Saturday, 10 October 2015

What if?

Stuck?
Not sure which path to take?
Creativity blocked?

There are two words guaranteed to unlock your imagination -

What if?

Apply 'what if' to any scenario and watch as a kaleidoscope of opportunities, suggestions and ideas appears. Let the 'what ifs' run and see where they take you. Build a story - what if, what if, what if - follow as it veers off on unexpected paths, reign it in and guide the journey: you are captain, master and passenger on this sea of what ifs.

Why didn't I know about the magic of 'what if' before? It's so obvious, so simple, so brilliant. As a device for story telling, I suspect it is unparalleled. Suddenly, I can see. And plan. And dream.

And write.

All I have to do now is edit 1,000 words of my young adult novel to send to my new writing group.

Gulp!

What if ... they don't like it?

What if they do?

What if I stop procrastinating right now and get on with it?

But

what if I make dinner first? - walk the dogs? - bake a cake? - pour myself a glass of wine? - help Littlest with her Spanish (I don't know any Spanish so help is perhaps a little misleading)? - have a bath? - finish the ironing? - do the next Duolingo Italian lesson (I do want to learn Italian)? - read the newspaper? - plant the cyclamens I bought earlier today? - empty the washing machine? - delete some emails? - stop procrastinating?!

What if - still procrastinating - I could think of something witty to say next?

Like, for example - okay, so the following may not be terribly witty, but - what if



.
.. Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins were just dogs?

What if ... they were just dogs who




... just happened to have a fondness for apples? And had spotted a basket - at muzzle height! - unattended!! - full!!! of apples.

What if a malevolent apple grower noticed




and what if Four-legged-friend could speak? "What! Me! - Nooo, noo, no, I was just looking. Look, I'm looking over there now."

What if Bertie-butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth-Baggins could speak too?




"I wasn't ...




... just looking!"


Close your eyes and dream

"Close your eyes and dream."

"What about?" How do you conjure up the dream that fills your "night without a stir" (J. Keats) or that "stretches away, elusive" into the "infinity of space" (P. Gaugin)?

The prospect of meeting the demand to instantly invent a dream, to then dream about, is as agonising as the "Make a wish!" moment that accompanies cake cutting -

"Wait a minute ... wait a minute ... oka-a-ay, yes ...  no, wait a minute ... fine! Yes!"

You screw your eyes up to make the wish. And wish whilst holding your breath. And cut the cake. Then worry that you made the wrong wish. You worry so much that you say out loud what you wish you had wished. When this is met with groans, rolled eyes and nodding the why-did-you-wish-for-that nod,  you remind your friends that you didn't make that wish - "Of course not!" - and a fanfare of relief explodes inside your head.
You resolve, before you put the knife down, to decide on a wish to use in the future: the same wish to use every time you are asked to make a wish - a wish that fulfils the want of all the other wishes you could possibly wish and the charity of all the wishes you should wish.

The secret, therefore, of composure in the face of abrupt forced decision making, is to carry a brain-filling filing-cabinet of lists around in your head - the ideal wish; the list of best dreams you ever had; a list of dreams you wish you might have.
Equally effective at making your heart race and your mind leap into quicksand is the "What's your favourite ...?" question. You know what your favourite is ... if you have time to think about it. Put on the spot and you drop the contents of your favourite-file on the virtual floor and flounder as you look for the answer before turning beetroot and coming out with "I don't know ... it was that one ... you know? ... um ... that one." The elusive one will spring unannounced into your suddenly conscious mind in the middle of the night. Disturbing the dream.

(I like making lists. Making lists is the top hobby of the procrastinator. I have a list on my desk - of all the things I wanted to do this morning.

It now says 'Things to do' - this afternoon!)

I wonder if having a dream to always dream works. It might be a little like self-hypnosis: imagining a place of calm, that feels secure and slides you gently into sleep. I suspect that the effectiveness of this depends both on the moment and what went before - was the day a good one? Were you with friends? Did you laugh? Did the sun shine? Feeling contented will place you in a good emotional balance and the dream you have is likely to be filled with mellow happiness.
If the hours before were turbulent with frustration, argument and a gut-knotting sense of failure, the dream will be restless and any sleep that sneaks into your mind will be fitful.

You might even find yourself adopting the alternative Jack Sparrow approach -

"Close your eyes and pretend it's all a bad dream."