Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Say nay to naysayers

In her post yesterday on
Writer Unboxed, Ann Aguirre exhorted her readers to think big, to believe in six impossible things before breakfast. An uplifting message.

What stayed with me the most, however, was this list:

(1) Graduated college
(2) Moved to a foreign country
(3) Got an agent
(4) Sold a debut SF novel written in first person, present tense, that one agent called unsellable
(5) Became a national bestselling author
(6) So
ld nearly 20 books in three years

These were the things she was told she couldn't do, that she'd gone on to achieve.

That shows courage and confidence and determination.

Why did the list make such an impression on me? Because these qualities:
  • courage
  • confidence
  • determination
don't come easily to me. I am much more incline to:
  • fear rather than to brave the unknown;
  • discount and second-guess my abilities and decisions;
  • refrain from committing to anything I am not absolutely sure of.
I look back and remember one dream that I'd given up because I'd believed in naysayers. When I was fourteen and was completely captivated by the orchestra, my desire to become an orchestral conductor met with "girls can't be conductors" and "if you're not a highly-trained string player by this age, you'd never be a conductor." I was devastated and no longer dared to dream that dream. *

These people were not necessarily trying to be discouraging. They were probably just throwing out considerations. And most likely they didn't expect someone to falter so easily.

I've given up on a few other dreams such as this and still cannot think about them without that twinge of regret in my gut. Even though I am committed to living a life without regret, and objectively I know that my life is good, I do allow that twinge to surface as a reminder not to step on the well-worn, much smoother path of giving up, but to take out my machete and cleavers and chop my way through the brambles and thorn bushes of the path I need to travel on.

Now I write fiction.
This pursuit is understood only by those others who are engaged in similar activities--artists, musicians, authors. To the pragmatic and uninterested, what I do is pure foolishness. But the post yesterday helped me realize that I've come a long way, baby; I've learn to say "nay" to the naysayers, especially the one from within myself.

So, I invite you to join me in standing tall, holding strong to your beliefs, and say a loud, NAY (don't you think its old-fashioned quality makes it even more effective?) to the naysayers who assault you from without and within.

*I chose these two conductors because the first one, Alondra de la Pana, formed her orchestra single-handedly and the second one, Shi-Yeon Sung, broke into the all-male ranks of conductors of the Boston Symphony, one of the most prestigious of orchestras. And oh, she started her music career as a pianist, as did so many other conductors. Read the story of de la Pana's
Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas. From the story of Sung's debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I find the following passage particularly inspiring:
...she admitted the difficulty of the situation, pointing out that 50 years ago there were almost no women playing in orchestras. "Nowadays, nobody says 'a woman musician' in an orchestra. And the situation [with conductors] is changing," she wrote, noting not only [Marin} Alsop but the Australian opera conductor Simone Young and JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

"I really hope that soon I won't get this question [of being a woman conductor] any more," she added.


Margaret said...


If you are still a musician, you could still be a conductor. Lots of community bands filled with volunteer musicians who meet for rehearsals every week, and give free community concerts, just because they still love playing music, often are looking for conductors or assistant conductors. Check out the ones in your area. Your dream could still come true for the cost of a 2- or 3-hour rehearsals once a week.

tanita davis said...

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
- Shel Silverstein

Hold Fast To Dreams

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go,
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

...Langston Hughes

I, too, think you can do anything.

Yat-Yee said...

Margaret: you're right and I have done my share of conducting amateur and semi-professional groups, but my original dream was to apprentice under a master, and study the great orchestral repertoire. And actually, it takes more than rehearsal time for conductors to do their jobs.

Tanita: thank you. SIlverstein and Hughes both brought tears to me eyes. I hereby dub thee Yaysayer, a special brand of people also known as blessings.

a. fortis said...

I love that Silverstein poem. (And I can't help hearing it in his crazy, wonderful voice--I had a tape of him reading his poems when I was growing up.)

Hooray for being naysayers! As someone who also has multiple vocations that people tend to gawp at and wonder what the heck I'm thinking, I can definitely relate to this post. :)

Lady Glamis said...

Yat-Yee, this post really touched me. I just want to thank you for putting your thoughts out there about holding strong to our dreams. I've been struggling with some things lately with my writing, and this helps confirm some of my decisions. Thank you!

Yat-Yee said...

a. fortis: Exactly! What? You want to be an artist? And now an author? Who's going to feed you?

Glam: sometimes I wonder the degree to which I want to express my deeper emotions in a public forum such as this. But I am glad this one has helped you.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Beautiful post, Yat-Yee.

Don't let go of the dream. It's one we share and some day, just like last year, we'll be side by side as published authors :)

Heather Hedin Singh said...

I love what you said about saying nay to the naysayers inside... so much of what we do as writers requires faith and persistence on an internal level.

Julie Dao said...

Loved this post. This is something we dreamers need to be reminded of time and time again - sometimes the only thing that's standing in the way is ourselves. I think it's awesome that you wanted to be a conductor!! I hope you fulfill your writing dream. Keep going!

Yat-Yee said...

Sherrie, Heather, Julie: Thank you for your lovely comments. I guess at heart, we dreamers (love that term, Julie!) are very similar. I hope we all continue to find the strength and conviction of our dreams.


Wonderful post. As Rosie O'Donnell said, "You gotta dream it before you live it." (I'm paraphrasing.)