I’m sitting down to write without really knowing what’s going to come out. I’m doing this because I tend to obsess over what I should write about, and whether I can carry through the thought to the end, and whether anyone will get what I’m trying to say, and whether what I write will sound like just so much metaphysical/spiritual drivel. Who wants to read this stuff, anyway? And, of course, all this fretting keeps me from writing. (I’m sure plenty of you out there are nodding your heads, being well acquainted with this state.)
On the other hand, I’ve always done well with assignments and deadlines. When I was the dance writer for a weekly publication here in NC, I was invited to participate in the American Dance Festival’s Dance Critics Conference. The format for the conference was that we would attend performances by modern dance companies from all over the world, then immediately return to a room full of computers and write our reviews in the space of an hour and a half or so.
When I learned this, I panicked. After all, I’d only been doing this for a year and a half, and I’d pretty much lucked into the job, and I was used to writing for a weekly. I was used to having a LOT of time to edit and rework what I wrote. What the hell would my reviews be like with only an hour and a half to complete them?
Pretty good, as it turns out. I mean, we’re not talking Pulitzer here, but the reviews I wrote during those three weeks were well written, with sound, well-supported observations about the performances. The other part of the conference format was that, once we’d completed the reviews, the conference leader (a former New York Times dance critic) would make copies of all the reviews, and the next morning, we would sit in a circle and critique each other’s reviews. Mine were generally well received. Even the conference leader had good things to say.
I came away from those three weeks thinking that maybe I was a “real” writer, after all. I went on to write dance articles and reviews for another 10 years, and during that time, I received some nice comments about my writing from some people whose opinions I respected, including another New York Times dance critic. Then I stopped writing about dance, and when I did, I more or less stopped writing. Journal entries and marketing stuff for my clothing design business were about it.
A few years ago, I began writing again—communications stuff for a ballet company. Press releases, ad copy, playbill bios, grant proposals, etc. It stirred up the writing juices, and I realized that I missed writing. More specifically, I realized that I missed writing stuff that I wanted to write.
However, I’d realized over the years that I do actually do better if I have an “assignment” and/or a deadline. So I started this blog, the purpose of which was, at least in part, to give me the structure I felt I needed to start writing again. After all, if people are reading your blog, you have to give them something to read, right?
But this past year, my life got crazy, and the quotes du jour were so convenient, and I started second-guessing my writing. It’s been slow going, but I’ve been trying to work my way out of that. The other morning, I sat with my guidance journal about my writing struggles, and what came back to me was that I didn’t necessarily have to finish a post in one sitting. Which is true, but since I currently have something like 38 unfinished drafts in my folder, clearly that’s not the solution in this particular case. The solution? To quit obsessing and just write.
So here I am, sitting and writing. All I had when I started was the title of the post, which came from something I read by author Lissa Rankin on Facebook just before I sat down to write. She was talking about the Universe stepping up and engineering change in our lives when we don’t “get” the more subtle message that it’s trying to send us (quit that soul-killing job, leave the awful marriage). At the end of the post, she talks about how, when things have gotten that serious, when the Universe has said, “Enough already! You’re not listening, so we’re taking over!”…when it’s gone that far, she says (and she’s right), all you can do is throw up your hands and surrender. You stop fighting, and you just go with what’s been put in front of you. When I finished reading the post, I thought, “It’s all about saying yes.”
And then I sat down and wrote this post. Which I guess is about saying yes, too. At the Dance Critics Conference, when I was faced with what I thought would be certain disaster, I could have chosen not to participate, not to take the risk of failing. Instead, I said yes. Yes to pushing myself, to stretching myself, to growing beyond what I thought I was capable of.
And this is exactly where I am right now, today. After struggling mightily to resist what my inner being was trying to tell me these past couple of years, I’ve finally come to the place where I know that I need to simply let go and say yes. Yes to the little synchronicities, yes to the people and opportunities put in my path, yes to the little whispers from my inner voice.
Yes to the Universe arm-wrestling me into listening.