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Onward artist soldiers

The other night I watched “A boy called Alex,” a documentary about a musical prodigy going to Eton whose dream is to direct his schoolmates in Bach’s “Magnificat.”  But he has cystic fibrosis, a particularly virulent kind, and part way through rehearsals, he ends up in Intensive Care.  After weeks in hospital, he forces the doctors to let him go back to school.  His passionate engagement in the work, his joy in the music, the relentless determination that has allowed him to learn and play music despite a mortal illness, and his utter lack of self-pity, made this about as inspiring a story as I’ve ever seen.  

I thought of Wayson’s words to writers: “Do not be stopped,” he says.  “Do not be defeated.”  So many of us are defeated, not by external forces like a deadly ailment, but by our own lack of faith in ourselves.  So on this Good Friday, I urge us all to heed the call to faith – in our own minds, hearts, souls, and words.

Speaking of faith in words, my writer’s group came over last night, as they do once a month – well, much reduced yesterday, so we were less a group than a writer’s trio; a writer’s threesome. Gerry and Jessica are sublime writers.  
Jessica is working on fiction, a series of long short stories, and despite their wonderful flow and skill, was worried about their awkward length: she can’t help but write novellas and fears no one will publish them.  Word count is something to be aware of but not stopped by – if the work is good, someone will publish it, no matter how long or short it is.  
Gerry writes stories from her life, and is perpetually amazed at how much we like and praise them.  She’s also a visual artist, and seems to feel that she has control of her paints whereas the writing just emerges.  She has no idea how good it is, but we are trying to convince her.
Then I read my piece, a fresh stab at the Sixties material that I had thought really worked.  I read the first page eagerly and then began to sense that the energy was dimming, the flow was halting … I could feel the air leave the room.  It didn’t work.  I looked up and they both smiled warmly, but we all knew.  
“Why don’t you start off here,” Jessica suggested, “and then move this bit to there, don’t be so chronological, just skip around, make it more of a collage, you see, fragments, and have more faith in the diary material you have, it really works. Make it lighter.”
And I thought, “That’s it!”  What I had struggled over for three weeks, Jessica had sorted out in minutes.  That’s what a good writer’s group, a good editor, can do for a befuddled writer.  
And on this cold, quiet morning, as I start again, I say, Hallelujah.  



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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