Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Achievement v. Inspiration

The last two months have been a different time for me in my writing journey.  I've been using a lot more of my executive, achievement traits and much less of my creativity.  It was good, and necessary, and I have an awesome website to show for it.  But it always feels good to come back to the writing, the creative process.  To me, it is calming in a way that few other things are.  To me, it feels like coming home.  Coming back to my true self.

I think there's a balance between that creative spirit and the get-it-done attitude.  I'm good at both of them, but the hard part is maintaining the balance so I can have both of them at more or less the same time.  The best way I've found to do this is to write for a few hours in the morning, then do business development and all of that other left brained stuff in the afternoon.  Because the minute I open that first email or draft that one to-do list item, my brain shifts away from the creative process.  And then it is ever so hard to shift it back.  I need to start doing this again more regularly.

As I've been doing less of my writing in the mornings lately, I've noticed that my blog posts have become sparser and more of a list of accomplishments.  So, in order to break that trend, I am going to tell you a story about when I was a kid.  Not that this story has anything to do with achievement or inspiration, but it is a good story, at least looking back on it.  And good storytelling, I've heard, is about as essential as good writing to making a good book.  Here's to hoping that I have both the necessary storytelling and writing abilities to make it work!
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One night when I was about 10 years old, my parents went out for the night and left me at home with a friend.  Not a babysitter, but one of my friends from school.  I believe she was a year older than me, but still about the same level of maturity of firmly believing in magic and creating our own fantasies, which included scary ghosts about as much as it included . . . well, no, I can’t remember imagining anything except scary ghosts, devils, and deceased spirits come back from the grave.  Nope, definitely no fairy princesses springing forth from our imaginations.

Anyway, one of our favorite places to play at my old house was under the front porch.  You couldn’t get to it from outside, because the sides were fenced off with a white crisscrossed latticework.  The only way to get to it was to go through the house, go down into the basement, and then climb out of this window that was up really high in the wall.  It must have been designed by an adult who wasn’t anticipating the adventures that young children would have, so we had to stand on a tall chair just to reach it.  Then, because the window swung out into the basement, so you had to hold the window straight out while you climbed under it.

We frequently played under there, digging through the dried-up leaves and dirt that had collected and inspecting every rock or piece of wood to see if it could be a fossil bone.  We were determined to be paleontologists, and were convinced that we would make the next big discovery.

On this night when my parents were out, we did find a bone.  A real bone.  We brushed the leaves and dirt off and dug it out of the ground and found that the little bone sticking up out of the ground was connected to another bone, which was connected to a whole series of bones.  A baby dinosaur!  We had found a real baby dinosaur right under the porch of my very own house!  We were going to be famous!

It was about the size of a cat, which is how we knew it was a baby dinosaur.  Clearly not an adult dinosaur.  We dragged it up through the dirt, climbed back out through the window to drop down into the basement, up the long rickety wooden stairs, and around the corner to the bathroom.  We set the bones down in the bathroom sink, turned the water on, and filled the sink with water.  That was the obvious next step, of course - to clean the bones up.  What luck that all the bones were still connected, too.  The only problem was that there was still fur matted all along the body.

At some point in this process, things took a drastic turn.  Maybe it was the remaining fur.  Maybe it was the bright lights of the bathroom, such a contrast from the dark cave under the porch late at night, which had only been illuminated by the small basement window.  Maybe it was the way the baby dinosaur looked different soaking in a bathroom sink.  Or maybe it was just the sneaking feeling of fear that comes over a young child when they’re home alone on a dark, late night.

Whatever it was, our confidence and excitement changed from pride to be the youngest paleontologists ever to make such an important scientific discovery to . . . being completely afraid, creeped out, and well, grossed out.  So, what’s a kid to do?  We didn’t put it back under the porch or take it outside.  No, we left it exactly where it was and then locked the door.  The bathroom door at that house had a keyhole that locked with an actual key, one of those old fashioned looking skeleton keys, so you could either lock it from the inside or the outside.  Naturally, we locked it from the outside.  While we didn’t want to be near it, we also retained some small shred of hope that my parents would come home, confirm our miraculous discovery, and our paleontology dreams would continue as planned.  You never know.

Next, we probably went around the house and turned on every light we could find.  Beyond that, I don’t remember what else we did that night.  I don't recall what we did with the bathroom key.  I don’t recall if we washed our hands.  I also don’t recall if we were already asleep or awake huddled together in fear somewhere when my parents came home.  I do remember that they firmly fell into the “it’s a cat” camp, not the “it’s a baby dinosaur” camp.  I also remember that the responsibility of removing the cat and cleaning the sink did not fall upon either me or my friend.  I can only assume this was because we were either asleep or huddled together with such fear in our eyes that they took pity on us and let us off the hook.  I am still thankful to my stepdad, who somehow became the one to have the unimaginable duty of cleaning up after his budding paleontologist that night.  I can only imagine the conversation between him and my mom.

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