Among other objectives, one of my (self-imposed) mandates is to reveal the inner workings of a writer’s mind. This will allow you to see how a writer thinks, and if your mind works in a similar fashion, it might reasonably cross your mind that you might be a writer. And if it doesn’t, you’re probably something else. Something just as good. Really. I mean it.
Not long ago, more specifically, December the 16th, I wrote a post entitled “Your Presents Are Requested” that turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. “Turned out to be” is the right descriptive, because when I started writing, I had no idea how it would turn out. That’s part of the way a writer’s mind works right there. There’s a spark, and you go. No guarantees, just…you think something’s there. If you’re right more often than you’re wrong, then once again, you could be a writer.
The “spark” thing is really interesting. You see…wait, lemme start at the beginning. Sorry, I was getting a little overheated there. That’s another thing about a writer’s mind. Sometimes, you have to tell it to slow down.
I had the idea of writing about gift-giving. December the 16h, it was the gift-giving time of the year. Except for Jewish people, at least in 2009 when Chanukah came early and the gift-giving time of the year had already passed. But the residue of the experience remained etched in the still-drying cement of my memory. (That makes no sense, does it? And yet, I just like the way that it sounds. So it stays.)
My daughter, Anna, relishes the “Presents Experience,” by which I mean the giving part. Who doesn’t like the receiving part? Getting stuff you didn’t have to pay for yourself? It’s really a “no lose” situation. At best, you get a soon-to-be cherished possession; at worst, you have new clutter.
Anna has a knack for unearthing “just the right thing”, willingly spending whatever time it takes to dig it up. Last Chanukah, she presented me with this antique (1904) hand-carved box ,with the iron-looking (they may actually be iron) letters “EP” (my actual initials) attached to the brown, velvet backing on the front (if backing can be on the front). The box sits on my desk as we speak. It’s exquisite and unique. If it’s not too small, my ashes could go in it. Truly a gift for eternity.
For me, present buying is an excruciating duty. I am constantly looking at the calendar, measuring the intervals of relief – from Chanukah to birthdays to anniversaries – at which point I will be required to submit to the torturous ordeal once again.
I just have no instinct for how to do it. I have little idea where to shop, and I’m far from certain as to the appropriate thing to buy. It gets harder every year. You are constantly having to come up with something different. And the kids are adults now. The latest Barbie will no longer suffice.
I could argue that choosing the right gift is an aptitude. Some got it, some don’t. I don’t. End of story.
No. I would dearly like it to be, but it isn’t.
I mean, say you stink at, I don’t know…archery. There is no problem there, no moral implications to your deficiency. You stink at archery? Don’t do archery. Will there be any pejorative consequences? If you’re not an Indian hunting buffalo on horseback, no.
It’s not the same with buying presents. You get the wrong thing, and it’s
“Have I ever once mentioned wanting a parrot?”
“You have absolutely no idea who I am, do you?”
“You see what I got you? It’s perfect! And you get me this?” (Followed by “I just don’t get it” head shaking, or, if the present really sucks, tears.)
Who needs any of that? Gift giving’s intended to be a joyous and generous tradition. But it can easily turn into a nightmare of finger-pointing and recriminations, and if there are sharp implements handy, maybe worse.
So that’s what I wanted to write about – the opposite-of-fun pressure of the gift-giving requirement. But somehow, whatever way I imagined it in my head, it came out sounding mean-spirited, self-justifying and sour. Hardly the ideal ingredients for an appealing blog post.
After a while, I was thinking of letting the whole thing go. Dry hole. Move on.
And then – and this is the magical part – the idea of presenting my issue in the context of the original Christmas gift givers, “The Three Wise Men”, fluttered into my consciousness. It was a creative lifeline. I grabbed hold of it, and my blog post was saved.
An unworkable idea evolves into an inspired idea, and you just sit there and watch it happen. I can describe the process, but there’s no way I can explain it. It’s just how a writer’s mind works.
When it’s working at its best.