Thursday, November 12, 2015

Start Each Story with Spiders

One of the earliest conversations of significance you recall having with your mother came after you'd approached her, eager to tell her of an exciting dream you'd had.  The conversation lurched into one of the documents of evidence you would eventually use almost as though they were legal briefs in the inevitable battle between parents and children.

Your mother gained your attention by telling you she'd be happy to listen to your dream.  But then, before you could relate it, she went on to explain that grown-ups were likely to be interested in their own dreams but not the dreams of others, particularly those of young persons such as you. 

She was quite patient about leading you to see that it was one thing for a young person to tell an older person that he'd had a bad dream, and maybe one or two salient details.

"Like maybe being covered with spiders," you suggested, knowing most grown-ups had little regard for spiders.

"You didn't dream you were covered with spiders, did you?"

Although you weren't sure why, you knew you had her attention, which, after all was what you'd wanted in the first place.  This was indeed a learning experience.  Start with spiders, which, even then, you understood was code for something ominous, menacing, or discomforting.

As a young person, your relation with grown-ups was fraught with doubts, misgivings, and regrets.  Teachers were, for the most part, all right because they seemed to believe what they were telling you and the better ones had the kind tendency to speak of facts as "things most persons seem to agree upon." 

This gave you hope that there would be better answers to things other grownups told you and that more ordinary things would have the potential to end in adventure.  You were obviously bored much of the time or cynical when you were not bored. 

You'd already come to the refreshing conclusion that your parents were--to use your own, much favored word--crazy.  At the time, persons who did not respond in ways you found predictable to be either crazy or, to pick a term you stole from your father's attention to the radio broadcasts of on-site calling of horse races, "off and running."

You like the notion of a bell sounding and horses, bursting from starting gates and,of the right kinds of persons, crazy persons, to be sure, off and running after their own adventures, which is to say their dreams.

As your own dreams and goals became more articulate, school classes with the suspicious title of Creative Writing became places where you were presented with information you wished to take at face value even though you found some of the information difficult to assimilate.  You were willing then to accept the trope of Creative Writing because that was the label given by adults, who would tell you anything that seemed convenient, just to keep you from asking questions they considered impertinent.  

To this day, you substitute the term Inventive for Creative because you find it easier to get along with inventive.  Over the years, "Creative" has become one of your least favorite words, while such words as "inventive," "made-up," and "speculative" seem to cause that momentary lurch into a string of dramatic events when you hear them.

These are of themselves generalizations, but when you hear them, you begin to see specific individuals doing things, running from, running toward, attempting to gain entrance or exit from a building with a specific personality, skulking about in a hoodie or striding through a traffic stream on Lexington Avenue. 

You have no readily available definition for the word "creative," because it seems to you to have become the equivalent of a blob of dirt removed from an athlete's shoe, then tamped back into the sod from which it was extracted.  Classmates who were spoken of as having creative narrative styles seemed always to have been unfortunate young men and women who were better at describing things than you ever wished to be.

You have spent years being told by teachers and superiors in publishing that dreams ought to be mentioned as generalities.  Look, they'd say, at Gregor Samsa.  "After a night of uneasy dreams--"
Your response to this is simple.  Make a story of the entire dream.  Do not speak of it as a dream.  Allow the actual dream to stand as the code for the final events of a story.  There are enough grown-ups to listen to who qualify as crazy or off and running.  No surprise that most of them are writers or editors.

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