Writing, Watching, and Wondering

By Anne K. Kaler

Anne Kaler Head Shot

Ever wonder where writers get their ideas from?

Today one source landed right outside the window and insisted on being the center of my universe for the morning.

A young, a very young, robin perched on the top of an iron-ledge of a garden chair as I went out to get the newspapers.  His gimlet eye watched as a circled around him so as not to startle him into flight.

I knew he was young – the speckled head and shoulders and the orange hint on his pale breast gave away his age.  And he did not seem ready to fly away when I passed by.  It was only after observing him for an hour that I realized that this was indeed a very young bird.

He’d flutter, wings whirling about, from place to place on the iron ledge but he never took flight. Was it courage or ability which he lacked?  He tried several times and failed and huddled down in his avian misery.  Even the warming sun could not stir him from his cautious grip on the iron under his feet.

I watched as his father and then his mother brought food to him, as if he needed a jolt of energy.  Perhaps he had left the nest before breakfast, I thought.   He welcomed each parent, willingly gobbled each offering, and then hunkered down into his resting, non-flying position.

Time after time, the parents encouraged him. I could almost interpret their paternal concern and encouragement, wise words for the fledgling from and experienced flyer.  “Steady up, now son. Release your grip and push off.”  “Take your time, boy.  It takes time to get the right wind under your wings.”  “You can do it, buddy. Trust in yourself.”

How, you ask, can I interpret bird talk so readily?

It comes naturally for me because I have “fluttered” my wings and “flirted “with multiple ideas for so many years that I know the anguish of not taking the winged flight which I know I can manage, I know I can do, I know I can make it into the minds and hearts of my audiences out there.

It comes naturally for a teacher and writing coach who has seen her babybirds flutter wings in their own attempts to challenge the heavens with the solo flight of a new writer’s words and dreams.

And so, as writers do, I chose to see this baby bird’s attempt as a familiar archetype of my own writing (or lack thereof).  I too allow myself to be fed by the words of others.  When I spot a grammar error, a sentence fragment, a misused word, I willingly take that fact as satisfying my need for writing.

After years of marking composition and editing books, I can edit, developmentally and structurally.  I can slice synopsis into editable pieces. I can direct the “tell” into “show” with a stroke of my red pen. I can/could/should do the same to my own work and set it free to fly out into the world. I can…but I don’t.

Well, enough of my confession here.  The babybird disappeared after a while, having flown or fallen into the sheltering bushes.  I don’t know what happened to him.  I will not go looking for fear of find his cat-nibbled carcass.  I will remain unknowing but remembering him fondly.

And non-writers wonder about the source from which writers get ideas? Better they should wonder that any writing gets done in a world so ready to provide ideas.

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