Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pushing That Possum Out the Door

When I was a kid, an opossum wandered into our garage one cold winter’s night, and liking the look of the place, settled in behind the garbage cans. He was either there for a rest or for the rest of his life. Never did find out. 

Alas, my father had other plans for the garage that were entirely opossum-free, so that ‘possum—he had to go. My dad figured all he needed to do was make some noise to scare the thing off, so he opened the back door and shouted, “Go on! Shoo!”

But the opossum did not shoo. He liked it where he was and he made it clear he wasn’t moving by staring blankly at my dad, unfazed, and then going limp.

My father upped the noise ante a bit, banging some garbage can lids to drive it off. Nothing doing. Instead of running off like he was supposed to, the opossum hissed at my dad, which is opossum for, ‘Bite me, I’m not leaving.’

Several more attempts to get the opossum to leave under its own steam also failed, and my dad was forced to use a push broom to shove the thing out the door into the snow. And let me tell you, that ‘possum fought the whole way. I think he actually grabbed hold of the broom and then onto the sides of the door before finally giving up and walking off as slowly as possible, grumbling the whole way. Then he flipped my dad the bird before disappearing back into the woods.

And here’s the part of my homily where I explain that the opossum is my writing. And sometimes I have to push it out the door because it will not go of its own volition. A couple posts back I talked about how I kept telling people I was almost done with my latest manuscript. Yes, I kept thinking there would come this magical moment when the manuscript would tell me­--perhaps using Sir Alec Guiness’s voice--"Kristen, it is time. I must go into the wilderness now.” And then it would skip off willingly to my beta readers or to my agent.

No. That’s not going to happen. My manuscript wants to stay in the garage, where it’s safe, relatively warm, and there’s a steady supply of garbage scraps to eat.

Of course, sometimes things truly aren't done yet and you need to keep working, but sometimes you’ve got to shove that tenacious, fearful little critter out and tell it to ‘git.’ And if it don’t git, you gotta use the push broom to drive it off. It’s not always easy to know when that time has come. I’m still figuring it out myself.

How are you doing? Where is your writing cowering these days? Under the stairs? In the attic? Right there on your hard drive where you left it?