The Show Must Go On

Sunday, January 31, 2021

"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. 

                                                                     - Jeanine

Jeanine DeHoney's writing has been published in several magazines, anthologies and online. She loves each and every Cicely Tyson movie she has ever watched.



Sioux Roslawski said...

Jeanine--I was shocked by news of Cicely Tyson's death. Shocked she was 96. She seemed so much younger, since she was still active and so vibrant. (Her recent performance in "How to Get Away With Murder" was brilliant.) Shocked she gone. My class watched "A Woman Called Moses" just this week and sometime later this school year, we'll watch "An Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman." One of my favorite movies is "Fried Green Tomatoes." No new movies or performances from Cicely Tyson? How sad.

I saw an interview (a recent one) where she mentioned she was going to keep working, instead of making "butt prints" on her couch. That is great advice for everyone--especially us writers. We should write and and revise and finish and submit, intstead of making butt prints on our couch, pondering "what if."

All of her work and her activism. Her experiences. Her marriage to Miles Davis. I'm sure her memoir is fascinating.

Thanks for this post. Yes, the show must go on. Will it go on with us in the wings, watching others get the laughter, the tears?

It's up to us...

Jeanine DeHoney said...

She was truly a legend Sioux.You're welcome and yes it is up to us to continually step out of the wings.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

My mom loved her work so I got a bit weepy when I saw she had passed. Will definitely look up her memoir. Thank you for the nudge!

Nicole Pyles said...

I needed this today! I caught a blooper of my own recently where I resubmitted a story to a literary magazine that had rejected it two months ago. Ugh. I've sure had my share of bloopers but I totally agree with you - sometimes my biggest bloopers have been the beginning of an incredible story.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Jeanine, I love the way you wrote this post and the idea of "bloopers"--yes! I loved those shows, too. Your banana peel line had me smiling. So perfect. :) Don't feel so bad about your protagonist's name; we see that all the time in our contests. I've done it before in creative nonfiction. I write the initial draft with real names, and then right before I submit it, I change all the names, so sometimes I miss one. I just can't write the first draft without the real names!

I'll definitely check out Cicely Tyson's memoir. I heard it's incredible and I'd love to know her personal story. :)

Jeanine DeHoney said...

My mom did too Sue. And you're welcome.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Yes Nicole, we're bound to make them, but as you said our bloopers can be the beginning of an incredible story.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Thank you Angela. I'm glad I made you smile with the banana peel line, and it's also nice to know I'm in great company with the name bloopers. And yes, Cicely Tyson's memoir is probably one you won't want to put down until you finish it in its entirety.

Renee Roberson said...

Oh, lord, we all have our bloopers. I'm glad you have learned to give yourself grace in your mistakes and hold onto the good. I once read that the writing journey is much like a game of Chutes and Ladders--one day you'll be at the top of the ladder and the next you'll be starting all over again. Cicely Tyson was such a prolific and talented actress I didn't realize she was 96 either when I heard of her passing! I too want to check out her memoir.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Renee, writing is definitely like a game of Chutes and Ladders. That statement is so, so true. The thing we have to remember is to never stop climbing no matter how many times we land on the bottom. And yes, Cicely Tyson was truly a prolific and talented actress.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Jeanine, I had a regular post on my personal blog called, "What Not To Do." Let's just say I had enough bloopers to keep that feature going for YEARS. (And truth be told, I could still write it :-)

Cicely Tyson was one of the greats, may her show go on forever!

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Cathy, I think we all will have a bushel of bloopers until the end of time. Thankfully we can now laugh at them all and write and publish on. And yes, Cicely Tyson was one of the greats.

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