Friday, January 28, 2011

Ignoring Signs

Signs on the highway foretell upcoming construction, accidents, bumps along our way. They glare in yellow or red, catching our eyes and redirecting us, sometimes in the nick of time for the least aware drivers. Do divine signs--the intangible ones that disguise themselves as coincidences--glare in the same way in our lives, yet without flashing lights or glow-in-the-dark metal? Do we need some special awareness to notice them BEFORE life happens? How do we cultivate the vision we need to perceive such signs and to avoid recognizing them only when it's too late: "Ah, I should have see that coming! All the signs were there!" Furthermore, how do we know that the signs ARE signs, and not just our imaginations colored by hopes or fears?

Lately, I've been wondering whether I've been overlooking signs regarding my writing career. My printed words have garnered surprise praise from unsought sources, while I continue to mail out children's book manuscripts to agents who reject them for lack of their own time or enthusiasm; or agents (TWO) who actually LOSE my submissions, after months in which I imagined them reading and sharing my words with the members of their office, and after ignoring my email inquiries about the status of my submission finally write sheepish replies to admit that they lost my work and apologize--without offering to make it up to me by reading my work as a new, top-priority submission. Did you hear the long sigh that punctuated that run-on sentence? Ah...

Anyway, the unsolicited praise I HAVE received lately concerns writing that I am NOT currently submitting for representation or publication: scripts, songs, and essays. Maybe this weird recurrence of compliments is a sign that I should refocus my attention? Maybe the compliments are gifts of guidance from Beyond, to help me redirect my efforts? Let me explain the possible "signs" I have lately received....

In the last two weeks, my scriptwriting skills have been praised by my daughter's acting coaches and casting directors who, while auditioning her with a script that I wrote for her (an adaptation of one of my unappreciated novels-in-submission!), asked her where she got this "amazing script" and even approached me after the audition to commend my writing skills. My songwriting skills have brought me requests to either sing or grant permission to another singer to sing my original liturgical music in synagogue. And my essay-writing skills have brought me surprising emails from parents of prospective students and other bloggers who have invited me to contribute to THEIR blogs. What does this mean? Should I switch to writing screenplays and songs and essays? Am I overlooking potential success outside of children's book publishing? Or are these peripheral mini-successes, meant to spur me onward and not lost my drive for my goal of publishing another novel for kids?

I even wrote myself a song about this very topic, months ago, but never heeded the advice that sang itself into my ear until I wrote down the lyrics and sang them into my computer's recording device. "Am I manufacturing signs, signs to guide me, since I am lost?... Am I overlooking connections, connections who'll get me further along? Maybe it's a matter of timing, timing that's part of some divine song?"

Signs, or willful imaginings? How do we know? How do we learn to trust ourselves? On the other hand, how do we keep from "poo-pooing" signs that scare us--about our health or the health of others, for example? How I wish the signs would appear in neon lights instead of ghostly flashes of insight! How I wish the "chills of confirmation" that many of us imagine/perceive (?) would instead become physical shaking by Divine "hands"!

I hereby vow to trust myself to see more clearly. But I also plead with the Giver of Signs to be a little more obvious, pretty please? Maybe this blog post is a sign?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Memorable Words on Fame

My actress daughter and I were discussing the desperate behavior of some teary-eyed fans who appeared at the window of a set she worked on last week. "There she is! Hi, Victoria! Look over here!" they shrieked at the 17-year-old star of the show. My daughter called the gawkers "freakish" and told me that Victoria showed more tolerance for the crazed fans than they deserved.

"After all," my daughter explained, "even Victoria doesn't think of herself as being in some higher class than others. She talked to me like one high school girl to another. And I liked her because she was really friendly and fun to talk to, not because she has her own TV show. If I met her at school, and not on a set, I'd want to be her friend. Some of the other extras on set with me only cared about getting a picture of themselves with her, while I wanted to know her."

I replied, "You want to know her because you want to know her. The star-struck fans want to know her so that they can SAY they know her. That's one of the difficulties of fame: knowing who really admires you versus who wants to use you."

My daughter described Victoria's demeanor as one that says to others, "Hey, I'm just like you, except I have my own TV show, rather than, Hey, I'm just like you...only better!" The latter type are usually in the business of seeking fame, not artistic achievement, and most often, they are the "wannabes," not the successful. "I can't stand it when an acting teacher asks our class why we want to act and some of my classmates say, 'To be famous.' That's not a reason to act."

Remember this the next time you meet a "star": He or she is just a person whose achievements have brought not only admiration from others, but public visibility as well. Most "stars" don't think of themselves as some higher class of human; fans put them in that awkward position. Imagine their point-of-view, being more visible as a persona than as a person. Sounds as lonely as it is exhilarating.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Tolerance

"Tolerance" doesn't guarantee "acceptance" any more than "legal" guarantees "ethical." I see "tolerance" as a smile over gritted teeth, while "acceptance" is a relaxed smile and a nod. I see "tolerance" as a euphemism for "I'll pretend to like you if you pretend to like me." I see "acceptance" as a heartfelt "It's so nice to know you and learn from you."

To tolerate someone is to put up with them. To accept them is to connect with them.

We need to abandon "tolerance" as a loosely disguised term for politically correct civility; a phony, self-righteous word for people who wish to appear open-minded and loving to their fellow human beings; and an erroneous synonym for acceptance. We need to use words honestly.