Football and poetry have more in common than you might think. They’re both played on a field of sorts, each with its own specific rules, and each relies on teamwork. There’s a rhythm in the cadence of the QB, in the footwork of receivers. There are plosive sounds as vowels and consonants collide, not unlike the onomatopoetic nature of the game.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Most of us spend our entire lives in one body (at least I don’t think any full body transplants have been successful so far).
Day after day after day, for as far back as we can go, we have been us (and, see, right there, a few people grunted, “Don’t remind me!“). For many people being you is one of the hardest things.
Some of us might not even remember ever truly being ourselves.
I find that mind-boggling and understandable at the same time.
“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work
in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.” – Sharon O’Brien
Well, 2013 is officially over and 2014 is already under way.
I have to admit, 2013 certainly turned out a lot differently than how I thought it would when it started last January.
I learned some things this past year that were rather surprising and disappointing, but I was also reminded of a few important truths: people who truly care about you are genuinely glad for your success (regardless of how great or how small); they might not get what it is you’re trying to do, but they support you and encourage you anyway.
I was also reminded that challenges reveal a lot about the world we live in and a lot about ourselves.
It was much harder than I expected it would be to get my feet back under me again, but thanks to my family and to my friends, I managed to right the ship, so to speak, and to once again head in the direction of my dreams (slightly different dreams, or a different version perhaps, than I may have had to start the year).
That is love. That is a gift. That is why I am such a lucky man.
“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” ~ Calvin and Hobbes
I guess you could say this is a post about truth, whatever that might be, which makes it about fact and reality (double ditto whatevers), which makes it a post about perception, really, a post about point of view.
And what does that even mean?
Sure, point of view is a way of considering a thing, not limited merely to our sensing the thing, but involving an attitude as well (about the thing being sensed, yes, and often about ourselves).
Cold Hard Fact: sometimes the words we least want to hear are the words we need to hear most. Sometimes they provide us (or force us to take) a different point of view.
I suppose a resistance to the words we don’t want to hear might be a form of self-preservation (of the ego, at least, and maybe of one’s dreams). I mean, giving up on our dreams seems to be more common than chasing them once we reach a certain age (that sort of cynicism seems to be taking hold in adolescence these days which is such a terrible shame).
If you’ve somehow found a way to hold onto those dreams, to chase them, your dream-preservation response is probably heightened.
Given the myriad pressures on us from so many directions to put aside the dream (you know, to let go of the “fanciful”), for the pursuit of the practical, I get the inherent need to defend our pursuit, but not at the sacrifice of reason. After all, sometimes the perceived criticism, sometimes the feedback, the insight, the advice, the idea being shared with us (wanted or not) has merit.
Sometimes it bears, at the very least, a seed of truth.
Which is often also a seed for growth.
If we recognize it, that is. If we allow ourselves to perceive it, to consider it, to weigh it, to examine it from various points of view.
Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio write in the opening pages of their wonderful book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, that 90% of what we do as writers is “practice.”
Rather than contradict myself and spend several hours on a new blog post this week, I’m going to dedicate the next few days to practice. After all, I’m attending an important conference next weekend (Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference) and my goal is to have my revision of Xero completed by then so I can share it with the editors and agents I meet.
Of course, that means I need to spend all my free time right now reworking the manuscript.
I need to practice!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
It’s one thing to “plan” to follow your dream with “your one wild and precious life” (which might just be the hardest thing to do, really, considering all the pressure you’ll probably face to do everything but that), but having a vivid imagination, having something to say, even finally deciding that you’re going to be a writer, all of these essential things aren’t enough.
You still have to find a way to sit down and write.
After all, the rest of your life can make that very hard to do.
That’s why one of the very best things I’ve done for myself as a writer was to apply to an artist residency.
The semester I graduated from Spalding University, one of my favorite writers and mentors, K.L. Cook, sat on a panel about “Life After the MFA” and, while some people spoke about the seemingly insurmountable odds that stood between each of us soon-to-be-grads and our dreams of living as published writers (the sort of stuff they tend to leave out of the recruitment brochure of any MFA program, but a truthful aspect of the writer’s life), Kenny focused on things we could do from that moment forward to give ourselves the best chance of realizing our dreams.
He didn’t side-step the challenges. He nodded in agreement several times when other people were sharing rather grave experiences. He also chose to provide us with action steps we could take to move us closer to that ultimate goal.