Yesterday I woke with the idea of adapting a one-person version of King Lear for security cameras. I debated whether I had to include the Edgar-Gloucester-Edmund plot, then chose scenes, then determined how to split myself into the daughters, then considered what might be lost without Shakespeare’s actual text and if placards would help or distract. My thoughts ran to ground somewhere between a scheme to stage it all in one place (and thus hope someone in security would piece the event together) or staging it many places (and thus be satisfied with knowing I’d done it).
Idle thoughts have that power—absurd plans occupy me for hours, and I sort through the finest minutia as if I were plotting an invasion of Sicily (which I did plot, last Wednesday afternoon). I begin with “what if” and stay there. The walk to work is long enough to blueprint coming out with a line of shower curtains. On the way to the grocery I conceive a few rudimentary designs for barware no one yet knows they need. Waiting for the bus, I arrange a mental list of illustrated parables I’ll compose for adults. I weigh likely publishers.
And perhaps it’s the influence of a Catholic upbringing, but acknowledging ambition is enough. Once I reach work, or pull the grocery list from my back pocket, or climb on the bus, I’m finished. I’ve as good as done Lear.
It was brilliant, in my mind, mad and hilarious and yet, in some hard-to-define way, said exactly what Shakespeare meant. Finally, someone understands Lear as it’s meant to be understood. That someone is me… in my mind.
Unfortunately, even my semi-serious and serious plans occupy the magical land of Whatif (which is also the location for a fantasy novel I’ve been outlining on the elliptical at the gym). My aspirations come with ready-made mental timelines and freshly self-disciplined routines and inevitably stunning outcomes. They involve, in other words, someone I’m not. Each is more impressive in its initial stages than in its execution. True accomplishment is in follow-through, and follow-through isn’t my specialty.
Some misinformed people may marvel at my productivity. They ask me how I’ve managed so much output, but you have to understand I complete about one-third of what I dream. Scrutinize this blog, for instance, and you’ll discover efforts to sell my art online, resolutions to submit my work for publication, determination to start a podcast, whims of all sorts, and convictions I can make various physical and metaphysical changes in my life. Few come to pass.
The slog of living stamps them out and so does determination’s life-cycle, which begins in possibility and ends in delusion. It’s all just so challenging, especially when conception is easy and execution complicated.
What I need is a staff, some crowd of interns (you don’t think I’d pay people, do you?) waiting at the kitchen table each morning, jotting my fancies down, elbowing each other to impress me with the alacrity of their fruition. They ask what I want, and I say. They ask how, and I say how. They ask, “Will this do?” and I say, “It isn’t quite what I pictured. Keep trying.”
This staff, of course, is another fiction, another visit from desire that barely lasts beyond its expression. Since breakfast, I’ve have seven such dreams. Tomorrow I have more time. Maybe I’ll reach 20.