Before the majority of the population is molded into overachievers with aggressive competitive spirits, ultra ambitious plans and sharply tuned survival instincts (don’t get me wrong, all of which can be both positive and necessary in the right percentage) there is the clean slate, the uncompromised individual (think babies and preschoolers who say and do everything from pure feeling).
Fast forward to our grown up versions and everything we do and every move we make must provide an ROI. And it is based on a gazillion “before” thoughts prior to even getting into position, never mind coming out of the gate.
It is all this “before” stuff that, in fact, fuels the mental machinations that hinder or altogether eliminate truth from the creative process, communication and our participation, occupation of life.
Doing something without comparing and projecting and without interfering/manipulative thoughts is difficult, but it can be done. Sometimes, it happens subconsciously.
That is what happened to Matthew.
Matt was an elementary school friend; a quiet shy boy who found it difficult to interact with the world in general, let alone handle being confronted by anyone or anything in the specific.
Writing assignments, for him, were pure torture and rarely amounted to more than a string of dry uninspired sentences that garnered him a standard C or C+ at best. He was afraid of the teacher’s grade, embarrassed of having his piece read in front of the class, humiliated by his (he was convinced) insufficient talent; in short all these “before” thoughts. Wrap it all up in a timid demeanor and the poor little guy didn’t stand a chance.
Then one Tuesday afternoon during a lesson on phrasal verbs, the secretary came to get Matthew from class and brought him to the principal’s office where he found his mother waiting for him. She told him that his dad had been in an accident, while driving home, and had died.
Matthew wrote about it for his next assignment.
And his piece didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. It was even published in the school paper and framed and hung on the “Writer’s Wall of Fame” for all of that school year. Suddenly all eyes were on him as attention and compliments, condolences and advice poured in from all sides.
Had Matt become a potential Pulitzer Prize winning novelist overnight? Not likely.
What actually happened was that he had written from naked pain, loss, confusion, vulnerability and fear. And nothing else. His devastation was stronger than any other sentiment and his need to metabolize this overwhelming pain had freed him (albeit unbeknownst to him at the time) from all the other “before” stuff that had occupied and overwhelmed, controlled and defeated him. Without the worry of other’s opinions, his grades or ability, he just wrote without any interfering thoughts.
Cliché as all this might sound, this incident had freed him to write a composition so touching and memorable that I am talking about it 24 years after the fact.
I have to report that after this lone (rogue) incident, Matt’s essays went back to their C/C+ standard because he didn’t know how to (or maybe didn’t want to) figure out and practice getting back to that naked place from where unhindered expression flowed…but…what if he had?