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Seeing for the first time is an amazing experience; or, the elephant in the room.

I enjoy Thai cuisine very much. I have eaten in many a Thai restaurant, often decorated with remarkable carved woodwork similar to the two pictured above. Both of the above pieces, while not exquisitely captured by my phone’s camera, were carved from a single piece of wood. Amazing.

That, however, is not the story. I have been to this well many times but apparently never tasted the water.

On the occasion of my eldest son’s birthday, we drove to Charlotte to have dinner with my son and his girl friend. They enjoy Thai cuisine as well and requested a Thai birthday dinner. On the way to the restaurant, my son and I were discussing some writing issues we both faced- he a writer of screenplays. We were still talking about writing as we entered the restaurant and passed the rather singular piece of many elephants in a jungle all carved from a single log of considerable size.

Our booth was ornately decorated and above us on the wall hung a wonderfully detailed 3-D carving of remarkable delicacy and detail.

It seemed to me I saw these carvings for the first time. I saw these carvings for the first time from a perspective of writing. Fix your eyes on elephants beneath the jungle canopy – I know you can’t really appreciate the detail – and imagine the entire log from which this sculpture came.

The question popped in my head: “Have I ever… I mean ever! Have I ever displayed that level of concentration, dedication, focus, or discipline in my writing? I was spellbound; I was confronted with my own inadequate discipline. I cannot say that I have written anything that even begins to approach this depth of focus, detail, and sensitivity.

Writing Is Rewriting

For the first time, the real meaning of this oft-trumpeted phrase held some significant meaning, not just a vague understanding, but a palpable truth standing before me. The elephants now proudly grace the desktop of my computer.

This world is over-run with instant gratification. We draft a short-story and it’s done; we expect accolades for its breathtaking insight to the human condition. In reality it’s just a sketch. It’s a thinking-out-loud. Writing is not easy, writing well, that is. Few ideas in this world spring forth fully developed. It took nine months just for me to spring forth- and I was on autopilot! I don’t remember the pain; I’m told it was far from painless. Expecting success from the simple completion of a story is terribly naive. I have no right to expect a world class time in the mile simply because I complete a mile on my first attempt.

When Discussion is a Waste of Time

On a related sidebar, I became involved in a discussion on a writer’s community website regarding a short story I been asked to review. I pointed out a fallacy in logic and a tendency to bludgeon us with a message. Other writer’s came to his defense suggesting that this was appropriate. We bantered back and forth for about a day until I just decided this was counter-productive. He didn’t want a critique, he wanted a rave. I know we all crave feedback on our work, but the man who created those wonderful elephants in a tropical forest, didn’t ask for feedback. There wasn’t time!

My little foray into the discussion site was an eye-opener and certain to be a future post.

For now, it is on to my revisions and submissions with a frequent glance at the elephants under the trees. And you? Can you say, honestly, you have demonstrated as much focus, discipline and work on your writing?

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