Off Course

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I had two things in mind when I started this post.

The first was trajectory in writing.

The second was sentimentality.

I always think I have a clear trajectory until the story line veers into sentimentality, and then my inner critic, a snaggle toothed harpy from Writers’ Hell, named, Griselda, sets her jaundiced eye on my tenderest outpourings, and pokes me with her hat pin, sniping, “Not on my watch, dearie.”

I looked for an image that would demonstrate what I’m talking about, but no one has yet drawn Griselda to my satisfaction, and trajectory gave me pages of diagrams and equations, which left me with sentimentality. Tons of hearts and flowers and teddy bears. No, no, no, better to look for synonyms. Would sweet do? Yes, perhaps. Except sweet led me to recall a perfectly sublime chocolate bar I used to buy in Budapest which, sadly, is not being manufactured anymore. I brought two dozen of those back to the U.S. during that awful Hoof-and-Mouth outbreak of 2001. The customs official looked inside my bag, saw the bars peeking out and said, “What have you got in there?” When I said, “Chocolate bars,” he rolled his eyes and told me to move along. I did discover a new line of chocolate bars made by the same Hungarian company that made the chocolate bars I loved. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they are being sold in the U.S….

Oh, my. I’ve done it again, haven’t I?

Well, I think I think I can find my way, at least with my latest oeuvre; but if I can’t, Griselda will undoubtedly let me know.

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Wrong Way

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you ever found yourself heading in the wrong direction down a one-way street?

That happened to my mother when she was driving me to a late rehearsal in Manhattan. It was the first rehearsal, and she was unsure of the best route to our destination, so she made a wrong turn.

I was nine, and I remember exactly three things about that turn: the volume of rush hour traffic heading toward us; my mother’s curses in three different languages; and the speed with which she spun the car around and got us off the road.

She was a good driver, my mother—focused and assured, with marvelous instincts and steady nerves, and loved to be behind the wheel. In all her years of driving, she never had an accident.

But that’s beside the point.

She knew, as soon as she made that turn, she would have to change course.

The times we should do that are not always so clear. We rationalize away warning signs, and tolerate unpleasant treatment and sometimes dangerous conditions telling ourselves we’re exaggerating, misinterpreting, being silly, or even at fault. And we tell ourselves things will get better, because, occasionally, they do. We get a small raise or a little praise. There’s that one night pizza doesn’t make us sick, and nuts do not cause a rash. Or, the phone call from a lover, who’s broken our hearts more often than not, comes after six months of silence.

It gives us all the reasons we need to doubt the truth…

…until the boss goes back to being a greedy, unappreciative, or abusive lout; or there’s a sleepless night dealing with indigestion and hives, or worse; or the lover acts like an entitled, condescending ass before disappearing again.

That’s when it’s time to change course and get off.

***

We can rationalize creative wrong turns, too.

I did it for fifteen years—working on a book, and writing it in ten different ways before I admitted I had turned down ten one-way streets going in the wrong direction.

That was when I decided to forget it, change course.

And a miraculous thing happened: a new route emerged, a fresh point of view…

…from a character who had been begging to speak.

I spent all those years crafting strained and ludicrous narratives for characters in his orbit who didn’t have his eloquence, awareness, depth, or passion.

What a waste…when the truth was in front of me the whole time.

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