I just love this photo. It's a $0.99 solution for what could be a potential $9,000 problem.
How do you keep your dog from squeezing out of the gate, and running into traffic, thus requiring a tragic visit to the veterinarian? If you search any number of online retail and training sources for pets, you'll discover a vast array of solutions, at varying prices, all requiring copious commitments of time, attention, and energy. But, a single trip to the Dollar Store might be able to solve the problem with ease, and provide no additional stress for you or the dog until you can take some time to step back and figure out something better. Simple, right?
After enjoying a good chuckle at the photo, it started me thinking... how often do I, as a writer, encounter the same predicament? How often have I been faced with a plot problem or a character conundrum, and spent hours on a quest to find the "best" solution? The right word... the most engaging emotion, the most transformative description, the funniest punchline, all while my story languishes in the relative danger of remaining unfinished?
I spend hours staring at the screen, doodling with my notebook, staring at the clouds, trying to find just the right piece to fit my literary puzzle, when really, the simplest solution might just be the most effective one, for now. I sometimes overlook the wooden spoon because I'm fooled by the notion that I should be spending my time looking for an electronic vibrating harness that won't hurt the dog, but rather, alert him to change his path and make a better choice about his longing to escape. I'm fooled into thinking that the flashy solution is better based on no real information, other than it's flashy.
I often have this problem with words. It's true. Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best in books. Sometimes, a single word, spoken softly but with conviction will be far more effective against the advancing evil monster, than a rhyming spell of seven stanzas, spoken in Latin, punched up at the end with a flamboyant toss of a handful of magic dust... at least until you can get a coven of magicians together to chant along with you.
It's important to solve the most pressing issue... how do I keep my story safe, and yet, still give it the freedom it needs to carry readers through the adventure? The first order of business is to stop my literary puppy from escaping the yard and hurting himself. After I've accomplished that, then I can worry about painting the spoon with bright colors, adding more padding to the harness, wiring in sensors to sound tiny alarms that only work on dog-frequency-hearing, and install the GPS that connects directly to my smart phone that will alert me to his up-to-the-minute travel intentions.
Sometimes, just writing the words, making them effective, and not worrying about the "marketability" of the story until after the whole thing is written, is the best course. For me, that's what participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) means. Show up simply. Sit in the seat, put your fingers on the keyboard and your story on the page. Use the wooden spoon now, and worry about crafting the flashy stuff that will go into a marketing blurb later.
I need to remind myself... first, focus on getting the story out... then, work on keeping the story contained yet free. It's a problem that I often overthink when in the throes of creative rapture. Letting my imagination run away without keeping it safe within the fenced confines of the story's yard can be disastrously distracting.
Once the story is "safe", I can then take some time to work on refinements with a bit more comfort. Writing is so much more fun when you do it from a place of calm enjoyment, rather than from a place of fearful panic for your story's security. This is how I want to spend my time playing with my literary puppy. When he's whole, safe, and within easy reach, then I can work on teaching him new tricks. I can show him the wonders of pacing through the afternoon, sniffing out a misplaced bone, digging to discover what might be hidden under a bush, the exhilaration of chasing a wayward squirrel, and perhaps taking a bit of pride in barking at another dog in the street, and saving them from certain disaster.
So, for NaNoWriMo, I give myself permission to write 50,000 words simply, safely, and without the worry of flash and pizzazz. It's okay that I don't know all of that other stuff in November. I just need to know how to get the story out and safe. I can work on teaching my literary puppy new tricks in December or January.
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