Crazy Busy

It’s been a crazy, busy week…  That and a tree have me thinking about how important weeks – or at least days – that are not crazy-busy are to a writer.  First, the crazy-busy stuff…

Imagination in a Tree

Imagination in a Tree

Curiosities, my forthcoming short story collection, is now proofed and in the hands of the production people.  Will we make our goal of having it ready for Bubonicon at the end of August?  Stayed tuned…

Last week, I mentioned that I’d written some pieces for Marshal Zeringue’s  Campaign for the American Reader blog network.  The link for Artemis Invaded in “My Book, the Movie” wasn’t available until later in the week.  Just in case you missed it, here it is.

I also put in a bunch of time on those “backstage” things everyone assumes a full-time writer has an assistant to do.

And that brings me to the tree…

About a year ago, the house diagonally behind my own sold to some people who, on an erratic schedule, have a passel of kids visiting.  They must like those kids because one of the first things they did (well before the cosmetic work on the front yard, which is what most people think is important) was transform the big mulberry tree in the back yard into an inviting play space for the kids.

They did this by artistic pruning that eliminated a bunch of small lower limbs, leaving only those strong enough to take the weight of an adult.  This, combined with the tree’s own sturdy and not overly tall, structure, created what seems to be the most wonderful place ever for games of pretend.

 In warm weather I work with the office windows open.  I’ve quite enjoyed the variety of games I’ve overheard unfolding.

There was the superhero one that involved Fireball and Thunder – and other heroes, too.  Those were just the names I heard yelled most often.

There was one that involved lots of wolf howls.  I had to restrain myself and not howl back.  I didn’t want to break the illusion that they were playing unheard and unseen.

There was one that I couldn’t guess the theme of, but during which one girl kept calling “Roxy!  Roxy!”  At first I thought she was trying to get the attention of one of the other kids, but then I realized that Roxy was one of the other characters – possibly a completely imaginary person.

There was one where “Bombs Away!” was a key element.  I couldn’t decide if they were imagining themselves on the decks of a ship or of a plane or of something else entirely.  There did not seem to be any actual dropping of anything although, given the heat that day, water balloons would have been a good addition.

There was the day the tree was definitely a pirate ship.

And, just a few days ago, I glimpsed a Ninja.  Well, a partial ninja.  He had a mask/head wrap, appropriate upper body garb, and a very nicely curved plastic sword.  His lower body, however, sported khaki shorts and sneakers without socks.

It’s nice to see kids playing without adult supervision or input.  It’s lovely seeing kids play unstructured, especially when so many of the kids I know seem tightly scheduled – often by their own choice – into various afterschool activities or summer camps or sports teams.

It’s nice to see kids just pretend.  Without a computer game or an I-pad or a phone screen as an intermediary.  I don’t have anything against structured play.  (I play computer games myself.)  However, I have fond memories of play – whether by myself or with other kids – that was built on nothing by odd scraps of information turned into dreams.

Some years ago, I crossed paths with someone I’d played with as a kid.  She asked me if I remembered how we’d talked about how neat it would be to grow up and have horses and then ride all the way across the continent to California.  We’d spent a lot of time talking about what color of horse was best.  None on the practical aspects.  She clearly thought this had been completely stupid.

I wistfully thought how wonderful it had been to actually believe something like that was possible, to have the freedom to dream and to dream BIG.  (I decided I wanted a pinto, if you wonder.)

I would have loved to have a tree like those kids have, a tree that can be anywhere, anyplace, anytime.  I hope I hear those adventures for a long time to come.  Maybe Roxy’s a wolf.  Maybe she’s a superhero who runs with Fireball and Thunder.  And maybe they get on a pirate ship, but end up needing to become ninjas…

I didn’t have that tree but, thanks to the generosity of a neighbor, I had woods in which to run.  Thanks to the willingness of my parents to let us take risks, I had water in which to swim and the world’s most indestructible rowboat.  And best of all, I had time to dream.

Time to dream is important.  It’s at the heart of creativity of many sorts, not just writing stories.  But these days, as I noted above, even the writers of stories don’t seem to get as much time to dream.  We’re all told to be crazy-bizzy, building mailing lists, fan bases, doing social media.

Gets so even a professional dreamer feels as if taking time to dream is a mistake.  There’s something twisted about that.

Maybe I should see if I can borrow that tree.

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7 Responses to “Crazy Busy”

  1. Debbie Says:

    This really hit home with me this week, Jane. Sometimes I’m so busy I don’t even have time to write, and that is getting to me. So I’ve been manipulating things to try and remedy that situation since I am, after all, a writer. This week I took time to go and walk a labyrinth. Forgive the pun, but that set me on the right path. It’s akin to your tree in a way… it frees up the mind so creativity can flourish. I think in this world of priorities, we need to make it priority to take time to dream and play. Thanks for the post.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Welcome… This is one of the problems with the new shape of publishing… When editors are expected to be managers, when writers are supposed to be publishers, something is lost and that’s the time for the creative element.

      No idea what the answer would be, but the trend has been slowly happening since I started writing professionally and has only gotten worse.

  2. Faerlie Bartholomaeus Says:

    Thanks so much for this, Jane. I was lucky enough to grow up in the bush, and my sisters and I played lots of assorted pretend games. My children managed it in a suburban backyard, though it sometimes seemed that they spent half an hour working out the rules then 5 minutes playing before someone had a meltdown! Let’s hear it for unstructured play.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      It’s only adults who think kids don’t like rules, want to be “wild and free” and stuff like that. Kids LOVE rules — as long as they apply to everyone. Rules give structure within which, weirdly enough, it is possible to be unstructured!

  3. Louis Robinson Says:

    Somehow this reminded me of the opening of one of Dick Francis’ books [no, I can’t seem to find the title] that starts with the hero sitting in the branches of the tree in his front yard.

    No, he didn’t take a tangent into juvenile mysteries: said hero is an architect with 7 kids under 16. All boys.

  4. Paul Dellinger Says:

    Love the tree house concept. With me as a kid, it was a space over a garage once used for storage which became our “club house.” All kinds of “adventures” started out there.

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