Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If wishes were horses, would beggars get rejection slips?

 For many of those who write with the notion of telling a story or discovering the essential story in the hurly burly of real life, the operant mantra is composed of those two provocative words, What if.

The writer who is as concerned with self-discovery as the telling of a tale is well aware of the glorious possibilities ready to escape, genies from their bottles, when the What if proposition is posed, but is as well aware of the yet more primal formula of I want.

Either of the two existential pronouncements carries with it a weight similar to the quantum physicist's quest for the formula that defines the creation of the universe, and while you wish each player good fortune in this game where quest is the feature race, you have the admittedly cynical belief that answers are never as satisfying as the asking of the questions that provoke them.

What if produces a nice springboard for invention, development, and some sort of resolution.  We have only to look at some of the J.S. Bach two- and three-part inventions to see how successful and enduring so many inventions are, removing us as they do from the random collisions of event and intent about us, offering the fictional possibility of a tidy or near tidy result.  In a real sense, a tidy result is a final paper from a student, marked with queries and encouraging developmental notes by you and returned to the student without having been thrown up on or urinated upon by a cat, a dog, or both, to say nothing of having the work returned without a trace of coffee spill or the embarrassing hallmark of peanut butter.  A tidy manuscript goes directly from the printer into an envelope or box, transported by hands of relative cleanliness, absent of ink, peanut butter, coffee, and not to forget catsup, thence to its destination of literary agent or editor of choice.

I want is a speculation of a prescient perfection, it is desire for a Porsche, the attainment of said Porsche, and not only the ability to pay for the servicing of said Porsche but beyond that the ability not to experience back pains from getting in and out of said Porsche.  It is a desire for a particular person plus the unspoken desire that said person will not be a pain in the ass, being instead appreciative of having been wanted  in the first place.  It is the desire to be published at a particular venue without the need for a full-on conflict with the copyeditor of said venue, replete with such queries as Who he? every time you mention Mahatma Ghandi.

Each--What if, and I want--is in its own way a condition made more wonderful by its seeming impossibility to achieve, because failure to deliver to one's satisfaction and getting what one wants actually keep one writing because of the delicious possibility of the twofer, the realization of the two simultaneously, as in, What if I get what I want?

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