Have you heard of Helen Palmer, author of children’s beginner book, A Fish Out of Water? If not, it may be because she was the wife of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, who’s fame greatly outshined her. Palmer’s story is about a boy and his fish, Otto. After buying the fish, the pet store owner warns the boy: “Never feed him a lot. Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what.” (Do you see familiar influence here? Can you imagine their household conversations?)
The boy brings his fish home and decides that he knows better than the pet store owner so feeds the fish the whole box of fish food. The rest of the story illustrates what happens if little boys don’t listen. Eventually, the situation is solved, but the pet store owner again warns the boy never to feed Otto too much. This time, the boy listens.
Writing is no solitary activity. We are influenced, encouraged, and at the very least tolerated, by friends and family members. Some understand us more than others, but their input balances and calms us, sometimes even helping untangle plot or character problems as complicated as the Gordian knot. The solution may even be the same—using an editorial sword as effective as Alexander the Great’s to slash through the dreaded knot.
In turn, our verbal and written life responses influence family and friends. After observing wrong, my older son once whipped out a pen and wrote a first quite good poem on the back of an envelope. When our friends read, they thought he had copied one of my published poems. It bore similarities, we’re cut from similar cloth, but was his original. They encouraged him to write more. As exercise and polish skill, our relatives and friends usually gain greater communication freedom, too.
John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself…” That's also true of the writing community. Our life connections influence each other, going far. In fact, going so far, we can’t see where they stop because like the proverbial pebble dropping into a pond, the resulting ripples travel outward forever.
What about you? Describe a valued life connection that has blessed your life and communication. Tell them so. Also, April 1st is always a fun day for me. Enjoy yours.