HOW CAN I do this? How can I say some things, share some ideas that are really not for everyone on the Internet?
Do I want everyone to know the odd and sometimes the dear ideas of my quiet little website? Do I gather ideas that have meant so much to me, do I set them loose on the Interstate where drivers on the way to Other Places run them down, barely noticing?
My little ideas are…well, they’re the sheep I once mentioned in Illusions II. Some of them, some day, may be written in stories, some just want to be set free without a book to sail them around the world.
They are valuable sheep, here on this little meadow, a magical land for them to live and gently to meet us.
Here’s a few words about the sheep from the book:
He took a little book from his shirt pocket, opened it. He looked at me, not at the page, and told me what the words said: “Nobody comes to Earth to dodge problems. We come here to take ‘em on.”
I hope not me, I thought. I’ll dodge this problem, please. “I have to take my memories for true. Not an image, this is my memory! I was one inch from…” l blinked. “Your Messiah’s Handbook! It’s still with you?
“You’ve promised to believe what you remember, even when it isn’t true? This is not the Handbook. It’s…” he closed the book, read the title: “…Lesser Maxims and Short Silences.”
“Lesser Maxims? Not as powerful as the Handbook?”
He handed the little book to me,
Why you and why now? Because you asked it to be this way.
This disaster is the chance you prayed for, your wish come true
I prayed for this? Nearly dying? I don’t remember praying for an airplane crash. Why was this event the one I prayed for? Why me?
Because it was right on the edge of impossible, that’s why. Because it would require absolute determination, day after week, month after month, and then it could have a host of difficulties. I needed to know whether my beliefs would overcome every one of the problems.
The doctors were required to talk about what could happen, how my life would never be the same again. I’d be required to smother every one of their beliefs with my own, with beliefs I called true. They could call on all of the knowledge of material Western medicine, I could call on spirit, hold to it even though no one could see it. I am a perfect expression of perfect Love, here and now.
That mattered to me more than living in this world. I didn’t know that, before.
I shook my head, turned Shimoda’s page.
* * * *
Unsuccessful Animal Inventions:
Wolves on Stilts.
* * * *
“Wolves on Stilts? How does that affect my life, Don?”
“It’s a Lesser Maxim. It may not affect your life at all.”
“Oh. Who wrote this odd book? You keep it in your pocket.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Turn to the last page.”
I did. I had written an introduction, my caring for the sheep of ideas never printed, signed my name to it.
“Wolves on stilts?”
“You’re kind,” he said. “How many sheep would love to see the wolves practicing?”
I smiled. “Some. Never published? I forget.”
True. Never published. For now, I want to put them on this website. Yet now they’re private thoughts, an almost-secret diary, thoughts that touched me but not ready to publish, they may never be.
Here’s the introduction for the several hundred of my little sheep.
NOT EVERYONE who’s an idea makes it into a book.
Pour all our bright sparks into writing a novel, half of them get cut, vanished in rewrite to the Power of the Deleted Word.
Cutting the unnecessary makes for a wonderful story, sure enough: it’s a crisp free arrow; last sentence ties all before in some happy shock-wave for a reader, stays in mind, maybe, for hours.
I love books like that: love to read ‘em, do my best to paint them to words, too.
Writers get well into their career, though, and here’s all these lost sheep, knee-high, following us about, all the ideas that never made it to a page of those lean stories. The don’t complain, they’re not sad. But a writer is their shepherd, and those fluffy unpublished maxims, they don’t stray.
Couple or five decades, writing, you’ve got a fair flock about you, meandering when you walk, galloping alongside while you run. Shepherd you are, but not their keeper. Their true keepers are readers out there in the world who want them for pets, put them to work solving problems, breaking deadlocks, lifting sorrows with a smile, every day, daily life.
I don’t know what other writers do with their flocks. I didn’t know what to do with mine till I found them yet again, grazing in my Edit This Out file, my Deleteds from Final Draft — maxims who delighted me when we met, who had helped me remember, kept me warm through my shares of ice and winter.
So came the day, I feel this tug on my pant-leg, I look down and it’s a spokes-sheep:
“You love us?” she said, big dark eyes, earnest, asking. “We’ve helped you, and you love us still?”
I knelt down, drew it close.
“Of course I love you! I owe my songs to you, my visions of who we are!”
“Your readers, Richard,” she said. “Don’t they have songs too, and visions?”
“Of course, silly sheep! Readers are same as me…all of us have our musics.”
“Then we want to be with them. We want to be…” the little creature looked to the ground, then back to me, “…we want to be useful.”
Whoa, I thought. I didn’t say anything.
“We’re not for everyone, of course. We’ll be chased off some hillsides: Out! Bad idea! Not welcome! Shoo!”
I nodded. Smart sheep: nobody’s welcome everywhere.
“We know we don’t belong in the books you’ve written, but that doesn’t mean we’re not true for some readers, now and then. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a chance.”
Having said what she had to say, the little thing trusted her way back toward the others. She wanted me to know. She had told me. Her job was done. I would do whatever I would do for the future of her flock.
* * * *
You know what I decided, of course, for here they are.
Now they’re your flock, too, in your hands. Some may come with a laugh, some won’t matter, some might save your life…they’ve saved mine a couple times over.
One can’t have too many sheep.
Lesser Maxims and Short Silences
We’re changing every moment.
A river can never be stepped in twice by the same person.
* * * *
To a new writer:
What you’re doing now is pouring a block of molten words.
You’ll be shaping it, when it cools, with a sledge and chisels, with sandpaper and last of all, with one soft cloth.
* * * *
Call me overcautious, but that’s the last time I go surfing without my parachute.
* * * *
Why does it takes the four-year-old so long, to learn to read?
1. Download the Cyrillic alphabet.
2. Start your timer.
3. When you’re reading Russian as well as your child’s reading English, stop the clock.
* * * *
They go on. For folks like me, these little sheep are friends. I don’t know how to use them right now, but I can’t erase them, either.
Maybe I should put them all on the website. A subscription part of the site.
An Almost-Secret Diary.