July 22, 2014

A World of Pure Imagination

“But that’s impossible!” said little Charlie, staring at his grandfather.
“Of course it’s impossible!” cried Grandpa Joe. “It’s completely absurd! But Mr. Willy Wonka has done it!”

I work as a writer for a web company. I also write on my own, sometimes on this blog, and sometimes in a journal (but my journal entries are often like unpolished essays). Very occasionally, I write fiction. It is something I want to do more.

For me, fiction is the hardest to write.

Creativity with constraints is so much easier. Blog posts are constrained by reality. I try to relay events, or memories or emotions in a way that evokes feeling, but that is still based on my true experience. And reality has its limits.

But fiction has no constraints. Letting go of those constraints can be liberating, but it is also overwhelming. When the possibility of writing something becomes the possibility of writing anything, how do you even start? But it is only when you let go of those constraints, when you are no longer governed by the rules of what is possible, that you can invent gum that is actually a three course meal. Or an elevator that goes in every direction, including up and out of a building. Or a little boy who finds a golden ticket and enters a “world of pure imagination.”

Pure imagination.

I have worked in Silicon Valley for a long time, and seen a lot of creative ideas. As part of a design team, I think a lot about creativity. How do you evoke new ideas? How do you nurture a creative environment? But even the most entrepreneurial tend to think with constraints: business constraints or computing constraints (maybe even legal constraints). It is very hard for someone to come up with a truly original idea, to think freely without the limits of what is possible.

But when we write, we don’t need to worry about those constraints. Don’t have the computing power? Write it down, and now you do. Can’t figure out how your character is going to be in two places at once? Just write it down - you’ll figure it out later. In fiction, your characters can fly, be invisible or go days without eating. They can be everything and nothing, and things we haven’t even thought of yet.

It is hard to free your mind in such a way. But when done right, amazing things can happen.

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This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

July 17, 2014

Still Blogging

It's been a while since I've blogged here, a couple of months, at least. But since I'll be attending the BlogHer conference in another week, I thought I should post something, so I can still call myself a blogger.

Life is chugging along. Moe had several very rough months. We saw a heightened aggression from him, coupled with some very frightening new self-injurious behaviors. Moe was not only biting himself, but he also started banging his head—hard. We thought it was related to some new molars, but the behaviors continued long after that was done. He gave himself a huge bump in the middle of his forehead. He put his head through the wall. We did everything we could to keep him safe, but when we would stop Moe from banging his head, he got mad and would turn his aggression on us, his nannies and his therapists. Behavioral interventions were not working.

So we made the very difficult decision to try a new medication. This is not a decision we took lightly, not only because medications can have serious side effects. Not only because Moe has such difficutly learning and communicating that we need to make sure he is as clear-headed as possible. But also because we've been here before. Last year, we tried Tenex (as well as the related drugs Clonidine and Intuniv). This was disastrous. Behaviors and sleep got worse. I didn't want to get burned again.

After several months of trying everything else we could think of, we started a new drug, Risperodone. I don't share this information lightly, as it is, in some sense, very personal information to share. But I share it because I have learned from others' experiences, and I hope others can learn from me.

So far, Moe is doing well on the drug. The biggest change is that he is falling asleep on his own, and staying asleep. We are no longer using melatonin, which seemed to make Moe really unhappy anyway. This, in and of itself, is an enormous benefit for the entire family. Jelly is also back to sleeping through the night. She, like Jeff and I, had become accustomed to 3am wake ups.
For the first month or so, behaviors dramatically improved: no more head banging, increased attention, less frustration and impulsivity. But it's not perfect. Moe seems upset many mornings, and the last week or so, we've seen some gradual increase in behaviors. We're taking data, and may increase the dose if necessary.

Most importantly, we found a doctor we like, who knows kids like Moe and wants to help. We are watching for the side effects, the most common of which is increased appetite leading to weight gain (and perhaps some link to increased blood sugar and diabetes). But so far, he's doing okay.
What else is going on? We finally decided on a kindergarten for Jelly and are excited about the start of the new year in just 5 weeks! I cleaned out the enormous amounts of clutter in her room (she saves everything), went on an Ikea shopping spree, and set up a new "big girl desk" area in her room, complete with pink chair, and many pink accessories, as well as an "Elsa blue" lamp. She's growing up so fast, and while each year with Moe seems hard-won, some days I feel I can hardly remember so much of Jelly's life.

I have a lot of things to say about a lot of things: Jelly's evolving relationship with Moe, life at a start-up in Silicon Valley, how we're doing with AAC (hint: we need a new approach), the intense feelings that come with living with a very aggressive child, the insantity of the Bay Area housing market. But this post has gone on too long already.

If you read this, thank you. If you'll be at BlogHer this year and want to meet up, send me an email to wantapeanutblog [at] gmail. I'll be at the special needs MiniCon as well.

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