writing is a choice.

VerbTribe has been an extraordinary journey for me as a teacher, and for those who have joined it. As we close our first 37-day journey into writing, I am featuring writing from VerbTribe members here on 37days. Writer Sara Rae Lancaster offered us this food for thought about writing. You can find more of her writing here.


Connecting the “Dots”: why my writing matters

In the movie “Stranger Than Fiction,” the character Harold (played by Will Ferrell)
begins to hear an author inside his head narrating his life. It’s maddening for the
character, but I sort of find this concept delightful. Imagine that! My very own
personal author to capture, sort and make sense of the endless stream of ideas
and thoughts that swim through my mind on a daily basis! Oh, wait. I do have an
author. It’s me.

So why, then, do I not capture those ideas? Why don’t I trap them on paper as
they happen? Why do I continue to engage in this constant state of conflict—the
ever-present hesitancy to write waging against the desire to write, the ability to
write and the growing fear of what may never happen if I don’t.

One way I’ve learned to fight this resistance is through a little game of “Connect
the ’Dots’,” in which I think of my favorite story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L.
Frank Baum, and connect all the events that happened as a result of the author
putting his story about ‘Dorothy Gale from Kansas’ out into the world.

For those who may not be familiar with the history behind the beloved children’s
book, and later treasured film, the original story began as nothing more than
an expanded bedtime story Baum first told his four sons, and later the other
children in their Chicago neighborhood. It wasn’t until his wife, Maude, urged
him to record the tale that Baum finally transferred the story from his head to
paper. This simple act of Maude telling Frank to “sit the hell down and write” (ok,
she may not have used those exact words), and his choice to make the time
and space to do so, set into motion a domino effect I’m sure even the Great and
Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself could not have dreamed.

For example, had Baum not said the words he longed to say, would the name
Judy Garland possess any recognition? How many families would not have
the memory of gathering around the television set each November to watch
the annual broadcast of the story’s movie version? And what about the many
movies and books that have made reference to the iconic film with phrases
such as, “There’s no place like home,” or “I’ll get you my pretty,” or, how could
we forget, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The blockbuster
musical “Wicked?” Never happened. And Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road” may have been “Farewell Black Asphalt Highway.” Definitely not as
catchy.

On a personal level, if Baum never wrote his story, the musical at my local
community theater would never have happened, which means I would not have
met the amazing, life-changing friends I did during those performances. Years
later, I would never have traveled Route 66 for one of my first major freelance
assignments, writing about historical connections between three Route 66 cities
and Baum’s book.

But all of these things did happen. They all existed because one man created the
space and made the time to write one sentence, “Dorothy lived in the midst of the
great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who
was the farmer’s wife,” followed by another sentence…and another…and then
another until he finally wrote, “And oh, Aunt Em, I’m so glad to be home again!”

My point is this: None of us know the chain reaction we may initiate with the
words we write. Or don’t. Now, I’m not banking on anything I write to turn into the
next Great American Classic or internationally recognized cinematic treasure, but
I’m not going to sell myself short either. Whether my words affect the entire world
or just my own little view of it, I’m not going to cut off my words’ potential before
they’re even on the page.

Writing, I’ve learned in the past 37 days, is a choice. It’s about creating space.
It’s about weeding out the nonessential and making room for the essential. It’s
showing up. It’s taking risks. And while there are a lot of risks I haven’t taken in
life, choosing to not write is no longer going to be one of them. There’s too much
at stake.

-Sara Rae Lancaster

[photo by Sara Rae Lancaster]

4 Comments

  1. Susan March 15, 2012

    Hooray, Sara Rae! I loved reading this a second time outside of class just as much as I did the first. Thank you for the inspiration. 

  2. Heather Koshiol March 15, 2012

    I like picturing Baum sitting at his kitchen table, beginning to write the story he may never have imagined would be as influential and long-lived as it has been. As Steven Pressfield writes on the last page of The War of Art, “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention … It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” Thanks for sharing your inspiring words. 

  3. Anonymous March 16, 2012

    Beautiful, Sara. 

    “It’s showing up. It’s taking risks…” Words I (continue to) need to hear. 

  4. Jillangeldavis March 18, 2012

    I love this and it is my take away from my verb tribe experience….

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