STAY WITHIN THE LINES
By Eric Bishop
Kindergartners believe art is imagination. Watch them. They cut and paste the old fashioned way, coloring pictures from an unlimited imagination. Ideas stream through their crayon holding fingers as they lay belly down, a pure connection between thought and product. Imperfections don’t matter. The green splotch is a frog or grass. Maybe it’s moss and a frog perched on a lily pad in green water. Ask them about the sky and they’ll color it blue, adding yellow and orange for a sunset.
Look close. To a child the scale is perfect. The lemon yellow sun covers half the sky, its smiling face and leafy flames extending from the circle like a sunflower’s petals.
Then someone tells them to stay within the lines. It may be a parent or a teacher or a classmate. Most stop here, their art stifled. Perhaps their picture isn’t as good as a classmate’s. A few push through because creation is too fun. They consider and then metabolize constructive criticism, deciding what lines to stay within and which to ignore for the good of the product.
Crayola Crayons and I parted ways somewhere around the first grade when my imagination turned to stories.
Old friends find out my first novel is now published. Many are dumbfounded. Some tell me they could never fathom authoring a novel. I understand, because there are some art forms where I’m destined for spectatorship. I’ve witnessed bears and eagles get chain-sawed from logs. A sculptor on cruise ship told me the mermaid was trapped within the block of ice as he chiseled away. He could see her in there, encumbered by extra material. I saw a block of ice. It’s a gear I don’t have and know I couldn’t learn. Some talents can be developed while others are without middle ground like rolling your tongue. You can or you can’t. My college roommate and I scheduled classes around The Joy of Painting to be mesmerized as pictures came to life. We’d drink Mountain Dew on the beat up old couch absolutely sure afro guy Bob Ross had screwed it up until the Houdini like moment, when he’d literally create a happy lake, cloud, river, trees, and mountain with a few strokes.
As an author, I’m the kindergartner, monkeying with words to show readers. I adhere to some lines while willfully ignoring others in an effort to puzzle through a green splotch of adverbs or the clumsy sentence of extra ice trapping the mermaid. The right words will transform my story from the lightning bug to lightning, as Mark Twain suggested.
For five years I imagined what it would be like to sign copies of my novel and then a week ago it happened. I was at our local bookstore pen in hand, my imagination for sale. I have plenty of descriptive words for how cool it is to sign copies of my novel—amazing, surreal, and ecstatic. It brought to mind an interview Tom Hanks gave after winning best actor for the leading role in Philadelphia.
“What’s it like to win the Oscar?” He was asked.
“If you can imagine what it’s like,” Tom paused. “That’s exactly how it is!”
Acting rests next to sculpture in a bag of creative talents I lack. Maybe I have a hard enough time being me to act like another person. Still, Mr. Hanks’ words capture the essence of the kindergarten artist who anticipates the joy of creating something others will appreciate.
The bell rings and he runs home to adorn the family fridge with his latest. Mom needs more magnets for a surface so thickly plastered it covers the paint. The door opens for a glass of milk. The artwork flutters as the fridge closes. The kindergartner smiles back at the oversized sun. His teacher told him it was too big. The sun, after all, is only a small spot in a broad sky. He colored on, making it bigger, knowing the teacher was both right and wrong. Warm smiles can never be too large and some lines were meant for crossing.
Thanks for reading. More of my words and stories can be found at www.eric-bishop.com, www.facebook.com/ericbishopauthor, or on Twitter at @EricBishopWords. My debut novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol, is available as an e-book, hardcopy, or paperback at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Eric Bishop may look like a cowboy, but he’s not stuck in the past—neither is his writing. In his debut novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol, Eric explores the choices of a modern-day cowboy grappling to balance sympathy with protecting himself and those closest to him. This gritty, yet heartfelt adventure will be the first of many Rocky Mountain Thrillers with multi-genre appeal crafted by Bishop.
When faced with a perilous choice, Desert Storm veteran Jim Cooper makes this decision without hesitation—but not without consequence. His small-town life is hurled inside-out as he finds himself in the midst of four criminals—three of them dead by Jim’s own bullets and one wounded, willing to offer a large reward in exchange for help.
Faced with the challenge of balancing his kind heart with a desire to protect his own life, Jim finds himself on a trip to retrieve a truckload of stolen Mafia cash near the Las Vegas strip, never more than a few minutes away from mobsters who’d like nothing more than to see him dead. Even if Jim and his partner-in-crime escape with the money, will his conservative neighbors provide sanctuary for their local Samaritan? Will he live in fear of Mafia revenge for the rest of his life?