Ever tried to wrangle a cat?
Cats are gregarious creatures. Most won’t react too violently when you pick them up, provided you don’t give the impression you’re going to drop them. They’re all furry and purring and affectionate, right up until you try to bathe one. Bathing cats is necessary if there’s a flea issue or dirt in their undercoat that they just can’t get themselves, to name just a couple reasons. But cats at this point turn from cute balls of unconditional love to claw-swinging flesh-biting mewling pain dispensers. You have to wrangle them, hold them down, so they can be scrubbed properly and whatever issue precipitated the bath is resolved.
It occurs to me that ideas can be a lot like that. When you first get an idea, it’s beautiful. You can see all the different facets of it catching the light. As soon as you sit down to coherently put it into a format other people might read, however, it can quickly get out of control. Darlings creep in, descriptions go on too long, conversations meander, etc. You have to wrangle your idea to get it into a coherent form, and trust me, the idea will fight.
Maybe it’s just my experience in writing a first draft that brought this metaphor to mind, or maybe ‘wrangling cats’ was just too good a metaphor not to use and I’m just slapping the ‘ideas’ thing in there to make the visual work. But, at least in my experience, a lot of things can happen in the course of writing that first draft that you don’t anticipate. By keeping an eye on your idea as you write, and being unafraid of revisions made by either yourself or others – ‘wrangling’ in other words – the idea’s going to end up being much smoother and more attractive to others, and will return to curling up around your ankles and purring before you know it.
Ideas, like cats, tend to have a short memory.
May 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm
Don’t forget when they climb up on your bed and yarf right in the middle of your pillow.