Yesterday, a young mother and her son were sitting on the floor in the office waiting area and she was trying to encourage him to start walking. While seated, she would stand him up, let him go, and then encourage him to step forward. Although he was enjoying himself (at least, he was smiling as hugely as possible at those of us passing through waiting area), he tended to lean forward and fall toward her rather than walking. Each time he leaned and began to fall, she caught him. He was having fun falling forward.
I was reminded of him this morning in B&N, as I was poking through the new book shelves and came across an illustrated book about snowmen after dark. At a certain age, you could fall into a book like that and be caught every time by the artwork and the story. Living here in southern Texas, an illustrated book of snow and snowmen pretty much counts as fantasy literature, too.
Not that I imagine that there arms out there waiting to catch me, but I miss that sense of falling forward into wonder, the excitement of not-quite-able-to-catch-yourself that requires trust that something is there to catch you. Lately, I've lost this trust both as a writer and a person. This means that I'm not letting myself go with the stories that I'm working on. Years ago, I would have just slammed out whatever I was feeling. Jealous of a cousin's perceived good fortune? Blam! Short story about children fighting in the dirt hills of a local construction site.
Does this make for great literature? Sometimes, although not for me. What it does is connect me more thoroughly to my inner writer rather than my inner editor/pessimist. My inner writer...let's call her Betty, for short...is the part of me who trusts herself. Betty is not willing to say that she's happy taking on something that makes her uncomfortable. Betty does not believe she's useless because she had another birthday or doesn't have kids. Betty believes that she's incredibly fortunate to be alive, to have a Frappucino and a few minutes to stare at all the people in the cafe and the freedom to reimagine them. She's not embarrassed by her lack of publishing credits. She believes you should be embarrassed because your tomato crop wasn't accepted by Whole Foods' supply chain last season. Betty can be bitchy.
I don't trust Betty. Lately, I'm not willing to give her than a few tiny sheets of notebook paper on which to scrap novel. She's trying to encourage me to fall back in with her (aaahhhh!!! metaphor torture!!!! stop with "falling"!) while there are others who are encouraging me to pack her away and stop stumbling around. To get over myself. I think I'd rather have a chorus line of snowmen. Even if they don't catch you, the snow angels will.