11/13/2010

What's Your Aim?

Had breakfast with a writer friend of mine this morning. Always wonderful to spend time with her because she's a working writer with a big spiritual heart and a very real sense of her humanness, meaning that she knows that she doesn't always know the answers but that she can find them if she looks for them. She has a wonderful sense of quirky humility that I don't often find with either 'spiritual' folks or 'literary' folks.

She asked me how my writing was going and unlike my encounters with other writers, I don't have to put on a brave face for her, don't have to worry about 'putting the negative' out there for the universe to fulfill in some strange teachable moment. She helps me practice honesty and hope at the same time, to experience frustration without letting the frustration take away from the experience of living. She lives her life this way and I'm really glad I can learn from her bravery.

So she asked about my writing and I told it straight - I'm improving, writing everyday for the past four days, but the Hawaii project is stalled. There's a lot of working things out happening during my writing practice and it's taught me a few things - like how I'm afraid that my younger self will seem whiney and incapable on the page, how I really want to tell her story and see what transformed her into the me now. How I doubt that there has been any significant change. How I'm having trouble finding that particular tonality of voice that is the voice of my younger self. How just writing isn't working (you know, that old saw of "just keep writing and it will all work out" Polyanna stuff that just makes me nuts).

I told her about drawing comparisons between how I prepare my stories for performance and how I write, and how my preparations yield me the most creative stuff and if that's true, how can I bring that mastery to the page? What I discovered this week is that I really do need to know how a piece ends, the theme I'm pointing at before I start filling in the scenes or the writing just falls apart. She and other writer's all look at me like I'm really dense - Write it out and it will reveal itself to you, they say. And my jaw sets and I felt unlistened to.

I found a quote today that sums it up really well "The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it." - Mal Pancoast. The target is the theme and the ending and as we talked, she also helped me see that it's also the audience, the community I want to engage.

There's two kinds of audiences I've encountered so far - ones that just love a good story and ones that want to hear a story that fit a particular theme that they are passionate about. I can tell to both kinds of audiences, but I have to 'read' them first. That's what I do just before I go on stage, I read the audience - are they tired? bored? wanting to sit back? want to be engaged? Where are they coming apart, feeling isolated? How can I bring them together into a singular experience? My story is the vehicle for creating a community, a shared experience that hopefully they'll come away with feeling more hopeful, lighter, more able to handle the challenges they face, and maybe, just maybe they'll come back and the same people will be there and we'll have a continuity of community.

So I'm realizing that I might not know exactly what my audience is - moms, FilAms, writers - but they are there, because they are part of me and I am part of them. True Kapwa. So they need validation in the midst of tragedy, they need to know they can survive, that their little triumphs are incredibly important, that their story doesn't have to isolate them, even as I am talking about isolation and fear and despair and anxiety. That you can find love even after the fact.

To fall in love again, to finally fall in love with being a Mom. That would be cool. To recognize the importance of writing as integral to that journey of falling in love. That by not being able to write for so long has robbed me of having that experience.

So I guess that's what I'm aiming for and yep, the writing revealed it, but not exactly as others would think. And that's okay, because above all, I'm all about making sure people do what's right for them, so they can be the wonderfully unique people they are.