Month: May 2012 Page 1 of 2

A certain fire

I love dance movies — first and foremost because I love dance, and second because if there’s any world as brutal, beautiful, and inspiring as writing, it’s dance.

Center Stage: Turn It Up — the 2008 made-for-TV sequel to Center Stage — isn’t the best dance movie I’ve ever seen, but it was a pleasant surprise. Kate Parker, a self-taught dancer from Detroit, moves to NYC to audition for the American Ballet Theatre and pursue her dreams of being a professional ballerina. Her technique is found to be lacking, but what she does have is a certain fire. The question is, will that be enough?

Tommy: One rejection and you’re gonna quit?
Kate: I’ve had plenty more than one, thank you very much.
Tommy: Okay, but you realize that’s what this business is about. Rejection after rejection after rejection.
Kate: Thanks for the tip.
Tommy: You’re welcome. If you don’t have thick skin and serious drive, you could just give up now.
Kate: Serious drive? You woke up one morning, decided to be a dancer, and 6 months later you’re at the best school in the country. You have no idea what it’s like to work your entire life for something and then have no control over whether you get it or not.
Tommy: What are you talking about? Do you know how long I played hockey? Do you know how many times I got smashed into the boards hoping some scout might find me?
Kate: Yeah, and you walked away.
Tommy: I didn’t walk away. I made a choice. I didn’t let somebody else make it for me.
Kate: What do you care anyway?
Tommy: Because you’re good. You’re so good.
Kate: You know, I thought I was good. I was so sure I just had that thing that everyone always talks about. So I packed my bags, came to New York, and I gave it everything I had. And guess what? No one else sees it. My father didn’t see it. Jonathan Reeves didn’t see it. If no one else sees it, you’ve got to think, maybe it’s just not there.

Tommy: I bet she’s proud of you.
Kate: I haven’t really done anything to be proud of.
Tommy: What do you mean?
Kate: Well I mean, all I wanted to do by coming out here was show her she can do anything she wants. And I couldn’t do it.
Tommy: Just trying’s all she needs to see.

Jonathan: Next time someone like me tells you you’re not what they’re looking for, remember this moment. Because whatever you had to do to get through that and end up here, is exactly what it takes to be great.

How I know

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Writerly Wednesday

In keeping with my recent theme…

1. “Like the Video? I Wrote The Book” by Tim Kreider

I didn’t care for the opening, but the last 4 paragraphs really hit it home.

If you’re a writer, you hang all kinds of adolescent hopes on the release of your book: that it will prove you to be a serious person, retroactively validate all those years of what might’ve looked to uninformed observers like indolence and drink. Your enemies will gnash their teeth, your exes will all be sorry and at last the long-awaited literary groupies will flock. You’ll see someone on the subway reading your book, and your real life will finally begin. But now that that long-anticipated day is almost here, after all that work and longing and postponed reward, I find myself unexpectedly missing the hard part, the boring part, the long slog to get here.

2. “Make Good Art” by Neil Gaiman

You. Must. Watch this.

Highlights: finding your voice, the 3 rules of freelancing, making art for money vs. making art for yourself, inventing your own rules, pretending to be wise.

A busy weekend

… of this:

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… and this:


… and this:

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… and a guest post for Writer Unboxed in which I say something a bit shocking:

Some people might view the change in my goals as a lowering of standards. For me, it’s about understanding and accepting my limits. I mean that in 2 ways. First: Neither literary acclaim nor blockbuster sales are within my control. That’s just the reality. And that’s okay. Second, and this may also be a reality: I might not be cut out to be a professional writer. After a lot of internal struggle, I realized that’s okay too.

To be honest, that post started out a bit differently. The point wasn’t just that I might not be cut out to be a professional writer, but that most people probably aren’t. However, it seemed safer/kinder to focus on my own soul-searching, and then let people see themselves in it (or not).

Also, to be clear: I’m still working towards publication. It’s just that I’ve realized publication shouldn’t be the benchmark for my happiness. If it is, I may or may not ever be happy. But if I focus on the writing, and I let that be its own goal, then I can be happy right now.

(Overcoming a mindset of 15 years is easier said than done, though.)


Back in March, I fell and injured my knee. There was no bruising, no bleeding, and no swelling. No bones were broken. And yet for some reason I couldn’t straighten or bend my knee all the way, and certain activities caused me significant pain. (Ex: getting in or out of a car, putting on or taking off my pants, climbing stairs.) On the outside everything looked normal, but on the inside something wasn’t right.

At first I feared that I would need surgery. To be honest, I wasted a lot of time and many tears worrying about that possibility. But several doctor’s visits — and even an MRI — revealed nothing to operate on. To my surprise, I was disappointed by that news. As much as I had dreaded surgery, I appreciated the concrete-ness of it. It was a solution. Once it happened, I could heal.

But that wasn’t going to be my reality, and no surgery meant no clarity. As of today, I still don’t know exactly what part of my knee was damaged in the fall. I probably never will. The only “remedy” my doctor could prescribe was time.

He also recommended that I try some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in my leg, so that those muscles could then ease the burden on my knee. I was assigned half a dozen exercises, totaling half an hour, to be done twice a day. They’re not even as strenuous as most yoga classes. How could this possibly help? I wondered. But after just two weeks, my range of motion improved, and the frequency of my pain decreased. Once again, on the outside everything looked normal, but on the inside things were happening.

It occurs to me now that much of life passes in this way: below the surface, making progress that can hardly be noticed, much less quantified. How close are you to getting that promotion? How much longer until you’re over that breakup? When will your panic and your joy over having a newborn settle into a comfortable rhythm?

Of course it would be great if there were clear, concrete actions that we could take to speed up these processes, but in most cases all we can do is press on and hope for the best. We may feel like nothing is changing, because we have no proof, no measurements. But even the tiniest of improvements add up, like grains of sand, building upon each other gradually, until one day you’re on a beach.

Even though I can’t see it on an X-ray or calculate it in numbers, I know I’m headed toward that beach. Someday I’ll be running across the sand full-speed, with no pain in my knee. I just have to trust that I’m making progress each day. I just have to give it time.

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