We are surrounded by a crowd. I have always thought a team would huddle prior to a match–but there is no huddling here. There is a cheering, roaring, mass of people, singing for themselves and each other. There is an energy in the air that sparkles like lighting, fierce, determined to strike. There is an announcer who breaks in on the loudspeaker, and a hush descends. But it’s not a true silence, there can be no stillness here.
The swimmers line up, the youngest girls first; heat one begins with a shrill. And the yelling resumes. The cheering. I am shocked when it’s my son’s turn and I’m kneeling at the feet of the timekeepers shouting his name as loudly as I can. He reaches the edge of the pool and knows he’s not first–he came second and he’s unhappy, but he’s clapped on the back too many times to count, given high fives, and told what a good job he did. A minute later he’s smiling, already eager for the following swim meet a week later.
This is new for me: This is the first summer any of my children have joined a team. I was never part of a team for long; I played right forward in inter-city soccer when I was a kid, but I don’t remember it being long-lived–and more importantly I don’t remember this type of team spirit. When I trained professionally with a dance troupe there was no cheering, no unification among us. As an adult when I began to play a musical instrument there was no team.
Today a professional violinist who just came back from touring in Poland expressed how unified the orchestra is over there. How they cheer each other on before each show, how the crowd surrounds them at the end of each concert demanding autographs. She expressed to me how gratifying it is, how encouraging it is, to know that others treasure your art.
Writers, painters, illustrators, musicians, we do it alone. We have no crowd, no one cheering us. Most of our work is solitary, often times behind a closed a door, always behind a metaphorical one.
And yet, we need this gratification do we not?
Last week, Linda posted about this very topic in her post, Writing in a Bubble. When a few days later I was at my son’s swim meet and I saw the effect such cheerleading had on all the kids I was stunned. And I thought–how we do it all alone? How do we keep writing if we don’t have anyone behind us, cheering us on.
Yes, there is the gratification in the release, the voices that don’t stop shouting until we write them down, the stories that become so real to us we want to inhabit them all the time. But, it’s not always like that. There is work. Years of it. And most of us do it alone.
A few weeks back I was at a local coffee shop and a painter was hanging up her work. She told me she’d never had a vernissage, never joined a group, never put her work on display anywhere. And she’d been painting for her greater than thirty years. I wondered how in all that time she didn’t have a need to share what she created.
I know that as a writer, I am encouraged when others read my work, when I’m caught totally off guard by someone approaching me and saying they read X by me and loved it, or totally related to it. It feels good. It feels like I’ve connected with the universe in some small way, but in a way big enough to satisfy me. But most of the time that doesn’t happen. Most of what I write will never be read at all.
I’m left wondering, how do we as writers and artists, keep going at all alone, with only ourselves as our very own cheerleader?