A Long Experiment

My early twenties were a very creative time in my life. I had recognized that the best way to create anything was through a combination of enthusiasm and trust. When I trusted my imagination to give me something cool or funny or profound, and when I allowed my enthusiasm to guide me in translating those ideas into stories or poems or sketches, the work felt alive and it came easily and I enjoyed making it. In fact, it was not like work at all; it was like very focused play. But then one evening I was laying in bed in my apartment thinking about driving. When you’re a boy you sit in the back of the car and the adults drive wherever you must go. This is a nice way to travel as you can lean your head against the window and let yourself drift where your imagination will take you. This is how you get from place to place as a child.

Now, however, I drove the car. Now I must choose right or left, north or south; now I must know where to go. I became suspicious of this relationship I was forming with my imagination. Where was it headed, exactly? Though I was enjoying the ride, it did feel suspiciously like chance. How could I trust it would bring me the success I required?

So I changed the rules. Playtime is over, I said. The grownups are in charge now. From here on I will decide what we write and you will provide me what I need. If I say screenplay, you will give me a screenplay; if I say literary novel, you will give me literary novel. My future is too important a thing to leave to chance.

And so, for twenty years or so, most of what I wrote was dead.

The imagination is one tireless and loyal companion, however. It knows nothing of time; it cannot be hurt or rejected. Eventually, I became exhausted. It was hard always working and never playing. Plus, I was no Dr. Frankenstein; I could not make live what was really dead. The tiring experiment complete, I looked about for other ideas, and there came one from a familiar place, and I quite liked it, and I followed where it was headed.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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