Are You a Walter Mitty?
By Niki Turner
Just a few days before my oldest son headed off for professional over-the-road truck driving school (he passed with flying colors, and is, as I'm typing this, is hauling a load to New York in a 40-ton semi), we spent a lovely afternoon running errands, going out to dinner, and taking in a movie. We picked "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for our evening's entertainment.
Suffice to say, I cried... not just at the theater, but for several days afterward. Not because the story has a sad ending, but because I recognized myself in Walter Mitty, and because I so want to encourage others to pursue their dreams and desires to the fullest.
When I got home, I decided I needed to find the movie's soundtrack... something to remind me of the film's message when I had a bout of "absent eaglet syndrome." (I can't have empty nest syndrome, because I still have one at home full-time, one at home part-time, and my oldest and her family with us in the same abode. But when one leaves the nest, it stings, regardless.) ANYWAY... I digress.
As it turns out, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was originally a short story, written by James Thurber and published in The New Yorker magazine in 1939. (You can read the original version here.) Thurber was a peer of E.B. White, who wrote such classics as "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little," and was a co-author of "Strunk and White's Elements of Style." Yeah... THAT White, who knew?
Thurber's story was adapted for the stage several times, and a film loosely based on the story was made in 1947, starring Danny Kaye.
The 2013 movie, in case you are growing concerned, has a happy ending. But it did make me think (besides the whole encouraging my children to "fly" thing)...
- Am I spending more time daydreaming about being a writer, vicariously living through other writers, or imagining life as a writer, than I am actually WRITING?
- In the original short story, and the recent film, Walter Mitty's potential is short-circuited by two things: his fear of failure and the unknown, and the pressure of everyday, mundane tasks and obligations that threaten to swamp our calendars, overwhelm our schedules, and wear us out mentally and physically. What am I allowing to short-circuit my dreams?
- What have I dreamed of doing as a writer that I've put on the proverbial back burner? Is it poetry? Literary fiction? Attempting a full novel? Stepping into a different genre than what I'm comfortable with?
It's not about being published or unpublished, it's about living out the God-given dreams that dwell in your soul. (Yeah, I know... OUCH.) That said, what are you going to DO about it? I'm working on answering that question myself.
Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of three. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome.