Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Jamie White

Whenever I get frustrated and want to say to heck with writing, I’ll try to find some good writing to keep me company. One of my favorite screenplays is Edward Scissorhands; I especially like the scene where Kim (Wynona Ryder) dances as Edward (Johnny Depp) creates a kind of music as he carves Christmas ice sculptures. The writing is beautiful and reminds me what I’m striving for.
Edward concentrates, his attention rapt, a kind of glow upon him. His hands work with more certainty than ever, without an instant’s hesitation. Then, she begins to dance. Her dance is shy at first, a little awkward, gangly. She gropes after a rhythm. On and on she dances.

This is how writing felt when I first decided I’d like to try my hand at it. There was a kind of magic about it all. Yet the nervous excitement, goose bumps, and fevered thoughts were soon swallowed up by blank pages. Frustration gave way to despair when the road got rocky and writing my novel or screenplay wasn’t so easy. I believed I could just call it quits, apply to grad school and abandon the writing life.

Corporeal again, earthbound, Kim clumsily scrapes her arm along one of Edward’s blades, then impales her finger on one of the points. She recoils, gasps. She pales at the sight of blood trickling down her hand. She has stood too abruptly. The blood drains from her face. She crumples, fainting, landing on the ground at her mother’s feet.

Writing wouldn’t let me go. My head was persistently swimming with scenes and dialogue and plot twists. So I went back to the blank page to write (so the voices would be quiet and the cursor would stop blinking). But my divided heart has often kept me from being fully devoted to the craft. For instance, I want so much to believe that this yearning to write is a calling, or a gift – not a delusional fancy. Then there’s the part of me that sees writing as a selfish practice. Wouldn’t it be better for the world if I were a public school teacher in the trenches 60 hours a week working to make a difference in the lives of children? Or I could focus all my energy on social work and caring for the forgotten. Wouldn’t my free time be better spent volunteering for a cause than revising a piece of writing that perhaps no one will ever read?

Yet here I am again, putting my all into it this time because I refuse to live this double-minded existence anymore.

Edward watches. He helps her. Kim dances with abandon beneath the thick flurry of ice. Unabashed glee and a kind of majestic gracefulness have been set free – bursting from depths we could barely have suspected were there.
Either I’m a writer or I’m not. I’ve come to the conclusion that no words that flow from my divided mind will have the power to stir the hearts of men. God help me, I’m in this for the long haul!

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