Monday, August 2, 2010

Pain in the Neck! Monday on my Mind


Once upon a time, all the body parts had an argument about which part was the most important.

"We couldn't walk without us," said the legs.
"We'd starve without me," said the stomach.
Then Bot-Bot (the butt) started, "Well, I-"
The hands interrupted, "Why you don't hush? All you do is stink up everything!"
The parts all laughed.

But Bot-Bot's feelings were hurt and he shut up and ignored the other parts.

No waste could pass, and after a while the other parts started feeling sick. The legs couldn't walk straight, and the stomach started to churn.

"Bot-bot! We're sorry!" called the hands.
"You are important!" added the heart, who was beating irregularly.

Bot-Bot was so angry, he didn't hear the other parts for quite a while. But by the time he finally calmed down and let out the waste, all the parts had realised that it didn't matter which was the most important, they all had a role to play.

Disclaimer: This is a re-telling of a tale I found in a newspaper in Barbados years ago. "Bot-Bot" is one of the many pet names we have for "butt."

So, I managed to do something to my neck between lugging around a huge backpack and working three 14-hour days.

It was bad! Any time my shoulders got out of alignment, I would experience a paralysing pain shooting from neck in every direction. It's no easy task keeping your shoulders aligned. Any time your hips or knees get too far out of alignment, the shoulders go too. I spent two days walking around, trying to move my entire body as a unit. You have no idea how hard it is to put on pants without moving your neck and shoulders. Bet you've never noticed you even use neck muscles to sneeze!

Afterwards, I got to thinking- because I was very incapable of thinking during the pain, I'm really bad with pain- that there are lots of times life is like this. I mean, you never hear anybody praying, "Thank God for the use of my neck," do you?

But there are lots of times when little things we've never thought about go wrong. And even though they're tiny enough that we've never thought about them, they make our lives miserable. What's it Joni Mitchell said? You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Let's look at it from another angle. We love to put things in hierarchies. Y is more important than X but less important than Z. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of times that hierarchies are important. If you've got a broken leg and your heart has stopped, you best believe that the doctors are going to deal with your heart first. But it's all too easy to get so caught up in hierarchy that we forget that the little things matter too.

We hear arguments on all sides about what we should develop more, and what we should work on first: plot, characters, language, etc. But at the end of the day, it all matters. Because you favour characters, that doesn't mean that your plot can be non-existent or that your language can be painful to read.

Whichever matters most, all of your elements have to work together. Otherwise your story will be nothing more than a pain in the neck.

And that's what's on my mind this Monday.


carla said...

DAMN WOMAN (may I say that here?) the last 3 sentences are precisely what I needed this offtowritefiction morning.


PK said...

You are so right! It's so easy to forget the little things. Just like the person who washes dishes for a living. May not be the most prestigious job, but someone has to do it, and if no one does it, the whole restaurant starts to fall apart. If one little nut is loose, the whole machine stops working. So many ways to look at it!

Marsha Sigman said...

Everything has a purpose. Got it.

I would also like to add that if I don't watch it my butt tends to grow out of control.

Sort of like my stories.

Sarah Enni said...

Agreed! Awesome post. I think what's great is that if one element comes first (like plot before fully developed characters) it can always be addressed in revisions. But in the end, it had all better be there!