Learn How to Jam

On Possible Metaphors of a Mouse Tale


By Christine Carron

As I thought about what I would write this week, a memory kept sneaking up on me: the first time I used a mouse. It was also the first time I used a personal computer. I was a senior in high school nearing graduation and visiting my older sister at college. I had a final paper in some class due, and decided I wanted to be fancy and write it with a word processor instead of a typewriter. 

So there I was in a university computer room, sitting at one of many terminals. My sister gave me basic instructions. I started typing. At a certain point, I needed to move the cursor, grabbed hold of the mouse, and gingerly, hesitantly dragged it toward me. I hit the end of the table before the cursor reached where I needed it to go on the screen. I sat there flummoxed, my hand frozen, afraid to let go lest I screw up the machine, the mouse, or who knew what.

“Just pick it up,” my sister said. I did but with zero confidence, still unsure in the newness of the strange action. Would the cursor move back when I moved the mouse? Would I be right back where I started? Lo and behold, no! 

Now, of course, moving a mouse is rote. Integrated into my hand know-how as much as brushing my teeth. So the mystery to me was why this memory kept surfacing this week in context of a blog post. What was the writerly gem in this memory?

Perhaps it is the truth that learning is awkward. That applies to learning how to write as much as it does to learning how to move a mouse. Or perhaps it is about how we can all feel stuck at times in our writerly adventure. And that sometimes we need to remind ourselves to pick ourselves up and move, i.e., write. 

Or maybe it is about faith. That we have to act even when we don’t know the outcome. The only surety in my first mouse moment was that if I didn’t move the mouse again that cursor wasn’t going to move. So it goes with our writerly adventure. Do we have the courage to keep writing even when we don’t know the outcome, because we can never know the outcome unless . . . we stop writing. Then our writerly adventure is over. For sure.

If you are reading this post, my guess is that outcome, no matter the charm of its certainty, is not the outcome you want. It’s not the outcome I want either. No matter that writing sometimes feels awkward. And that sometimes I feel stuck. Frozen. Possibly even flummoxed. I don’t think I am alone in those feelings. 

Which somehow gives me comfort. And hope. And determination. Those frozen-stuck-flummoxed moments, like a pesky mouse, are not going to conquer us. When they come we will feel them but not be capsized by them, and we will certainly not stuff them. We will let them flow and let them go. And then (#movethemouse), we will lift up our hands, and we will write.

The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

  • Journal about a story-telling skill that felt awkward when you learned it but now is solidly in your comfort zone.
  • What are ways you get yourself writing even when you feel stuck?
  • Think of an awkward learning moment not related to writing. In 300 to 500 words, describe that moment and convey the metaphorical gem(s) it contains for your writerly adventure. 

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