We had a writer’s group meeting a week ago in which we read about and discussed writing as a child – uninhibited, free of categories and judgments, just you and the page and some naked, unashamed thoughts. Here was mine:
I never know what stories to tell; always I am reaching for some new moment, a new color, a glittering phrase. I chase after stories like a child after butterflies, never following doggedly to a destination, but ever distracted by some movement in the corner of my eye, and – [Look! FLASH!] – I am off again, running in yet a new direction, clapping and laughing and eyes wide open.
I am slowed up somewhat by certain habits, pedantic and stiff and linear and rational. Like leg braces, they were snapped onto my thought-legs to keep them reasonable – perhaps it was feared that my thoughts would jelly and twist like those of the octopus? [And, really, what is so threatening about an octopus that you need to make it stand like a man?!] They keep my writing knees locked and awkward sometimes, tensile steel marking the boundaries – “You cannot compare your thoughts to an octopus! ABSURD!”
Even this paragraph, brief and fluttering, is still tethered faithfully to an earth-rock, orbiting around a fixed idea, which will step predictably to the next idea. There they will sit, the Rational Ones, marching in a neat line, little bald heads rounding firmly above the water, saying, “Here! Step here! Don’t fall in!” [As if an octopus need fear the water!]
And shambling along I go, a hop-skipping after butterflies over linear thoughts on straightened octopus legs, made ever so slightly more awkward by the mirrors sprouting from my every appendage so I can see what you’ll see before you see it, forever checking to appraise whether or not this paragraph makes me look fat.
“Am I pretty yet?” asks the octopus hopefully, lisping through her rubber bands and braces.
The child awakens, ashamed and horrified, breaks the clonking contraption to pieces, pulls the cold, purpling, curling arms into an embrace, and places the octopus back in the water, where she need not stand, or walk, or jump, because in the water, she can fly.