Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughts Become Things ...

Many years ago – more than I care to exactly remember – I opened up a new document and typed at the top, "Signs I AM a writer."

And then I immediately hedged my bets and wrote, on the next line, "Signs I'm supposed to be a writer."

And then, on the next line, I wrote, "No. Signs I AM a writer."

And then I proceed to jot down a list, numbering as I went.

I got to No. 81.

Maybe it sounds like a silly exercise, but it was valuable to me. It helped cement in my mind the realization that I am, indeed, a writer. Not just a person who can string together a clunky sentence like so many big wooden childhood beads – after all, most people can write, literally – but someone who, without much effort, can turn out a delicate phrase or a vivid description or dialogue that is organic, as Mr. Sweeney, my Theater Arts teacher, once said.

To gather so many thoughts together in one place, to have one thought remind me of the next, and on and on and on, lent a legitimacy to my talent and reminded me that I have, indeed, been given a great gift.

The thing about writing is that I never struggled with it, and so, in some vestige of Puritan work ethic – though I am very assuredly not descended from the Puritans – I presumed that my writing must not hold any value.

For years, I renounced the notion that anything that came to me so easily was a gift that not all are given, that perhaps my path was being presented to me.

Instead, I struggled, trying to find the answers to "What do I want to do? What do I want to be?" I bought books, I talked to career counselors, I bent the ears of patient friends and my mother who finally said, in utter exasperation, "Beth. Just do something."

Thursday, I began a new list. Oh, I'm not saying I'm not a writer. I am. And I always will be. I am a writer the same way I am Polish, Serbian, and a smidgen of German. It's part of who I am, it's not something I do. I don't choose to edit everything I see. My brain just reacts. Involuntary editing. That makes me chuckle.

But, as I was saying, Thursday, I began a new list: Signs I am a singer.

I started with one sheet of notebook paper (yes, I still have notebook paper) and wrote a name on the left side of the page and what they've said about my singing in a blurb on the right. I stopped for the night when I got toward the bottom of the page, only seven entries in. Last night, I gathered a few more pieces of paper and kept writing. I stopped when I got to the end of the fifth page.

I write in pencil because I like the way my writing flows when I write with pencil. I like the softer line, the gentle grey of the graphite on the white page.

But the neat-freak side of my personality thought a typed list would be more tidy, so I typed my handwritten list into a document on my computer.

And then I searched my e-mail for the the word "singing" so I could compile a more comprehensive list. My search returned 350 hits. Not every e-mail contains something about me and singing, but many that I'd forgotten about do.

Marianne Williamson has famously written, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In my world, for the purposes of that paragraph, God = Universe, but the greater point is that I've long worried about how others would react to me if I was successful.

Isn't that funny? Instead of becoming successful and then determining if that success had any effect on those around me, I preemptively worried and held myself back.

How did I manage to forget the fundamental lesson, "You never know unless you try"? When did I become such a prisoner to the possibility of failure? Why have I hesitated for so long to ask others for help?

Happily, I'm slowly breaking free of those bonds. The other day, I drafted an e-mail to everyone in my life who has any connection music and the music business, asking them for advice about how to proceed with music, to find out what I need to know about recording a demo, and what to do once the demo is done.

And even as I hit Send, I knew I wouldn't hear back from everyone. Life is a numbers game. But a few friends did reply right away and fed me some excellent food for thought. And other replies will trickle in, I'm sure, as people sift through their in-boxes in the days and weeks to come. Still, others will never reply. And I will not take it personally.

On my office wall, I have many quotes. The most recent addition is from Confucius: "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." Flanking my monitor is a quote from Judy Garland: "Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else."

And above Judy, this reminder from Brenda Ueland: "Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable."

That means you, too.

Thoughts become things. Think good thoughts.


Blogger Mercurie said...

I remember when I was a kid, every year CBS would show It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And every year I watched it. I tried watching it again a few years back. I simply couldn't get through it all. I think epic comedy just doesn't work! Anyhow, I have to say, Charles was a good looking fellow. Wished I looked as good in a dinner jacket!

7:08 PM  

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