In January, on our last night in Colorado, my mom and I caught Daniel Day Lewis' Screen Actors Guild Award acceptance speech. Lewis made headlines for dedicating his Best Actor award to his fellow actor, the late Heath Ledger, and that was, of course, great. But that wasn't my favorite part.
The part that got my attention was the intro to his tribute to Ledger, where he said,
"...for as long as I can remember, the thing that gave me a sense of wonderment, of renewal, the thing that teased me with a question, 'how is such a thing possible?' and then 'dare you go back into the arena one more time?'--with longing and self-doubt jostling in the balance--it's always been the work of other actors..."
Longing and self doubt? Daniel Day Lewis? The famous, handsome, talented, successful, acclaimed Daniel Day Lewis? Who was he kidding? This admission was such a gift to me. Because if Daniel Day Lewis feels longing and self doubt when he begins a new project, then maybe there really is hope for me.
I thought of Lewis today when I got together with my friend Terri to write. She is a new friend, and this was our first time to try to work together. I think Terri is really cool, and I wanted to make it a productive time for both of us. So I jumped in with both feet, and we accomplished a lot. Even if we didn't finish anything, we made some good headway on two ideas. And we got to learn about each others' thought processes, which was fun and inspiring. But you know who else came to the session? Longing and self-doubt. I even had to calm myself down a bit afterward, because I have such yucky critical voices that come out when I'm writing, when I have the idea but I just can't find the right way to say it, when it's not happening quickly enough, when my best effort just isn't coming together. I want to be so great, and I'm just not there (yet?).
I need to be patient. I need to stay in the tension of the effort. Wait for the ideas to grow a bit on their own. Stay at it, slow and steady, until the quiet voice inside gives me the song. Trust the mystery of creativity. Allow myself to be teased with the question, 'how is such a thing possible?'
So DDL, since I know you're a faithful reader of my blog, thanks for sharing that business about the longing and self doubt! If you can walk through those feelings, and live to tell the world, it gives me courage to try, too. I'm working on my next crop of songs, and I'm going to think of you each time I walk into that space of wonder. I promise I'll let you know what I find there.