What did you feel when you read this week’s Breakthrough tip? Perhaps a more powerful question might have been: What happens when you have to read your writing to others? More than a few of my face-to-face students have told me and written about fear of speaking in public. If you don’t have that fear, you don’t know how it feels – the trembling, the nausea, the locked throat, the heart pounding. Fear of being read may not be that intense, but it can stop a writer from sending their words out to the world. The shadows of rejection and criticism fall over the page. We decide we’ll submit our writing later.
We are living in an astonishing time for writers. You have the opportunity with Breakthrough Writing (And other websites, i.e. Medium) to practice sending your work out to others. You can begin with us. Here is a piece from a BTW reader. I can’t find the name of the writer. If it’s you, please let us know. It is remarkable. Thanks.
Right it Out
What is it they say? Practice anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert at that thing? How do you keep track of 10,000 hours? I bet there’s an app for that, an app for most anything these days.
I bet, anyway.
Do you think there might be an app to measure heartache? Then, when you reached 10,000 hours of a heart breaking, you’d know you were an expert so it wouldn’t be quite so devastating because then, then, you’d really be able to say, “It’s ok. It’s ok. I got this. I mean, I really got this.”
“I’m an expert now. I know what to do with a cracked heart. My heart has cracked enough to add up to 10,000 hours.”
The real miracle though, perhaps, is that somehow the heart managed to patch itself up enough to keep beating even after 10,000 hours of being hit with a sledgehammer, or a tap hammer, or maybe even the smallest pinprick (cause sometimes that’s all it takes: just a succession of tiny little piercings until they create a fissure, a crack, and – splat, it’s apart again, a big bloody mess, something you think you won’t be able to put back together. But you do. You do.).
And maybe that’s the miracle.
But also, maybe, after 10,000 hours, you might say, “I’ve had enough now. Really really enough and I won’t let any of you get close enough to wield that hammer.” And you, instead build a wall, the biggest one you can, all around the silly beating thing but you’re not yet that good of a wall builder and it keeps toppling and toppling and you build it over and over until finally you’ve spent 10,000 hours building it and you can no longer build it wrong but only, always right. And then you think you’ve won. Finally, now you’ve won.
But nothing is ever that easy. Ever. And one morning in early November you get up early to walk through the darkness and cool air around the corner to the rec center in the park behind your building. You stand in the line with your neighbors, all up waiting for the polls to open, for the chance, the privilege, to vote for a leader.
The line in your neighborhood is diverse and everyone chats and says, “Morning” and some people take selfies and no one, no one, (as you learn later when results are published precinct by precinct,) votes for the big scary loud-mouthed one.
But then the next day you wake up into a surreal version of some dystopian world you’re certain you’ve read about in a book before. Your wall is down and your heart is in a million zillion immeasurable pieces along with a bunch of other hearts. And your city is thrown into some weird version of chaos with barricades and heightened police and military presence that, among many other things, keeps people from shopping at the Gucci on 5th Avenue.
No one knows how to put the pieces back together –or even which pieces belong to them. They’re all just mixed up in a big pile the wind keeps blowing around.
Everyone wants to know why, why. And there is so much news and so much opinion and so much anger. “I didn’t see this coming,” they say. “How could this have ever happened here,” they say.
But you know, you know. And that’s the most devastating thing of the whole mess. Because that’s how it is: fear and the seeds that blame every other one can find for all the wrongs, sprouts quietly among us so that it seems as if its always been there and we don’t notice how big and ominous its gotten. Like when you look at picture of someone from two or more years ago and think, “Wow, your hair was so short back then, it’s gotten so very long now.”
That’s how it grows. Under our noses and right next to us and you would have thought we’d know.
And they say, “No, its ok. We’re not racist. We just want our way of life protected. That’s all. Not to worry, everything will be ok.”
But you know its going to take a really really long time for everything to be ok. Because none of us, none of us, have even close to 10,000 hours of doing this.
And then you start. And you don’t stop.
There is so very much work to do.
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