Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Grit

It's the A to Zed Challenge! I'll be posting the first half of the month from Ottawa where I'm staying with my youngest and his partner and their newest - a little guy who arrived on the planet near the end of March.

Theme? Writing and Life is what comes to me... how to balance the writing life with the other tugs you may have...

The ABCDEaria of the Writing Life -

G is for Grit

1. Minute rough granules, as of sand or stone.
2. The texture or fineness of sand or stone used in grinding.
3. A coarse hard sandstone used for making grindstones and millstones.
4. Informal Indomitable spirit; pluck.

What is grit? Well, my favourite dictionary (the American Heritage) says it has four meanings and I'm going to talk about the fourth one and then I'm going to cleverly show you how it is all of them when it comes to art and life. 

Grit is that little bit of irritation that tells you that you must pluck up your courage and carry on even when everyone and everything else is suggesting otherwise.  The key word is 'indomitable'. Cannot be dominated by anything including common sense.  Spirit is also an important characteristic of grit. What is spirit really? In this sense it means that which moves you - as in high-spirited.  The root of the word spirit is breath - yes it is - look it up - to conspire means to breathe together. So we have this bit of hard and rough feeling that tells us to carry on. Perhaps, let's really push this metaphor - perhaps it is like a bit of stone caught under our saddle, the saddle that is on our horse and our horse is called Spirit and we are tearing down the beach on our horse and trying to get to this place called Artistic Achievement.  We don't want to fall off our horse because we are elegant and we don't want to leave the beach entirely as it is our life - we don't want to fly you understand but steadily and thrillingly move towards our goal and because we are all these things - the horse, the beach, the rider, and the goal - well the bit of grit keeps us moving forward.  We could use a slightly less frantic metaphor. We are a shellfish, an oyster, and we are close to the beach but in the ocean, and a bit of sand gets into our home, our shell. Gah! We don't like how irritating it is next to our soft body so we start exuding something to cover it up. It takes us a lot of irritation over the months, maybe years, but we do cover it up, enclose that grit in a pearly iridescent coating thus creating a wondrous piece of art - a pearl!

In order to create and balance our life we are going to be irritated. We need to keep on keepin' on despite this irritation, and in fact, that irritation will feed our life and our art.  So when I think that I am being kept from my art by my life I need to re-frame that. It is all one. I need to incorporate life into art and art into life - like folding egg-whites into the cake batter, slowly and carefully. 


Liza said...

Ah yes, if it rubs at us hard enough it becomes a pearl...good thoughts!

Mason Canyon said...

Without that little bit of irritation we wouldn't make ourselves do anything. Very inspiring post to encourage and continue whatever your challenge is.

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Oh, no doubt about it in the least! We need grit to keep us going when we're exhausted, frustrated, disheartened, etc.. That's what keeps us going - that refusal to stay down.

Trisha F said...

I read TRUE GRIT not long ago - loved it. :)

Steven Chapman said...

Love it! I'm off to make some pearls :) Back in a few years :P

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Jan -- Writers do have true grit, don't we? Although right now it feels as if some of that grit has worked its way into my neck vertebrae because of too many hours at my computer.