Film, paintings, music, books– they all carry transformative powers. When the timing is right, and the recipient open, art inspires action. Art often also influences other art, interacting with the creative spirit of another without the artist even knowing.
Over a decade ago I used a retention bonus to take a year off work to write a novel. Given the odds of getting published and my lack of a formal writing education, this sabbatical was about scratching something off my bucket list before having kids, nothing more.
My first day off work I recall incessantly checking my blackberry (remember those?). In the span of twenty-four hours I went from receiving 350 emails a day to about 3– usually from a family member, Nordstrom, and J. Crew. I walked around our townhouse in awe of the idea that no one expected anything of me. My husband wouldn’t be home until seven. I could read books ALL DAY for an ENTIRE YEAR and no one would ever know. Later, when asked whatever happened with my attempt at a novel, I could simply laugh and say, “Ha! What was I thinking? I gave it shot, but didn’t come up with anything worth sharing.”
I’d worked my ass off since fourteen. The idea of lounging around was so compelling I did spend the morning reading. Then, around eleven, I headed to the elliptical in the basement for a workout. When I turned on my music, Eminem’s LOSE YOURSELF blasted through the headphones. Apparently, my husband had used my discman (remember those?) last. The song opens with this powerful thought:
Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?
The words sent a chill through me. What did I want? Was writing for a year truly a lark, or did I privately want it to be the beginning of something? And how would I feel about myself, really, if I allowed the year to slide by without giving it a go? The timing and energy behind Eminem’s lyrics struck me at my core. Immediately after my workout and shower, I sat my ass down to write.
When my father died in September 2008 I was consulting and writing on the side. My first agent was waiting for a final revision on my third manuscript (book one wasn’t good enough to pitch and the other was pitched but didn’t get picked up).
I submitted a revision in November, but every sentence penned after Dad’s death was macabre and ill-fitting. My then-agent didn’t bother to respond with feedback; instead she wisely inquired whether I was seeing someone to help me through the mourning process. I took the hint but not her good advice and stopped writing.
Years later, the storyline of the first book I’d written– after Eminem’s prompting– starting eating at me. The manuscript explored motherhood and mourning, two topics the universe had given me infinitely more insight into since the original draft. I wanted to dig back in but was afraid of failing again. Two young kids and a full time job created the perfect excuse to let my dream stay on the sidelines, and I took it, until the day I heard Sara Bareilles’ song BRAVE on the radio:
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
Her art spoke to me. I listened to the song in its entirety, inspired, then downloaded it as soon as I got home and listened to it again. I remember thinking, “I want to see me be brave too.” I got serious about writing again because of that beautiful song.