Writer, Step Aside

Cameraman Holding Camera

Remember when Alfred Hitchcock glided across the TV screen to the sound of Charles Gounod‘s Funeral March of a Marionette? All we saw was Alfred’s shadow. He bid us “Good evening,” and got out of the way to let the story unfold. This approach works for most writers, not so much for musicians or dancers, who need to be on stage. But we literary geeks are better off doing what the Tao te Ching says in Chapter 9: “Do your work; then step back.” And as I type that, I’m tempted to leave the page now and let you figure it out for yourself. But I’m not that generous, so–a few more words.

Stepping back for me means sharing the mic with others, reading with live musical accompaniment, and in fiction, turning loose the wolves, letting the dogs out, allowing space in the story for a character whom I had thought would, like Hitchcock, make a cameo appearance and disappear. He’s just a made-up boy, but he’s claiming his time in the lime light. He’s already taught the other, “more important” boy how to build a fire on the beach. Until he showed up, I didn’t know they would go to the beach. Huh.

So I want to step back and see what else he has to offer as I learn to share the stage, take advice, let the camera point elsewhere, hold my tongue against the impulse to correct. I think it’s called adult behavior, and it’s not hard once I get the hang and habit of it.

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