Children are not very forgiving, at least not of the flaws of their parents. It was a good idea to begin with or so I thought. They harass me, incessantly, on long drives, on slow evenings, on snowy days and dark, close nights in the confines of our camping tent, to tell them stories. They don't want the store-bought kind, the ones some other writer has struggled to create. They want me to tell them tales off the top of my head. They give me a theme, "Mom, tell us a story about a sea-turtle and a jelly-fish." "Tell us one about a mountain lion and a squirrel." They're nothing if not imaginative. And so, I sigh, close my eyes, and begin.
A tale told by the seat of one's pants is not an ordinary kind of story. Strange things happen when you allow your imagination to run free. There is no editing, no careful choice of word. The force of the story moves itself, the unexpected abounds. I listen carefully with my inner ear. In that slight pause before I speak, I grasp the tale from the nothingness and weave it into being.
I find, I like these rambling, unpredictable tales, so I decided to write them down. Why not put them into books of my own? Other children might like to read them. Another struggling writer-mom might be grateful to be able to read a story.
I don't have a lot of writing time, like most artists, squeezing it in between dinner and home work, soccer practice and the weekend chore-list, between kisses goodnight and the pull of sleep. Writing these stories was a good idea, but it's hard to recall it all to words in a single sitting.
Advice to all writers: Do not read your children an unfinished story. They do not respond positively, at least my kids don't.
"Read the end." The 7 yr old said. I had kept him and his 9 yr old sister completely captivated right up to the point where the old man was bobbing in the black, black sea.
"I can't read it, I haven't written it yet." I was thinking of course they would understand.
"This is the worst story ever." He glares at me from his warm blankets. "It doesn't have the end!"
"Yeah," His nine-year old sister agrees, "It doesn't even have the mermaids, yet."
"It needs the rest." he says.
Of course it does! I just haven't written it yet.
Note to self: Children do not make good literary guinea pigs.
There are many risky moments on the rocky road to achieving a dream. Moments when you could throw up your hands, turn tail, and crawl back into the safety of your quiet cave. Should I be flattered or horrified? They loved the story, loved it enough to be very upset that it hadn't been finished. I feel obligated to finish it now. Before, it was just the hint of idea, the pale, frail glimmering of opportunity. Something I could set aside, work on at leisure. Last night, fate made an edict. To save face with my kids, I must finish the story. Weary from work, disconsolate with my minuscule time to write, I worked on that story long past the time when my babies lay dreaming, till my eyes were grainy and my vision blurred.
Shhhhh, don't tell them, but "Tell Me a Story of the Old Man and the Sea", is nearly done.
I'll let you know if they like it.