Tagged: persistence

Sep 10

Pushing the Stone


The cardinal rule: don't sit in front of a window if you don't want to be distracted.

I just completed my Week 8 assignment for the Writer’s Digest online course, Build Your Novel Scene by Scene. It was brutal. Not the scene, but the process of drudging through miles of sticky mental muck to actually write. To demonstrate my fragile mental state, I shall be relating a story about squirrels. But first, oh look! The cardinals are strutting outside my window. Aww, pretty birds…Where was I?

Mr. Squirrel thinks he's stealthy.

Oh right, my deep-seeded emotional struggles to persist. There I was, researching in circles on my laptop again as righteous justification for not writing, when I spotted the enemy: I named him Mr. Squirrel (further evidence of my creative angst).

Mr. Squirrel likes to eat the bird seed. This distresses me greatly. It leads to a long, annoying game whereby I run outside to chase away Mr. Squirrel, he waits until I am back inside and in front of my laptop again, and then he boldly returns, laughing at me through the window. Repeat the scene another dozen times.

As with many of life’s great trials, however, I found a solution at Lowe’s. See the dome underneath the feeder? It’s called a–get this–squirrel baffle. This was going to be good.

I installed said bird feeder protection device and went inside. In my excitement, I may have actually typed a few sentences of my scene while I waited. Then he appeared, making sure I was watching him. Time and again, he climbed up the post of good hope but could not round her cape. Mr. Squirrel was baffled, indeed! (Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh.)

"Watch and learn, Mrs. Human."

Perhaps I accidentally wrote another sentence or two before the next event; I can’t remember. But not long after my sweet victory, he was back. Mr. Squirrel approached my window yet again. As you can see from this third picture, he stared me down straight on, one searching creature to another. Then he turned from his stance on the ledge and leaped, hairy toothpick arms and legs flailing wildly in slow motion, landing on top of the baffle.

He proceeded to feast with abandon on the bird feed. I watched him for a few minutes, allowing him to enjoy the fruits of his labor, the spoils of his conquest, the prize of his chase. He had persevered. Even though the birds on top seemed to mock him; even though some other squirrels had tried but given up after a few attempts; even though he himself was baffled and frustrated by his repeatedly thwarted efforts–Mr. Squirrel kept on trying. He did not. Stop. Trying. (sniff, sniff)

My 11-year-old daughter summed up this lesson for me a different way last night. It was my low point for the writing week, when I actually let slip the words, “It’s just too hard. What am I doing this to myself?” Seeing my frustration, she told me: You have to push the stone if you want it to move. I think her Padawan training is complete.

As for my squirrel story, it ends happily. I ventured to Lowe’s once more, this time for a hanging block of corn feed. Mr. Squirrel earned it. And so will I, one baffling try at a time.