Unexpected Encounters: The Stag

I’ve been thinking about unexpected encounters. 

The other evening, at dusk, I was driving along a small road at the bottom of the mountain, when I came upon a deer skittering down the road. And not just a deer, a half-grown stag with antlers so hard and heavy they seemed strangely at odds with his fragile legs, and lithe body.

In the moment before he noticed the car he seemed mysterious, and spirit-like. I stopped and watched him, spellbound.

Once he’d seen me, he changed. His body tensed, and he veered sharply off the road, heading for the safety of the trees. He didn’t see the fencing. His leg caught, and he flailed, before finding his feet again, and bounding off down the tarmac, panic-stricken.

I crawled the car after him, at a non-harassing distance. Soon he found an exit off the road, and was gone.

Moments of great writing seem to come to me like that deer. They arrive only occasionally, unannounced, and they take my breath away. I never want them to leave.

In order to get them to stay, I try to wrestle them into submission. But the struggle changes their shape, and they no longer hold the qualities that I wanted on my page: that mystery, that lightness, that fragile elegance.

So, how can we allow our words their freedom, but still keep them on the page, and serving the needs of our story?

The short answer: First we have to create a space for those unexpected words to arrive into. Then, we have to follow them as the crawling car followed that deer, keeping them in heart and mind, but not influencing their behavior unduly.

And the long answer, well, it would need much longer, and, for now, will have to wait.

This Week’s Writing Prompt

Spend a period of time outside, with a notebook and pen. If it’s warm enough, stay in one place. If not, go for a walk. You’re looking for anything that, for you, embodies the qualities of ‘mystery’,  ‘lightness’, or ‘fragile elegance’. When you find something, write a poem, or piece of prose about it.

The Wild Words Facebook page accepts guest blogs. Why not post your creative response to the prompt there! 

This blog was first published on February 22nd 2013