I’m usually too snobbish, and mindful of money, to spend much time in front of those supposedly enticing displays of refrigerator magnets sometimes found in we-sell-everything supermarkets. You know, the kind of magnet that exhorts you to PLAN AHEA…and then the D tilts sideways and drops down a bit because there was no more room for it after the A — the designer of that particular magnet not having planned ahead, hahaha. Or the magnet that reminds you every time you open the refrigerator to “Enjoy Today. Tomorrow Never Comes.” Eat up all the ice cream now!
I do, however, confess to the purchase of two such magnets. I bought them on the same day, at least fifteen years ago, which means: (a) at that time they both must have passed the “Are you out of your mind?” test; and (b) by now I can open the fridge without really seeing them if I don’t want to, even though they’re right there on the front of the door.
The first, possibly frivolous, magnet would remind me, if I made a point of looking at it, that “Good Clothes Open All Doors.” Out of consideration for the feelings of readers who couldn’t care less about clothes, good or otherwise (and who have voted their views by withholding their “likes” whenever I venture into fashion territory), I will hurry past that one today, although in its wider sense I still believe the message has merit.
[Want a post about it? Just ask.]
The second magnet was a design mistake on someone’s part. White lettering on a black background is not easily legible unless the letters are large and capitalized. The lettering here, as you can see, had neither of those qualities and may therefore be hard for you to read. So let me tell you what the magnet wants of me: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I’m pretty sure this does not mean I should set myself on fire or run in front of a speeding car, both of which would scare me plenty. Of course, if my intent were to die but I were afraid of the pain, we could discuss the applicability of the magnet to these two hypotheticals like rational beings. But since I hope I have by now made transparently clear in this blog that I vote life, not death, every time, we can proceed past dying without a backward glance.
What could possibly still scare me? You’d be surprised. Even allegedly sophisticated lawyer types like me have our little, and not so little, trepidations. I once worked with a powerful woman partner in a large corporate law firm who in a moment of confidence after some professional triumph I had helped her achieve told me she used to be terrified of making telephone calls. At the beginning of her career, whenever it was necessary for her to initiate a call (rather than merely picking up the receiver when the phone rang and saying “Hello,” which apparently gave her no trouble) — she would write out in longhand on a lined yellow pad everything she was going to say after she dialed, beginning with, “Hello there, Mr. Cummings. This is …”
By the time I knew her, she had “Hello there,” down pat without writing it out. But she was still scared of being nice. When word got back to her — not from me — that the junior associates called her “The Ice Queen,” she was terribly hurt. But she was afraid to smile at anyone, or offer a kind word, unless the other person smiled or spoke first. She needed my supermarket magnet.
What do I need my magnet for? When I force myself to look at it? Well, I need it for this blog. You were perhaps under the impression these long posts just rolled out without a thought? Let me tell you: Every morning is a crisis. What am I going to write about today? Because I think proactively, I’m always at least two or three posts ahead, in draft form. But I have to stay ahead. Or else that dread morning will arrive when there’s nothing to post.
Improvise? You’re kidding. I envy those bloggers who just dash something off before work. Or after the kiddies are in bed. Me, I revise, move paragraphs around, rewrite. To make it read more smoothly. And then go over every single word. Again and again. And sometimes again, even after it’s been “published.” [If I find a noun, verb, adverb or adjective used twice in a single paragraph, I replace one with a synonym or rephrase one of the offending sentences.] Each post takes at least three hours. Sometimes four. Not counting the fiddling with commas, semi-colons, italics, brackets. I would probably have been a model self-flagellant in the Middle Ages.
[Yes, I do remember “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” If I didn’t remember that, I’d never click “Publish.”]
I know no employer is standing over me, saying, “Post every day!” I will not lose a job or income if a day goes by with the same post in place. What I will lose is momentum, and the daily (if scary) pleasure of making something out of nothing, and the sense that I can still do something fairly well (if not perfectly), something that entertains or moves or otherwise interests some people somewhere in the world who I never knew existed before. I will also lose the sense of accomplishment that comes of doing every day what I set out to do.
But it’s hard. That’s why it’s scary. Finding bite-sized subject matter every day is hard. [I hate that blog-word “content.”] Taming the subject matter into blog-speak is also hard. My blog voice may have some resemblance to my speaking voice, some resemblance to my memoir-writing voice. [No resemblance at all to my legal writing voice.] It is nevertheless a created and crafted voice. That’s why the magnet is still on the fridge. It keeps me going even though I’m scared.
The magnet also keeps me looking around for the next scary thing. I don’t have to look far, because I know what it is. Over the course of my life, I have had seventeen interrupted years of piano lessons — ten as a child, two and a half, then four and a half, as an adult — but none for the past twelve years. In many ways badly taught, I cannot really play. I cannot sight-read. I hold my hands incorrectly over the keyboard. But I still have a Yamaha upright piano with a long vertical string that produces a lovely sound, and I pay to keep it in tune, twice a year. I have both volumes of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavichord, the complete two-volume set of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, more Chopin than you can imagine. Also Mozart sonatas, Schumann, Brahms, even Hanon! Mind you, I can’t play any of this anymore, and never really could play any of it well.
But it’s never too late, right? I already know the notation. I have the instrument. And presumably some time to practice (after tearing myself away from the daily blogging). And there are plenty of piano teachers in town, all pricing their time similarly. Unlike my former colleague, I have no problem with picking up the telephone.
I’ve already had three strikes, which is what makes starting up again so scary. But I think that only counts for baseball. Stay tuned….