Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Navigation 101

A litmus test is a decisive evaluation of a single factor, used in chemistry to determine if a substance is acid, which is to say sour, reactive with metals and carbonates, and has a pH less than 7.0; it can exist in a liquid, solid, or gas state.  Another form of the litmus test determines if a substance is alkaline, or has a pH greater than 7.0.  From this chemical use, litmus test has evolved into civilian life as an indication of the quality, composition, or veracity of any single factor such as attitude--the litmus test of her sincerity--or event--the litmus test of the event's effectiveness--or fact--the litmus test of the truth and accuracy of information.

The litmus test of your ability to see and render reality of attitudes, such as your own cynicism or approval; events, such as your perception of interpretation of a performance by one or more characters; and facts, such as your awareness of the qualities inherent in persons, places, and things, is in what you consider a final draft of a story or essay.  On balance, you are comfortable with the results, meaning at any given time you can be confronted with something that impresses you by its location at either rat tail of the Bell Curve.

Attempting to quantify or measure ability, insight, and instinct are at best exercises more rooted in philosophy and theory than in actual heft.  Sometimes feeling you are at either rat tail produces a feeling of impatience, the urge either to get more down at this level of intensity or improve dramatically from this level of awfulness-producing feelings.  Such days come and go in no particular order.  As great as the rush of completing a draft is, or of being able to assess that the current draft is the best you can get out of a project, and now on to submission, the acknowledged feeling of being attuned with the universe is the feeling that comes in the middle of a project, launched and awash with curiosity mingled with fear mingled with the sense that you have some sort of a plan that will likely see you several steps ahead.  Then you have only to contend with the fear that on the morrow all this confidence will have left you and that the material which only yesterday seemed so certain and comfortable is something written by a passing stranger who found your keyboard unused.  This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing; indeed it is not a neutral thing, either--it simply is, leaving you facing the metaphoric equivalent of what the ancient seafarers faced when setting forth in their crafts each day in search of some goal, whether it be immediate food, discovery of new trade routes, or new territory.  These ancients knew enough about sailing to insure a relatively comfortable rate of venturing forth and safe return.  It might take some time, particularly if there were no landmarks in sight and a certain amount of reckoning were required, yet they set forth with attitudes and goals.

Worst case scenario for you--you get a bit wet.

Been there, done that.

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