A Useful Trick

I used to get very bored in high school. The teachers seemed to repeat themselves, and once I’d understood whatever they were trying to share I didn’t know what to do with myself while they went over it a second or third time. So I brought a book. This seemed like a very reasonable solution to the problem. I read; they lectured. No harm done. Then I accompanied my mother to a parent/teacher conference one November. My math teacher that year was a very pleasant man who had the desirable quality of not taking anything too seriously. When my mother asked how I was doing, he replied, “Oh, fine. I see him reading someone else’s book while I’m talking, but he does well on the tests so I leave it alone.”

I was mortified. He could see me. I had the idea, you see, that once I picked my book up and disappeared into the story, I quite literally disappeared. As long as I wasn’t paying attention to him he couldn’t see me. It was like a magic power.

Perhaps the writers I was reading would have been happy to have learned that they had tricked this boy into believing he had such a power. Years later, when I became very serious about my writing, it was my regular ambition to disappear once I sat at my desk. For this reason, no one was allowed in my workspace. If they could see me, I remembered I existed, and my writing suffered.

I still get bored from time to time, though much less so. The disappearing that writing has taught is such a useful discipline. When I look about at the world and it seems a dull and repetitive place, when I feel restless and disappointed, I will occasionally remember to disappear. Except I have no book, and there is no story to write, and so I must disappear right where I stand, and now what I thought I was no longer blocks my view of what I wish to be.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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