There’s Times When You Need To Follow The Instructions
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.
Three simple words, completely harmless when detached from one another.
But when strung together more than capable of sending paralyzing streams of terror racing up and down one’s spine.
Three simple words, equally adept at knotting your stomach in fearful apprehension.
Let’s do this, we tell ourselves. The picture on the outside looks marvelous. So what if it says some assembly required.
How hard can it be?
Anyone who has ever attempted to construct a jungle gym swing set for their children the night before the arrival of jolly old Saint Nick knows what I’m talking about.
In the pitch black of night, armed with feeble light from a flashlight with a near drained set of batteries, a host of orphaned tools stuffed into the pockets of your jeans, you summon up courage bolstered by three glasses of wine and attempt to perform the impossible.
“Where’s the instructions?”
“I thought you had them.”
“You’re kidding right? How in the world can I hold these two pieces of the doohickey together and the instructions at the same time?”
“It’s called a support crossbar dear.”
“I don’t care what it’s called. I’m trying to put them together and I can’t see a danged thing if you don’t hold the flashlight beam on my hands.”
“Do you want me to hold the flashlight or find the instructions? I can’t do both.”
“Well that’s not going to $$@##@@!!! work is it?”
“I found the instructions and it says the support crossbar you were trying to install at the top is supposed to go at the bottom.”
“The doohickey dear. You were supposed to install it at the bottom of the set not the top.”
“Why in the heck didn’t you tell me that in the beginning?”
“Cause you wouldn’t let me take the light off your hands and find the instructions.”
“Oh for the love of God!”
When it’s all over you sit in exhaustion, shake your head and attest to the horrid prophesy of those harmless three words.
Some Assembly Required.
We’ve all had an experience similar, or at least have listened to a friend or relative recall in an exaggerated tale something close right?
Never in my life would I have thought I would use those three words in a conversation with a writer.
But I did.
A couple of years ago, I attended a seminar with some associates in Washington D.C.
Over dinner one night I had the unfortunate luck of being seated next to a colleague of mine who fancies himself as quite the writer of fiction.
Now I’m no Koontz, King or Saul (nowhere even close) but I have been known to spin a decent tale or two.
So when this gentlemen, proudly flashing his PhD about, asked me if I’d read any of his work I answered without thinking.
“Yes I have.”
Everyone next to us stopped talking. They were all staring at me as if I had morphed into an ancient Oracle. My guess was they were waiting for me to impart answers on the meaning of life.
Life is a bucket of manure with the handles on the inside maybe?
So there I was, trapped, squeezed between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Yeah, my honest opinion was that he’d produced seventy five thousand words of drivel in such a pretentious, arrogant manner it read more like a condescending technical manual:
You, because of your lack of intelligence, should have known better than to even attempt connecting this wire to that one. Are you sure you want to consider this line of work?
Do I lie to the good doctor, self-proclaimed wizard of the written word? Should I tell him his work was the best thing I’d read since The Old Man and the Sea?
Well, I chose the coward’s way out.
Now hold on folks, I know what your thinking. You think I took the path of The Old Man and the Sea right?
Uh, not so much.
“I think your work should come with a disclaimer.”
“Yes, on the front of your books it should read, some assembly required.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you probably didn’t look at any instruction manual before you started. My guess is you assumed by virtue of your vast knowledge and intellect you knew how to put a story together.
“It means you probably didn’t bother to bring a flashlight of inspiration or a set of good writing tools and skills with you when you decided to flesh out your characters. You probably could have used some of those tools to better develop your protagonists and antagonists.
“The thing is, if you try to build a story in the dark it will crash into a jumbled heap of words.
“Who knows, there may be a good, maybe even a great, story somewhere in the pages of your book, but until you assemble them in a fashion the reading public is willing to embrace you’re just writing to appease your own ego.
As I said, some assembly required.”
The colleague nodded, smiled at me, thanked me for my opinion then excused himself from the table.
Everyone sitting nearby craned their necks in unison as they watched him walk away. Then, they turned to look at me.
Oh crap. Me and my utter lack of filters at times.
I began to gaze about the dining room searching for the nearest emergency exit when to a man and woman they smiled at me and returned their attention to their dinner plates.
The moral, and more precisely, the point of this, it really happened story, is we build, we create, and assemble.
As writers it’s what we do.
Yes, it exhausts us and in my case gives me cause to pull out the remaining three strands of hair I possess as I take another swill of wine.
But it will always be the case.
There’s times when you really need to read the instructions, because when we write, in fact every time we write, some assembly is required.
Let’s keep in touch: email@example.com