I had a bunch of words written about singing in my car and how it's like writing and never showing anyone, and blah blah blah. They felt like a rotted log, hollow and dead. And something Napoleon said kept running through my mind: "Follow your heart. That's what I do."
Yeah, that's Napoleon Dynamite. Like I'd know anything the other Napoleon said. Gosh.
So I'm following my heart. It says I'm in the same place I left Ash (my protagonist) yesterday morning—on a minefield. He's still there. I couldn't write this morning because all my ideas felt like that same rotting log. How do you get through a minefield?
Metaphorically, life is a battlefield. (I said LIFE, not love. Did anyone else hear Pat Benetar just then?) The battlefield is mined, meaning there are bombs that blow up when you step on them. Stepping on a mine is a mistake, the kind you make when you're not being careful and start following the wrong tracks, going off the path, etc. You have to slow down and think before every step you take.
In other words, to avoid making mistakes and stepping on mines, follow your head, not your heart.
If I were Ash and stuck on an actual minefield in a damaged vehicle and with snipers shooting at me from the trees, I'd be strongly tempted to simply drive like mad for the other side. I know this because that's basically how I got through school. I tried to study hard and do all my work. But there came a point in every class where I lost all desire to tread carefully and do good work. That point usually came late the night before a big test or deadline. No matter what my head said I should do, my heart sabotaged it by not caring anymore. It really hurt me. Led me onto a lot of mines and bad grades.
My head said I should major in computer science. I like computers. I like science. There's good money in that field. My heart said no. I flunked my CS classes.
All right, I told my heart. We'll do physics and astronomy, because that's what we really love. Nope, said my heart. The night sky is wonderful, but I don't like math. Never have, never will.
But you're pretty good at it, I answered.
Don't care, said my heart.
All right. Fine. What do you want to do?
But there's no money in English, and it's ridiculously easy. Don't we need a challenge? Don't we want a good job?
It's easy because we're good at writing. And I like easy.
Speaking of easy, it's no problem to follow your heart when your head agrees. It took me two years of getting beat up by college to switch to English. Lo, and behold, I got good grades and enjoyed school.
It's still hard to follow my heart—especially when it seems to be leading me to do the wrong things. I rewrote a novel several times because it felt like the right thing to do. After the last rewrite, the first feedback I got from someone who'd read earlier versions was that the characters felt flat.
All that work had made it worse. All those hours that were supposed to make the manuscript wonderful robbed it of what's most important.
What do you say now, heart? How does it feel to kill something you love?
We have to fix it. So many people are invested in this project.
Not right now. Maybe later. Right now, I want to move on.
Whose side are you on?
My head says don't use present tense. It's a fad, an affectation, rarely done well, a rookie mistake, a sign of weak writing, unnecessary. . .
Do it, says my heart.
I'm not a logical person. I follow my heart. It leads my head kicking and screaming down wrong paths. I've seen it make so many mistakes. And yet, part of me wonders if it's ever done anything that turned out bad in the end. Didn't I learn a lot from those rewrites? Didn't all that homework turn out to be unimportant?
To survive the predicament I've dumped on him, Ash should slow down, ignore the less dangerous gunfire, look where he's going, and find the right set of tracks to follow. He should follow his head, not his gut instinct. That's what my head says he should do.
And me? I'm charging blindly across the field at top speed, scared to death that I'm making a huge mistake—but doing it anyway.
At least I know what to do with Ash, now.