Summer and I have begun taking walks through our land of late. For now I have to keep her leashed, but I try to let her lead the way for the most part.
We may wander near our wildflowers, up and down the septic mound, or as we did Wednesday morning, through the woods. Summer was most intrigued by an old plastic Adirondack-style chair, which we used to sit in, but is now well on its way to being more or less reclaimed by Ma Nature.
Dean Wesley Smith wrote the other day about walking through a mall and seeing a couple of toddlers delighting in the exploration of it all, with their mothers watching carefully but smiling at their kids’ fun. One ran over and lovingly petted a stone elephant. Smith used it as a metaphor for the creative process.
The kids are the creative voice, having fun running this way and that and finding new ways to love life in every corner, and the moms are the critical voice, keeping a watchful eye out that the kids don’t get in trouble but, for today, letting them run and play.
“So next time you sit down at your writing computer, just let the creative voice run and play and pet the stone elephants. You might be surprised at how much fun you have writing and how good what you write turns out to be (if you leave it alone.)”
Perhaps Summer is her own metaphor for the creative process.
As she and I amble through the woods, Summer sometimes wants to run like the wind and I have to hold the leash with both hands. Sometimes she stops to sniff an old tree or nibble on some grass a little too long, and I give her a little tug. She may willingly yield and come along with me, or she may stand her ground and keep sniffling.
I look forward to the day when, like her beloved predecessor, I can just step outside with Summer and she will run and play and sniff and chase off-leash, because I can trust her to come back to me when I call her.
There is a feeling here that the day I let my creative juices off the leash is when the real magic will start happening. But, to extend the metaphor, before you can fly and be free you must first learn how to fly. Summer must learn how to stay in the yard before she can be free to run around the yard.
They say the great improvisational musicians know their instruments and the music so well that they can soar off the written page and create something new and inventive on the spur of a moment. If I want to write something that perhaps breaks the rules and takes the reader to a whole new place, I first need to know what the rules are and master working within those rules.
Those kids and Summer (the creative voice) will someday run and play without Mom or the leash (the critical voice) needing to hold them back. And what a day that will be.