Sometimes epiphanies can be found in the heart of the most trivial tediums, such as this morning as I was washing the petfood dishes after their breakfast. Certainly it is a simple task involving some hot water, a touch of soap, a scrub brush, some scrubbing. It is a chore I do in the morning and the evening after the animals have been fed. It takes a minute, maybe two.
But in the midst of doing it this morning a bigger picture was revealed: I am not a fan of unfinished business. In and of itself there is nothing at all profound there. Duh: who is? Instead, the profundity lies in my extrapolating that trait to the realization that I’m now at the milestone of 10 years into some seriously unfinished business. It was around this time a full decade ago that I cracked open a new document screen on the computer and pecked out these words:
Passed all the way down through the ladybug years,
From ladybug parents to their ladybug dears,
Does ladybug custom so dictate the telling,
Of a ladybug tale told each ladybug evening,
To ladybug children in ladybug beds,
Not quite ready to rest their little ladybug heads.
And Paperboy and the Ladybugs was conceived. It gave me chills to pen those first few stanzas. I was spontaneously subsumed with a creative energy I hadn’t felt since Breakdown, that apocalyptic short fiction I wrote at 18 years old when my future had gone into the crapper at terminal velocity. Suddenly in 1996 I had a story to tell. And in that first heady initial rush I did my best to tell it:
“What tale shall I tell? asked ladybug Cypress,
His children responded, “Dad, you must decide for us!”
“I have an idea,” he said striking a pose,
With a nod and a wink to his beloved Rose,
“I’ll spin you a story, yes, I know the one,
I’ve told it before but it’s sure lots of fun!”
I am not generally predisposed to procrastination â€” at least obviously not on small scales. If something needs doing I do it. But while I may not be able to leave those dishes for later or any of a score other chores/errands/projects that arise in the course of a day/week/et cetera, I sure as hell can subjugate my creative calling seemingly indefinitely without much consideration.
Ten years. That amount of time hit me over the head like a hammer this morning. And this from someone who’s been in a wide variety of deadline-oriented journalistic endeavors for the last 15 years.
How embarrassing. How frustrating.
In the past I’ve excused the dearth by how much my life has changed. I blamed the killer hours I spent at the Pasadena Weekly. I blamed the disintegration of my relationship with my daughter, for whom I had dedicated the book. In short all those tactics have been camouflage for a crisis of confidence; a lack of belief in my ability. I have been successful in continually devaluing my creative currency, and as a result I’ve diminished the story as well. But not completely. No matter how determined I’ve been to power my storytelling down, I’ve never been able to discredit the story itself:
The children all snuggled and Rose took a seat,
Only ladybug Cypress did stay on his feet,
As he swept them far back to a time long ago,
In a place that was busy and dirty and low,
Where many less did smile than those that did frown,
“The story,” he said, “takes place in a town.”
“A large one, a city, as big as can be,
With buildings that dwarfed even the tallest of trees,
Where rivers of asphalt met islands of pavement,
A harsh place that clearly was not much for ladybugs meant,
But ladybugs did thrive as ladybugs will do,
In spite of the dangers that were not to few.”
“But where was it,” peeped Kate, “What was this place called?”
Said dad “I suspected you might be appalled,
This place on a ladybug map you can guess,
Is far, far away and called Los Angeles.”
“Angels?” Chuck asked, adding, “were there any?”
Sage leaned over to Charles and whispered, “not many.”
Anyway, it’s time to get this dish done. I’m through blaming. I’m finished dismissing. I’m way over whining. I’m going to get this out of my head and off my back by making this the primary focus of my days from here until the first draft of a manuscript is done.
With diligence and determination I might not be away too long, so wish me a bunch of both.