A few weeks ago I spent the weekend moving a family member’s possessions into storage. We moved furniture, sorted clothing and packed box after box of household goods, knick knacks and such. We threw things away, and donated other things to charity. But one thing caught and held my attention. It was a white stone box, with leather straps keeping the lid from falling off. I’m not sure what stone it’s made of, nor whether it’s actually worth anything, but I couldn’t help being fascinated by it. It’s here in my house right now, not holding anything. I’ve always been drawn to boxes. Small ones with jewels on the outside, large ones carved of wood with locks to keep the contents safe, paper ones so delicate a single necklace is almost too much to put inside, metal ones with ships etched on top, glass ones with silver embellishment….I love boxes. Let me wander in a flea market or a junk store, and I’m likely to bring home at least one box. I can’t even be trusted in a Hobby Lobby or a Micheal’s, because there are lots and lots and lots of boxes in those places. The thing about all these boxes isn’t what’s in them, nor what I can use them for. It’s the thought of what might be in there. Looking at the outside of a uniquely designed box automatically charges my imagination. Treasure is hidden in boxes, as well as danger. Pandora kept the world’s evils in a box, after all. Schrodinger’s Cat lives (or doesn’t) in a box. Closed boxes hint at secrets kept, magic enclosed and excitement contained. All sorts of amazing things might be within the enclosed space of a box.
That white box is sitting in my house now, on my dining room table, teasing me with its possibilities. Nothing’s in it, yet every time I look at it, I can’t help wondering what it’s supposed to hold. And it occurred to me that books are boxes. When I go to a bookstore, (or the library) and have all my chosen books in my arms, there’s nothing quite so exciting as the potential. Five or six books in my arms aren’t just a pile of paper and ink – they are magical doorways into other worlds. If I open a box, I have no idea what I’ll find. When I have a new book in my hand, the anticipation is almost tangible. Magic is about to happen.
Even better though, is the blank page. Sure it’s torturous to begin, and sometimes getting that first line is harder than drawing blood out of a turnip. But that’s okay, because sitting down to start a story or to add more words to the ones you wrote yesterday is no different from opening the lid of a box. We can guess at what might be in there, but we don’t know with absolute certainty. Ask any writer, and he’ll tell you that no matter how tightly he’s planned and plotted, sometimes the story takes off on its own, the characters walk their own paths and the plan has to be revised. The treasure reveals itself as you slowly lift the metaphorical lid.
I’m working on something right now, something that hasn’t been contracted and might not even ever sell (although I’m doing my best to make it good enough for a publisher to want.) And even though I’ve planned the story start to finish, twists happen. I could be listening to music and suddenly realize a great idea from a random lyric. I’ve been flipping through junk mail and discovered some skill my magical hero has, something I never thought of before. It’s those shining details, the small things hidden in the box of my imagination that change my story into something so much better. So I’ll continue to bring home boxes, and let them whisper to me. I’ll bring home books, their pages packed full of thrills. And best of all, every day I’ll put before myself the open page, where I can revel in the delicious expectation of the adventure ahead.
What treasures have you found lately?