Last night while my wife and I were in bed waiting for the Sandman to beat us about the head, I asked, “What in the world should I write about tomorrow?” Now, I’ve never had a shortage of things to opine about, and wasn’t out of ideas this time, but I was feeling particularly lazy and secretly wanted my wife to brainstorm a subject for me. Well, as is usually the case with my wife, what I want and what I get are two different things, unless it’s my birthday in which case I can always count on my favorite meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and sweet peas. Sometimes tradition can be wonderful. But as I lay next to her waiting for a stream of great ideas to come gushing out of her mouth, she said, “Think of something. You have a vivid imagination.”
If we had been playing chess, I would have been checkmated. If we had been playing checkers she would have said “King me”. If we had been playing Monopoly, I would have landed on her fully developed Boardwalk with only three dollars and a Baltic Avenue in my pocket. You get the gist of what I’m implying here. Instead of drawing on her vast reservoir of intriguing topics, she shifted the burden back on me. I was stymied, and by that I mean this surprised me so much that the five hundred forty nine ideas I had in my noggin up and flew away, leaving my brain with nothing but a sink full of dishes and an overflowing garbage can. Great. Now I’m out of ideas AND out of dish soap and trash bags. What’s that old saying? When it rains it snores.
You see, I used to have a vivid imagination. Ok, technically I still do, and it’s doing fine, thank-you-very-much, but for years I abused it and neglected it so much that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it packed up and found new digs. I didn’t pay attention to it, didn’t become friends with it, and for awhile it got so bad I couldn’t feel or see it, which meant either my senses were aiding and abetting it, or it had finally jumped off the flat part of my medulla oblongata. Now, as imaginations go, mine has a long and eventful history. In my childhood it was my best friend. It could turn a towel and pajamas into a superhero outfit, and then stuff my small world with high adventure. It provided me hours and hours of fun with nothing more than Lincoln Logs or Hotwheels. Of course, even back then my imagination had a dark side. One time as I was drifting off to sleep I rolled over in bed and accidently hit a picture frame over the headboard. It made a swishswishswish noise that sounded just like a monster sliding toward me, and I was so scared I couldn’t scream. I mean, I opened my mouth almost as wide as my eyes in the dark and could only manage a squeak. I’m sure if I had poop in me that night it would have tried running away.
My imagination went wild as I grew older, filling my head with fanciful ideas and getting me in more trouble that is legally allowed. I tried harnessing it into the world of creative writing, but there always seemed to be a disconnect between my imagination and my hand. That was when I began to learn that an imagination does not guarantee the birth of skill. It wasn’t until I was introduced into the world of Dungeons and Dragons that I was finally able to harness my imagination, or so I thought. It was like a match made in heaven, or in this instance, a match made in the Prime Material Plane. I quickly memorized the rules, and within a year was a Dungeon Master extraordinaire. My imagination was so vivid that it literally shined as I created worlds and populated them with all sorts of creatures (including the swishswishswish monster). This forum gave me the practice I needed to sharpen my writing skills, so within a decade I became really good at cranking out fantasy adventures.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I went to college some twenty years later and actually took a few hundred English classes that I realized I had been wasting my imagination on drivel for so long it had relegated itself to mere flights of fancy. By the time I graduated, my imagination was hanging around a younger crowd, leaving me in the company of practicality and sobriety. Oh, we still had a few good times, my imagination and me, but only when I could tie it down in one spot.
Then on Saint Patrick’s Day 2010 God blessed me with a heart attack. Oh, no, it couldn’t be your garden variety kind of myocardial infarction, it had to do so much damage that my ticker runs at 30%, literally keeping me from working the rest of my life. As it turned out, that hammer was the best thing that ever happened to me, unless you count that time on Lake Ontario, but we won’t go there now. I had nothing left to do but write, and write I did because the muse moved in lock, stock and barrel (that barrel has the best tasting inspiration I’ve ever imbibed). The muse and I took my imagination hostage that following year and forced it to help me crank out two novels, but I still didn’t feel it had given me its best effort. You see, even if you have a muse and imagination, your work will generally be steamed over crap as long as you don’t put your heart into it. After I finished “The Dreamweaver Archives” and “Oobers” my imagination became disgusted and ran away, and for awhile I thought I would have to fill out a missing noun report. My muse was despondent.
Then, thanks to the wonders of the internet and Facebook (yay Facebook) I found my long-lost cousin from Iowa, Dana LisenBee. Let me tell you, if you could split a soul in two, he and I would be the halves. I love him in every way except sexual, and that’s only because he doesn’t comb his hair. Just kiddin’, cuz. Anyway, I knew that just having a connection with him was enough to woo my imagination back to stay. Have you ever known someone who makes you a better person just by being there? It’s absolutely poetic. So, once we got caught up on the however many years we hadn’t seen each other, we started talking story ideas. That’s when my imagination and my muse finally fell in love and started having babies, like short stories, sitcom pilots, TV drama specials, screenplays, commercials, you name it. All my cousin had to do was plant a seed, and it would grow into a full-fledged tree, right in the middle of my brain. The only thing I don’t like about that are the squirrels running around my head. What happened was, Dana showed me how to put a fire in my belly (jalapeño-style), how to knock down the ‘can’t-dos’ and ‘it’s-too-hard’, and set my feet on the path of true writing.
I let the muse and imagination team take me where I need to go, but I still have to do all the work. That’s ok, it’s better than being a road-kill scraper. Right now I’m using my inspiration to keep three and a half blogs going strong: Beast by the Horns (an all-out assault on progressivism and radical islam), Back of the Choir (notes on my spiritual journey) and Beans on the Grill (all the crazy stuff none of the other blogs want). The half blog is my home site at www.jaytharding.com . I really need to start a new blog, though. I’d call it “Great Advice My Wife Doesn’t Give Me”. At least that’s what my imagination’s telling me.