Sometimes progress is a small pile of pencil shavings. It might take a stretching of the imagination, but you could change the world with a freshly sharpened pencil. You could use it as a weapon and put out the eye of an attacker. The villain starts wearing an eye patch which engenders sympathy and kindness from strangers and soon makes friends with people who aren’t remotely villainous. He (though it might be a she) reforms their evil ways and goes to clown school where they meet someone in need of pirate Vaudeville act. The villain takes along his pet budgie and is such a success he’s soon a TV star making millions of people laugh. An unhappily married couple watch the show and that night make love instead of war. Nine months later the woman gives birth to the person destined to discover that rocks are the untapped energy source which will make oil redundant. All because you sharpened a pencil.
Yesterday I finished reworking Chapter 26 of my book, Dancing the Maypole. All I have to show for four weeks of effort is a small pile of shavings, but I have great hopes that my sharpened characters will keep telling me how their story unfolds and soon I will finish a book. My book might then make someone laugh. That reader might have a good day and impulsively befriend someone who’s shy and lonely who’s then emboldened to start a disco club for shy people that allows them to dance behind white silken banners that hang from the ceilings. It starts a new underground craze for shadow-dancing which is soon “discovered” by Madonna. She makes shadow-dancing a world wide phenomenon renewing her disco-rock career without the need to live vicariously through her daughter. She earns so much money she can afford to adopt a whole country and enables all the people to get an education and one of them discovers the genetic mutation which enables people (at the cost of a cheap procedure) to look 18 their whole adult lives. Unfortunately, all the old movie stars have to face the fact that they really do have a shelf life and not because they’re old. Yes, we’re all sick to death of seeing the same faces in every other movie, but they go on to develop talents they didn’t know they had and to lead happy healthy lives free of fame addiction. Madonna ends her singing career at 60 causing mass hysteria among her loyal fans, but her absence from the music charts allows new talent to fill the airwaves and saves her eighteen year old daughter the embarrassment of having a 60 year old mother who dresses like she wishes she could travel back in time to 1985 and sing ‘Like a Virgin’ for another thirty years. Large groups of shy people, having overcome their shyness, work hard to make their dreams come true reinvigorating the economies of the world and ending the depression the authorities insist on calling a quadruple dip recession. All because I finally finished Chapter 26.
It could happen…if I learn to remember one simple fact.
There is no Nobel Peace Prize, no blue ribbon, no satisfaction guaranteed in pushing a dead cow up a hill. How long does it take me to figure out I’m traveling in the wrong direction? Sadly, until I run into a wall that I can’t push over, climb over or dig under. Of course there are only three options (unless you have a jet-pack strapped to your shoulders or a rocket between your knees); back, left or right. Walls are simple things. They’re not Macro Economics taught by a professor who couldn’t teach to save a bank; it’s a wall. I know what to do when I hit a wall. It’s just that I have a really hard time recognizing when I run into one. I can hear you thinking, “I’m not surprised, this Cari person is a nincompoop!” but can that really explain why I bang my head against the immovable barrier for so long? Why do we come up against barriers and not realize they’re barriers?
It’s because they’re camouflaged!
I keep banging my head because all my mental walls are painted with realistic 3-D murals that look like they’ll take me somewhere I want to go. I see the vista I want to see. I see the story going forward how I assume it’s going to go forward. I envision what I think will happen in the story and then start shoving my characters (hence the sensation of pushing a dead cow up a hill) in the direction I think they should go. It doesn’t work. I couldn’t push a dead cow even one inch why do I sit here and spend weeks trying to push one up a hill? No don’t answer…I know you think I’m a nincompoop.
Now if I can learn to recognize a wall and remember that when I run into one that I, not the wall, have to be the one to change direction…I too might change the world!