Earlier today I found myself in a chance game of stack the blocks with my two-year old daughter. Not long after we began I quickly learned that there were no rules to this particular game. All colors, styles and shapes, so long as they stacked on top of the other, were fair game. She grabbed one pink two peg block and stacked it on top of a blue one peg block. And so on, until we effectively had constructed an unofficial, multi-colored, leaning tower of Pisa. My daughter sat looking at this monstrosity for several moments before she decided that was enough. She raised one hand and sent the swaggering tower to the ground.
“Come on daddy!” she said and we started again stacking the blocks in various different ways and styles. We started stacking them by color, then by style and constructed a stronger more aesthetic model. After several moments, she swiped it and sent it crashing to the ground and over the floor. She grinned and we started the process again.
It suddenly occurred to me the lessons on writing and on life. To my daughter and to myself, the idea of building the blocks was fun and we were allowed to exercise our creativity. Each time the blocks were destroyed we would build them back with more fervor and brand new ideas. I have found similar process in writing.
The arbitrary stacking of the blocks allowed us to use our minds to create. Using, of course, the diverse styles and colors of our resources. Like writing. You sit down with a pen and a pad, or more likely in todays age, the white space on the computer screen or word processor and you begin to compose. You use whatever resources your mind can conjure. Whatever vibrant settings, styles and characterization that you want. A truly liberating experience.
Then there is the process of realizing that your first draft is not what it could be. So you rewrite it. It’s like a tiny failure. Like the failure in the construction of the blocks. Maybe failure is too harsh a word; let’s call it the edit. Each time you rewrite the draft you make corrections. This may not feel like it in the beginning but it is making your writing, there fore your story, better.
Building the blocks was simply a reciprocal process that we use in life all the time. When you’re a baby and your learning to walk, when you fall down you simply get up. It’s all learning. In writing it’s an education for the author. You learn new things each time you approach the work. I like to think of failures or edits as do-over’s. Maybe some will think my elaboration a little extreme. Blocks and life. But to me, that’s just what life is all about. That is what writing is all about. You fall/fail you get back up and start again. A new chance with new energy and a new set of blocks, if your lucky.
The next time you feel discouraged remember when you were little and had to stack the blocks and build something like myself and my daughter. Try to remember when you finally built that perfect structure out of those blocks. Would you have accomplished it if you had not tried over and over again? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know unless we get back out there again. Whatever the challenge in your life, keep stacking your blocks.