Someone in the family had brought home from the Dollar Store a six pack of 4-ounce jars, and each jar appeared to hold a toy animal. I opened one and pulled out a tiny rabbit - a squirming, real tiny rabbit.
Startled, I dropped the critter back in its jar and capped the lid, but the jar immediately filled with urine. I fetched him out again and gave him a good shake, but then I dropped the poor thing. My family had similarly dropped two tiny dogs, and all the tiny animals had scurried under the furniture. We all got on our hands and knees to search for them, but the problem was, my two black cats were searching too, licking thier lips, hoping to find them first...
My husband has suggested I start a new literary genre. Are you ready? Tell me what you think:
It wasn't till Wednesday that I began to take him seriously, all because of Bonnie, and because of Megan. And because of Madeleine L'engle.
In Wednesday's post, Bonnie opined that writers never know the exact moment they began to write.
In the comments, Megan Sayer countered that she did indeed know when she began, and it was when she was five years old.
Emboldened by Megan's contradiction of the thing that Bonnie said, I added that I too had become a writer when I was five.
How strange then, to pick up my favorite writer's book, Walking on Water, and read that its author, Madeleine L'engle, had started to write at the age of... five.
Is there something signifigant about that time in our lives? Well yes, a few pages later, Madeleine quotes one Finley Eversole:
In our society, at the age of five, ninety percent of the population measures "high creativity." By the age of seven, the figure has dropped to ten percent. And the percentage of adults with high creativity is only two percent! Our creativity is destroyed not through the use of outside forces, but through criticism, innuendo...Madeleine adds, "by the dirty devices of this world."
One might think, then, that all our stories, all our art should be created by five-year-olds, those pure, unsullied children at the zenith of their creative powers.
But there's a problem. The story I wrote when I was five was probably melodramatic, blithely simplistic - and short, very short. Besides, I couldn't write it down, because there was no kindergarten where I lived, and I wouldn't learn to actually write write until I was six.
Once I'd mastered the alphabet and scratched it a thousand times on triple-lined practice pads, I still had to live a life before I could write a novel worth reading. By that I mean I had to learn all the things that adults know about sorrow, and guilt, and the sad, sad world. Creativity isn't enough. An artist needs those life experiences which form the raw material for lasting art. She has to endure all those "dirty devices of this world," and still retain the lightness, the freedom of a five-year-old at play.
I think that sounds like faith, don't you? The ability to look deep into the eyes of the sad world without flinching. The assurance that even when things are dark, even if the story we write ends with Romeo dead, and Juliet dead, the happy ending is out there, just pages beyond the back cover.
Megan, you'll be interested to know that Madeleine caught flack too, for "telling a story" in school. They just didn't know she was Madeleine L'engle.
I hope you always make up stories in church. I hope all of you do.
Because we love to read what you have to say.