When I was about twelve, my father decided that he would reward my artistic leanings with vocal lessons. You may not believe this, but these events informed the next twenty or more years of my creative decision-making. My teacher was a relentless old hag with immaculate silver hair, the kind of woman who taught because she could no longer “do” to any level of acclaim, I’d later surmise, a woman my father had hired as a fancy and special gift for a dorky middle class child in the burbs who most often sang along with the television and bought toy baubles at garage sales on the weekends. He hired her because the lady was highly esteemed and used often by the wealthier Junior Theater community, so the cost of each class was the rough equivalent of one of his arms or one of his legs. I could be assured he was likely paying for my erudition in scarified stumps, but I was an ungrateful slacker.
It was not that I didn’t like to sing; I even saw the point of doing it when not required, but this enjoyment wasn’t accompanied by zealous stage parents who wanted my thespian success at all costs. I was not so motivated for any theatrical pursuit. In truth, I preferred to read. I preferred to climb trees. I preferred to flip through magazines and drool over the delicious and scantily clad male icons of the entertainment industries, calling my friends to talk about them, i.e. drool together over the phone, check out page twenty-three and thirty-seven. Let me admit now that I was also a quietly perverse and angry child, as the children of divorce often are.
Each week, I showed up for my voice lessons, having narrowly remembered where I left the materials the week before, just in time to be swooped into the car and then ushered to the seat of this woman’s glistening piano. Once there, she would play and I would sing show tunes, and she, with a tape recorder ever-present, recorded my lessons for posterity. This was for my own use, she said. So that I could practice while we were apart, so that I could hear my errors again and again—and fiercely strive to eliminate them. “Eliminate the imperfections,” she said.
Let me put it this way: I knew I was the imperfection, but didn’t care overmuch about that, so, one week, angry that I didn’t care enough, she launched into the lengthiest and most debilitating diatribe a child could hear, about my various flaws and failures, that went something to the tune of: “You have natural ability, and your voice is not bad, but you are lazy! You don’t practice! You don’t work! You come here every week with lacking attitude and professionalism—and expect to be a success, well, let me tell you something, young lady, you will never sing on Broadway.”
At the end of that lesson, she gave me the tape with the recorded lecture and sent me home. I made no verbal rebuttal. A mostly nice child, a kind albeit slightly forgetful child, I was taught not to raise my voice to elders, to accept their lectures silently—but I was mad, so mad I decided I would never go to her stupid house again and that I was well-justified not to pour my all into singing because I had never wanted to sing on Broadway. But this lack of desire for Broadway meant, in her terms, I supposed, that I was both wasting her time and probably going to a special Hell engineered and specifically designed for slacker singers or artists--who were presumably to wait in the Hades Green Room in limbo, indefinitely stewing on the premise of their own unfortunate and amply noted mediocrity, perhaps replaying her tapes. I hated her, but I didn’t even sing in my shower for over a year. Her aggressive criticism had stung me to a point of painful silence.
Sometime later, still in Junior Theater sponsored by my father, I took a summer group class in voice and acting. We were singing West Side Story. The teacher, a man whose features I can’t really remember now with exception to his kind voice and light eyes, gave me a main role in the production we were to present to our parents at the end of class. While practicing with the others, I tried to do my best, but a sense of trauma kept occurring. Still, I practiced hard by myself. I enjoyed singing alone. I was honored by the instructor’s choice for me, and yet about a week before the final performance, he pulled me aside in the concrete hallway where I often practiced in solitude since I liked the echoes, and he said something that changed my entire understanding of myself as an artist and a performer: “Why don’t you sing like that when the others are singing? That’s why I picked you for this role. You sing so beautifully when alone. I want you to bring that voice from the hallway onto the stage.”
What I wanted to say, despite a rush of anxiety, was, "It's this throat thing I get when I have an audience, a dry crackly throat thing, coupled with a sudden inability to focus and an urge to flee, like my vocal chords are papery trembling strips supposed to be wrapping a dead body in a mummy's tomb--and I mostly want to get back into that tomb, to be very close to that dead body, hoping someone will shut the outer rock on me or something, where the daylight turns to lonely dark, and then I won't have to sing in front of anybody at all." But, I didn't say that. I stood there. I probably said, without believing myself, "I'll try." But, Oh, well, I thought later, hedging, considering, when I’m singing by myself, I feel free, playful, liberated, no one is watching me. I’m not on Broadway. No one expects me to be on Broadway. Still, at the memory of his confidence, I experienced the sort of tearful gratitude that is a mixed blessing because it is both an acknowledgement of what you can do—and a confrontation inside yourself about why you will not or cannot always choose to do what you'd like with grace, or to the best of your ability.
Later, I decided, I would possibly write musical theater, but I would likely not perform. At a similar era in my upbringing, just before I was a Jet to stay a Jet, though actually I was on the female side of the darker Sharks, my father, a folk musician and school teacher, had wanted to present me the gift of a different education that included the arts—which would have been attending the very artsy and prestigious Waldorf School in Washington for a year. This is before he moved south. I had taken horseback riding lessons in dressage that summer, and he wanted to give me the experience of creating art and learning in a school made by hippies for the greatest experiential liberation of young minds—or so it seemed organized to be—but the catch was I’d have to leave Southern California and live with him in Washington State. I needn’t say that these were hard times in my life, that there were a great many extenuating circumstances of familial conflict that would make this choice emotionally charged with far more than just my education, but I did not want to move north.
I return now to the idea of the formation of personal, creative decision-making. If I didn’t have a reindeer where I lived in Southern California, as the famous tale by Dr. Seuss goes, I’d make one instead. I would make my life my own arts campus, as best as I knew how. I hung onto the acting, but cursorily did the singing until the vocal coach of doom, and kept up with the reading. In high school and college, I did no further Junior Theater, but I performed in several plays. Regardless, no matter how many years had passed or how I might try to talk myself down from the horror of that woman’s rejection, each time I tried to audition for a musical, mysteriously, a few days before, I lost my voice. Since acting was my strong suit and the dancing parts of the auditions definitely did my klutzy self no favors, I had to accept that the enacting of musical theater and I would experience a somewhat permanent divide.
I began to write in earnest, favoring writing over painting and acting. I had other artistic influences and hobbies, but writing became my out and my effortful through, a final phrasing I mildly modify and repurpose from one of my stories due out the first of May from the debut issue of the Open Road Review, a dystopia tale from my forthcoming dystopia collection that is aptly and fittingly entitled for inclusion in this essay: “Please Be Careful with the Children.” As a growing child, what I liked about writing more than art made in other disciplines was that I could write in privacy. I needed no breathing models. I could write in any way and fashion I saw fit. I could make my own choices about which influences I would take and discard. Yes, I wanted to be a famous writer, but kept no stock in that—I hadn’t the connections. There were no Nobel laureates in my family, no already published authors. We had no private jets nor boundless resources—and I didn’t know the first thing about publishing or anyone involved in it. All I knew was that writing and reading made me feel alive. Becoming a “real writer,” or a real bunny (to which you may recall the Velveteen Rabbit aspired), was a somewhat remote dream on a distant horizon where the sun was also rising, somewhere for someone, yet remained sadly hidden from my view. Regardless, I knew I was more comfortable and happier with this medium than in that of open performance, and I knew I wanted to use my own words. I wanted to put words in other people's mouths. Sassy words. Seductive words. I also happened to be luckier with English instructors than I'd been with voice. At two times in my life, when the student was ready, the teacher emerged. The first of these two very generous creative mentors to convince me that writing was my path was my highschool English teacher Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue among other books. I knew her before she acquired such recognition, when she was still an emerging literary artist, singing largely for herself.
Many years later, while I taught the writing of freshman compositions for junior college students in Northern California, after I had received both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in English and Creative Writing, it was the confessions of my writing students that awoke me to the universality of my bad experience with vocal training. Pedagogical abuses of power did not simply confine themselves to singing instructors: “I had a horrible high school English teacher,” some of them said. “I was told I was terrible in writing,” others admitted. “I can’t do it well, have never done it well, and I don’t want to do it. I just have to pass this class.” Since English classes had pretty much saved my confidence and my soul, these words were like blasphemy in my ears, painful to hear.
Oh my God, I thought, like me, these poor people will likely go through their lives involuntarily losing their voices whenever they are asked to display them—unless I do something. I have the power to do something, and I need to do it now! I was irrefutably sure that these people were having that throat thing I got, but with their hands--and minds. The feeling was strong and present, but the clear idea of what to do was not forthcoming. How would I unteach several years of felt inferiority that blocked current accomplishment? I thought about it—and then I thought about it some more. I thought about it in the restroom, in the shower, in my car, at friends’ houses. I made instructive diagrams. I poured my all into course planning. “I am going to teach you to love reading and writing,” I said at some juncture, “but, what’s more, I am going to give every one of you permission to fail, as long as you try.”
They looked a little freaked out by this announcement, shifting in their seats, regarding their binders and the clock. “Not fail the class,” I quickly added. “Everyone who attempts and completes every assignment in good faith will pass this class. The only thing I ask is that you do your level best to ignore the voices in your past that made you feel your unique voice wasn’t worth hearing. In this class, you will learn how to punctuate because I can’t abide bad punctuation. You will learn how to express yourself. You will learn to acquire the cultural capital of never feeling that your written word can make you less than or other than those with whom you will compete on the job market.”
I admit, I have done a great many things with a half-assed fervor, but not this time. I was mad at those teachers who had so carelessly hurt my inherited students—mad for my students, and, remembering my past, mad for me. I was really, really furious and I don’t think I’ve ever been so mad in all my life. I wanted to find that old lady at her piano and hit her with an umbrella. I wanted to write her a long letter explaining how damaging and ridiculous her expectations had been on a child who had never agreed to nor wanted to participate in her agendas. I got heartfelt essays that semester from people who had not written in a decade. Sometimes, when I saw a voice being freed, a person let out of their own self-imprisonment, at home, I cried. This was when I realized: There is really no such thing as writer’s block, anywhere—there is only either exhaustion, apathy, or fear. When apathy or fear guide an individual, it is likely that he or she won’t do anything to create an interesting expression because to be so mindlessly removed or afraid is very close to feeling irrevocably frozen in the damned and unforgiving landscape of the paused.
I will not say that every student who came out of my classes that year was poised to become the most interesting writer of first-year composition ever to live—but I will say that, in the absence of fear of failure, in the presence of a warm supportive guide who wanted them to reclaim their rights as individuals who spoke their minds both in person and on paper, there were a great many breakthroughs for several of the wonderful students who frequented my class. I had the joy and distinct pleasure of watching them learn to improve, seeing them grow, helping them to regain what confidence and self-worth had been squandered by somebody’s early negativity or cruelty.
When I placed my eyes on their pages, I could give them the beautiful and daunting gift of being read with great attention. As a writer who has now published more than fifty short stories in many genres, a book of magical realism, and assorted poetry, I fully understand that gift. It is amazing and rewarding when you feel that anything you have to say, be it fictive or realistic, has been heard and appreciated. I even understand that it is a mixed gift you sometimes wish you could take back and hide under your bed like a trashy novel—especially if there are a lot of people looking at it and saying, “Hmmmm, very interesting. She’s totally whacked,” or, even worse, if they snipe quietly amongst themselves that what you’ve put forward is of poor quality.
The block experienced by a beginning writer is, after all, not so different than the blocks that might hinder those who do it for a living. But, believe it or not, when I woke up this morning and began to consider writing this essay, it was neither damaging vocal lessons nor my rewarding experiences teaching first-year composition that I pondered discussing: It was a question a friend asked me in an email yesterday afternoon about my process, about how to capture the lines that matter and keep the pen moving. My stunning first answer (issued primarily only in my head) was: Get good and mad about something. Anything. You will have plenty to say. My second, more practical answer was: Make a bunch of shit up, with complete impunity, and, by the numbers game alone, by the sheer effort or pages of your practice, some of it will turn out fabulously.
Let me state for the record that prolific production is something I have been noted for. People tend to think I am a whirlwind of incisive action, or blunder, I’d suppose. They wonder where I get my ideas and what liberates me to move from genre to genre at a blink. The only thing I can validly say about that is that after I decided that writing was my vocal instrument, I also decided I should take it seriously. Additionally, I come at it as a person with a working class background, meaning that I expect to work hard and I understand the value of daily practice. I don’t expect immediate success. I don’t even want such success. But I do want to talk about when I’m angry or passionately moved—yet as reticent as I was as a singing performer with an audience, I know that, even on the page, I can be no different from that sensitively overwhelmed singer now. I also recognize that to combat such fear of evisceration, or to take it to a stage of more remove, I have consciously taken one performance urge and moved it onto a platform that felt more comfortably invisible, from which I might provide full disclosure, but on my terms. Thus, I am pleased and delighted when words I put on paper find their ways into magazines, journals, or books—and thereby into the eyes and ears of other writers and readers—but, from these same words, to stay sane as I write them, as if they were but notes on a page of an ongoing draft of a half-written and drifting symphony, I have no great immediate expectations.
When expectations are low but effort is high, you’d be surprised what you might come up with. So, are you a writer or an artist--and do you want to be prolific, too? Oh, good. Sit down on my couch. I’ll tell you what to do: Go back to a learner mentality, as often as possible; read ravenously and react to the world around you. Do not expect every flourish of your pen to yield a Pulitzer Prize. Do not care what anyone else is writing—unless you are reading for enjoyment. Do not allow the criticism or praise from others to invest your craft with anything more than your glancing consideration. Write not to get ridiculously famous, but to express your personal truths and assert your right to be a thinking person in this world. Practice that self-expression as though you’d wanted to be a prima ballerina your whole life, probably since childhood, so could expect that your bones might grow wrong to create mangled feet and your toes would bleed raw from your toe-shoes with your practice--all before any grand performances could be had. Keep writing anyway. Keep dancing anyway. Also, internalize that a serious attempt at constant practice is and must be a part of the sacrifice that every aspiring and continually featured artist or dancer endures, both before and after the advent of his/her stardom.
I repeat: There is really no such thing as writer’s block—there is only either exhaustion, apathy, or fear. This applies to painter’s block, too. Sex block. Mind and body connection block. White and black polka dot block. Whatever block you may have.
So, on the subject of more advice, I would reiterate for the reticently productive among us: Please allow yourself to try anything you even remotely want to do—and allow yourself to fail however you’d best like to fail. Regularly. In the process, you will generate such a body of work that your happy accidents will be so plentiful you will have many things of interest to show to others. At the very least, you will know yourself better—and know deeply, know clearly, what you love about what you do and what you despise.
This is another theory of mine: It is necessary for any artist to do what they love because they love it—but also necessary to detach their egos from the end product when it comes to receiving recognition or regard. What to think about while at work sculpting that vase on your potter’s wheel is simply getting your hands dirty, making that vase. In the making of art, which is a soulful pursuit, one can be sure that the artist in the active process of creating was not likely simultaneously stewing on thoughts of possible future monetary compensation or competition. Such ideas should be saved for the less inspired times, while not creating--or, better, kept at a minimum and hardly considered at all.
As I write, I consider making my current project as good as I can--that is all. This is likely since my mother has drummed into my head, all my life, one simple expression, which she may attribute to slightly different sources at different iterations, all of which Hindu she assures me, but here it is: “He who compares himself to others will either be vain or bitter.” I now see the value of these words in a way that both helps and harms my desire to take my work to the top echelons of my field, for I really could care less about success. I have spent a lot of time writing. I have not spent huge amounts of time pursuing the business end of my practice. In my fashion, at my mother’s guidance, I have done all I can to avoid such notice or comparisons—because I love to create my art, and I write like a fiend, but I often avoid the daunting task of submitting my work because I don’t necessarily care about making its relative merits or flaws subject to the praise or criticism of others. I’m a sensitive artist, just like the cliché. I hate rejection and can only handle so much.
At one point in my life, acknowledging this shortcoming and trying to soften it, I even had the good fortune to hire someone to send out my stories. It’s not creating of art that kills me; it’s the no. Often, to justify the big body of work I’m sitting on while continuing to make more, I fantasize about creating just enough of a presence in the literary world so that while only a small part of my work may be released during my lifetime, the full body of my oeuvres will likely be published posthumously, so I need not endure the heady and devastating mixture of current day reactions from readers. As one can feel about any potential critics, I am scared of readers in the way that some performers are afraid of unseen spectators, yet I love them, too. They have used a part of their lifetime to get intimate with my thoughts—I feel great gratitude. This gratitude, when readers indicate that something I've written has moved or inspired them, is what compels me to put out whatever part of my work I do actively submit. I want to provide these readers with more.
On a related topic, I often read about what other authors do in terms of the submission and production of work. I am particularly curious about those who have had a daily schedule, like Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway, both publication giants—and I realize that one nice thing about the way that I work, despite the lacking way I tend to submit, is that I am comforted that I will never know the path of someone with a singular early success, someone who feels horrified they must live up to their reputation while creating their next work, without the accompanying experience of volumes and volumes written before. In my reading, I've been gladdened to find that both King and Hemingway write and wrote like there was no “one project” that defined them, other than the one they were working on at any given moment. This helps productivity as well. Keep your nose to the grindstone and what happens next is secondary to your continued path.
Additionally, I’ve read about writers and artists who are paralyzed with fear about how their career may go in its later stages, after continuous achieved success. Even Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in a Paris Review interview, speaks to the horror he's felt in terms of having expectations from a large audience while immersed in his creative path, how it can be restrictive, such success, and occasionally take away the fiery nature of creative freedom. More than once, I have listened to people’s spirited discussions about how some writer’s or artist’s late work can’t touch his/her earlier, more enflamed work in terms of resonance, universality, or palpable torment. Et, voila! My strategy for submission seems rather empowered here, too: At no time soon will I become one of those artists whose sudden success creates so much wealth and comfort that he or she has nothing left to say that will easily touch the common man. I have been a common man for quite a long time, with the accompanying relative poverty and back-breaking labor of such status, thank you very much. Thus, considering my process, about this problem, I feel generally assured that I am safe. My pen moves with the confidence of a person who refuses to care about her success more than she cares about the making of her art. Aside from necessary duties, relationships, and financial obligations, I often think that making my creations is my primary and all-consuming concern.
Right now, for example, I am sitting on a mountain of short fiction that will slowly be released as more is created, some newer and some older, yet this mountain alone would take at least a decade to be published in individual collections, even if on a regular, or somewhat accelerated, publication timeline. At last count, I think I have nineteen books worth of stories waiting for public consumption. If we’re counting viable books, probably closer to ten. I have failed with some efforts. There is much that needs an edit, or five. That’s okay. I have kept working because, again, about fame or acclaim, I still don’t care overmuch. Sorry, teach. I believe in the magical art of infatuation with the written word and frequent practice--more than about researching and caring where my work appears. I care about continuous expression, the pleasures of dedication, creative stamina, and a life of craft fully explored. One of my favorite literary quotes is from Toni Morrison, who says, "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Well, said, Toni. I will always write the books I want to read.
So, the beautiful and daunting gift of being read for me now, in this writerly incarnation, when I encounter it as published author, is that each of my books has the potential for both startling success and failure, but I’m no soothsayer or prophet. Alas, the newest one out might not be loved. It may never sing on Broadway. Or, perhaps, to the astounding surprise of all and mostly me, it will one day actually make it there—to the best of all theres—where it will be syndicated as a mini-series, published in twelve languages, or made into some major motion picture with a gorgeous actress playing the lead so I can either negotiate a commission to write the screenplay myself, or complain about how unlike the book the movie really is, but if such success comes later, via some piece of work generated before the moment in which success arrives, in the period subsequent to the arrival of such strange and uncomfortable new circumstances, during the time allotted for my working or writing hours, I will still likely be singing in the concrete hallways of my childhood, until I lose my voice again—because I love to sing, because I love the echoes, not because anybody is listening to appreciate me; because my mother told me it’s all an illusion, success and failure; and because she once paid me ten dollars as a child, the rough equivalent of two weeks of allowance, to memorize and recite a poem by Rudyard Kipling that highlighted the essence of her philosophy, the philosophy that I still believe in now, even if I never did get to go to that well-regarded Waldorf School for hippie genius children somewhere in the bowels of the forests of Washington, and even if Kipling's poem is actually addressed to a son rather than a daughter and supposedly about acheiving manhood--which I noticed but never paid much attention to rejecting due to its inappropriate gender identification--because I am Rudyard Kipling's poetic son, in spirit. I am Sylvia Plath's wary and hapless niece, watching. I am Kafka's maiden aunt, adjusting the doilies in his childhood home. I am Nabokov's Lolita-- and Salinger's suitcase-dragging sister. I am whomsoever I want to be. Whomsoever, my beloveds. Whomsoever...
And this is why I am who I am as an artist. I believe in working hard and embracing my right to speak or be heard. I believe in this right for others too. I am no slacker now, quite the opposite—and I really was no slacker then—I just wasn’t interested in the tasks at hand or the stifling weight of that woman’s expectations—and now, I am interested. I am interested in telling every person I can to disregard the demanding and horrid people who’d attack those less prepared or give them paralyzing issues about self-expression simply because their goals as instructors were more connected to inflating their own pedagogical egos than in teaching in harmony with either the fundamental curriculum or the expressed goals of each specific student.
In a strange way, I feel I should thank her now, this vocal coach. Thank you, oh cruel teacher. You have inspired a rebellion that is far larger and more elaborately branched due to my empathy, which has also grown as I’ve aged. I cannot even remember your first or last name, for which I am grateful, yet you have become the monster I seek to vanquish as I tilt the windmills of shame and unworthiness for the potential good of others. You have become a perverse child’s worst nightmare (and best lesson about what not to do)—but, take note, a perverse child listens very skillfully in backwards.
And so, if you are an artist who struggles with any sort of block, please allow this essay to give you permission, every time you seek to create art, to fail gloriously and without shame. Personally, as for me, each day I can, I go to my desk with a sense of pursuing the most beautiful verbal pirouettes or chaptered maneuvers my skills can enable, and even those they haven't yet mastered. I appreciate new growth as I notice it in my labors. I take chances and skip tracks, genres, forms, themes, whenever I want. I remember, each time I'm scouring GoodReads or elsewhere for books I may like, that there will always be both admirers and detractors for any author's style and voice, no matter how acclaimed.
As a person with a tiny bit of ego, yes, I am hopeful that one day I will feel I have earned the beautiful and daunting gift of being read by a very wide audience who may be enlightened by some small truths I may now humbly bring to my writing desk, but I’ll continue my work, regardless, as if I have no audience—because that’s where I revel and play best, alone, competing only and ever against myself, a pilgrim on my long and winding path.
My mother says, too, that it is important in any pursuit to remember that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. I know, even now, that this is something I will remind myself of later when I consider how I may react to my first savaged piece of long work that comes out to poor reviews down the line—or some later work published in my lifetime that may seem stunningly disregarded after a (currently hard to imagine) lengthy and illustrious continuous gravy train of success. Yet, I feel that love and hate are actually closeted, kissing cousins—while indifference is the cold shoulder that glances both into stupor in the crowded hall. For what is hate, or anger, if not a man’s vehement reaction to a robbery of love—the plangent and palpable terror at a love perverted?
So, as I have disregarded that woman’s importance as a teacher in my life and grown stronger from the experience, I will not let reviews impact my love for my craft, which is personal. I cannot worry about public reception now, or at any time while creating. After all, how many authors have died in poverty and perceived disgrace only to have their work celebrated and revered long after their time? Many. How many authors have self-published long before the self-publishing boom because they didn’t care if they didn’t have major support—they cared about the work? Surprisingly, many. If you don't believe me, read only the first half of The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. You will be astounded. Authors have both varied paths and relationships with their critics--and yet if, as sometimes happens, some aggressive received criticism plagued these authors so much as to cause them to cease their production, it is my view that they needed to shrug this off and treat the words of their critics with a larger wheelbarrow of salt--because who were they robbing by allowing those critics to win? This is not a trick question: Their readers—and themselves.
I think about this each time I get a rejection in my mailbox—and each time a story is accepted. I must keep practicing my art. I will not stop. So, for now, I can only fail as best and as frequently as I possibly can, give myself permission to flail around, which is somewhat similar in its daily aesthetic to dancing in the dark with a dresser. There will be some beautiful invisible motion to accompany these bruises.
But as Samuel Beckett is famous for saying, which I often remind myself before the ink spills again: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” I say this aloud to myself with a sort of perverse glee that only the truly artistically committed (read: ensorcelled) can understand and appreciate, sometimes adding a bit of derisive yet affectionately charming self-encouragement, like: “Hey! Hey, you—hey, slacker girl—hey! Quit your whining and pick up your instrument, lazy guts. Make it play a few bars for that audience of one you are so enamored of, in some possible preparation for a larger reception you might one day deserve IF you work diligently and fearlessly enough. But don’t dawdle. Say something. Anything. Now. Don’t be too bored, which is the most boring way that anyone can be, and don’t be too afraid. Say anything that matters. Say everything that matters. Juice up your nerves with some kind of passion or angst found nearby, from whatever source proves most readily available, and, then, sit there long enough until the idea comes. After all, you’ve done this so many times before, haven’t you--competing with yourself to earn the right to productively borrow the time of others? Yes, you are clear about what needs to be done here, and if you put your pen on paper, you can be sure that, before long, the lions or tigers of your psyche will hungrily enter the ring, snarling with menace, lunging and thirsting for your blood. And you will need to defeat them, right? Your throat will be bared again--you know that. So, defend your throat. Pick up your sword. Swing it around like a wood club aimed for bats in your belfry or a precision-point rapier that must be more accurate to effectively sink its prey. Listen with your heart to the people who love you. Borrow their courage. Yes, yes, I know you do remember.... Then you'll have something new and vigorous to say.”
Causes Heather Fowler Supports
San Diego Family Justice Center