I know that we’re already a week into the new year, and Christmas 2012 is behind us. But writers must keep their inner child alive, bright, and happy. Here’s one of the ways I did that during the recent holidays.
This year, my home office desk supports a tacky little white artificial Christmas tree. It’s loaded with atomic-age robot, rocket ship, astronaut, and alien blown-glass ornaments.
I was in a Christmas shop in early December, seeking a gift, when I saw these crazy 1950s robots hanging on a tree along with T. rex ornaments covered in bright glitter. It was obviously a tree designed for a little boy’s room, and in some whacky way the dinosaurs and space ships worked together.
Maybe childhood nostalgia hit me (although I’ve never pined for the return of the 1960s). I thought of Robbie the Robot from the classic science fiction film, FORBIDDEN PLANET. Mainly, though, I was smitten by the glittery pink robot. It was goofy.
I smiled. I resisted. I nearly escaped the store unscathed.
Then it hit me … I write science fiction and fantasy. What a perfect tree to set up in my office!
But how absurd. How nonsensical. How impractical.
How utterly enchanting.
The stark reality of my Visa bill is still an abstraction of the future. Meanwhile, I spent a fun hour that day picking ornaments. From that point, my OCD kicked in and everywhere I went thereafter I was tuned in to robots. Why hadn’t I noticed before that Target was carrying STAR WARS ‘bots? I skipped over Darth Vader and C3PO (too gold!) but came home with R2D2. Then I found cool ‘bot ornaments at Hobby Lobby and snagged the last tread-tracker a split-second ahead of a little boy’s admiring fingers.
(What kind of Scrooge notices that a child wants robot ornaments and reaches for them faster? Do I feel guilty? Not at all! The kid got the last rocket ship ornament. Drat!)
The next step was determining what kind of tree to hang this loot upon. A green tree? I’d already put one up in the living room–very traditional and pretty. I didn’t want to buy another tree. I’d splurged enough on this impulse.
Then inspiration hit me. Stored in my garage is one of those old aluminum trees, circa 1964.
When I was a child, we aquired one of these shiny foil atrocities. My grandmother owned a big one for a while, complete with color wheel, but then it disappeared. My mother, however, loved her little one. She put it up, year after year. It was quick and economical. She had no intention of wasting money on one of those gorgeous cut trees at the grocery store.
I hated the aluminum tree. It was weird. When I was old enough, I landed the annual chore of putting the thing together and hanging shiny red balls on it. When eventually it no longer graced our living room, I still wasn’t rid of it. Mom decreed that it would be put up in my dad’s office reception room, and so I continued to suffer seeing it, in all its shiny silver ugliness, year after year. When I went to graduate school and was too poor to buy a tree, she gave it to me. Ungrateful, I tossed the thing in a garage sale.
That’s when I discovered–too late–that aluminum trees had become highly desirable collector’s items. These mutants were valuable. Who knew?
So out of guilt–and because Mom never quite forgave me for selling hers for $5–I tracked one down and stuck it in the garage.
Realizing it would be perfect for my extraterrestrial space tree, I dug it out and assembled it with glee. It proved to be too fragile to safely support the breakable ornaments. I gave it a cold, objective stare.
It was a moment of honesty. I didn’t care how collectible aluminum trees are. An atrocity is still an atrocity. Age and trendiness can’t change that. I’m glad it wouldn’t work for the ‘bot project. Out it went.
Still, I needed a tree. My garage is like Aladdin’s cave–full of treasures and junk. A few years ago, during the height of the Shabby Chic decorating movement, I had purchased a small white tree at a post-season closeout sale. Never used, lacking any lights, it proved to be perfect for my ‘bots.
Like the proud owner of a new puppy, I took pictures and sent them to my closest friends. These individuals may think I’ve lost my mind, but they’ve been too kind to say so. Writers are, after all, inclined to be a bit–um–peculiar.
Although it’s my custom to take down the decorations on New Year’s Day, I’m loath right now to part with my space tree. It makes me smile every time I look at it. And this was an emotionally rocky Christmas when I needed all the smiles I could garner.
It reminds me that no matter how adept I may be at writing technique, I should keep my imagination–my fey spirit–blithe, impulsive, and ready to have fun when I sit down at the keyboard. Like most artists, I need frequent doses of whimsy to keep me going.
If it’s not fun, writing is just too hard a task to pursue.
What’s whimsical in your writing life? Are you indulging it or ignoring it?