As some of you may have read here, I sustained a hip injury a couple of months ago when I slipped on some ice. After my initial fall, there was no pain, no surgery, no medications, I’m doing just fine, thank you. But I had a need for physical therapy.
With that PT came advice. “Get a cane so you don’t walk lopsided.”
Like me, I’m sure you have seen a cane in the hands of many, many other people. So, “Get a cane,” was a simple thing to do.
But…………to my great surprise It wasn’t simple to use it.
My injury was on the left side. In which hand do I hold the cane?
What height should that cane be?
How do you walk with a cane? That is, how do you synchronize your step (including your lopsided step) with the swing of that cane?
This is to say, how do you learn to walk again?
And if you have slight left/ right confusion—as I do—even that becomes a little complicated.
It’s a reminder that what appears to be simple from a distance—metaphorically or not—is often otherwise. Simple is hard to see. And, in my own fashion, it relates to writing. Because, if you are telling a story and you wish to communicate how someone does something, feels something, solves something (and so forth) you need to see it (in your mind) describe it, find the words for it. And then you need to find a way to use the words to communicate a lot more than just the act itself.
It is a cliché to suggest the “Devil is in the details.” But those simple details are precisely that which elevates writing: an ability to provide the reader with a sense of the real. And—to make it more complicated, while there is the needful skill of knowing what to put in, there is an equal skill in knowing what to leave out. It reminds me of that other (useful) writing cliché: you need to make the usual unusual, even as you make the unusual, usual.
In short, while I have lived a fairly long life, and, as I say, I have seen many a cane in many a hand, I knew nothing about it.
I’m still learning simple things. Or to be Biblical about it, I’m using a cane to become able.