I have a print by one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas, hanging in my office. If you don’t know Brian Andreas, he’s the creator of Story People – wildly creative combinations of art and “stories” – which he manages to tell through only a few words, while I have to ramble on for the entire length of a novel.
In any case, here’s the print:
Here’s the story:
I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now, & then I asked is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me.
I don’t need lightning to strike the ground in front of me to figure things out, but I do like to consider signs. When my body is craving something I don’t usually eat (like red meat, f’rinstance), I look for the sign – what is my body telling me it wants? If something I wanted (or thought I did) doesn’t work out, is there a reason I’m better off without it?
It’s the same thing for me with writing. If I’m not motivated to work on a story, that’s usually a sign for me that it’s not a story I was meant to tell. And if I’m not in love with the story, you won’t be in love with the story, so what’s the point?
Granted, there are days when I am likely to want to sit on the couch and watch back-to-back episodes of Greek (am I the only person who LOVES that show? Srsly, disturbingly clever) while eating Ben & Jerry’s instead of writing, and that is no sign. Unless it’s a sign that I am seriously lazy, which I pretty much knew already.
But usually if I can’t peel myself away from the couch to write, it’s because I genuinely don’t want to, and that’s a big old sign to move on to something else. I have seen writers say, “There is no such thing as writer’s block.” I don’t agree. I think there absolutely is such a thing as writer’s block (and relationship block, and reader’s block, and job block).
Those blocks are all, to me, my heart’s way of telling me that thing is not what I was meant to be doing. And sometimes, you know what? Tough cookies. I have to do that thing I don’t want to do and power on through the block.
But sometimes, it’s a sign. A sign that I need to make a change. A different story, a different relationship, a different book, a different job.
What are the signs that let you know it’s time to change?
P.S. I’m in Boston on Thursday night at Newtonville Books with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. You’re coming, right?
14 Replies to “Here’s Your Sign, Deb Eleanor”
Off topic question, but is that artist the reason you gave the family the last name you did?
No, it was actually for a grad school professor of mine, but how funny – I’d never even put it together! (I think because I always say “Brianandreas” like it’s one word.)
Oh, you are so right. I try not to let “signs” rule me, but if they have a good suggestion to make, I’m open to it. 😉 And I love that print! I prefer my signs with laughter, too.
I agree – I think being open to it is the right way to look at it. It doesn’t have to rule your life, but I think we shouldn’t close ourselves off entirely.
I adore Brian Andreas – all his stories are wonderful. You can spend hours on his website. Not that I, ah, ever have.
Great point! It’s so tough to find that balance in “sign seeking” — is something REALLY a sign, or just a convenient crutch to avoid doing something you don’t feel like doing?
Agreed. I think you can see signs anywhere you want, but I’ve gotten good enough at listening to myself at this point that I know when I’m just slacking and when I really need to make a change.
Because, frankly, I’d *always* rather be on the couch watching Greek and eating ice cream.
I used to think I was just lazy but I’ve learned – and this post confirmed it! – that I do have to listen to what my mind, body, the universe, etc. is saying. Paying attention has been a huge lesson for me – why is this story not working, why is this manuscript making me cranky, etc. Sometimes the answer is to push through the wall, sometimes it’s to go around it, and sometimes it’s just just to sit down and eat a piece of cheesecake until I figure out what to do next. 🙂
HA! I love this. I need to laminate those three steps on my wall.
1. Push through.
2. Go around.
3. Eat cheesecake.
Would probably have to add a disclaimer that #3 is not always the right option.
True. Sometimes it needs to be chocolate cake. 🙂
Hee – I love the way you think.
I get very ADD with things, so usually when I want to procrastinate, it’s not a sign at all, except a sign for me to slap myself and snap out of it. For me, writer’s block isn’t a real block (aside from the one on my desk, of course), nor is it a sign to move on. It’s a sign that I’m getting in my own way and judging what I’m writing before it’s even on the page.
Oddly enough, I’m finding wine helps… 🙂
That is a really good point – my getting in my own way doesn’t usually happen until I’m actually staring at the screen, but the snap out of it part is exactly the same.
More wine, waiter!
In other words: Follow your heart and listen for the laughter! 🙂
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