Sunday, February 28, 2010

Working Out Sore Muscles

A few days ago I caught myself moaning over sore muscles - the various bits of me that had been hibernating all winter and were rudely awakened by the first round of hard work in the early spring garden. As I limped around the house groaning, my mind did what it usually does: it started to make connections of all sorts based on the sore muscles paradigm. The place where my thoughts finally ended up startled me.

First, I realized that I'd recently been working out some figurative sore muscles at the computer. You see, the freelance editing I do is fairly rote and rarely requires much imagination or creativity, even when I'm reworking someone's fiction. Mind you, I enjoy it or I wouldn't do it. Still, it's a totally different process from writing my own stuff.

My fiction composition, however, is a beast of a different order. In order to come up with something my agent will actually accept (and not laugh at, though he's usually kind enough not to laugh in my face) I often have to stretch beyond my current limits as a writer. This generates sore muscles of a different sort, especially if I haven't pushed myself in a while.

Now, I've been writing for a very long time.
When I was a child it was easy to come up with new ideas, new ways to approach a story, new characters and conflicts. Often the concepts came faster than I could write them down. Of course, my ability to compose something an adult would be interested in reading is another thing entirely. But write I did, eagerly and often. Have you ever noticed that kids don't get writer's block?

I began to wonder why that is. Of course, children don't have deadlines and bills and big-world stress, but they do have something few adults can claim: the ability to look at the world with fresh eyes. Kids aren't cynical, even when they've been through hell. They don't have to learn to think outside the box because they haven't yet realized there even is a box. They're the ultimate problem-solvers because they don't restrict themselves to a prefab, agreed-on mindset.

So as I stretched my garden-weary sore muscles, I also began to stretch the muscles of my mind. How long has it been since I've looked at the world, really looked at it as if I didn't already know what was there?
We're always telling each other to 'grow up.' Maybe, in some instances, we need to do the opposite. Sure, the bills still need to be paid, deadlines need to be met, the dishes need to be washed and the toilet scrubbed. But in among the duties of adulthood I'm planning some time to find that child-mind I know is still in me somewhere, eager to explore the wonders of existence. Won't you come play, too?