The Miracle Worker, which I understand is the brunt of lots of our (US American) culture’s jokes, is one of the most important plays/movies for me. The two protagonists, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, inspire me with their resilience. Helen Keller’s thread is about her journey to discovering language. Language, for her, is the door to God and freedom from the prison of her impairments. After this deaf and blind kid made the connection that water is called water, she went on to write books and preach and have a whole public life of inspiring people.
It’s Annie Sullivan’s story, though, that is inspiring me today, particularly with a line she says in the play/movie, the best line, in my opinion: “No, no self pity. I won’t have it.” This has got to be a mantra for us writers. We have a lot of reasons to pity ourselves but we must resist them all in order to write.
Watch this scene and see it as a metaphor for certain days of the writing life:
You, the writer, are Annie Sullivan. If you’re going to be a writer, you have to have that kind of resilience. You are not allowed to give up when you get your fifth rejection letter in one week. You are not allowed to give up when somebody breaks your heart and you don’t feel like writing. You have to write when you’re tired. You have to finish your current writing project, even when it seems like your writing project is scrambling up the chimney to get out of the room. You have to chase after your writing and sit your writing down to eat, even if it’s darting towards the door and collapsing beneath the dining room table kicking and grunting. Sometimes writing feels like force-feeding a spoonful of eggs to a deaf and blind girl who is just about to spit the eggs in your face. Writing, no matter what the form, is going to feel like this on some days. Be like Anne Sullivan. Deal with it. And no self pity.