Friday, September 14, 2012

When Easy Isn't


Scenario # !:  You become aware of the idea by degrees as it buzzes about your head, much in the manner of a mosquito checking you out to see if your blood is appropriate for its afternoon tea.  As the idea impinges on your consciousness, beginning to distract you, you in metaphor try to swat it away.  By now, the idea is persistent.  It has a form.  You are attracted by the form.  You reach for it.  Not so fast, it seems to be saying.  Now, the idea has captured your focus.

Scenario # 2:  What a coincidence.  Not long after your checkbook has gone out on the town with the boys, whooping things up as it were, and you have reached the point of thinking you might need to negotiate a loan from your emergency reserve fund, someone offers you a job you would ordinarily not take.  It should be easy, the prospective client says.  Just want to have your eyes on it, really.
This person has already pushed the alarm button by telling you the job is easy.  Here, the prospective client says, reaching for his checkbook.  Let me write you a check now.

Scenario # 3:  There is a sure-fire, risk-free opportunity to try your hand at a project you have moderate enthusiasm for, made all the more attractive because you’ve hit a momentary wall or soft spot in something you care about.  This could be just the thing to get you going again.

There is something essentially wrong with all three of the above.  The common denominator is a lack of commitment to the point of knowing, fearing, sensing on some level that you’re in over your head.

You should eschew easy jobs, your own or someone else’s.  From time to time, you tend to forget how you were lured into this craft by writers whose work seemed so easy that you thought you could not only do it with equal effect, you might have even thought you could do it better,  You actually remember yourself saying that, having reread Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, you could tell a better story than that.

In many ways, when reacting to the work of other writers, you need to think you can outdo them, but as well you need to be open to the point somewhere into reading the entire first draft where you realize this was not going to be as easy as you supposed.  Drafts later, you are open in wondering what kind of mess you’ve got yourself into.

You encounter a major stumbling point when you set out to simplify a complex emotion or dramatic circumstance all the while thinking your task is easy.  Making something difficult seem easy should be your goal.  You will neithert achieve that goal by underestimating the task nor by overestimating yourself.

The work has to be difficult to the point of scaring you when you get a complete read of your early drafts.  You’re better served by feeling desperate, experiencing the need to reach beyond yourself, into places you’d not reached before.  You need to respect the idea or the project, look it dead in the eye, decide you’re going to get the better of it and not stop until you do, all the while realizing the things you’ve done before will help you stay in the game but they won’t give you the direct answer for this one.

If you stay in your comfort zone, neither breaking a sweat nor taking some risk, your finished product will reflect comfort rather than the tense apprehension of risk.  Every time you take a risk, you are asking failure to dance with you.  This is an apt analogy because you were never an accomplished dancer.  To play out the analogy, your job is not to make yourself look like a smooth, fluid dancer.  Your job is to make failure look successful, Adele Astaire to your Fred.

Things that look easy aren’t; they’re the most difficult of all.  Things presented to you as easy fixes are mega-train wrecks.

Next time you read something that seems so easy you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it for yourself, take another read through to enjoy the difficulty of making a story resonate.

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