I’ve heard it said that stories are like fossils – they need to be slowly chipped away at, bit by bit, before they can be unearthed. Sometimes, you remove the piece intact. Other times, parts of it are crumbled away, or left lodged in the soil. It all depends on the skill and precision of the archaeologist.
If that’s the case, then I’m like a kid trying to unearth an ancient skeleton with a plastic shovel.
It seems no matter how hard I try, I end up ruining the fossil in the act of digging it up. The artifacts crumble to dust in my fingers. And the harder I try to bring my story to life on paper from my imagination, the worse it gets, until I’m left stabbing furiously at the sand under the hot desert sun, getting more and more frustrated every minute.
Just imagine being an apprentice archaeologist, delicately brushing away the dust to reveal the fossil, then chipping away at it with all manner of tools, for hours on end, only for it to disintegrate once you lift it out of the dirt. This monumental frustration drops on you like a tombstone, and you want to scream your frustration until your lungs are empty. Or, in my case, slam your fist into the laptop.
But, in the end, all we can do is practice in order to bridge the gap between our ideas and the execution of them. Every day, I wake up only to be disappointed in myself, in my words and thoughts and ideas, in the lack of truths in my writing and dearth of well-fleshed characters. I sit at my computer, and I wonder whether what exists in my head will ever translate properly onto paper. I begin to doubt my own imagination. I begin to doubt myself.
Practice. The first fossil, the third fossil, the hundredth fossil, the thousandth fossil, may crumble away in my fingers, but one day, eventually, a piece will be lifted up to the sunlight in its perfect glory. All those hours of slaving and chipping away beneath the sun, in that moment, will be worth it. I know this in my heart.
In the meantime, I’ll be here if you need be, scratching at the ground like a doleful chicken, the sand stinging my eyes.