Now I Am Five: Wasting Effort And Leaving Crap on the Floor

In case you didn’t know, I’m moving to a new house — so, in the middle of packing up one house and cramming the stuff into a new one, I’m both a) busy and b) possibly without consistent Internet access. Which means it’s time for some guest bloggers to step up to the plate.

The penultimate blog entry comes from the Mighty Doyce Testerman, who’s a great writer and, let’s be honest, is too cool for school. His most excellent blog can be found by clicking right here.

Story time:

My home office has a closet with two big sliding doors. Those doors are
entirely mirrored, which may not be the kind of thing that HGTV approves of,
but screw ‘em; my office isn’t that big (“you are standing in a 10′x10′x10′
room — there is a goblin sitting in the corner at an old and battered
desk”) and the mirrors keep it from feeling too cramped. I like em.

But my daughter? My daughter loves them.

Even though she has exactly the same closet doors in her bedroom, my office
is where she comes when she wants to “do something in the mirror”; it’s her
stage. I don’t mind, because this increases the amount of time she’s in the
same room with me, and I don’t plan on having any regrets about how much
time I spent with my kids when I’m on my death bed.

I do kind of mind the stuff she brings along with her.

A couple weekends ago, she was… well, I didn’t know what she was
doing, but things were accumulating on the floor around her mirror stage.
Toys. Bits of dress-up clothing. Bits of regular clothing. Pieces of paper.
Drawing tools. More toys. Loose change.
Photos. Books.

Once I noticed this, I turned my attention to the action in progress.
Kaylee would come into the room with something new, position herself in
front of the mirror in an appropriate manner, and then use the thing
(whatever the thing was) that she’d brought into the room with her. And
people? She used the hell out of the thing. She’d put that thing
through its paces. She posed herself with it, talked to it, talked about it,
made funny faces that incorporated it, and generally manipulated it in every
logical or illogical way that she had at her disposal. (All while watching
herself in the mirror, of course; Narcissus is nothing compared a five-year
old.)

(Caption: She’s a little TOO good at faces like these.)

When she had utterly exhausted the Current Thing, she set it on the floor
and headed out of the room to find some New Thing to bring to the Mirror
Stage.

“Kaylee,” I said, once I had deduced the pattern of events.
Big kids put their things away when they’re done playing with
them.”

She stopped in the doorway, her hand resting on the frame. Her head sagged
to her chest. She sighed a great and long-suffering sigh.

“Daddy,” she explained to her dear, senile parent. “I’m not playing
with them. I’m trying them out.”


Her game reminded me of some of the creative binges I’ve gone on in
the past — times during which I’ve worked through a towering, unsteady pile
of half-baked projects, each one of which I was utterly, passionately
obsessed with… for awhile. A series of MMO-gaming posts. A DnD
campaign module. An RPG based on Office Space combined with the old Frogger
arcade game. Another game, based on the BPRD. A food- and gardening-related
TV show. Time travel. Doing another triathlon. I probably couldn’t explain
why I was so emotionally jacked-in to any one of those things — I just knew
that I was, and man it’s just so awesome and you
should check it out
.

Come back and talk to me about it a few days weeks later, and my
response is likely going to be something like “That? Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
It’s alright. It’s fine. Whatever. Hey, lemme tell you about this new
awesome thing
.”

It’s kind of crazy, but it’s also a really great time to be inside my own
head — there’s a kind of frantic, creative energy blasting away accumulated
crud and reluctance and exhaustion and general negative crap like some kind
of jet-propelled brain drain-o. Brain-o.

It’s cleansing, is my point. Shut up.

Listen: I’m not advocating working on a hundred different things and never
producing anything. Fuck that; that’s just wrong — you do need to
finish most things most of the time, and yes: most of those wacky little
projects aren’t going to end up as any kind of finished product, but I don’t
think that’s always a bad thing. Those things, even if they don’t
end up all pretty and finished and tied up with a bow, aren’t gone.

Those little bits of dress up clothing and toys and drawing supplies are
still scattered around the Mirror Stage in Kaylee’s mind (and probably in my
office) — she may not play with the Thing the same way ever again, but its
use has been exhaustively explored, and that has given her a better
understanding of the Thing itself; grants her a level of familiarity and
mastery that means she can pick it up again, later, and integrate it into
something new. Something Better.

Maybe that reintegration never happens some of those passion projects of
mine. Also fine; I probably don’t want every little momentary
obsession to find its way back into a finished project, but even then I
don’t consider the unused bits to be some kind of waste.
Aside from anything else, that half-project reminds me how fucking
great it feels to be energized by what you’re working on –
gleeful, babbling, excited, and totally not giving a damn if you bore your
friends to death talking about it, because man it is so awesome.

It’s about feeling five years old again, standing on your own personal
Mirror Stage and playing with some Thing just because; because it
feels great when ‘what I’m doing’ is totally in tune with ‘what I want to be
doing’, and you don’t care if your dad can see you making faces at yourself.

I cling to that feeling — it’s a fire I can huddle around on the days when
the words are coming hard.

And maybe, on one of those hard days, I’ll find just the bit I need laying
in my pile of Old Things — something that wouldn’t even be if I
didn’t act like a five year old sometimes.

1 Comment

  • Doyce, this rocks.

    I, too, have my five year old moments. At times for me they are simply impulses. (“Throw it! Throw it! Throw it!” or “I bet it sproings if you flick it just right! Flick it!) These moments are often to the detriment or general grumpification of those around me, but that’s my other problem.

    In writing I find that I will often toy with an idea in much the same impulsive fashion. While my blog may be a bit more focused, inside my head lurks the five year old and his shiny idlings. I’ll toss them, flick them, marvel and giggle. Some become useful. Most fall apart after a bit. I use the heck out of the notepad feature on my phone just to catch all my impulses.

    Your last idea resonates with me the most; that in that pile of explored items may lay a gem which only appeared through the exploration. For me, an gem often lurks in the pile of broken parts of my lesser ideas. I love it when that happens.

    In other news, my brother-in-law does triathlons. You people are amazing. Some (ok, most) days my triathlon is the couch-vault, around-the-coffee-table relay, and the refrigerator door pull.

    K

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