I am reading The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander and I am all lit up with its ideas. Their book is grounded in many concepts similar to those of non-violent communication — a technique that has informed my writing, see here.
They emphasize perceiving mistakes as fascinating (as in, that didn’t work? How fascinating!); on hearing others’ “no” as an invitation to spark a fire within them; on looking at what we, ourselves, have done (or not done) that has created the circumstances in which we find ourselves; accepting that whatever those circumstances, they are, simply, what is — not good or bad. It just is. Plus there’s Rule Number 6 (don’t take yourself so seriously). I LOVE IT ALL!
And as I’ve been devouring the Zanders’ words, it’s struck me that much of what they encourage as practice for possibility I do not do. I flee from interactions with fellow writer-artists who lament (loudly and at great length), oh, literature is dead; publishing is dead; no-one even knows what a good sentence is any more, the only thing that gets published is violent and/or sexy dreck; no-one understands MY (brilliant) work; I’m self-publishing; here, it’s a thousand pages, would you edit it for me I can’t pay but it’s so good you’ll be glad you had the chance.
This fits the “how fascinating” practice in two ways, for me.
First, how fascinating that when eighty-four agents decline your request for representation the problem is with agents/the industry/the reading public, not your concept/story/writing.
Second, how fascinating for me that I want to run away from you. Actually, I sprint away from these folks. You’d be surprised how fast my 47-y.o. legs move.
The Zanders also espouse the concept that those who are in a “downward spiral” haven’t received an invitation to engage in a way that lights them up — and it’s incumbent upon those of us who want to live out our imagined possibilities who must extend invitations that lights up others.
I am not the world’s greatest invitation-issuer. I tend to think no one will want to come to whatever literal or figurative party I throw. However, upon reflection, I realize that this has never happened. How fascinating! that I have so effectively told myself this story that I am not acting on some of the possibilities I imagine for writing — possibilities, I realize as I type, that are still so tender that I’m reluctant to put them down in black and white. Holy cow. I’m pushing fifty, I have every possible advantage available to humans at this point, and I’m not going for it? How fascinating.
Pathetic is also a word that springs to mind but I’m sure the Zanders would re-cast that into: it’s not good or bad, it just is. And, don’t take yourself so seriously.
That said, the Zanders quote William James to great effect, and I will repeat it here in closing as well … this will be my summer of living and writing in the small moments (literally: we have a lot of family stuff happening) — and of striving to invite others into the possibilities I see, of noticing what is rather than despairing of what is-not-yet. And, to the relief of Engineer Hubby and sons: not taking myself so seriously.
I am done with great things and big plans and great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of human pride.
— William James