Today was a rough day for me in “writing world”. I won’t go into the details; suffice to say it wasn’t one of those days when I fly high on the act of creation, convinced I’m following my destiny into the blaze of a magnificent sunset. Um, nope. Not one of those days.
But, you know…somehow the thing that got me through was writing anyway.
Ever since I was about five, writing’s been the thing I do. Tonight I spent a couple hours going through old journals, stacks of typed poems, books of hand-written stories. Personal essays from writing camp, old, crumpled pages of stories about the flying squirrel that lived in my bedroom wall when I was little, and poem after poem about storms. I really had a thing for storms when I was ten.
As I was looking through all this old stuff, ruminating on today’s setback, I found myself thinking about a cheesy movie that came out when I was in college, called Center Stage. It was about a group of ballerinas at dance school. There is one scene that always plays in my head when I’m having a bad writing day, when the publishing industry is killing my soul, when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. I couldn’t find a clip, but basically the gist is…Juliet, one of the instructors, takes a moment to speak with Eva, a rebellious student who is always pissed at the director of the school. Juliet tells Eva that she’s right – that the director/choreographer is egotistical, callous, arrogant. But that it doesn’t matter. Because most directors are. She says that the unwise dancers blame the director, or their fellow dancers, or something else. But the smart ones return to what matters. She pats the dance bar…”here” she says. “They come home.”
I think her advice works just as easily for writers. When I’m feeling down, when I want to blame someone else (or myself) for my expectations not being met, for my failure, or even my lack of confidence in myself, I try to take a deep breath and write it out instead. Because the truth is, it isn't anyone else's (or my) fault. The world doesn't owe me anything.
And because, in the end, it isn’t about a book deal. Or having fans. Or even seeing my name in print. It’s about having something to say. It’s about the joy of putting words together, of watching characters come alive in my mind, on the page.
It’s about coming home.
This is a bit random but tonight, in my rummaging, I found a poem that I wrote the summer between high school and college. It’s pretty bad (apologies!), I have no recollection of writing it, and I can’t remember what was going through my mind at the time. Still, all these years later, something about it struck me.
I have never met a person
With straight fingers
Or straight legs
Knees and knuckles always
Get in the way.
Sometimes you can pretend
With gloves or jeans
But the deformity is always there.
Of course, people, I suppose
Aren’t supposed to have
Straight fingers or legs
But isn’t it always the impossible
We try to mold ourselves
There’s something a little sad to me about this poem. I find it interesting, knowing how insecure about my body I was back then, that I chose “straight fingers and legs” to talk about…I’m certain I never wished for straight fingers or legs. Cuter figure maybe, thinner thighs, but straight? But doesn’t that sort of go to the heart of the issue, just the same? The search for perfection, the fact that that search for the impossible doesn't really make sense?
We are, none of us, perfect. Not perfectly shaped, nor perfect writers.
And I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay that our knobby knuckles and knees get in the way. As long as we keep trying to get better, as long as we keep “going home”…back to the craft, back to the act of putting words on paper…”perfection” doesn’t matter. The knuckles and knees, the bruises and bumps from not quite making it up the publishing mountain – yet – are what make us beautiful.
Are there any words of wisdom or mantras you keep in mind for your rough days? Anyone besides me ever think about that part in Center Stage? Anyone besides me ever SEE Center Stage? ;-)