Writer’s Musings: Butterflies & Unlit Fires

“A creative life cannot be sustained by approval any more than it can be destroyed by criticism.”
― Will Self

The Little Hungry Caterpillar is one of the most well-known children’s stories of all time, one that has been around long before I was the one young enough to be reading it. Spoiler alert: In the end, the caterpillar goes into a cocoon and becomes a butterfly.

It’s a lesser-known fact that caterpillars do not go into a cocoon for their transformation. It’s their close cousins, moths, that cocoon away in silk. Butterflies find their homes in a chrysalis—similar on a visual level, but made of their pupa form.

But the popular narrative of butterflies emerging from a cocoon does no harm for children of this age. In fact, the correction to a favored childhood story takes out some of the joy in the activity. There comes a time where yes, children should learn the difference between a cocoon and a chrysalis because there is power in words. But for a child, the purpose is the same—it’s where the butterfly transforms. That is the lesson: change. Everything else is decoration.

As we become adults, there’s another lesson to be learned from The Little Hungry Caterpillar. There will always be those to remind you: It’s not a cocoon. It’s a chrysalis.

Sometimes when we share stories we’ve written, or stories we’ve read and loved, the reaction we’ll get from those we share it with might be a letdown, like a fire unlit. Much of this time, it comes down to the decorations—the chrysalis. The things that we don’t see or don’t bother us in a story because they’re unimportant in our eyes may become eyesores to others.

A lepidopterologist may see the cocoon in The Little Hungry Caterpillar and die a little inside every time. A stay at home soccer mom who raised four kids on the book may see it and have only fond memories. They simply have different eyes.

Don’t let someone else’s sight get in the way of your enjoyment. At the end of the day, it’s just a chrysalis. Enjoy the journey, and remember, the rest is just decoration.

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