A Wish For Wings That Work

Forty-seven years old, and THIS week I discovered something about myself that
I never knew. I yearn for wings that work.

I’d used the metaphor of wings as ideas in a lesson I was writing. And then noticed
that I’d made references to flying in another lesson outline. And then discovered
that an anecdote I’d written about being five on my first day of kindergarten,
which referenced having my wings clipped, also listed the REASON I got my
wings clipped by Mrs. Quimby, kindergarten killjoy.

1966, when girls still had to wear dresses to school. I wore shorts under
mine.

My first day of kindergarten, I:

Ran from one end of the teeter-totter to the other fast enough that
the other end of it was still in the air when I got there, giving me the most
wonderful sensation of weightlessness in the few instants before it crashed
to the ground… and I elicited a scream from Mrs. Quimby… (“Never do that
again!”)

And…

Launched myself from the swingset into midair at my swing’s apogee (and
these were old swingsets with very long chains and impressive height from
earth at their highest point)… and I drew a shriek from Mrs. Quimby…
(“Are you trying to kill yourself?” “…No… “)

And…

Slid down the very tall galvanized sliding board standing, wearing my smooth-
soled Mary-Janes , shooting weightless through the air at the bottom to
land on my feet at a dead run. Beating snowboarders to the punch of that
particular thrill by a good thirty years…

… and Mrs. Quimby and two other teachers on playground duty rushed up
to me and told me I must never, ever, ever do that again, because I could
be hurt and what if the other children did what they saw me do?

First day of kindergarten, three separate times when I got chewed out
for doing something I did all the time—I lived within walking distance of
the school and and had played there off-hours since we moved there.

And all three times, I’d been flying in my own way.

When I wrote about my brief and pathetic career in track, I wrote about
flying.

When I was nineteen, I looked into getting a pilot’s license, and only
the fact that I made $99/week at my job kept me from doing it.

When my family traveled by plane, I begged the window seat.

And when I write and the writing is flowing, it feels like flying.

Wings that work.

But I never put it all together. Never realized until I tripped over a series
of metaphors hidden in different places how much I have yearned all my life
for this thing I cannot have.

I don’t want a plane. Don’t want a hang glider. Don’t want to
parasail, or parachute. I want wings that work. Somewhere
down deep, it is part of the core of who I am, and who I have always
been.

Look through your own writing, and study the metaphors you’ve
used. See if you can discover the part of you hiding behind everyday
life, duty, obligation, routine…

I’m willing to bet there’s something magical in you, something you
don’t even realize is there.

And if you find something, drop me a line and let me know.

Here’s to your wings, in whatever form they take, and to your magic.

(I took this from the most recent issue of my Writing Updates newsletter. I don’t often crosspost, but this particular discovery hit home for me, and I’m wondering what you’ll discover about yourself, too.)

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

6 comments… add one
  • Ceall Jul 15, 2008 @ 6:53

    I’m new here, I’ve just started your building a plot course. I’ve already learned so much just reading your articles – they give me loads to think about!

    I remember that between the ages of 3 and 11, at each birthday before blowing out the candles on my cake, I’d wish to be able to fly. Then I either grew out of it, or lost hope.

    This might be a coincidence, and I’ve never thought of it as more than that before today; but at the age of 11 I began meditating. I’ve been practising on and off since then (about 11 years now) and I’ve discovered that using certain visualizations, you can have the sensation you’re flying. Maybe my birthday wish did come true after all!

  • Gabriele Jul 11, 2008 @ 17:57

    The Life Guards were used to shivering, half dead and frightened swimmers they had to pick out, not a smiling teenager. They were surprised how calmly I took my adventures.

  • hollylisle Jul 11, 2008 @ 15:20

    Dpinion–It sounds like the sort of fun kids aren’t allow to have anymore. Good luck with your writing, too. I’m glad I’ve been of some help.

    Katherine–Excellent article and fascinating comments. I lived much of my life on the edge, courted death more than a few times and in situations where I knew my odds as well as some where I didn’t, and am still alive because … well … I like to think it was because I still had things to do. Since, however, I want my dying thought to be Wait, I’m not finished yet, I don’t plan to run out of things to do.

    But when I had children, I stopped seeking cliffs to throw myself off of just to see if I’d bounce. Parents have a responsibility to their children, and that responsibility includes surviving to raise them.

    As for the bicycle thing, I still have a pretty decent scar on my left shoulder from going down the very steep hill into the Shel-Mar Trailer Park in New Philly, Ohio when I was eleven—on my bike, with my arms spread like wings. I concur—you get a great flying feeling. Landing, though, sucks.

    Gabriele — I never calculate my odds based on the possibility of rescue. I always assume that my chances of rescue will be 0%, and then adjust my behavior to only get myself into trouble I might reasonably get myself back out of. 😀 Your mileage apparently varies.

  • Gabriele Jul 10, 2008 @ 15:13

    For me it’s swimming. The Life Guard had to fish me out of the Baltic Sea three times during the years we spent our holidays there because I was busy trying to get to Danmark. 🙂 Yes, I knew there were currents and I wasn’t supposed to be in the water with the red balls out, but it was so much fun. I never was afraid, I knew that when I didn’t fight the current but just went with the waves, someone would rescue me in time.

    I’ve always prefered the sea, lakes and rivers to pools. I want my water wild and cold. 🙂

  • Katherine Jul 10, 2008 @ 13:38

    This reminded me of a column in the New York Times today, about risky pursuits and why people indulge in them. The comments are especially interesting. Mrs. Quimby is well-represented, but so are plenty of people who understand why flying matters. http://tinyurl.com/697ryw

    50 mph on a bicycle is pretty close to flying, FWIW.

  • dpinion Jul 10, 2008 @ 12:05

    Hello Holly!

    I am a bit of a newcomer to your writing/website. I think what you are doing here is great!

    I will be ordering plot and scenes clinics, and I imagine much more after that.

    To the discussion at hand, I remember sailing from a few rubber seats when I was a child as well. Our playground had this row of wire-bound monstrous half-buried tires close to the swings. and the big thing for us was to launch yourself and try to land on top of them.

    Hilarity ensued daily as kids routinely landed at odd angles on the side and top. I am quite sure more than a few kids ended up in casts because of it.

    I am going to take your suggestion and read over things that I have written/am writing to see what I can come up with.

    Thanks again for your dedication to helping budding authors. I know I have certainly learned much since coming to this site.

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