August 31, 2012

writing practice: sell your heart

My fascination with all things Fitzgerald (F. Scott, that is) has really ramped up since my recent re-reading of The Great Gatsby, and I am grateful that I am not alone. It could just be the gifts of synchronicity, but good old Fitz has been popping up everywhere in my consciousness! Newspapers and magazine articles, other blog posts, special edition book releases, and even some new field trips have added to my list of Fitz-fascination. When I heard that the release of Baz Lurhman's film rendition of Gatsby is delayed until next summer, I actually felt a little bit relieved: more time to read up on the man behind the story, and therefore more "story" to bring to my viewing of the film! 

After reading my post about Gatsby, my friend Chris has been amazing and has passed along several fascinating Fitzgerald articles, tidbits, etc., which I have absolutely devoured. She shared a post with me from the blog "Letters of Note," which featured a reply letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to an aspiring young writer friend named Frances Turnbull, who had asked for his feedback on a story she had written. You can read this amazing letter and post here! I won't summarize too much, because I strongly encourage you to read the post directly, but I was so incredibly challenged by Fitzgerald's advice to Turnbull. Specifically, this notion that a young writer must begin by "selling their heart" in his/her work. He calls it "the price of admission." I do not believe in selling oneself over to the control of others, or selling out. I don't believe you should compromise who you are in your art. So this phrase gave me pause, forced me to consider at length what Fitzgerald was saying. 
For me, it is often the hardest thing in my writing to know where to begin. I believe in writing what you know, in telling your truths. But when the voices of doubt and shame and fears of failure are whispering constantly in my ear, they tell me that no one would be interested in my story, in the very heart of who I am. Do you hear this, too? So many stories and accounts have been written about growing up in an abusive home, about struggling to find your place in a controlling and judgmental religious environment, about the pain and agony of the journey to discover, as you come of age, who you have been vs. who you were created to be and who you will become. There are SO many stories already, so many great stories - do we really need one more? And even if there is room for more, I am so quick to believe that my story is not unique enough to be worth telling, or that I will not be good enough at the telling to join the ranks of those who have. These unraveling thoughts make me want to give up before I have even begun. But this is where my heart comes in. If I am writing all the way from my deepest heart, I know I could not be giving any more than I am. I know that I am writing true.
I believe that all of our real and true stories are the stories most worth telling. What I love most about reading, and about writing, is the gift of honesty. Honesty from writers inspires me to be more honest, too. I have read the same types of stories again and again, and the ones that stand out among the rest are the stories that ring with the most honest experience. No matter how many times I read the story of a dysfunctional family, or the loss of a loved one, or a broken heart, I will be moved and inspired if that story is infused with the personal truth of an honest writer. You can hear it in their word choice and language, their details, the qualities of their characters which come alive as if they are sitting next to you as you read. I could not aspire to a higher accomplishment than being able to achieve this kind of honesty in my own published work one day.
I believe in truth and love as the most important touchstones for living a good and happy life. If I can embrace the telling of my most true stories, and love myself enough to value those stories by sharing them with others, I will be doing my very best to pursue all good and happy things to come. And so I believe in this notion of selling my heart, as my most honest way to begin, giving the best I have to give.

How do you feel about your truths? Do they feel like your best beginning, or do you find them insignificant and unworthy of sharing? Whether in writing, or music, or painting (like my very novice watercolors above, hehe), or any other art form; even just in your daily living - are you willing to sell your heart? 

(Read my post about The Great Gatsby here! And you can find Chris' amazing blog, Wildmoo Books, here!)

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