Nothing about anything matters more than this very moment, because, truly, this moment is all you’ve got. Oops. It’s already passed…
I don’t want to write about philosophy, or quote Kung Fu Panda, or anything like that, but I’ve been talking about the concept of “fun” with a friend who races dirt bikes.
What is fun? Google’s dictionary says it’s “enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure.” I think that’s kicking the can down the road. What is amusement? Why, that which you find amusing, diverting, entertaining. Fun.
Wait, don’t hang up! There is a point!
You’re a writer. You know how it goes. There’s that scene, that intense, emotional scene that you’ve poured onto paper with the hope that the reader will connect with it, and perhaps shed a tear for your characters.
In my case they shed a tear because the writing is so obtuse, but I digress…
I’m an actor as well as a writer. When you’re on stage, you’re always seeking that moment when you can connect with the audience. In comedy you find it when they’re anticipating the next joke with you. In drama, it’s when you’re sharing your emotions, and you feel the exact same emotion coming back at your from the house. They’ve forgotten themselves: they’re in the scene with you.
There is no higher high than that. Fifty, a hundred, three hundred souls unspokenly sharing your emotions with you. Wow. It is an otherworldly experience.
But we’re writers, right? I’m sure you’ve wept as you write things – I know I have. Damn, why did she have to say that? Or why couldn’t get his head out of the water? Or, why didn’t he say it when he could have – the moment was there, but he let his father go without saying it. And now his father is dead. Oh, oh that’s so hard.
But when does that moment occur? I know you wept when you wrote it, when it was raw and fresh. And then you came back and edited it, taking out the double spaces and thinking that maybe Word’s word choice was actually better. Did it make you weep then, too?
Eventually, some reader will pick it up and read it. Will they weep, too?
In my book Marigold’s End a twelve-year-old boy is swept out to sea, semi-submerged under a fallen tree upon which he had been playing. My then-fifteen year old daughter read and bawled through the whole scene. “What kind of children’s book is this?” she squalled through her tears.
As writers, we look and hope for those moments, and when we’re writing them, we consider ourselves “in the moment,” just like an actor on stage. It’s part of what makes writing so much fun… oops, there’s that word again.
Do you think your reader, when they’re picking up what you’re laying down, when they’re wrapped up in that tense scene, hoping against hope that your character doesn’t open that door but they just know he’s going to, and in their minds the real-world ticking of the clock and the purr of the kitty and the smell of the cat box have all gone away and it’s just them and your character… are they in the moment, too?
Now I’m weeping again – it happens a lot – to think that you’re pouring your heart and soul into a scene, having forgotten the water bill and the neighbor’s leaf blower and the uncomfortable chair, and are there in the park with your characters, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, and, two years from now, your reader is in their living room, their cup of tea turning cold, as they stand right there in the park with you, breathing with your characters, facing exactly the same situation you crafted. Oh. The symmetry! The perfect circle! The moment that extends from you to them and back!
Good writing is like an emotional bridge that spans time. Getting your reader lost in the emotion of your story – that is the Forever Moment.
So, about fun. Fun is diversion, right? Amusement?
Those onstage moments, when the lights and trying to remember to get your lines right submerges below the angst you feel, you genuinely feel, and you feel the exact same emotion washing around you from the audience and there’s nothing more urgent in your soul than resolving the situation with the other person – they’re no longer a character in a play, they are a real, breathing person with whom you must deal – that’s being in the moment. And it’s fun.
My friend tells me that roaring his dirt bike through the jumps and the dirt and being mindful only of the engine’s RPMs and the need to hold on and control the damned thing and anticipate the next mogul and absolutely nothing else is what he finds fun.
Playing Parcheesi is probably fun, too. I’ve never tried it. Playing Monopoly is not fun.
Being in the moment? That’s fun. You, my writer friend – I hope you and your future readers can find as many of those forever moments as you can!
Damn it, now I’m weeping again…