Unusual Solutions

I’ve never passed a kidney stone but I’ve heard it’s very painful.  A friend of mine once passed one the size of a grain of sand, and in his words, it was the most excruciating pain he had ever felt.   I hope I don’t have to have that experience, but it’s nice to know that recent research has discovered that passing a kidney stone might be a lot faster and less painful if you take a ride on a roller coaster.

I believe it! First you have the long slow climb up to the top of the track, and then the brief hanging seconds when you are anticipating what comes next, and another few seconds when the roller coaster begins to drop, picking up momentum and throwing everyone into a heart-stopping, jaw-clenching scream as you barrel down the track.   If not a heart attack, why not a kidney stone?  According to the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association,  research on kidney stones and roller coasters began after a patient reported passing a stone while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World.  The scientists built a 3-D model of a kidney complete with kidney stones and tested their model on both front seat and back seat rides.  Those in the back seat passed nearly 4 times as many stones as those in the front seat.  So, I guess if you have a small kidney stone and want to avoid the stress and cost of surgery, going to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World might be a more fun and less costly option.

What does this have to do with writing?  Have you ever written an article, paper, or story that felt like passing a kidney stone?  So painful you wish you could avoid it, but so inevitable that it’s going to trundle its way through the small narrow path to its final destination?  And doesn’t writing sometimes feel like being on a roller coaster? The long trudge uphill as you fight procrastination and the need to start putting your words on paper, until you finally get to the crest…hit your stride and plummet full force into your writing, forgetting time and space until you reach the end and the car pulls up short, the attendant unlocks the bar, and you stumble a little dizzy into the rest of your day.   The message I take away from this is to keep on writing even though you may feel like your story is being pulled from you like a kidney stone, excruciatingly slowly, because the high you get when you top the hill and find your stride will cause that story to dislodge itself from your inner being onto the page and into the light and there is no better feeling than being able to look at your work in front of you and exclaim, “What a ride!”  The ache inside of you is gone for the time being and the next time you are struggling to get your stories out and heard, it won’t be so painful if you remember to strap yourself into that roller coaster car and hang on for dear life.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Wholey 2004
Photo courtesy of Brandon Wholey 2004

A Determined Kid

royal-typewriter

A determined kid can achieve most anything he sets out to do. I consider my early writing years to be those between the ages of four and nine when I placed my index finger on my first Royal typewriter and “published” my first poem on a piece of paper easily 20 years older than I was.  This singular act was thrilling beyond what I could have ever imagined. The thrill never left me.  I was a poet.  I was a writer.  The poem, about a dog chasing a fox, was a flop.  Forced rhymes, mundane theme, poor word choices.  But it wasn’t so much the actual poem that made me a writer, it was the act of putting the words on paper, arranging them in a way that was pleasing to me and said what I wanted to say, in a way I wanted to say it.  All the learning of parts of speech, sentence construction, figurative language, tense, structure, and all those other things, were still in my future.  Here’s how it unfolded.

I was visiting my father in his office, a gray shack in the middle of a field.  Technically it was my grandfather’s “field office”.  My grandfather owned and managed oil fields and my father fixed derricks.  A multi-purpose place, mysteriously filled with machinery, tools, cabinets, and dust, it provided plenty to capture the attention of a youngster. But of all the things to do and see, I was drawn to an older model shiny black Royal typewriter sitting on a battered wooden desk. In the desk drawer was a sheath of paper in a notebook my dad said was left over from his college days.  He showed me how to feed the paper and pound the keys to make ink appear.  And I had to pound the keys. Lucky for me I typed with one finger so the long stalks that attached the keys to the letters did not mash together as they did later on when I learned to type faster. Beaming with pride I displayed the poem to my father and he said it was good.  Hearty praise from a man of little words.

Ray Bradbury once said “Run fast, stand still. This the lesson from lizards. For all writers.” I hadn’t read those words yet, but I believed they were true.  Write as though your life depended on it.  Write fast and often. Write everything that was in your heart and you would surely find your calling.   When you write quickly without stopping to edit you are writing from truth.  You are writing from the heart.  Editing can come later. Style can come later.  Don’t stop to look around or, like the lizard, you will become someone’s dinner.