything to be with him.

Your turn.

What’s your sacred cow?

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5 thoughts on “Slaying Sacred Cows

  1. Great post. You nailed it. My sacred cow is a love story–between brothers. It’s based on a true story about two brothers that go to Europe in WWII and only one comes home. They are my dad and his kid brother. I have the letters they wrote back and forth, and my mom’s stories. I even flew to Tennessee to attend my uncle’s 60th Division reunion in search of men who knew him. (That’s how I got all my army buddies, who shared their stories, too.) This cow was about survivor guilt, and the vacuum left in a family that lasts for generations when young boys go off to war and don’t come back. I’ve needed to write this book all my life, but didn’t want it to be a downer–needed to be wiser, to have a damn good reason to tell it. And then they sent all those poor kids off to Iraq and Afghanistan (for no good reason, in my opinion). So I will finish a project of two, put on my chaps, mount up, and get ready to round up my sacred cow. This is the first time I’ve said it aloud, so now I have to do it. Time to have a cow! Good luck with yours. I know it will feel great to tackle it.

  2. Unfortunately, I can’t reward you with a brand new iPad, but I can still say good luck Naomi, it sounds pretty epic.

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