Three incidents today, all tied up in the same big idea, but each their own moment1. The moments first.
This morning I was in a meeting with several of my colleagues on a curriculum project. One of today’s tasks was to finalize a naming scheme for several fo the files in the release of the final curriculum product. There was a bit of concern from some in the meeting that teachers who take up the curriculum and resources might do so out of order. They might, if we misname the files, use the second thing first and the first thing third, for example.
While I understand the concern, I also tried to mention that once a curriculum is released in the world, it might get taken up in ways other than we intended. And, in a way, it’s beyond the scope of an author to prevent any such “misuse.”
I received my set of Metaphor Dice yesterday. They’re Taylor Mali’s passion project and writer’s aid, and I had a chance this evening to unbox them. I was struck by the algorithm included for how to make a poem with the dice, and how it made the writing easier through the mix of constraint and topic assistance. I rolled once, gave myself a time limit, and put a poem together. And, as I did for most of National Poetry Month, I posted what I wrote to Twitter. The poem I wrote wasn’t really about my father, or at least wasn’t much about him, but I didn’t explain that when I posted. I just shared. I let the words go out.
As I continue to grow as a writer, I’ve learned to let go of my words better. Or maybe I give them up too easily. But my larger point is that I let them go and they’re now available for others to play with. Or likely ignore. And the more times I do that, the easier it gets to do it again.
I still have days where the thought of letting any words out into the world can be crippling. My stomach knots up and I put the pens and keyboards away and save the words for another time. Then I have days like today when they just go down on the page and I let them go. And once they’re gone, there’s nothing I can do.
Tonight I read an interview with the creators of Once Upon a Time, a television show I watched when it began and gave up on a few years back. The show was interesting to me in part because of its attempt to remix the stories of several “classic” Disney characters into one overlapping narrative2. Tonight their season, and series, finale aired. So that show’s “over.” In the interview, though, one of the creators of the program shared some thoughts on how stories get to live on after their creators are done with them:
So I think there was much more happiness and story to be told with them, but that’s what the ending is about — we did our version, but these stories continue. A fairy tale was always something that was passed from village to village, so now Robin and Alice belong to the Oncers and the fandom, and they’ll live on in fanfic and in everyone’s mind. We’re done telling our side of the story. Now the characters belong to Oncers and they should go out and play with them.
So now that the executive producers, the authors of this story, have released it into the wild, their sense is that the characters are out there and available to others to “play with,” to remix and continue their stories. I love that idea, and think that’s a big piece of creation and composition – the releasing of a thing into the world. And once that thing is released, it’s no longer under the author’s control.
We can’t control what’s going to happen to the stuff we make after we let it go. Sure, we can try to grab onto our work with both hands and attempt to keep it under our control, or we can release our creations out into the world and watch them head out across the way and into the sunset. And maybe they’re taken up. And maybe not.
But we love the stuff we make. At least sometimes. In lots of different ways. It’s hard to let it go. Our creations, our feelings, and maybe our entire selves, might be safer if we just keep things to our, well, selves.
Then again, isn’t it better to have the things we love out in the world, to have the chance of someone else coming along to play with them? That’s my position right now, this minute, as I write this. It’s better to let the things we love go out from us so we can see what might happen – not to, but because and through them.
I hope you’re letting things go out into the world. I hope you’re making things you love. And I hope you’re finding loved things that others have made and are taking time to play with them.
- I thought an awful lot about Alan’s recent post on blogging all day long, too. So know it’s in here somewhere, too. [↩]
- That the “classic” Disney characters are all remixes from other fairy tales and traditions themselves is interesting, too, as is the face that the show happened on a network owned by Disney, so the remix was both for story and marketing purposes. Remix is complicated. But that’s another blog post. [↩]