When asked where she got her ideas for her books, a successful author claimed, “They just come to me. They are mine. Every jot and tittle, each word is mine.” That may be true in a sense, but not totally. Ideas don’t just “come” to us, they are born from life itself, our life. And perhaps, just perhaps, one of the myriad of reasons one uses not to write is the realization that every word reveals a part of our self.
A friend and I traveled over an hour to see “Saving Mr. Banks”, a movie about Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins. It revealed two things to me—the fortitude of Mr. Disney and the wisdom of Mr. Disney. P. L. Travers refused to sign over the movie rights of Mary Poppins to Disney unless she had complete control/approval of the finished product. She insisted on being present at all stages of the script creation. The script, the set design, as well as the Sherman brothers’ song lyrics were scrutinized, criticized, redone. Travers alienated everyone involved, even the chauffeur. Mr. Disney made reconciliation after reconciliation to save the project.
The turning point in the struggle between Disney and Travers was the declaration by Travers that Mary Poppins was not about saving the children, but saving Mr. Banks, the father. We, the movie-goers, thought Travers was appeased until Disney introduced the penguin cartoons into one of Dick Van Dyke’s musical numbers. Travers, thinking the cartoons a betrayal of trust and former spoken agreement, left for England without signing the movie rights over to Disney.
Disney caught the next plane available and exhibited both fortitude and wisdom in the next scene at Travers’ home in London. He shared stories of his father and empathized with Travers in her pain. He understood she was unable to save her father from drink and disease in her childhood in the outback of Australia. He understood why she protected the story of Mary Poppins—it was her story, her father.
Further evidence of one’s reticence to write is a testimonial from a close friend some twenty-five years my junior who just posted this blog:
In the world of Ursula LeGuin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea, the source of all magic is in the naming of things. To know the true name of a thing is to understand its very being, to have power over it. A man’s true name is a guarded secret and revealed only to a few trusted friends. For many years I was afraid to share my thoughts; to express myself both verbally and in writing because I feared others having, if not power over me, at least understanding. Even in our world, for good or ill, naming has power.
Now, however, after acknowledging his personal struggle he can say:
I embrace that I am a thinker and a philosopher, but lean close now as I whisper in your ear. “My true name is Writer.” Scott Adair, blogger, nminus1.wordpress.com
What is your true name? Is it Writer? If so, be brave, my friend, and true to yourself.