I remember once listening to a group of kids, back in my teaching days, explain what monster was hiding under their bed. Or behind their dresser, or inside the dresser (monsters are very crafty). Their monsters were very specific, and very detailed; some were real animals, others were just patches of darkness; some looked like people. Most of the kids had tricks to fool their monsters (the usual grab-bag of defending teddy, repeated words, and blankets which, once pulled snuggly over the head, were damn near impenatrable - but for the love of Gan, don't let your feet stick out the bottom!)
But one girl had a different approach, she had a different monster.
"He's very small," she told, rationally. "And the trick is not to think about him as you go to sleep. And if you wake up in the middle of the night and need to go to the bathroom, you have to go right away."
She blinked, as though she hoped she wasn't going to be so slow when she was grown up.
"Because the longer you wait, the bigger it gets, and then it's too late."
That always stuck with me. It's small, then you wait and it's bigger. And then it's too late.
The hardest, or at least the most rigorous, part of any undertaking is just getting started. I think this becomes more and more true for more and more the older you get (sorry, Sally, monsters are very real, and they don't just live under the bed).
I'm not old, I'll admit, but I'm older than I was and I will keep being so until I'm not anymore (which is, I hope, quite a long, long time in the future). But you see it happen all the time, little monsters getting bigger because you waited. Sometimes they're monsters in your head, other times they are out in the world.
I hate waiting, I'm very impatient. Waiting to get started is even worse. But if I really had a monster that would come and try to eat my feet every time I waffled on an idea, or a project, or on lending my voice to something I care about, well, I probably wouldn't waffle very much.
* * *
I'll be going to see Neil Gaiman in conversation in a few weeks. I'm extremely excited. The last time I had a chance to go see him in conversation (with tickets ready and everything) I was unable at the last minute. It had a bit to do with going to see the incredible Amanda Palmer in concert a year and a half before (no, really. The last 2.5 years of my life have been a very strange chain of events . . . but I guess the same could be said about everyone).
BUT that was then.
I discovered Gaiman's work nearly ten years ago when in the line of the tiny grocery store in my home town of Saint-Andrews-by-the-Sea (that is the real name, yes). They had a rack of paperback novels. It was the typical assortment of Nora Roberts, John Grisham's and the latest Stephen King. But there was a new name there too. I liked the cover: a silhouette of two men (possibly boys) walk/dancing across a setting-sun/spider web, and an old man following by. There was no real reason to pick up Anansi Boys; I guess had been reading (and still do, it is my favourite) lots of folklore, and I guess I might have been onto African myth by that time, or maybe I just remembered the name from a really excellent episode of PBS's "Wishbone." Whatever the reason I just put it down on my basket, bought it, and took it home. I sat down and started to read it. I laughed out loud. I read it all over the next two days, and was hooked. Of everything I've read since by the author, it still has the softest place in my heart (near the left ventricle).