The Guaraní people of Paraguay have an unique take on reality and their language reflects it. Like us, they have words for the things that are as well as the things that were.
But they also have words for the things that should have been but never were.
Their history is a sad one, haunted by lost possibilities and perhaps that is why their language is so melancholy. But it can also be bittersweet because in a way, their dreams never die.
For instance, a person who we might label as a failed actor, is a would-have-been celebrity to the Guaraní.
In their world things get very complicated. For instance, your ex-fiance will always remain your would-have-been spouse.
Try lugging around that baggage...
And politics becomes even more insane. Despite having lost an election, Mitt Romney will forever be our would-have-been President.
Writing can be like that too.
Imagine your abandoned novel coming to would-have-been life, or a long forgotten short story creeping out from under a pile of unfinished essays to take its place among your would-have-been published works.
This got me thinking about why all my would-have-been writing never happened. I decided to look into it and compiled a list of things that I never wrote or had not finished but should have.
I won’t trouble you with the details but after organizing my failures, here are the categories that I came up with:
The ones that got away
These are the stories that comes to you in technicolor dreams only to pop like soap bubbles the moment you awake.
Don’t feel too bad. Dreams rarely makes sense in the daylight.
But what about all those ideas that you failed to write down because they seemed so concrete that you thought you would never forget them? By the time you finally sat down to record them, all you had was concrete dust.
The ones that refuse to come together
You have the bones for a great story rattling around in your head but you have never been able to flesh it out. It remains a skeleton in your writing closet and it is not alone.
Every time you open that closet door, what is inside scares you.
The ones that you couldn't pull off
These are close cousins of the ones that refuse to come together but instead of being able to grasp them by the bones, they hover just beyond the reach of your skill.
The more skillful you become, the further they dance away from you.
The ones you should have written but someone else beat you to it
It is like when I have my Monday Writing Essential essay all written, only to read it on Saturday morning. Thanks Len!!
The ones that you are still gutting your way through
Of all the should-have-beens, these are the best ones to have.
They suck you in with a mad moment of creativity and once you are hip deep in them, they go and threaten to join the ranks of the ones you can’t pull off.
You can’t give up though, for despite having to fight for every syllable, you know that when you are done, you will have earned every word.
This week's challenge: what would have been or should have been.
It is New Year's Eve. What could be a better time to hash out what should have been and what would have been had we done this or that. Well, don't find yourself with a would-have-been essay next week. Get crack'n.
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
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- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
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Last week’s writing challenge: write on the theme of things you got to do- drew the following responses:
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