Turkeys, Tilted Windmills and Imaginary Writing Enemies


Yesterday, they conquered my garage. Tomorrow, the Vatican!

There’s a flock of wild turkeys, maybe 20 in all, that has been periodically visiting my neighborhood for the past couple of years. They are expressive birds, and their neck-bobbing, en masse hillside treks, gobbling bursts of flight, and prancing posturing is a pleasure to watch. And to laugh about. Since they frequently pass by my Airstream office when moving through the neighbor’s fields, I have a fine old time seeing close-ups of their antic behavior.

A trio of the males displayed a new move the other morning, when the recycling truck came by on its rounds. It’s a rumblingly loud vehicle, and it descends the narrow road flanking my house with a roar. I was in my yard and three male birds were on the other side of my neighbor’s fence. When the truck began going down the hill above both our houses, I was looking at the birds. When the truck’s clamor hit them, they reared around in unison, facing the truck’s direction. They lined up side-by-side, almost symmetrical, beaks raised and thrusting out, synchronized swimmers on the land.

They froze in this posture, and when the truck passed, they shot their heads forward simultaneously, and as if on signal, together gobbled a furious cry. Then they all ran out to the road, and down toward the truck, which would have taken several hundred turkey soldiers to have taken it down. But these birds were up to the challenge, running in that splaying, hunching, ducking way that large birds do, ready to remove that truck’s transmission and make the world safe for democracy.

Talking (and Thinking) Turkey
Because I often turn these natural neighborhood expressions into writing fodder in my mind, I had a few quick thoughts. One was marveling at turkey bravado—no 6,000-pound truck was going to rumble through their territory without a challenge. The other was to puzzle over turkey thinking: how did these featherbrains come to the conclusion that it was in any way a sound gambit to take on a giant truck armed with three beaks?

That had me musing on the Don Quixote aspect of it all: tilting at windmills, a heroic, impossible—and quite blind—quest. Our birds, no matter the courage tucked in their puffed-out chests, had manufactured an unconquerable enemy where there was none, fabricated a problem out of thin (if noisy) air, and were chasing illusory victories.

Gobble, gobble.

Fewer Writing Turkeys in 2016
I found that colorful scene to be a fine example of how not to treat my writing in 2016. I conjured up a few false enemies of my writing over the past year: treating time as an enemy, writing from a sense of scarcity and not abundance, letting dull doubt overrule my instincts—too many trivial (but in effect, consequential) things to list.

This year, I’m going to work more creatively, not reactively. Not sternly guided by having to write so many words, make this much money, read this many books. But rather, to write at a good pace, without always looking over my shoulder. To write with more feeling. To take energy from idea windmills, rather than joust at them. (And to act less like a turkey.)

How about you?

New Year’s Cake
Feel like getting your writing voice in fine tune? My ebook, Think Like a Writer: How to Write the Stories You See, is reduced from $5.99 to $2.99 until January 11, if you use the coupon code BM85N on Smashwords. Check it out. There are a couple of turkey stories in there, but only ones that help your writing take flight.

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4 thoughts on “Turkeys, Tilted Windmills and Imaginary Writing Enemies

  1. Yeah, though I have some quibbles with the “Act Now, Apologize Later” adage, I think if it’s confined to the “Act for yourself now, apologize to yourself later” arena, you can get some things done. Even things you never thought you could do.

    I’ve always thought that Goethe quote, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” has convincing power.

  2. I offer the bulk of my last 15 years as evidence.

    We traveled all over the US and Canada. Met oodles of amazing people. Had no rent or utilities to pay.

    I’m writing, all day every day, making music when it suits.

    The day I chose to believe that it was all up to me, and that it was all possible, even likely, because this is what I wanted instead of what I had before, it all lined up and fell into place.

    One trick has been knowing what I’m willing to give up to have this. I am put in mind of Bob Seger’s Beautiful Loser:

    “He wants his home and security
    He wants to live like a sailor at sea”

    I know better. I have little materially, not much spending money, but my time is my own. Most of my friends have money to eat out and drive newer cars, but they never have time for things they wish they could do.

    Also reminded of a conversation Ken Richardson had with a stunning pianist. Richardson said “I’d like to play the piano like that” and the other chap said, “No, you like the idea of playing like that. If you actually wanted it you’d be practicing 8 hours a day like I do.”

    Step 1: do you want something enough to work for it, or do you just like the idea of having it magically fall from the sky? If A, buckle down, slacker.

    If B, stop pestering others about it.

    That’s the big lesson I learned.

  3. And it’s a lesson with benefits, JDC. Beliefs are sinewy, muscular things—they move the rocks that become the mountains. I think the biggest thing for me in your comment is about time: time lost is … wait for it … gone. Even Einstein’s ghost wouldn’t say otherwise. Stay timely, my friend.

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