Risk is absolutely important in becoming a master. In fact, in acquiring any skills at all. Because you have to leave the rules behind and stop doing what one generally does…doing the standard things. You have to push out into your own experience of the world. You have to do something that the rules don’t tell you to do so that you can start to learn to get tuned into the particular features of the situation. – Being in the World (documentary)
Jane Spigarelli, my beautiful friend who passed away last September, was always trying to teach me the importance of having a Plan B. The idea of a Plan B never crossed my mother’s mind, or if it did, she never taught me to have one. So, until I met Jane, the idea of a Plan B never occurred to me. But once, during her illness, Jane asked me to post this song on a blog which kept us informed of her treatments and remissions and meetings with remarkable people. Strangely, I had planned to post it to her on the exact day she requested it. I know. It’s not even a bad example of a Plan B…what can I say?
27 April 2013. Someone told me privately they didn’t understand why I wrote this post. In part, it was because I love this song and loved that my friend Jane requested it the day I had planned to post it to her. And, in part, because creativity (being diametrically opposed to cancer…though cancer can be perversely creative) has a singular direction which is relentless in its pursuit of fulfillment. This second part is how I always thought of and saw my parents. They never stopped following the direction of their inspiration until it was realized. No Plan B for them. Ever. And for my friend, Jane, in the end, there was no Plan B for her, either.
Yesterday, as I was working on my current project, I realized how much this story is chomping at the bit to get onto the page. I felt almost stressed that I don’t know enough at this point, in order to write it. For the first time in my life, I am aware of the impatience of the creative impulse; that being mortal, and in need of dinner breaks and sleep, I am a slow learner!
Why does a writer write? Because a writer has a talent for it. Or, if not a natural talent, a passion to cultivate one. I often think of Van Gogh, whose work I have grown to love as I get older. I was never keen on it when I was young. A few years ago, there was an exhibition of his drawings (and a handful of his final paintings) at the Met. I realized he had given everything of himself to transform what was little more than a mediocre talent into a new narrative of line and colour. He sold only one painting during his life. Today, he is called the father of modern art. That stays with me, when the going gets tough.
I had to listen to this in stages because it’s long, but it is really good. American Icons: Moby Dick.
It made me want to read Moby Dick properly, instead of the shoddy job I did with it as an undergrad. The week Moby Dick shared my dorm room was the same week Anna Karenina took up residence. I experience the sensation of sea sickness merely thinking about the motion of boats….which means (sadly) I could never visit the water rat of Wind in the Willows. Based on this small but uncomfortable fact (and the lure of siren to be swept into the ache of star-crossed love that Anna Karenina captures so sublimely), it is not hard to figure out which guest received my undivided attention that week.