One of the saddest days of my life was the day I found out that Jim Henson died.
I wasn’t a big Sesame Street viewer, I kind of missed the boat on that one as the show came into its full bloom after I had left my toddler years, but I was (and still am) an admirer of anyone who can combine creativity with humor and innocence. And Jim Henson could do that. In spades.
Let’s face it, there is a certain wisdom to his furry little puppets (and yes I was old enough to have a poster with the lyrics to Kermit’s It’s not Easy Being Green song from the Muppet Movie in my dorm room) When I see the old videos of Kermit and I think that there is a grown man behind the voice, behind the movements, it just blows me away.
I’ve read much on Henson. He was shy, he was insecure, he really only came into his own when he could work from behind a puppet. The puppet being a direct shield between him and his audience.
And isn’t that what we do when we write fiction? We use the story as a shield, it allows us to take chances to show some creativity that perhaps we hadn’t been brave enough to demonstrate before. A shield allows us to experiment and to take risks. To become the actors of our words.
Some people are crass behind shields using them as weapons. They spew venom from behind its safety. As writers they cause damage and pain in the name of personal safety. And they glorify in this.
But then there are those, like Henson, who use a shield as an enhancement, a crystal amplifying their nature and intelligence. They recognized the gift a shield is as it protects you from the sometimes scorchingly direct contact with your audience. They also recognize the incredible power a shield gives you. As it is with great power, with a shield comes great responsibility.
In an ever increasing world where people are often encouraged to be anonymously raw or write using a pseudo name to protect them from those who are being skewered by their words, we, as writers, would all do well to remember the grace and diplomacy in which Henson used his artistic protection.
By all means, go ahead and use a shield with your writing, experiment, feel brave, do as Kermit suggests: “Life’s Like A Movie, Write Your Own Ending. Keep Believing, Keep Pretending”. Just remember to make sure your shielded efforts are at all times worthy of the work that is yours.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).