I posted this on a previous blog. It’s come to my mind again in recent weeks.
Sometimes I wonder . . . Did someone ever say to Mozart, “Ya know what, Wolfgang? I think that should be two quarter notes instead of one half note.”
Have you ever been lost for words in an emotional moment only to think later, “I should have said this . . .”?
Or perhaps you said the absolutely worst thing possible only to think later, “If only I hadn’t said that!”?
Or maybe you have thought, “If I could do that over again, I’d do it differently.”?
We don’t get to edit our lives before publication.Everything we do is first draft.
Anne Lamott encourages writers to “Write shitty first drafts.” She knows that getting something—anything—down on the page is key. Writers can’t believe that words are supposed to sprinkle gracefully onto the page in perfect pearly rows. We’d never get anything done, we’d be so frozen with apprehension.
A mediocre mess of an idea out there is better than a perfect pearly idea hidden.
Every day we meet people and choose words to speak to them. Sometimes we choose appropriate, helpful words. But sometimes we choose hurtful ones.
Every day we choose clothes and do our hair. Sometimes our wardrobe and hair could be on the cover of Vogue. But sometimes we manage only sweatpants and a washed face.
Occasionally life kneecaps us with unexpected blows. Sometimes we rise above it with wise, rational choices. But sometimes we solve problems with beer and a whiskey chaser.
We can’t edit our lives before publication, and that means our words and actions won’t sprinkle gracefully in perfect pearly rows. We have to live our delightfully shitty first draft and forgive ourselves for it.
Because one mediocre mess of a life out there is better than a perfect pearly one hidden.
Once upon a time a three-year-old boy sat in a church. At the front of the cavernous space, far away from him, an adult voice yammered on. The boy squirmed. Squiggled. Stretched out on the floor.
To entertain him, a woman handed him an activity sheet. It had a maze printed on it, full of dead ends and clever diversions.
Happy to have any distraction, the boy sat up and began to trace the path with a finger. He made his way through the maze with delightful disregard for the lines. After blowing through any twists and turns that might have blocked his progress, his finger reached the end.
He raised his arms in victory. “I did it!”
“Yes, you did,” the woman affirmed.
Why tell him that crossing lines isn’t always that easy?
Why burden him with the idea that some lines are best left uncrossed, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which ones.
Better to send him out into the world excited about obliterating barriers blocking his path. Better to equip him to cross the many lines that need to be crossed.
My final poem for Poetry Month. A tribute to people doing important, unacknowledged work.
Giants are the smallest men
As measured by scales of Job.
With poison scorn and fountain pens
They slash and jab to rule the globe.
In glass towers they strut and spit.
The height a craved collusion.
Fragility keeps them separate
In fantastical delusion.
For city smog mugs their glass
Dying skin cells dust book spines
Ink-stained downsizings fill the trash
And stains streak their ample Calvin Kleins.
The humble arrive and quietly hedge
Their mops, dusters and garbage bins
Around the small mighty who can't acknowledge
That cleaners are our greatest ones.
For this week’s post, I thumb my nose at a piece of writing advice. (Well, two pieces actually, since I just used a cliché.) Good writers, they say, opt for the word “said” during dialogue so as to avoid scenes like:
"Let's go to the movies," he posited.
"I disagree," she demurred.
Herewith, consider my nose thumbed.
“I want to climb that mountain,” she says.
The foothill lures her spirit,
Beckoning wide paths seduce her.
Flooded with energy, she skips.
“The path gets narrower,” she notices.
A switchback challenges her footsteps,
Scribbling tree roots trip her.
Worried but still powerful, she continues.
“Should I carry on?” she puffs.
The incline steals her breath,
Aching muscles betray her.
Depleted of oxygen, she schlepps.
“I can’t do this,” she whines.
An obstacle blocks her progress,
Darkening skies shadow her.
Deprived of hope, she sleeps.
“But . . . my goal is just there,” she awakens.
The dawn illuminates her next steps,
Daunting barriers dissolve before her.
Reinvigorated by inspiration, she climbs.
“What a view!” she cries.
A summit reveals her success,
Haunting memories flee from her.
Satiated with completeness, she savours.
“Now what?” she wonders.
The downward path answers,
Waning desire to remain prompts her.
Evolved for a new task, she descends.
“If I go down, I can climb a higher mountain,” she says.