At some point on our writing path (or in many places) we will be stalled by doubt in our abilities. Our ship can sit in the doldrums for quite a while. There appears to be no saving wind to get us going on our journey again. But eventually the wind will come, our sails will billow and our ship will move. And, that is all that
|A good friend painted a section of A Sunday Afternoon|
for me as a gift. It hangs in my office.
My favorite musical is Sunday in the Park with George, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It is the story of Georges Seurat, the French artist who rose to fame during the Impressionist movement and created the pointillist technique of painting. This brilliant show is in two acts. In Act I Georges is struggling to make his mark in the art world, railing against the prevailing opinions of what constitutes acceptable art. His one supporter is his mistress Dot – a simple woman who cherishes Georges’ passion and loves him for who he is. In the pursuit of his artistic vision, Georges neglects Dot. Pregnant with his child, she leaves him. The end of Act I culminates in the creation of Georges’ magnificent painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte, which literally comes to life on stage.
Fast forward many years later to a contemporary setting just outside of Paris for Act. II. A young artist also named George is struggling to find his own niche in the art world. He is the great- grandson of Georges Seurat and Dot. He has fallen prey to the demands of making it in the world of art – finding backers, pleasing supporters, promoting his work. He is despondent. He wants to find something new, something original and all his own. George has a vision of Dot who appears to him in the same park where Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon was created. She addresses him as if he is the nineteenth-century Georges. They sing the duet , Move On.
Dot: Are you working on something new?
George: No. I’m not working on anything new.
Dot: That is not like you George.
George: I’ve nothing to say.
Dot: You have many things.
George: Well, nothing that’s not been said.
Dot: Said by you, though, George?
George: I do not know where to go.
Dot: And nor did I.
George: I want to make things that count. Things that will be new.
Dot: I did what I had to do.
George: What am I to do?
Dot: Move on.
If you’re not familiar with the musical, I hope you will watch the original production staring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, online. At very least, I hope you enjoy this link, featuring the song excerpted above: http://youtu.be/mvGQ0R_CTfo.
In reality, the secret to life is to keep moving. On some days it is easy and effortless. On other days we are stuck. We can’t see the way out of a predicament. As writers and authors, we can be slammed by the external demands of the publishing world. Write something new. No one’s buying vampire stories anymore. We want to be surprised. We want a mind-blowing concept with fleshed out characters. We want a plot that leaves readers breathless. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You can lose your mind trying to satisfy everyone. Then we have the internal voices that pick at our soul at night. I’m not good enough. No one will want to read this. This has been done before. You have to be super human to survive those roadblocks. After all, your writing is at the foundation of your identity. It’s what makes you, you. So you sit still, motionless. Stuck.
But you’re not stuck permanently. Life is about moving. Life is about surviving rejection, indifference, tragedies, death. Here one moment, gone the next are the ideas you thought were good, the reputation you earned through your previous writings. At times, it’s not pretty. And we’re not pretty, not neat, not together when we’re going through it. We feel helpless and horribly insecure. Just know you will survive. Just know that you will move, you will select a direction and even if it’s not the right one, in the end, the important thing is to decide and move.
I like to run through the latest releases in children and teen lit online. I marvel at the story lines and the characters. There are so many good writers out there. So many good books. But I’ll bet that every one of those authors had to talk themselves down off the roof at one time or another. I’ll bet they struggled. I’ll bet they asked themselves if their writing was unique or marketable. Someone once said, “don’t die with the music inside you.” These are wise words. In times of stress and doubt, remember that what you have to say is unique unto you. No one can say it exactly like you, no one can write the story like you can.
“Any thing you do, let it come from you,
then it will be new.
Give us more to see.”*
Move On, Sondheim and Lapine