Chasing The Red Dot

Dear Kitten,

One final note. Once in a while you might see a little red dot. I’m going to tell you this right now. It is real and it can be caught. I did it once. I held it for a full minute.  But when I lifted my paws, it was gone.

– The Cat from the Friskies “Dear Kitten” Commercial 

The Terrible Trio are asleep after a long day of red dot chasing.
The Terrible Trio asleep after a long day of chasing the red dot.

Writing is chasing a red dot.

My three kittens go crazy with delight when I play with them with a laser pointer.  A red dot appears in the middle of the floor.  They never know when it will show up, or where it will go next.  But they know they want to catch it. They scamper across the room, bounding over furniture, people, and each other, in their eagerness to grab their prey. If they are very lucky, they will slam down a paw right where it is.  But they don’t pin the dot to the ground.  That crafty dot is on the top of their paw for half a second, taunting them.  Then it darts to the opposite end of the room.  The chase begins again until either their or the laser pointer’s energy plays out.

I feel like I have been chasing that red dot too.  In my case, the red dot is a finished novel.  I chase ideas down and type them out as fast as I can.  I write for as long as I can, searching for the right phrases.  I think I have firm grip on the idea and will wrestle it onto the page. Then it slips through my mental grasp.  I chase after it, willing my fingers to keep up with my brain.  Exhaustion creeps in. The idea sits on top of my brain, mocking me for a moment.  It zips away and the cycle repeats.

I know that I am making progress.  It feels like I am not, because I am treading ground I covered before.  I find that I am taking two or three passes to complete something to my satisfaction. I am learning that is the nature of writing – make a hurried, slap-dash pass to get the idea down before it flits away.  When it does, chase after it until you catch it again.  Then rewrite and rewrite until you have a finished book in your hands. Keep after that red dot.  Because you will never catch it, even if only for a minute, if you don’t chase it.