Once I was asked to pet sit for a friend. She lived on the edge of town and had a small farm full of animals, including a flock of chickens. When I went by to get instructions, she opened up the top of the chicken coop and showed me one of her hens sitting on a clutch of eggs.
“Keep an eye on the hen,” she said. “If she hatches out some baby chicks and leaves the nest, be sure to throw away any leftover eggs. They are probably bad.”
Sure enough, one day I showed up to take care of the animals and the hen had hatched out several chicks. She was out in the yard running around, trailed by a half-dozen little yellow puffballs.
Per my training, I opened up the top of the coop and saw three eggs still in the nest. I picked up the first egg, took a deep breath, and threw it far out into the bushes. I picked up another egg, and did the same.
Then I picked up the last egg, turned it over, and saw a hole. As I stared down at the hole, a tiny beak poked out. I might have screamed a little. Okay, I screamed. And almost dropped it. There was a chick inside!
What on earth should I do? I wanted to keep it warm, so on impulse I stuck it inside my bra. It seemed like the safest place, lying there right over my heart.
I finished my work, moving slowly and carefully. As I drove home, the egg felt warm and after a while I could hear a very faint peeping. I was delirious with joy and excitement, and kept laughing out loud as I drove.
At home I quickly prepared a box with a soft rag and a heat lamp and nestled the egg inside. A few hours later, a little miracle broke her way out into the world, soft, warm, fuzzy, and peeping. She’d had a close call (what if I hadn’t seen the hole?) but she’d made it through and she was very much alive.
That experience reminds me so much of writers and their ideas. Some writing ideas are incubated and hatch easily, like the chicks running around outside with their mother. They seem to emerge into the world with little effort.
Some ideas are nonstarters, because they just don’t make sense or we can’t figure out what to do with them, or they just come and then fade away.
But some writing projects are like the egg I found—an idea discovered and carried around, close to your heart. It’s alive, you can hear it faintly peeping, and it brings you great joy. But at some point, you have to let it hatch. You can’t keep it in your bra forever.
What would have happened if I had held on to that egg? If I hadn’t released it, let her hatch, dry, fluff out, learn to use her feet, and stand up? What if I had never given her a chance to live out a life in the sunlight and fresh air?
Your writing idea is the same. You can’t carry it around forever. When you hear the peeping, it’s time to take it out and let it begin to break out of its shell. The world needs more beauty and inspiration. Let it hatch.
“On Eggs, Ideas, and Writing” first appeared on Tim Fall’s blog. He’s amazing–a thoughtful, careful writer who always makes me think. His blog is called “Just One Train Wreck After Another.” Please go visit him and say hello. He ALWAYS answers comments the same day. I don’t know how he does it!