Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Small, Quiet, Amazing Things

This past Monday night, the renegade writers group met at a restaurant and shared Christmas stories and poems we'd written. We laughed so loud we drew attention from other diners, but that didn't stop us. Afterward, three of us went to the movies. After much debate--Beowulf, I Am Legend, or August Rush--we settled on young August.

Great movie. It is a tale of perseverance and hope. Beautiful photography, a touch of Oliver Twist, a lot of great music, and good acting. (Freddie Highmore has a fantastic future.)

For the too-literal thinkers, this movie may be too improbable--after all, would a homeless kid without a social security number and no records of any kind end up at Julliard?--but they miss the point. What if everyone believed when they were told something can't be done? Much of the power in this story comes from August's persistence, from the gift inside him that must be heard, and the belief that he can and must use that gift to do an amazing thing.

Not all of us are musical prodigies, but that does not mean we have no gift, no purpose, nothing amazing that we can do, even if those amazing things are small, quiet, everyday sorts of things. The photo below is from one of my favorite scenes in the film. It's full of parallels, music, and irony--all things I like--and it shows an adult sharing with a kid, encouraging him, taking the time. In other words, telling him he's important. A small, quiet, everyday sort of amazing thing.

It's also a meeting of two characters searching for other people, not knowing they're in the presence of one they seek.

In another scene, August is asked where he gets his music. What are his influences? Everywhere, he responds. He hears music all around him.

Where do we writers get our ideas? A partially correct answer is imagination, but even the most creative person in the world is limited in sources for that creativity if he uses only what resides in his own mind. Writers must be sponges, absorbing environment and experiences into imagination, transforming everything into the music we record on the page for our readers to hear.

What is it inside us humans as a whole that struggles to transcend our troubles or limitations?

What holds us back from achieving the big, important things? Is it because we see the difficult task as the impossible task?

But, if we never try, if we don't have that gift or want-to pushing us on, we never know what we can do.

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