You may have heard the old fable, The Star Gazer:
A man went walking every night just to gaze at the starry sky. He was so smitten by the beauty of the heavens that he never looked where he was going. One night he stepped into a well and fell in and broke his leg.
A passer-by (who was not a star gazer but some fellow on his way home from work) heard the moans and shouts of the man in the well and asked how he came to fall in. “Were you pushed by some robber?” he asked. “Did you jump in to escape a tiger? Were you guided by the hand of Zeus?” “No,” said the star gazer. “There was this shooting star…”
“Shame on you!” said the passer-by. “You are so keen to see the heavens that you don’t notice what is here on earth!” And he left him in the well.
And the moral is: If you cannot attend to the everyday things of life, you will not live long to admire the wonders of the world.
(But I think there is a second moral: People who have worked till nightfall are generally in a bad mood. Like those ants who pick on the happy grasshopper in that other fable.)
(And a third moral: If you want to star-gaze, grab a blanket and find a field. Duh.)
Anyway, that is a good old tale. But if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable, The Novelist with March Madness:
A writer publically committed and internally promised to finish the first draft of a particular YA novel during the month of March as part of March Madness. She stuck with this commitment, drafting every damned day for hours on end. She was so smitten by her story and characters that she rarely cleaned her house or cooked a proper meal. Soon she was living in a pigsty with two children who played video games all day and ate Pogos for supper.
One day a visitor (who was not a writer but a clean freak) popped by. The visitor tiptoed through the Subway wrappers and PS3 controllers in the living room to reach the writer, who was glued to a laptop at the kitchen table, surrounded by banana peels, sandwich crusts, and dirty coffee cups. “Did a hurricane hit?” the visitor asked. “Are you ill? Are your children holding you hostage?” “No,” said the writer, typing in a frenzy, “The drug dealer’s been murdered and the police think my hero did it.”
“Shame on you!” said the visitor. “You are so keen on your make-believe world that you don’t take care of the world and people around you!” And the visitor left.
“Thank god she’s gone,” the writer thought. “Hey kids, why don’t you order a pizza?” she shouted absent-mindedly. And they were all happy.
And the moral is: Run with those heavy drafting periods as far as you can because they don’t last long and nobody ever died from a dirty carpet.
But I really must add a harsher fable, too, one more in line with Aesop’s, called, The Writer in Debt:
Once there was a writer who was so in love with her work that she quit her job and ignored her family and let her house fall apart and left her children to raise themselves. She never chatted with her friends, never made love to her husband, never played with her children, and never paid a bill. Eventually she stopped bathing, talking, or even looking away from her manuscript.
After months and months of this selfish behaviour, her husband took the children and moved to a new house. The writer was evicted from her pigsty and left to wander the streets alone looking for somewhere to plug in her laptop.
And the moral is: There’s more to life than books, you know.
Now I’m back to my draft. I’m almost done — and I still have a week of March left!
I better get more peanut butter.