Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yes, it's always like this

A while back, I somehow fell into the job of costuming for a dance company. It isn't anything I'd ever intended to do. 

Every show presented more technical challenges. How to get the pleats to lay flat? How to secure the boots that were too loose? How to ensure that a girl's top stays in place? All these little details that I had never thought of before. I mean, who thinks of these things? Well, now I think about these things. But that wasn't the biggest challenge. 

You see, I didn't grow up as a performer. I did a couple of plays in high school. Small shows and I had very small parts, which was fine by me. Now, suddenly I was involved in these huge productions with elaborate and expensive costumes. Hundreds of pieces to keep track of and repair and replace. It all seemed pretty straightforward and each show started out that way.  Alas, it never went as easily as I planned. Things were torn, or misplaced. There were last minute casting changes that led to last minute alterations.

Early on, one show went especially wrong. I hadn't thought about that evening in a long time and then I read Maisey's post and it all came back to me in sharp detail. It was one crisis after another all night long. I literally didn't sit down before my name was called again by panicked dancers - Torn pointe shoe ribbons, tights with holes, makeup stains, ripped tulle, lost headpieces, tears and stains, glue and thread and needle.  Finally at the end of the night, the star was back on stage - neatly sewn into his costume with the broken zipper - and I turned to some of the veteran performers. They were celebrating our success in getting everyone back out on stage on time. The audience had no clue how frenzied we were back stage. My hands shaking with an excess of adrenaline, I couldn't see anything to celebrate. "Tell me it isn't always like this," I said, half-joking. I wanted some reassurance that some day I wouldn't have to do this, some day in the not too distant future I would get it right.

They assured me that it was indeed always like that, and if you were very prepared and very lucky, the audience never knew. It was one of those moments when the world shifts around, like a kaleidoscope, and suddenly you see a different pattern. 

I wasn't supposed to get it right every time. It wasn't supposed to be done. I wasn't supposed to be done. Being accomplished didn't mean being finished. I carried that thought with me out of the theater that night and it quite changed the way I thought about my life.

I'm not perfectly organized or getting everything right. Every single day is an adventure. I'm making it up as I go along.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Words Are Not Me

I was playing around on twitter a bit this week, but still managed to get nearly everything I wanted done. It was a bit of a surprise since I've kept up for once with nearly all the blogs I've followed, chatted with people about their holidays as well as been super busy with my real life obligations. One of the things I saw this week was yet another author having a meltdown over a bad review. It doesn't matter who or why it was this time. All of these incidents have a certain sameness to them. I always worry about these authors. I used to think it was because I doubted they had any true friends. You know, the kind we all need; the ones who will tell you to knock it off when you are making an ass of yourself.

Then, while I was messing around making jokes and reading #engineersmut on twitter, I saw a random tweet.

Camryn's words made me think of the narcissistic way some people love their own creations: their writing, their painting, their kids even. It can never be anything more to them then an extension of themselves. This is why so many writers are struggling with the bad reviews. It's not the reviews themselves, which often seem unremarkable to me. It is that the author is taking the criticism of the flaws in their work as comments disparaging them as a person. It's crazy-making to do that and can't lead to anything except the sort of public bad behavior that has become all too common.

Not everyone will like my writing. And that is okay. It's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean they are stupid or wrong. But it doesn't mean that I am either. Art is so personal and intimate that every individual experiences it in a different way. Just because someone doesn't like what I write, doesn't mean that they dislike me. It doesn't mean that we wouldn't have a wonderful time talking and laughing over drinks or that they think I'm inferior somehow. And even if they do think that, it doesn't have to bother me.

Writing becomes a visible manifestation of your intellect, your heart and your soul, but it is, by it's very creation imperfect. It's not all of the writer, or even all of the writer's vision of the story. Courtesy of the ever lovely Lynn Raye Harris, I found this little book on writing by Ann Patchett. She writes at length about the process of creating a magnificent story in your head and failing to capture it properly as you wrestle it onto the page. I feel it is exactly like that for me. I know that what I've ended up with isn't as shining and beautiful as the story I've created in my mind. If I could ignore it and go on with life I would, but it plagues me until I bleed it out onto the page. While I'm writing it, I pour my energy into making it as good as I possibly can, but then, I try to let go.

Because the words on the page are not me.