Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cat's Whiskers

Early in your acquaintance with writing, you’d not thought of it being a means of self-expression.  That far back in time, there was precious little of you to express.  Then, writing seemed easy beyond thought.  The stories of others seemed as easy as the appearance of puppies and kittens,

Only after your early attempts at writing stories of your own did writing seem to change into something of a challenge, something difficult to the point where you were visited with the analogy of capturing a butterfly in order to draw it, then proceeding to kill it in your examination.  By the time you were going about deconstructing stories and reading books where instructions for writing your own stories were provided, you realized you’d put more deliberate, conscious effort into your studies than you had any other activity.  It was perhaps more of an effort than you realized for you to learn how to read, but you were not at the stage of life where you thought such comparisons through much less were able to make them.

At about the same time, you became fascinated with the phenomenon of the crystal radio, a simple, non-electric means of receiving radio broadcast through a pair of earphones using a device called a cat’s whisker, a sensitive chunk of galena, a coil of cotton-covered copper wire wrapped about a cardboard tube, an antenna of some imaginative sort, and a ground wire, which was a wire running to a metal structure such as a radiator.  Memorizing the wiring diagram was as simple as memorizing the 3’s of the multiplication tables.

To this day, you can and have doodled the wiring diagram.  All the elements for the so-called crystal radio were easily come by.  Within a day of learning curve, you were listening to the twenty-four hour classical music station in Los Angeles.  No electricity was required.  Your next plateau was teaching yourself how to convert the coil into a tuner, no severe strain on your abilities. Using a coil with more rounds of wire, you were able to bring in other local radio stations.  True enough, these were the days when the band of radio you were able to reach was amplitude modulation or AM; FM had not yet been developed for public use.  Nevertheless, with relatively simple materials, you were able to have your choice of several local radio stations.  You were, in effect, able to use your knowledge of a portion of the properties and qualities of radio transmission to fulfill your needs.

You knew the equivalent wiring diagram of story, as well, and you did write a large number of them, which you actually began sending out to various publications ranging from true romances, science fiction, and mystery.  The results were by no means at the same rate of success you’d experienced with your venture into radio.

In fact, you were dismayed by the lack of success you were having to the point where you began dissecting more short stories, trying sedulously to copy the techniques you thought you were teaching yourself.  By this point, there was no going back, no dropping out.  Writing was difficult for you, but by then you’d come to realize that it was as difficult for all who ventured at it.  There was no going back because the few times you’d told yourself there was no pointing continuing, you invariably got an idea for a new project, which invariably found a home in some venue or other.

It has not become any easier; in fact it seems to take you longer now to approximate the effect and tone of your intent.  Because of numerous experiences, there is indeed more now for you to express, largely matters involving frustration, impatience, and determination.

As a teacher and editor, you have particular impatience for individuals who are put off by the difficulty to the point where they refuse to put in the time necessary to bring their ideas to ideal or even passable life.  As a wannabe, you have even more impatience with yourself when you discover said self on the cusp of wanting to walk away from a project you know to be incomplete.

There is the kind of satisfaction known as fun that comes with the knowledge that writing is more difficult than you supposed, that it becomes even more so as your attempts at it continue.  If it had been as easy as you’d thought so long ago, it would not have revealed itself to you as the difficulty it is nor would you have half the pleasure in trying to accomplish half the qualities you’d hoped for way back then.




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