Possums and Problem Passages

Brushtail Possum Baby

Brushtail Possum Baby

When converting the garage into a studio, little did I realise I would be constructing luxurious accommodation for beloved Aussie wildlife.

Prior to the ceiling being lined in the recent conversion, Mumma Poss and her bub were often to be seen huddled together on the rafters above the roller door.  Now, with pine lining boards holding up lovely wads of fibreglass insulation, the critters are nestling in what must be to them like a bed of down.

I dread thinking about the state of the insulation – especially with the odd puddle of possum piddle leaking through the boards onto the studio floor.  So far, they have missed soaking anything vital, but today, on discovering yet another puddle, I decided to take action.

Is it only me, or do other people decide to take a certain course of action, only to discover that fifteen other tasks need to be accomplished to make it possible?

Last week, I’d blocked up one possum entrance-exit.  So far, the Noise Police haven’t knocked on my door about the hammering, past midnight.  Well, I didn’t want to block the possums in the ceiling and had to wait for their nocturnal nuisance time.  My effort made absolutely no difference to the critters’ comings and goings.  I had my suspicions about a possible trouble spot, but to investigate fully I had to first move ten boxes of books left over from a garage sale… um, from a couple of  months ago.  To move the books, I had to first find out whether the owner of the books (they’re not mine) wanted to collect them.  No, they were to be donated to a ‘worthy’ cause, as against turfing at the local tip.

Muttering and mumbling at the roadblocks to progress while being taken for a walk by Finn, my Irish rebel wolfhound, I noticed the local library was open.  An Aha moment. Perhaps there was a dearth of reading matter in the stately old building.  It turned out that there is a dearth of shelf space, but they would take the books anyway.  Any books they aren’t interested in keeping, they will sell off at the next fundraiser book sale.  Everybody wins.

It was just on dusk when I finally positioned the ladder where once ten boxes of books gathered dust, and one or two pellets of possum poo.  Another aha moment, discovering the poo.  I was on the right track, or rung of the ladder, as it were.

One of life’s mysteries is how a fully grown possum can squeeze through a gap as wide as a modern ruler.  Judging from the way they raid my fruit trees, and steal anything remotely edible and vegetable from the compost heap, I’d have thought my resident possums would need an expanding doorway to accommodate their bellies.   After scrounging through the wood pile in near dark, and sawing after dark, as much as I achieved was blocking off a quarter of the garage-wide possum entrance.

Foiling possums is much like writing – we can envision what we want to achieve, but getting there is very often a convoluted journey.  Rarely does a piece of writing flow easily from start to end, and make perfect sense when reading it.  Passages may slide from the creative brain, down the fingertips and onto the page or screen.  More often there is agonising, questioning, and getting up to make another cup of tea while possibilities wreak havoc in our minds, much like my resident possums after midnight.

The point is, not to give up.  Instead of worrying the problematic protagonist to death, get up, make that fifth cup of coffee that you just know will get the synapses firing, and take it outside.  Lean over your apartment balcony, or wander around your beautifully manicured garden beds – or, as I do, skirt the fallen branches and swear at the acres of oxalis smothering every plant – and breathe.  Let your subconscious come up with the solution.  But, don’t push it.  Don’t let your pesky critic  – you know, the part of you that thrives on doom-mongering and failure – hold you to ransom.  Water the cactus, see how many faces you can find in the clouds, pull a few weeds, or even do some housework.  While you’re otherwise occupied, your subconscious will be working on the problem, and will deliver the answer.

It might be in the middle of a dream two nights later, or it could well be when you see the first face in the clouds, pull the first weed, or put the first clean dish in the rack, but it will happen, if you let it.  Of course, the solution might be to scrap the beginning of your story, or discard the first three chapters of your novel.  It could be well worth it.  Why?  Too often, when it is a HUGE labour to write, the flow will stall for the reader.  And isn’t that what writing is all about?  To tempt readers into losing themselves in the flow of the writing and story.

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4 Responses to Possums and Problem Passages

  1. Well I did lose myself in the story but I want to know the end! Are the possums gone or have they found a new way in?

  2. hatchery says:

    Sorry to keep you in suspense, Timaree. One down, another one to go!

  3. adam says:

    Hello, this is a great blog!

  4. hatchery says:

    Thanks Adam. Pleased you like it.;

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