Scene One – 400 West Lincoln Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 1949
“Hush, child, you’ll wake the chickens.” Mokey tugs my hand. The spring-hinged, pine planked door closes silently behind us. Moonlight yields to animal darkness. Squawk, the monsters perched above me warn of our intrusion into their fertile solitude.
“Mokey, are chickens eagles?” I say.
“Such a question, grandson,” Mokey replies. “Of course not.”
“Jimmy says eagles drop from the sky to snatch little boys.”
“Your cousin tries to scare you. Now, hand me your flashlight.”
A thousand red eyes stare down on me through the flicker of the yellow beam.
“Mokey, I want to go home. Please, can we go?”
“It’s okay, Dickey. Stay close to me. Give me your hand. Each day we must gather the eggs.”
Mokey’s cool hand guides my trembling fingers beneath the monster’s smooth breast. Warm like my mother’s hand, feathers brush the top of mine. Squawk, the chicken warns.
“Mokey, I can’t find an egg.”
“Keep searching, Dickey. You’ll find what you want.”
Damp straw tickles my fingers. The firm object of my search brushes my palm. “It’s hot, Mokey.”
“Ishchite, poka my ne naydem,” Mokey says. I slip my prize into her apron pocket.
Scene Two – Detroit Free Press Newsroom, Detroit, Michigan, October 1974
“Hey Brian, how’s your progress?”
“What the hell do you think, Billy,” I answer. “Chief wants my column by four o’clock and I don’t have a single new idea. I hate my daily grind. I wish I hadn’t switched from covering breaking news to writing a daily column. I thought writing features with a byline would be a promotion. I could put more about myself in my column than I could in news reports."
“‘Here kid, take this lead,’ Chief used to say. I did that. I reported and I met my deadline. Now I have to be creative every day. No one hands me a new idea. Do you realize how hard it is to write something original every day?”
“Come on, let’s get a cup of Joe,” Billy says. “I’ve been on this gig long before you were born.”
We walk to the break room and I slump into the nearest chair. Green vinyl cracks with discouragement. “Make mine black.”
Billy joins me with two steaming mugs. “Brian, to get where we want to be, we need to let go of what holds us back.”
I turn toward Billy. “What do you mean?”
“You said you thought your feature column could be more about you than beat reporting. So what prevents you from writing from your personal perspective?”
The coffee mug is hot in my hand. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything new to say. Every story has already been written. What can I add that would be of interest to my readers?”
Billy shifts his mug from his left hand to his right and back again. “Yes, it’s true that most topics have been covered by other writers. But there is only one you, with your perspective. You have a thousand ideas within you. Each is uniquely yours yet part of a universal human consciousness. Grab an idea. When you risk and share your thoughts, your stories will resonate with readers who have similar experiences. Reach beyond your fear. Trust yourself. Trust your ideas. Trust your writing.”
Scene Three – High Noon Saloon, Madison, Wisconsin, March 2019
Need a new idea to
Meet my daily score. I
Sift through the ashes of
What I’ve done before.
Face every day, a
Curious way, the
Gamble that I play, the
Risk I will pay.
Story of mine, my
Song without rhyme, a
Waltz out of time, the
Mountain that I climb.
Faith that is blind, to
Walk one more time.
Ishchite poka my ne naydem. We
Search until we find.
If this essay is meaningful, please like or tweet below or leave a comment. Thank you for your interest and possible action you may take.
Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, writer, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.