"The gratification comes, for me, in the doing of it. And once I've done it, I can't do anything about it if it's good or if it's bad."
- Cicely Tyson (1924- 2021)
In this theater of life, both personal and the writing life, the show must go on. Just as the revered award winning actress, lecturer and activist, the late Cicely Tyson, a trailblazer in theater, film, and television, is quoted as saying, "I can't do anything about it if it's good or if it's bad." For this celebrated legend, in life and in theater, the show did indeed go on, gracefully and beautifully, for 96 years. What a legacy and body of work she gifted the world.
This past week, before I found out the sad news of Cicely Tyson's passing, I was reflecting on my writing, the good parts of it, my recent acceptance into an anthology, and some of my past mistakes, what I call my writing bloopers. Cleaning out my inbox of old rejection letters and looking at stories that went through several revisions after getting rejected brought me to that place of thinking about my bloopers. As I remembered my greatest bloopers, this time though they didn't weigh as heavily on me as they did initially.
For as long as I can remember, I've loved watching blooper shows. Watching these funny outtakes from movies or sitcoms of actors and actresses always filled me with a lightheartedness I needed to get through my day. It was good to see others, knowing there was nothing they could do to expunge their most embarrassing moment, laugh at themselves and get on with the show.
Throughout the years I've had my share of embarrassing bloopers as a writer. One particular blooper was when I mistakenly changed the name of my protagonist in the middle of my story and in my hurry to submit it, overlooked the name change and of course it quickly got rejected. And there were plenty more; bloopers that made me hang my head down low, wishing I could erase that page from my life.
Fortunately, after nursing my bruised ego, the show did go on. I took a deep breath, and then I sat down and wrote. I learned to be more forgiving of myself along the way and remind myself that I'm human. I realized that those bloopers I committed; grammatical, contextual, or typographical, or because of my rush to submit, or my plate being so full, or my mind being preoccupied; were writing life dilemmas I couldn't dwell on or beat myself up about. Instead they became teaching moments, lessons I learned and grew from so I wouldn't continue to make the same mistake over and over again. Often after my greatest writing blooper, I wrote my best stories or essays. I've learned in this writing journey of mine that even if I slip on a banana peel and fall on my face, as long as there are broken no bones, I can get up, dust myself off, and write with even more determination and passion. The show must go on.
So I have a bit of advice for those of you who have bloopers of your own in this theater called the writing life that may mock you at times and cause you to feel down. Don't breathe any more life into them. What's done is done. So don't sit and ponder for another second, "How could I have made that mistake?" You're human. It's part of your past so don't carry that into your future. Dust yourself off and take the lesson from them and write smarter but more importantly, "write" on. Because the show must go on, lights, camera, action, no matter what.
And I hope, as I plan on doing, you pick up a copy of the late icon Cicely Tyson's memoir, "Just As I Am. A Memoir." I'm sure it will offer up some of life's greatest gems that can inspire us all, both in the theater of life, and the theatre of writing. May she rest in peace.