This evening, I'm thinking of all of you who have taken on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month; of all of you who have simply taken on the challenge of writing, or of reading deeply into books; and of all of us, together, who simply live up or down, each day, to the challenge of living. There are times when we need, when we want, when we can call on deep, inspiritive powers to us--and they come. There are times, as Richard Wilbur says, when the poem comes looking for you. There are times when outside forces urge, help us on in our work. There are times when the muse comes and sits gracefully on our shoulder or shouts into our ears. And there are times when the light shines on us, and we didn't even think to ask.
There are also times when it is uncomfortably dark.
I'd like to share a scene from my first novel--a scene that I wrote for many reasons, not the least of these being that I needed to be able to read it then, and knew that one day I would want to be able to read it, now. Here, from Chapter Ten of The Medusa Tree:
"One of the first things you learn as a dancer is how to 'spot.' To 'spot' is to fool your body. It's to keep your head fixed in one position while the rest of your body turns--then snap it, flashing around, to catch up with yourself again. This is how a dancer keeps from getting dizzy. One turn equals one spot. Two turns--two spots.
"My first teacher settled our small round shoulders in a row . . . 'Now,' she said, 'you must always look forward. You must always pay attention. You must try not to lose sight of your face. Like this. Look in the mirror. Spot and turn! See yourself again. Again. Spot and turn! See yourself. Spot and turn! Spot and turn!'
"We wound our bodies carefully, twisting them like springs . . . Then she turned us all away from the mirrors. 'Now,' she said, 'you say to yourself: What will I do, like this? What will I do when I get on stage, when there is no more mirror, no more spot? I won't lie to you--it can be frightening. You will feel like you have no balance. You will feel like you're going to fall down, down, down, right into the orchestra pit. But you have a choice, before this happens. You can look inside yourself. Do you see what I mean? You can imagine, inside your head, the face you always saw in the mirror. You can spot from inside your head. . . '"
There are times when we must still and center ourselves for our work, when no one, and no thing, can do it for us: except, perhaps, some image that we choose to carry with us, to have ready when we need it--an image. maybe, we have made for ourselves, for this purpose.
Consider taking some time, when you have time, to find your own 'spot.' Perhaps you have already written it? Perhaps it waits within you? Now bring to the surface. Turn.
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