My children own, at a conservative estimate, 5893 pieces of Duplo, 427 Thomas the Tank Engine characters in varying sizes and 15492 lengths of train track. I may have exaggerated the situation slightly there, but you get the idea. We have a lot of toys in our house, and they get all over the place. Rarely does a day go by that I don't stand on an electric train or trip over a Sit 'n' Ride or almost break my neck slipping on a storybook left on the carpet. So we decided today that the time had come to sort the situation out. Storage solutions were prepared, tubs and crates were upended and chaos ensued. A gigantic sea of Duplo spread lavishly over the floor and was fallen upon in utter delight by the children whilst Ben and I divided up the labour and started flinging individual items into the designated containers whilst the boys seized long-forgotten toy cars and glove puppets and tambourines from the heap. The mess was unbelievable.
But now the room in which I'm sitting and writing is calm. Tranquil. Organised. It won't last; that much is certain. We'll need to do this all over again in a few days or weeks or months or however long it takes for the room to become messy again. But from the chaos, order has emerged. We started the day with an untidy room, it became even untidier as the afternoon progressed, and now it looks lovely.
It's Day 7 of the writing challenge in which I'm participating, and today we've been encouraged to start. With uncanny timing, Jeff Goins - who obviously has no idea that I've spent a good portion of my afternoon engaged in tidying and organising - reminded us in today's post that great writers start ugly. In other words, they have to have a vision of what lies ahead and the energy and motivation and confidence to get started and to see the task through to its end. Before it can be beautiful - before it can look like it does in your head - it will first have to be thrown-together and messy. And just like our newly-organised living room, my writing needs to be untidy and ugly before it can be organised and finished, and before I can be happy with what I've achieved.
I used to teach alongside a fellow musician who spent a lot of time urging our students to stop procrastinating and start composing. Writing music is a difficult thing to do, but it only starts getting easier when you get something - anything - down on manuscript paper. You can't make something out of nothing, but you can improve something that has started off by sounding ugly. The challenge to be surmounted is that of gathering together the confidence to begin, and to see the project through until its end despite the inevitable messiness and imperfection with which we grapple along the way. But as we make progress with whatever we're creating, beauty will gradually emerge from chaos. We learn from our mistakes, and we restructure and improve and rewrite until we've finally finished.
Today's writing challenge involves creating something and leaving it ugly before passing it on. This is a challenge indeed. As I've already mentioned, I'm working on something which is the very epitome of the word ugly at present. It's fragmented, disjointed and full of holes. The structure and framework are not yet properly devised and defined. I'm absolutely not happy with it, and even less happy at the thought of giving it to someone else to read. I know that if I shipped a section of it to the composer whose music I am analysing, it would give my confidence a boost. I'm not sure it would raise his confidence very much! But it's still very much at the draft stage, and we both know that. So I'll get a snippet emailed over to China for his perusal, with a disclaimer regarding its ugliness. At least this will constitute evidence that the project is under way, which is something.
Before it can be good, it first has to be bad. It's certainly bad at the moment, but I hope that one day it will be good. First things first.