It can happen early--that drive to be perfect. Linear. Following all the rules. No mercy. A good friend told me recently that when she was a young girl, she wore undies embroidered with the days of the week. She said she felt guilty if she realized she wore Tuesday on Thursday or Monday on Friday--her mind and heart disturbed that she was somehow out of synch--not following the days of the week in perfect order.
We live in a world that often chases the childlikeness out of us. "Fit in. Conform. Stay in the box, please." Yet we know the beauty of a child's attempts at something difficult--when they use what they have--when they do what they can--no obsession with an outcome. Last week my four-year-old granddaughter sent me a text. It read: Dady and ie or having fun. Momo brot sum library buks mabe we kan rede them. Lv lilly. My son-in-law wrote back: "Lilly wanted to text you, and typed that all out for you with no help from me. She took the phone and wrote that herself."
When childlikeness surfaces, those faint traces of "I could try that," or "That may be fun," we often turn away thinking, "Who am I kidding? I don't have what it takes to...go on that trip, draw that image; create that recipe like Martha Stewart would."
Often it's those old voices of people (censors) who said, "You can't, you don't have what it takes; you're getting just a little too big for your britches there kid; Do you know what it takes for someone to break into the art world? That's a fantasy; you'll never do it." It's no wonder our childlike beliefs and hopes vanish. Our smiles diminish and childlike wonder pales and blends into a world that demands perfection. Why try?
Why not try? One of my barriers is fear of submitting query letters to potential agents. Like many writer artists, I've had my share of rejections. No matter how kindly they are worded (most are, really), there is a sting--a thought that says "Who am I trying to fool? I know I'm not good enough." Yet there is something in me that keeps believing. Maybe, just maybe, just maybe there might be a place for my voice out there in the literary world. And so I remember Lilly as I prepare another query. She took her dad's phone and used the words she had; did what she could. There is a solace in imperfection, knowing we don't have to be perfect to venture outside the box, and in so doing silence the censors. I wrote back to Lilly. "I'm delighted to see you are writing. Thank you for that lovely text. I would love to read those library books with you." There is someone on the other end of your art that needs and wants to hear your voice--someone who needs your words--who needs your song. There is a person that longs for the image you paint; who will marvel at the sweetness of your recipe. Who will try again because they heard your story.