In support of joy
My writing friend Annie Scholl is writing an article about writing for Huffington Post. A week ago she reached out to me and a few other writers with a questionnaire about our writing habits. She’d heard we don’t write everyday like so many writing coaches and teachers insist we must. She wanted to know how we feel about that. I feel strongly. I write when I feel like writing and I don’t write when I don’t feel like writing. Probably my writing suffers as a result, but that’s ok. Yes, I’d like to be better at it, but I’d also like to be better at living freely and not worrying so much about whether I’m as good as I could be.
It also happened that I was doing my first-ever musical in town this past week. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I am. We have 3 more shows this weekend. The last time I was involved in community theater was in junior high. The local group put on The Sound of Music. I was on the crew moving sets around and I loved every moment. I still know all the words. It makes me wonder why I haven’t done this kind of thing all along. Several people told me I reminded them of Julie Andrews this week. It made me smile.
Annie’s questionnaire and my doing the play this month have made me think about why I do what I do. It’s all been so much fun. What I’ve enjoyed most is the relaxed playfulness of it all. There’s no pressure to be anything more than we are. We’ve worked hard, laughed a lot, and there are plenty of crooked dance steps and lost lines in every show, but the overall experience is joyful. I think that’s why I don’t write or play the piano everyday. I don’t see the point of writing or creating anything when I’m not enjoying it.
As luck would have it, I finished reading a book this week that addressed this issue. Muriel Barbery is a French writer whose books are translated by Alison Anderson. I loved Burbery’s first book: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, so I was determined to finish this second book, Gourmet Rhapsody, which I didn’t like as much. (The writing is exquisite, but the story revolves around food and wine, neither of which I’m particularly interested in). The main character is a renowned food critic who is on his deathbed. A single flavor from his past is haunting him. He can’t remember what it is and he’s desperate to know before he dies. The book is a catalogue of his favorite meals and their contexts. I wanted to know what his obsession was so I kept reading. My tenacity paid off. In the final paragraphs, he remembers the simple croquettes he ate as a boy –plastic-wrapped cream puffs he’d bought at the supermarket. (I think of the Tastykake butterscotch krimpets my mom got for us). After decades of snobbish writing about all the fine foods he’d eaten in his lifetime, he admits to himself, “I could have written about chouquettes my whole life long; and my whole life long, I wrote against them. It is only in the instant of my death that I have found them again, after so many years of wandering.”
When I read that I wondered how much wandering I’ve been doing.
L - R: Bev Allen, the director, and my nemesis in the play; Brooke Parrent, aka Olivia; and Katie Schepmann, aka Poppy. Katie and I did a duet called "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" Bev and I sang "For Good" from Wicked. Brooke sang "And I'm Telling You" from DreamGirls.