Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crocodile Eggs for Writers

by Vanessa Preston, 2006

Have you ever had the most BRILLIANT IDEA? 

Bursting with energy, you rushed off to show it to someone.  You couldn’t wait to see the look of awe and admiration on their face.  Then …


With one derisive snort or roll of the eyes, they ground your idea to a pulp.

“That’ll never work,” they say of your invention.
“It’s … interesting,” delivered with a fake smile.
“No-one reads fiction anymore,” and they hand back your novel with a sigh.

Sadly you sweep the remains of your idea and ego into the dustbin, and limp away nursing hurt feelings and wounded pride.  And you wonder … are they right? 

Press the pause button on this sad scenario, and imagine this …

Your new story is a baby crocodile.  Once upon a time it was barely an inkling.  But you patiently nurtured and protected this curious creature.  Now it is squeaking, ready to hatch at any moment.  You’re about to watch it break out into the big, wide world.  It seems like a lifetime since you discovered the egg.  Mysteriously it just appeared, but you had an inkling it would be something special one day.  Something a bit like a baby crocodile …

In the beginning …
The shell was paper-thin.  Transparent enough to see the forming skeleton.  Before the egg became cloudy and strong, you glimpsed the form of a tiny reptile.  So fragile.  You tenderly wrapped it in tissues and tucked it inside your shirt. 

Weeks later …
You are excited.  The egg (which you’ve named Inkling) is gaining weight and growing rapidly.  You spend hours looking lovingly at the pearly white shell.  Like a proud parent you long to show off your little one.  It’s getting hard to keep such a spectacular secret. 

Surely it wouldn’t hurt to let a trusted friend take a peek at the little Inkling?

At this point the story is up to you. 

Like a pick-a-path adventure, YOU decide what happens next.  Read the choices at the top of the columns, choose one, and read on to see how the story ends.

A.  You show a friend.  She cringes and comments on every blemish.  You’re convinced a closer look will convert the sceptic.  You hand her your Inkling.
B.  Again you show a friend.  This time, when he starts to poke and prod the Inkling, you make a hasty retreat. 
C.  You hide the Inkling away from prying eyes.  When someone spies your treasure you ask them to wait just a little longer.
Surely once your friend feels the tender heartbeat and silky smooth shell, she will have to agree this is the most wondrous thing she has ever seen.

She’ll have to understand how precious it is.

But your friend isn’t as sensitive as you. 

She squeezes a bit too hard, and SQUIRT.

Clumsily she misses the point and SPLAT.

After a quick glance, she leaves it on the windowsill and SIZZLE.

You are devastated.  All that is left of your Inkling is a sticky puddle and a shrivelled up shell.

Sorry, but it’s impossible to revive this one. 

You have rescued the egg … but damage has been done.

Your trust your friend, and his  opinion is important to you.  You start to question your unconditional love for the little creature. 

Maybe you are paying it too much attention?

Maybe it really is a bit ugly?

You start to neglect it, forget about it, starve it.  Or maybe you try to make it more appealing to others with popular colours and a fashionable name.

The once-translucent shell is now blurred by fingerprints, scratched and scarred. Lonely and unloved, your Inkling is fading.

Some careful nursing might save it, but the odds aren’t great.

You nurture and protect your Inkling. 

Safe from harm, it develops legs and flexes it’s muscles.

You pay no heed to pessimists.

Your job is to keep the Inkling warm, and shelter it from predators. 

In time the Inkling will outgrow it’s shell.  With pecking and poking it will at last wriggle free. 


The Inkling has a good chance at survival.  For now, you’ll still have to feed it, rescue it when it strays too far, and teach it to fend for itself. 

But it may one day grow up to be the biggest, boldest crocodile in the river.

Inklings grow into ideas, like baby crocodiles forming inside their shells.
Perhaps the analogy goes too far – but those baby crocodiles are just so cute!
So, how do you look after them? 

Ideas are fragile, and like crocodile eggs they need:
-       time – don’t be too quick to expose them to the harsh light of day
-       attention – play with them, feed them, marvel and enjoy them
-       protection – guard against vandals, predators, thieves and critics

Ideas differ from crocodile eggs in these important ways:
-       you can shut an idea in a drawer and still maybe revive it years later
-       one idea can be divided into a crèche-full of inklings and inspirations
-       ideas are easier to find than crocodile eggs – if you know where to look!

Writers, thinkers, artists … keep a notepad or sketchbook handy, and write ideas as they come.  Later might be too late.  Jot down one-word, or do a quick draft if you have time.  When you make a habit of acknowledging ideas as they come, they’ll come more often. 

Treat your inklings and ideas like crocodile eggs.  They might be grand one day, but as infants they need protection and nurture.  Sit on them.  Keep them warm.  Believe in them.
Hopefully they will survive, and when they grow up you’ll be the proudest parent alive!


  1. Awesome! I love it! I think you're right on...there is a time to sit on our eggs and grow our ideas, and a time for revealing them. I'd love to see your crocodile once it's hatched :) - Mo


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