21 September 2013

Lesson Is More

I laugh at your feeble attempts to unseat me from my throne--and
control my reading material. Laugh, I say! Mwahahaha!
I don't have any littles marching off to class, but I'm constantly getting schooled.

No surprises there. The alternative to what my supervisors liked to call "lifetime learning" is to pull a Jonathan Franzen and pout in your corner rocking chair while the world moves ever faster toward a goal you can't see. It's great for short-term publicity. (Witness the noise generated by Franzen's latest release.) But over the years you run the risk of what Amazon founder and new Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos calls "aging with your audience" and going the way of Woolworth's...since nobody remembers the dodo anymore.

Besides, the new is all about opportunity. I need to learn how to record from Skype, for example, because it's the only way I'll get to interview Lilith Saintcrow short of traveling to the Pacific Northwest, and the budget just doesn't stretch that far.

What never ceases to surprise me, though, is who my teachers turn out to be. Pumba, aka The Management, spent the summer patiently instructing me that we need a new vet.

I don't know why we need a new vet. The current model is staffed by nice folks who come to the house.

But every time they do, the same cat who calmly enters his carrier every month to get his nails trimmed at PetSmart--where they have dogs! Big noisy, smelly dogs! (His words, not mine)--turns into a rocket-propelled escape artist capable of running across the ceiling while loosing weapons of mess destruction aimed with the proverbial pinpoint accuracy.

And he doesn't just know the vets.  He recognizes their van.  He can tell the difference between it and the FedEx van, even though they're the same size and color. Even more amazing, he can recognize it by the sound of their engine along a cross street.

You know, when the universe turns something that should be easy into a battle of wills won time and again by something weighing fifteen pounds, it's time to step back and consider what the universe is trying to tell you. We'll see if it's trying to tell me to take him to the vet at PetSmart.

Which isn't to say that you shouldn't persevere at something just because it's difficult. I wouldn't be writing full-time if I believed that. But even something like writing, which is inherently difficult and rewards copious effort, can surprise you.

Writing continually surprises me. It's never the same from day to day, much less story to story. Some characters and stories talk to you like old friends. Others play coy, forcing you to write around them before flashing a hint of their core. Some insist on being outlined. Others fly by the seat of your pants--and terrifying they are, too.

But I learn from every trial. Or try to. I don't want to end up like Woolworth's.

At least the dodo landed a cushy gig at Capclave.

Jean Marie Ward

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