Play, though

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If a first draft was made of play-doh, this is what it would look like.

This photo is actually of one of my son’s play-doh creations. It is a railway network. He is very fond of trains and all train-related matters. We sit down at the table and he asks me to mold long strings of dough. Being the engineer, he assembles them. The thing is, he cares mainly for junctions. So the result is this soup of tender rails that go nowhere. Switches, turnouts and points but no clear way, no destination.

We adults know that this doesn’t even vaguely resemble a railroad. But when we set out to write a story, we often produce the same child-like mess. If we are humble enough, we will see it as a mess and not as a fabulous piece of art that dim-witted readers don’t understand. And if we are persistent enough, we can set it right. It really is like play-doh, this thing in our heads that wants to become a story. We must patiently mold it, again and again. Play, like children play, when play is work, discovery, understanding.

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