Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Counting Our Chickens

An old man and a young man were travelling on a train, when the young man asked the old man, “Pardon me, sir, but do you have the time?”
The old man didn't answer, so the young man rephrased, “Sorry to bother you, but do you know what time it is?” The old man kept silent.
Seeing a watch peeking from under the old man’s cuff, the young man couldn't help himself. “Sir, may I ask why you won’t answer me?”
“Young man,” said the old man, “This is the next to the last stop on this route. Shortly after that comes the last stop. I don’t know you, but if I answer you now we’ll strike a conversation, and at the last stop I will have to invite you to my house which is right next to the station because it is dinner time and my wife has dinner ready. You’re good looking, and my beautiful daughter who’s home from college will be there. You’ll both fall in love and the next thing we know you’ll get married. So you tell me- do I need a son-in-law when what I could really use is a new watch that actually keeps the right time?”

I thought of this old Jewish joke because it occurred to me how in life we often admonish ourselves not to count our chickens before they’re hatched. Not to think of a submission becoming an offer and an offer becoming a contract. You’ve just sent the query, for goodness sake.

But when we write we do the opposite- we must think ahead, well ahead. Even if parts of our story are a surprise to us as well, deep down we know the story. At least for me, a story’s outline is the first step, and the chickens are counted before they get hatched.
© Erica Aoyama 2003
Don’t dream about this; do dream about that. Here’s it’s crippling; there it’s a must.
Just bits of existential ponder on a Tuesday morning.


  1. Fits well with some of the devotionals we've been reading here recently about trusting the future to God. But, yes, writers do need at least a bit of a plan--with the flexibility to go in different directions if their characters insist. :)

  2. I love that story and the power of dreams ... it's what helps me to keep going. So count those chicks.

  3. I think you do have to look ahead and that's okay. I think of it as being hopeful.

  4. Cute story! I just read Katie Davis' book 'How to Promote Your Book" (which I don't have) but it is kind of that same idea...start promoting before it's a book.

  5. Great post, Mirka. I wouldn't get anywhere if I didn't set a few goals for myself. Just never thought of them as chickens, but now I will. I think it's time to fill my basket with a few now. =)

  6. Love that story. We tell ourselves not to, but we still secretly do, and then we chide ourselves for getting our expectations up. Still, some planning ahead must be done. A strange dance.