Maybe I’m just getting older, but I’ve been wondering lately when cartoons became so irritating. I’m probably going to date myself here, but I used to love watching cartoons. Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, Donald Duck, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear–now those were cartoons you could sink your teeth into. The voices were…voices. Some high, some low, some mid-pitched.
These days, all of the the voices are so high-pitched, watching cartoons is about as fun for me as listening to someone rake their fingernails across a chalkboard. It’s sad, really. I used to love starting my day with half an hour of cartoons. Now when my (almost 20-year-old) daughter turns on the Cartoon Network, I go looking for my headphones so I can drown out the sound.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my “inner child” lately. Wondering when I grew up, wondering why I grew up, wondering, as a novelist, whether growing up was such a good idea. It’s become quite clear that the adult side of me has taken over in the past couple of years. Maybe she had to. Life hasn’t been easy lately, and somebody had to help us negotiate through the minefield, but leaving the adult side of me out here alone isn’t exactly good for my career.
The inner adult is too–formal. Too fearful. Too stiff. Too afraid of risk, too sedate to play. She cares too much. She worries too much. If I sat myself down with a box of crayons, a sheet of paper, and instructions to draw a picture of a house, I would draw a very careful symetrical house. Two windows on either side of the door that’s cautiously drawn right in the middle of the house. Five windows on the second floor, spaced exactly over the windows and door on the first floor. The ceiling would be a sedate gray, colored very carefully between the lines. The grass and leaves would be green. Flowers would be realistic colors, carefully balanced on either side of the house.
My inner child is more playful. She doesn’t worry about risk, and she doesn’t worry about coloring between the lines. My inner child likes to mix bright colors that don’t really go together. She likes lime green grass and orange trees and purple dogs. She likes bright red shingles on houses and wild, unbalanced flower gardens that look as if someone just tossed a mix of seeds on the ground and stood back to see what grew.
My inner child is the creative one; my inner adult is my internal editor, and the plain fact is, I need both sides to be working in order to do what I do, and do it well. My inner child has been known to write 40 pages in a day because she doesn’t get caught up in what’s right and what’s wrong and what makes sense, and whether the scene is motivated and what about the conflict, and did she establish the setting, and is there sexual tension, and is it all perfect?!? She just writes. Writing, for her, is play.Writing for the inner adult is work, and she is a much slower writer (and her work isn’t nearly as good.) For her, writing 3 pages in a day is an incredible feat. Unfortunately, those 3 pages are usually quite boring and lifeless, even if they are technically correct.
I don’t know about any of you, but I would much rather spend my days playing than working, so I guess that means it’s time to figure out where I left my inner child. Wish me luck!