When a Pee-Wee-Sized Idea Turns into a Bases-Clearing Home Run

It’s happened to me more times than I can remember.  An idea strikes, out of the blue, an inspiration from the creative ether, and I feel energized, inspired, eager to begin a new story.



But then a funny thing happens.

I realize, sometimes after keying in the first few sentences, sometimes while thinking about the idea more fully, before having written a single word, that my construct, this gift from the muse, is in fact woefully underdeveloped.  Perhaps it represents a situation, a concept, a character’s epiphany, a new twist on an old theme–it is a good starting point for a story, but it is not, by itself and in itself, a story.  Not even close.  Once the white-hot glow of new creation cools to a steady simmer, once I step back and examine things with a cool and analytical eye, I realize I am nowhere close to beginning a story.  There is still much to flesh out.



This is precisely what happened with The Eye-Dancers.  One night, while still in high school, I had a vivid dream of a girl outside my bedroom window.  She was just a child, maybe seven years old, standing in the light of the street lamp, out in the middle of the road.  But she was no ordinary child–the light went right through her.  She was more ghost than girl, more apparition than flesh-and-blood human being.  She beckoned for me to come outside, and I remember, all these years later, how real it all seemed.  When I woke up moments later, the bedsheets were in a tangle at my feet, and my skin was wet with perspiration.  Immediately I jotted down the essentials of the dream, knowing, instinctively, that this was the germ of a story.  The girl from my dreams couldn’t be wasted, tossed into some discarded literary oblivion from which she might never be heard from again.  She needed to come alive, on the printed page, the centerpiece of a story I was sure I was meant to write.



The thing is, it took twenty years for that story to materialize, two decades for the pieces to fit together into a coherent and structured whole.  Many times, I doubted if I would ever be able to work this “ghost girl” into a story, but finally, in a far-off and futuristic 21st century, Mitchell Brant and Joe Marma and Ryan Swinton and Marc Kuslanski emerged, one by one, against a backdrop of parallel worlds and nightmares come to life, and the “ghost girl” at last had a home.



But that’s the way ideas often are.  Every now and then, when we’re lucky, they arrive fully evolved, fleshed out, ready to lead us where they will. Much more frequently, at least in my experience–they come in pieces, bit by bit, at their own pace, and in their own time.  They cannot be rushed, and they cannot be forced.



They demand our patience.


Harold “Pee Wee” Reese was so small as a child that he didn’t manage to get onto his high school baseball team until his senior year, and even then it was for only six games.  Nicknamed “Pee Wee” as a boy because of his mastery of playing marbles, Reese weighed all of 120 pounds as a high school senior.  Few talent scouts indeed would have predicted a future in baseball for the diminutive infielder.



But Reese continued to play the game he loved, and when his amateur church league team played their championship game on the minor league Louisville Colonels field, personnel for the minor league club were impressed by what they saw.  Maybe the small kid with the slick glove and quick feet had a future in the game, after all.



Within two short years, Reese was playing shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the Major Leagues.  His big-league career got off to a rocky start, as he broke a bone in his heel during his rookie campaign of 1940, and then the following year, Reese led the Majors in errors.  But as time went on, it became clear that Pee Wee Reese was a keeper.  The Dodgers never traded him or released him; he would go on to play for the heroes of Flatbush for sixteen years.



Never a great pure hitter, Reese still managed to get on base with regularity, drawing walks and using his savvy to set the table as the leadoff batter in the National League’s most feared lineup, featuring the power of Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, the skill of Junior Gilliam, and the all-around mastery of Jackie Robinson.  It was in regard to Robinson, in particular, where Reese made his most profound mark, helping his teammate along during Robinson’s trailblazing and tempestuous rookie year of 1947.  Reese, the team captain, played such a pivotal role that Robinson later wrote, “Pee Wee, whether you are willing to admit what your being a great guy meant (a great deal) to my career, I want you to know how much I feel it meant.  May I take this opportunity to say a great big thanks and I sincerely hope all things you want in life be yours.”



Pee Wee Reese retired from baseball as a player in 1958, the year after the Dodgers moved to the West Coast.  (He lost three years of his career in the 1940s while serving in World War II.)  In 1984, deservedly, and long overdue, the Little Colonel, the captain of the Dodgers, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.




It’s easy to wish that all ideas, when they come, arrive fully formed and ready to go, complete with all major plot developments, character motivations, and even, perhaps, subthemes and story tangents.  And sometimes they do.  In particular, there have been times when an idea for a short story has hit me with such force, such actuality, I knew it was a winner, and all I had to do was sit down at my keyboard and let the tapestry of the idea unravel, word by word.  Ideas like this are the phenoms, the high school superstars who even the most nearsighted of scouts can discern have a bright and accomplished future.



But you can’t count on them.  They are the Halley’s Comets of the literary world, only coming round once every blue moon, teasing us with a glimpse, a flourish, and then vanishing, like mist, once again into the farthest depths of the cosmos.



No–most ideas take work, thought, honing, patience.  It’s often easy to become frustrated with such ideas, works-in-progress as they are.  But if we allow these soft-spoken and demure gems the time they need to grow and mature, we may just have a winner on our hands.

Sometimes, even a Pee Wee can make it all the way to the top.



Thanks so much for reading!


34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelwolfelives
    Feb 21, 2016 @ 21:01:26

    Great story. I love stories like this!


  2. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83
    Feb 21, 2016 @ 22:02:02

    Another memorable story Mike. Thank you.


  3. Karina Pinella
    Feb 21, 2016 @ 22:47:42

    Yes, sometimes the simmer time can take years. Who wouldn’t like the stir-fry stories? The quick and dish out ones.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 23, 2016 @ 20:04:47

      Hi Karina! And yet . . . it’s the stories that simmer that often sizzle the most! Yikes. A bit too alliterative there.:) There is something to be said for the stir-fried short story though–those ideas that come fully developed and can be written in a dozen pages. Those are certainly fun, too.:)


  4. joannerambling
    Feb 21, 2016 @ 23:38:11

    Just have to say that I liked this


  5. DaisyWillows
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 06:45:47

    Lovely inspirational read. This reminds me to slow down my pace in my own writing and blogging. Take time to make sure that the entire piece conveys a message that doesn’t assume that the audiecne knows what we are trying to relay. Thanks for the story Mike. I like your style of writing. Especially the Haley comet analogy.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 23, 2016 @ 20:02:38

      Thanks so much! And that is very true–slow and steady is the way to go in writing. It’s not easy! I often feel rushed, and like I want to finish something, but I always fight hard to resist that urge. The extra time spent will make the finished product that much better. I’m glad you enjoyed this post.:)


  6. Sherri
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 13:37:58

    This is a great post Mike and a wonderfully inspiring story, just what I needed to remind me that my memoir can’t be rushed. Thank you! Every day when I write the next paragraph, and the next, I will keep this in mind, along with the finish line…just like the tortoise 🙂


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 23, 2016 @ 20:01:01

      Thanks so much, Sherri! I need to remind myself of the principles in this post, too! My WIP–the sequel to The Eye-Dancers–is definitely going at a tortoise-like pace! I keep chipping away at it.:) And remember who won that race, after all!


      • Sherri
        Feb 23, 2016 @ 22:44:53

        Yes…that’s what we need to remember, who won eventually…it certainly wasn’t the hare! Keep chipping away Mike, you’ll get there. And I will too!

  7. deborahanndykeman
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 15:40:16

    Great post! Ideas that ‘stew’ for a bit are the best…just like great chili!


  8. eemoxam
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 17:45:23

    Great blog, Mike, you’re such a talented writer.


  9. stormy1812
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 21:10:58

    This I suppose isn’t related but I loved the Haley’s comet comment – I’ve been watching a movie lately called “Must Love Dogs” and one of the protagonists, Jake (John Cusack), calls this woman he’s interested in his Haley’s Comet, a constellation of attributes. Those once in a life time anythings are pretty spectacular but it’s the average Joes and Janes of ideas or anything that keeps us going and can be just as great – just takes a lil’ more time to get to that greatness. 🙂 Lovely writing as I’ve come to expect.


  10. Carol Balawyder
    Feb 24, 2016 @ 20:56:27

    Great post, Mike. It was really interesting to read how ghost girl began for you and how she continues to be.
    In case you haven’t stopped by I left a review on Amazon. I had it on my Kindle for so long and I was hesitating to start it because it was sci-fi. But I finally got around to it and liked it. 🙂


  11. penneyvanderbilt
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 19:02:40

    Reblogged this on KCJones.


  12. Stephanae V. McCoy
    Feb 27, 2016 @ 21:55:14

    I really enjoyed the moral to this story. Though I’m not a sports fan you were able to capture my attention with the story of PeeWee Reese and wrapped it up nicely at the end for a concise message. Many times I’ll get that jolt of energy from an idea that is so phenomenal it’s all I can do to keep the words from leaping onto the computer screen. Problem is once I sit down to write them out I get nothing and spend the better part of the day frustrated because it seems my fantastic idea has all but evaporated. While I patience is not a strength of mine it’s sorely been tested or shall I say stretched since I’ve been blogging. It’s comforting to know that even great writers like you encounter this frustration and I’m so glad I came across this reminder to let it happen in its time.


  13. UByDesign
    Mar 03, 2016 @ 05:52:14

    That was so wonderfully expressed and true! You have a gift for using words.


  14. Coral Waight
    Mar 21, 2016 @ 05:08:58

    Very wise. I’m still waiting for a Halley’s Comet.


  15. Maiko Natsukawa
    Jun 24, 2016 @ 11:56:32

    Lovely story. Thank you.


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