in her memoir, grand obsession, perri knize writes of her year-long search for The Perfect Piano. she eventually finds The Piano, refinances and remodels her house to accommodate it, but alas: when it arrives, the magical sound is gone. but the memory of that sound and the way she felt when she played that particular piano fuels her as she embarks on a journey that takes more than three years years, fills her with a plethora of knowledge about things she’d never heard of, and enlists an impressive cast of characters to “fix” her piano, to restore it to its rightful sound.
its rightful sound.
last friday, i started writing a post about the arts, and as so often happens when writing, i wound up writing something totally different. instead of a little ditty extolling some of the oft-overlooked benefits of participation in the performing arts, i crafted what i can only call a flapdoodle on what, exactly, constitutes power. is it letters after a name? a title? a hat? the number of people you have on staff? your appearance and how you carry your pocketbook?
perhaps it was the spring fever of writing that had me feeling near ready to explode, to break out, to lose the lid. in person, i’m, well, not to jinx it into dried-up dust, but i’m funny.* and a bit on the irreverent side. the things that other people are too nice to say have a way of parachuting right out of me. that’s when i’m audible. when i write, i’m ever cognizant of who might be reading this and how it might be received, so when i turn funny in writing, it kinda’ goes flat on account of over explaining every teensy little ole’ thing.
i like making people laugh, and i happen to believe there can be much important stuff like perspective and philosophy cloaked by humor. anyway, there i was, writing seriously serious about the often unseen value of performing arts when my fingers turned flapdoodle on me, and i have to tell you we had ourselves a big time, my fingers and me. then i up and mashed the “publish” button before i could talk myself out of it, and i smiled my way through the rest of the day.
see, usually i’m a little too tentative, too scared of smackdown to post anything i feel like isn’t going to be well received. but since being on twitter, i’ve met women who make me feel comfortable enough, safe enough to mash “send” because i know they’ll be patient and accepting . . . even though they might actually wonder if i’m in dire and immediate need of an exorcist.
still smiling and riding that wave of powerful confidence, i read julie daley’s post and cut loose with my heartfelt comment before i could stop myself from sharing a story that has chapped my butt since it happened. julie sure nailed it when she said it sounded like i was having a fireball day. fireball friday: yes, yes it was.
i rode the night out feeling this surge, wondering if it was really power i was enjoying, not caring what it’s called, just delighted to have it trespass. friday night i happened upon an upcoming writing workshop that required participants to submit some 20 pages of a memoir for discussion, and i – the one who consistently says “pass” when it’s my time to read, to share – i printed out the registration form, determined.
but then came saturday morning. oh lord.
i had to make a decision, and i made the wrong decision. wrong because i didn’t listen to myself. i heard that songbird of confidence – i even stopped the guy’s hand as he was going to note my selection – but i talked myself out of it, and let me tell you: i crashed and crashed hard. for 24 hours i replayed the scene over and over and over, knowing i could not undo it. it was nothing short of agony.
the good news is: it’s an inconsequential decision. totally, absolutely inconsequential as far as end results go.
the bad news is: that sweet surge of confidence is questioned, diminished, and bruised. the full-body smile is gone, dissolved into a vague memory. i listened to myself on friday and soared. didn’t listen to myself 24 hours later, and splat.
what went wrong? did i cross the line from confidence into cocky? i don’t think so. did i over-rate friday’s post? well, maybe it wasn’t my best writing – it reads a bit on the manufactured side in spots – but no. was it just the full moon? i certainly am positively affected by the full moon, but no, this was clear: i took a risk. i did something i wouldn’t normally do, and i was absolutely okay if it wasn’t well received. for the first time since becoming a word traveler, it was enough that i wrote and published it.
what do i do, i asked my manchild last night. the first paper i wrote in grad school cracked the faculty up – shoot, they asked me to submit it to literary journals for publication. (i didn’t.) do i forget funny and stick to serious, reflective tones? do i keep trying the funny, knowing that writing humor is different from doing humor? do i do both ’cause i am both?
can both humor and reflection be my rightful sound, or do i have to choose cause it’s now freshly documented: choosing is not something i’m ‘specially good at.
* now that i’ve called myself funny, we both know i’ll never again get so much as a smile. sigh.