Sunday morning a bird became trapped in our pool’s screened enclosure. I’ll admit the screen needs some maintenance. Our screen’s battle scars include a tree tear, squirrel nibblings, and even a three cornered tear in the roof from an angry cat. Despite four hurricanes trailing over us in 2004, we didn’t experience enough damage to call in the insurance company. So we’re waiting out hurricane season 2009 to see if we get a new screen or not. But, back to the bird.
The little Carolina wren alerted us to his plight by bumping into the window several times. The poor thing was already frantic by the time we noticed him. I opened the screened doors and waved my arms in the direction of freedom, but he simply flew back and forth, ever closer to the hole through which he most likely entered, but never quite finding it.
Finally, I went back inside, leaving both doors open hoping for the best. A few moments later, I glanced through the sliding glass doors to see the wren walking out the door. Once outside, he immediately dove headfirst into my herb garden, chirping happily as he hid in the dewy parsley.
Which made me think of some of the other tiny, fragile things in my life that I try to manuever and manhandle, sometimes to the their sad demise. Like ideas.
Ideas–specifically story ideas–beat at the confines of my brain just like that poor trapped bird. And, it seems the more I work at them, trying to push them in my direction, the more frantically they flutter and fly until they become exhausted. I’ve learned that if I watch the idea as it makes itself at home in my brain, if I study the flight pattern and gently nourish it–maybe with some research or day-dreaming–the Idea Bird relaxes and grows confident. And then one day, when it’s ready, it walks right out of my head and marches across the keyboard and onto the page.
Oh, this sound so sweet and wonderful, doesn’t it?
But the trick is, that once the idea is free on the page, then I’m the one who’s trapped, beating my wings against the screens of good storytelling, compelling plots and dynamic characters. And that takes work. Hard work. But eventually we walk through the door together, with our feathers in place, our hearts beating at a normal pace and our breathing steady and calm.
The story is free of its cage and flying out in the world. Just like my little Carolina wren.