"That is a question only you may answer, for you are making this decision of your own free will."
"Yes..." I paused. "But you, sir, are depending on me."
"Do not think of me when you make your decision. If you are to set your mind upon this challenge, you must do it for the right reasons. Otherwise, it is almost assured that you will fail. Free yourself from the influence of the Great Expectation."
"What Great Expectation?"
"Life's Expectation. Do not expect anything because an expectation too easily transforms into a dependence. And then you are not holding yourself up anymore."
I swallowed the lump in my throat and turned my attention to the challenge ahead. "What if I do not succeed?"
His worn face grew saddened, and he turned away. "Why are you asking me such questions? This is very much your own battle. In fact, I will leave you here."
"But I still do not know what I must do. Surely you may lend me an idea..."
"No. The ideas will be useless unless you first have a purpose for them. So ask yourself all the right questions until you find that purpose."
Darrel sat up straight in his chair rather suddenly and looked over his shoulder. He felt as if someone else was in the room with him. Perhaps it was only the strange feeling of connectedness this short spasm of writing had given him. He didn't have a plot yet, and already the characters were beginning to tell him what to do.
Really though, he rather valued the opinion of the old man. And through this, he could relate rather well with the young protagonist. But he felt that he still needed more ideas. They were supposed to come when needed once he got into the thick of writing. At least, that was how they used to come in the old days. But years of syrup down the canals of his mind had clogged the old routes he had used to travel, and the words were finding it hard to fly straight in the gales of distraction and to stay aloft under the pulling force of gravity that forever pulled his actions towards stimulation rather than creation.
He looked down at the page. The story mirrored his own emotions rather adequately. But what was the next step? It seemed that the key was to ask questions...questions of himself. Questions that he would have to answer in time.
He stood up and walked briskly to the window. "What question should I ask?" he said. Then he smiled as he realized he had just asked one. "Step one has been completed sire." He blinked and then dashed to the paper again.
"Step one has been completed, sire."
The old man laughed. "Jumping to conclusions, now aren't we young one? There is a much greater distance to be traveled before you can complete anything in this world. A completed entity is one that has been released from its creator with a life of its own."
Darrel stopped, carefully placed the pencil on the table beside the paper, and then looked up at the ceiling. This character was being rather difficult. But he supposed the old man was right. There were many questions that needed to be asked.
"Why am I even bothering?" he finally spat. But thoughtfulness brought him back as he decided to expand on such an important question. "Do I really think I can succeed at this game of writing? Or is that not even why I write? I write for the process not for the product..."
He picked up the pencil and held it poised above the page.
He scratched the back of the pencil against his brow, bit his lip, and then continued.
"The way in which I make the decision is all that matters, isn't it?"
"Yes," the man said with a light smile. "Anyone can make the decision. But it takes someone great to decide for the right reasons."
Darrel stopped once more, pulled away from the paper, and wondered at what this old man was now telling him.
One practical thought presented itself. He was stalling. This dialog had gone on for some time now, and the reader still would not have a clue what the challenge was. Did it matter? The point of the scene was to show how the protagonist was dealing with his decision over the challenge. The challenge itself was still not important.
He thought deeply about his motives, asked himself many questions, paced to and fro across the floor, and then finally, he froze and stared down at the nearly abandoned paper. "I'm ready," he whispered. "Ready to commit."
"I'm ready," I said.
My wise old mentor turned his head. "Good. Make the decision then. Are you going to undergo this challenge or not?"