“If only” vs “What if. . . .”

As some of you know, my mother keeps her television tuned to the news stations CONTINUOUSLY, except when I intervene and turn it away because she and her telephone bank of kibitzers are getting too upset. Her room is just off the kitchen/breakfast area, so I have to hear the talk constantly and can’t always tune it out. (She also tends to flip the small TV in the breakfast room on and to that channel all the time, so that makes it worse.) Sometimes you can hear something helpful, such as yesterday, when they talked about salmonella saintpaul and the symptoms–and I realized that this is what we’ve probably had for the past week or so. We have been eating lots of fresh Roma tomatoes both at home and at restaurants. *sigh* I do seem to be all right now, and she’s a lot better, so whatever . . . but that was one of the few good things that came out of this news saturation.

Just now, I heard some pundits saying that “There’s no use saying ‘if only’ or ‘what if’–you only deal with the now!”

And they are half wrong.

I know it’s because they aren’t writers and don’t really THINK through what they are saying. What they intended to say was don’t dwell in the past and on what should have happened. “If only” can be damaging. I know this from so much personal experience.

But “WHAT IF?” is **not** bad and is **nothing like** what they were talking about. “What if?” is the path to scientific discovery. “What if” is the way to think outside the box and solve a problem with a new insight. “What if?” is the way novels and stories are written!

“What if” is a magic frigate to take us to the new horizons we’ll only see if we are looking for them–while standing on the shoulders of giants.

NEVER let “them” say that “What if?” is bad. They’re entirely incorrect (as they are most of the time) and are simply not thinking clearly. If you never said, “What if . . . I tried this on the OTHER way? Put this upside-down? Took off one of the clasps? Used screws instead of nails?” we would be in big trouble. If you never said, “What if a barren woman who has just come out of a fertility clinic having been told she’ll never bear children walks past a Dumpster and hears a faint cry . . . and finds a newborn baby . . . and runs home, cleans the baby up, and tells everyone she had no idea she was pregnant until she suddenly gave birth herself?” then you would never have a novel like the one I abandoned a few years ago . . . well, that one got abandoned, but so do a lot of the eggs that the salmon struggle upstream to spawn and fertilize. My point was that if you never did a “what if?” you’d never come up with ANY novel, and you’d have no chance that it might be a goodie that time!

Remember . . . never be afraid to ask, “What if?”

And now I’m off to the Plano Steinway Hall to hear ’em play.

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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