Prompt #7:

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneur’s worst enemy. Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego. Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. Its only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” – Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place – getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.

Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.

The only thing left is to, you know, actually go make it happen. What are you waiting for?

(Prompt Author: Matt Cheuvront)

My Response:

The whole idea behind this writing project is, I think, to let the Self bounce along with the spirit of each prompt as a means of deeper reflection.

That said, there are many a premise and nuanced assumption in this prompt. I don’t offer this observation as a critique, but more as a way to qualify my own response. The effort involved in breaking down each premise, and assessing its validity, would in fact result in a fairly sizable term paper… So today I am going to say: Let’s assume the premises are true, for the sake of argument. We are not being asked to agree, disagree, or qualify. The prompt asks for agreement. We must say: If assumption x, y, and z are true, then what would we answer in response?

Essentially, I think I am being asked to identify a dream I have wanted to accomplish and to reflect on what obstacles have prevented me from taking the leap of faith to live my fantasy. I think we are asked to call our attention to the ways in which practical concerns, or overthinking our actions, lead to inertia in some cases. The core question of this prompt resonates with me, because I know that I do not by nature have a temperament designed to take big risks. The smallest things in life thrill me, so I do not tend to seek out bigger thrills (sky diving, drinking alcohol, driving fast etc). This tendency not to engage is risky behavior is probably an advantage from a certain biological viewpoint (survival), but it can also be a hindrance. People who have a larger capacity for risk seem to have the advantage of achieving big magical life memories and contributions, too.

So what has been one thing I have always wanted to accomplish but been afraid to pursue? Well, I’d love to write a book—but I am not really afraid to do that. Open a tea catering business? Getting warmer. I do have some practical concerns about how I would do that. Be the lead singer in a band? Hm, that is more along the lines of a real fantasy, but I think the ship has fully sailed on that one. Anyway, we already have a Stevie Nicks.

No, no. Here is the real one, the real maybe-doable fantasy. I would love to be in a local theater production, preferably a musical. Chorus girl (background singer and dancer) is fine. I’m not looking for a lead part.

I have always wanted to be in plays, and I took a couple quarters of drama in high school. I never auditioned, though, or joined the drama club, because I always felt so many people were vastly more skilled at acting, singing, and dancing than I was. But I would LOVE to do it. Every once in awhile, I think about auditioning for something here in town, but I always end up thinking, “Oh that’s crazy! How could you possibly break into that scene at so late an age? Probably most of the local actors have been doing this for YEARS! Why would they want a novice?”

Although I have always felt emotions deeply, especially in my books, I can’t say that I ever emoted well for most of my young adult life. I have good practice at being a true stoic, I sometimes say with a sigh. I thought that pretty much ruled out the theater for me. Yet something extraordinary happened in my late twenties and early thirties (I am 31): I had children. With children, I have been given the additional gift of sincere and palpable emotion at my surface. Something about motherhood (the hormones, the connection to the universe, the experience of non-medicated childbirth) blessed me with being more in touch with those deepest parts of myself (not just in books) and having the courage to let those deep emotions be free and vulnerable and part of my authentic self. So, too, life experience has given me grist for the emotion mill, both positive and negative. We have only to understand how truly fragile and resilient we are—and we are alternately moved to tears, joy, and triumph by that miracle.

So I have the emotion and life experience now, I think, to portray other people’s stories with sincerity and an authentic connection to events in my life that may be parallel. I also have confidence that I could be a willing learner, able to take direction well. The one bit of confidence I lack is this: would the local theater laugh at me, a novice, for even trying this late in the game? Someone with almost no experience (unless we count acting like a lawyer in Mock Trial)? Would I have to be able to read music (something I cannot do)? I guess part of me is still stuck in the “clubs” mentality of high school. I was part of lots of clubs, but never had the chance to be part of the drama club. Would that club have me now, or have I missed my chance?

Maybe the thing to do would be to start volunteering with the Fine Arts Network, The Temecula Valley Players, or other resident companies here in town and get to know some of the members. Offer to help in any way I can with an upcoming production…learn more about the ropes. I am a big believer that we have to be willing to start at the beginning. Maybe they have meetings…maybe I could attend. I guess I should research that! Maybe I could audition for the Southwest Women’s Chorus (I don’t need to be able to read music for that, but I do need to sing).

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