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Sunday, July 12, 2015

lizards, and keeping true to a story

April 1st, baby Wicket, day 1 of our adventure.

At the beginning of April this year, I bought a baby bearded dragon.

Now, I'm a worrier. I have issues with anxiety, which leads me to be super obsessive when it comes to making almost any decision. The other day I spent ten minutes working myself into a tizzy trying to decide if I wanted to get a blue ice bucket or a distressed silver one. The blue is prettier and more fun but the silver has that shabby chic thing going for it! The decisions! (this bucket is now my dragon's bathtub! and I chose blue.)

I spent weeks of my freetime researching bearded dragons. I watched youtube videos. I read care sheets. I researched set up costs, and what foods they can eat when they're little and what foods they eat when they're big and what to do if they choke on a roach and how to treat yellow fungus. Every possible situation a lizard could have in its lifetime, I researched it.

Bearded dragons are popular reptile pets because they're so laid back. It's rare they bite. Mostly they're just curious little scaly-butts who will sit in the sunlight and are scared of birds flying past the window. Being a reptile lover, I was ecstatic to be getting my own lizard best friend. Because we were, one hundred and three percent, going to be best friends.

Flash forward to now. I spent hundreds of dollars on his set up. I've invested a lot of time and money and effort into this tiny beardie baby.

And we are not best friends.

Teeny tiny dangling feetsies.

I love him more than anything. He is my baby butthead. But he is, in fact, my baby butthead. He's small and a lizard, and so he doesn't like to be held for long. I have to chase him around his enclosure to take him out. He's realized if he sits still in my hand long enough, I'll trust him, and then he can dart from my fingers while I'm off my guard. I recently spent forty dollars on different feeder bugs because he was going on a food strike. He's the biggest punk of all time. Totally not the lazy, loving lizard I was expecting.

Like I said, I adore him more than anything. He's got so much spunk and personality, it'd be impossible not to. But I realized my problem about a month after I got him: I was expecting him to act like a mammal. I expected a type of cuddle and strong bonding relationship as I raised him practically from birth (he was very, very tiny when I first got him).

But he's a bearded dragon. And as sweet as they can be, they are reptiles. They understand comfort and security and food. They do not understand emotions. They aren't dogs, who form emotional bonds. They are lizards, who appreciate your care, but do not want to lick your face out of love.

As much as I was hoping my bearded dragon would act like a species outside of himself, I couldn't change him. No matter how many worms I feed him or how dope I make his enclosure, he will never love me the way I love him. I've come to terms with this, and it's made our relationship much better!

Me and my growing potato.

Why am I telling you all of this? You can't change your story either.

I've discussed how I wasn't capturing emotion in my writing before. Well, the same goes for trying to pull emotion from something that doesn't fit. In my creative writing classes at school, we're told to write a very specific type of literary fiction. And as hard as I try, I just... can't. Not well, at least. I'm not capable of writing about a man going through a midlife crisis after a separation from his wife unless something crazy has happened. Did he leave his wife because she was turned into a zombie in a post-apocalypic setting? Because I can do that. But I can't suffer through a man's emotions and make it feel true without a reason I've been able to create and understand. I can't sympathize with a man who cheated on his wife and regrets it, but I can one who cheated on his wife and then regrets it because he couldn't apologize to her before she went all undead on his ass.

Stories need to be organic. You can have an idea given to you and work from it. But you can't have an idea forced onto you. Each writer thinks differently. This is great! Books would be awful if everyone thought the same way and wrote about the same things! But you can't write a story that isn't your story. You can't force a character's life and expect it to turn out well. In the end, you'll only be disappointed.

Is your scene not working out? Try a different angle! Maybe what you think you want isn't really what you need. I thought I wanted a lizard who would sit on my shoulder and snuggle my neck. And I'm sure when he's older and settles down, we'll get to that point. But I'm so much happier with my fiesty baby who puffs up at his bugs and tests his boundries.

You'd be surprised what a little lack of control can get you. Which, coming from the biggest control freak in town, is saying something.

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