Friday, July 22, 2011

Eleven Chickens in the Air: A Juggling Act

Starting a new project is in many ways like beginning a new romance.  At first blush, you tend to be excited by the possibilities, expanding way out beyond entertainment and discovery toward meaning something.  Indeed, in past instances, you'd reached a point of wondering whether the chemistry had come from some attractive feature you were caught up with.  Could it lead to that remarkable discovery on both sides?  Could it, as you'd begun to suspect, change your life?  And hers?

How, indeed, your life has been changed by romances and new projects?  You can see the sharp dichotomy between those that were and those that were not; you can see now the reason why each surge of initial chemistry causes a moment of introspection, of the lip chewing deliberation about potential outcome.

You'd been toying with a work plan for some days, since signing off on the copyedited manuscript of your latest, humbled as always more by the copyedit than the content edit.  Somewhere in your not-too-remote past, you'd been given information you did not think was going to lead to a howler on an urban myth website such as Snopes dot com.  No juggler has been able to get more than eleven objects into orbit.  You'd even spent time trying to check a reliable source for this fact--if it were, indeed, a fact.  The closest you'd come to any reliability was a chum, often given to accuracy of statement, who'd for a time been married to a circus trapeze artist, from whom he'd heard the same figure--eleven.

Over the years, that number has stuck with you.  Eleven balls.  Eleven dishes.  Eleven live chickens.  Eleven fiery torches.  Eleven tumbling pins.  Eleven.  Try for twelve and you're up to your ass, as it were, in broken dishes.

The book you've just finished among other things names over three hundred fifty such objects or,if you will, conditions, or, if you won't, qualities a storyteller has to keep up in the air simultaneously, making storytelling incrementally more risky than mere juggling.  If there is any question at all about your ability as a storyteller, there can be no doubt about your outstanding inability as a juggler.  You are lucky to maintain two objects airborne; three is a distinct non-event.

You began a few prefatory remarks about this disparity in objects in flight between the juggler and storyteller, leading you directly to the game plan of revising a book published some twenty years ago, encouraged to do so by your literary agent and current publisher, provided, the agent said, you work on it in the morning and get back to your novel in the afternoon.

Music of the spheres.  It is not so much that you have a short attention span as it is a matter of time management, what with three editing chores logged in and ticking.

Some hours after devising a provisional table of contents for the revision, you produced a solid first draft of the Preface.  The content of the Preface will surely undergo changes; you might even play with it in these vagrant pages of blog.  What matters most is a sign, not from above, because the signs from above you're most likely to believe are lightning flashes, tornadoes, and pissing rain storms, rather from within.  Last night, you dreamed of the Preface and the table of contents, sure signs that you were "in story," that you'd become a part of the project and the project had reciprocated.

It was as if a new romance were winking at you.

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