Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I miss purple Garfields
Yesterday, as I sat in my dentist's chair, watching The Kiddo color the Garfield coloring sheet they gave her to keep her occupied, I realized that I missed purple Garfields.
I watched The Kiddo as she carefully colored within the lines, choosing the orange Crayola to properly color in the famous fat cat. Two or three years ago, The Kiddo would have dispensed with conventional wisdom and gone with purple or pink or some other wild color. And she would have not bothered to color within the lines.
But thanks to public school and dozens of grown-ups (not me, never me) telling her that the sky should be blue and the sun should always be a yellow circle, this time Garfield was his traditional orange.
I thought about that move toward safety in conventionality, thought about how it might apply to writers.
When we first start out, most of us don't know the rules. We don't know the jargon. We just throw words on the page with the abandon of a pre-schooler scribbling Garfield purple. The rush that gives us is indescribable.
But then we learn. We learn about plot points and hooks and blurbs and character development and how celebrity and athlete heroes never sell.
So we opt for the safe road.
Sure, our writing improves on some levels. Now we are paying attention to format and our highpowered sales exec hero isn't bashful and shy because we know that he wouldn't have gone into sales if he hadn't been a people person to begin with.
But we worry. As that cursor flashes, we find ourselves worrying if we've picked the RIGHT shade of orange for our Garfields. We obsess about format and plot and motivation as carefully as any third grader worries about neatly coloring in the lines.
Yes, we have to conform. Publishing is a business, after all. But let's not forget that wild feeling of power we had when we decided that Garfield SHOULD be purple.