Thursday, 29 April 2010

Taking a lion for a walk

I may have said this before. When you get to my age it can feel like you have said most things before. I keep promising myself never to tell another anecdote because I always have the nagging doubt that the person I'm telling it to has already heard it and is just being too polite to say. And there is nothing worse than hearing an anecdote - honed by many tellings - for the second or even third time. Once you miss that opening to say 'Sorry - you've told me that already,' you have to listen to the whole thing. If it's funny you have to laugh. Groan.

The good thing about repeating an anecdote by blog is that in cyberspace no one can hear you yawn. So here goes. . .

When I was a kid - I think I was probably about eight - we were doing art and the teacher introduced the thing we were about to do by talking about Paul Klee and saying that she wanted us to put our pencils on the paper and just take the line wherever we wanted. She described this as 'Taking a line for a walk'.

Except what I heard was 'Taking a lion for a walk'.

I imagined that my pencil was somehow a lion and that I had him on a leash. I can't remember if the line that I drew was any different than those of the other pupils in my class, but I do know that the phrase 'taking a lion for a walk' never quite left me and it seemed to say something about what I wanted from my drawings as I got older. It still does.

And now that I write for a living, it seems to say something about writing too. There are so many ways a story can go, so many possible lives for any character a writer creates. There is always a tension between control and the need to adapt to the new possibilities that open up as you write.

As I'm sure I've said before, it does sound horribly pretentious when a writer says that a character develops a life of their own, but they do - or they certainly should. And I suppose that is one of the reasons that 'taking a lion for a walk' rings true to me. I feel that when I'm working well I am not fully in control of the outcome - that occasionally I'm being pulled in another direction.

When you are producing work for money and to a deadline, safety can always seem like a justifiable option. But safety is deadening. There has to be an element of uncertainty - of danger.

Otherwise you're taking a poodle for a walk.

No comments:

Post a Comment