Open Your Eyes
One time as a kid, I tried to walk home from the corner store with my eyes closed.
I knew the way. My brother and sister and I stopped in often at the tiny grocery store with floor to ceiling products and cold, cement floors, always desperately worried that Marsha, the mean cashier with a mustache, was working, and at the same time buoyed in our courage by the lure of fizz candy and green, curvy, ice cold bottles of Coca Cola.
I memorized every break in the sidewalk and each pebble from thousands of trips back and forth from our house to the market. It was a straight shot, no turns, no need to cross the street.
Confident I could find my way home using other senses, I closed my eyes. As a child I subscribed to the notion that if I couldn’t see, then no one else could see me either. Creeping forward, I gained confidence, enlightened by heightened noises and smells. I smelled pine. I heard cars zipping by on the street. My feet kicked broken up pieces of gravel on the sidewalk as I meandered.
Within a few steps, I smacked into a tree. Dubbed by confidence, I had veered off to the left. The impact wasn’t that severe because I had been going at a turtle’s pace. But my forehead stung and my pride was hurt. My eyes, now wide open, darted around for witnesses. I ran the half block home to my mother in tears.
The Blinding Truth
Most of us who write, or who want to write, will recognize this story. We’re at a party, or out to lunch with an acquaintance, and we mention the book we are working on.
“Oh, you’re writing a book? That’s great. I want to write a book some day.”
You nod, take a bite of your chicken sandwich on rye, and wonder if your conversation partner realizes you’re talking about actually writing a book, not taking in nine holes of golf on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Here’s the blinding truth about writing: if you want to write, than you have to write.
Not only that, but you have to be willing to be humbled. You have to want to learn about craft, and building a platform, and countless drafts, endless revisions, fuzzy hours staring at a computer screen, keeping your butt on the chair in order to get the story down, and growing thick skin for rejections. Because rejections come, my friends. Oh, they come.
Earnest Hemingway said that we are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
There is always more to learn about writing, and the best way I can figure out how to learn is by keeping my eyes open, and realizing that it is going to take work.
Gloria Steinem said that writing is the only thing that, when she does it, she doesn’t feel she should be doing something else. If that’s you, if that is how you feel, well then, write.
But do it with your eyes open …