I’ve been jonesing for a new tattoo. The problem is that I can’t decide on what or where to put it. I’d love a representation of a lion statue we saw in London. Then, I thought of Orion with Jaz’s name in the stars of the belt. For a while, I was thinking of a tree on my upper arm in sepia with one red bird. Alas, I decided against that one because of the shows I participate in, a reason also nixing ink on my leg. A tattoo beneath nylons on stage comes off like a gangrenous patch that needs a doctor’s care.
Today, I had a stroke of genius and decided on my next tattoo. I want “Quiet…Writer at Work” tattooed across my forehead.
It’s a bad habit, I know, but stories have a tendency to slither into my “real life” and charm my thoughts. Entire chunks of time disappear. Gone. Throughout my life, I’ve been accused of being a flake. Sometimes, stuck up. Dumb blond. I think the tendency to get lost in my mind has affected the way people perceive me. The part I play in this springs community theatre production is a ditz. There were a few friends who had the knee-jerk reaction of, “Well, that’s type-casting!” I’m going to start taking it personally.
Stage acting is hard. As the actor, you’ve read the entire play. By the time performances come around, you know the story inside and out. But…as the character, you have to be clueless. This character more than most.
The trick is to understand the character’s perspective, in the moment, and forget what’s going to happen in Act 2, Scene 2. Acting is congruent to writing. It’s all about perspective, which is essential to both in conveying characterization.
Perspective…another powerful descriptor. Fitzgerald was a master. Have I ever mentioned that I love him? I can still see Gatsby staring over the bay to Daisy’s house and the contrast between new rich and old money. Nick‘s wonder at the rich as a whole, contrasting his humble state. Tom’s perspective of the poor through his affair. Each character’s perspective carefully twisted through the storyline and giving us a clear image. It’s like looking at a photographic negative to see truth. Anais Nin had it right when she said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” The amazing part is that this tool can be used to describe anything from philosophies, to social status, and yes…even physical description.
I have two friends that tower above me. Big, brooding men. When they walk into a room, everyone looks up. I’ve often wondered, at my 5’5″ status, what it would be like to walk into a room with height. To not have to look up to anyone. To know that, in a heated moment, no one is going to back me into a corner. Highlighting those differences in perception brings description to life.
When I’m feeling especially short, I throw on a pair of four-inch spike heels, which quickly changes my perspective. As life, or stories, happen, perspectives change. The rich don’t seem so glamorous to Nick by the end of the story. Gatsby’s hope dies and his fortune loses value. I could go on and on with examples. While nothing in life is stagnant, perceptions seem more fragile than most. They can change in instantly with information.
I worked on Algebra last night and finally passed a quiz that forced a few tears. This morning, I woke up with an entirely new perspective. I don’t want to go back to school, much less torture myself through 9 more credits of math to graduate. I don’t want to spend my nights buried in books that I couldn’t care less about for a chance at a career that I don’t really want. I like leaving a 9-5 job without having to look back at the end of the day, and honestly, I’m damn happy with my life.
What changed my perspective? I had a memory, one so wonderful that I can’t believe it was lost in the recesses of my mind. That tiny memory was the missing thread to the novel I’ve been turning over for years. It’s a big concept but I’m finally ready for the challenge. Much more than the challenge of 2 to the 2nd power times… I’m ready to dive in without looking back. Time to put away Algebra and pull out the laptop.
What about “Dolly”? Perception is a fantastic tool, especially when used with honesty. The truth has been in the back of my mind with a nagging voice worse than my son’s. As much as I enjoyed writing “Dolly” and believe that the story is good, quite good, it’s not indicative of the kind of work I really want to write. I’ve grown as a person since I began that story, hence, grown as a writer. If I ever change my mind, it’ll still be there.
Tonight, I begin the journey into “Itsy’s World”. Normally, first drafts are monotonous and tiresome. I much prefer the editing. This time, I’m excited to sit down to a blank page and begin pouring out the story. I call that a good sign.
I’ll have to let you know about the tattoo on my forehead. If you happen to run into me and I seem a little flaky, I hope you can see me with a new perspective.