Last weekend my husband and I visited our youngest son and his family. Whenever we go there, a highlight for me is the chance to play with our four-year-old granddaughter, whose beauty, spirit and energy dazzle me. She spends much of her play time in a world of her imagination, which appeals to me as a writer of fiction. As she climbs and jumps and runs and skips, she acts out imaginary dramas, often narrating them at the same time. Like many children, she also spontaneously composes songs, especially when she doesn’t think anyone’s watching.
Saturday morning we were in the backyard, where she’d been running up and down the little hill waving a dance ribbon. She stopped for a short rest at the far edge of the yard, about forty feet away. After a few minutes I realized she was singing, quietly but intently. Four-year-old’s narrative songs are sometimes difficult to follow. They remind me a bit of operatic arias — they tend to be complex and unpredictable. This time the tune wasn’t easy to follow, but the words captured my attention.
“I will try my best,” she sang. “I will never give up.” There were other words I didn’t catch or don’t remember, but she kept coming back to the same refrain.
I was stunned. And thrilled.
I don’t know who she was pretending to be or what situation she imagined herself in at that moment. But her song was a gift and a blessing to me. For it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve recently begun a major revision of my novel-in-progress.
Novel writing is daunting, and it’s easy to get discouraged, especially when I’ve put in months and months of effort only to come up with a draft that’s clearly not working. It means going back to the drawing board and starting again. Not from scratch, exactly, since I’m working with the same basic material. But from a new perspective, a fresh take. It means rethinking the story and rebuilding its structure and remolding the characters. In other words, I have a lot of work ahead of me.
My granddaughter’s little aria really hit home. Like any aria mid-opera, it didn’t assure a happy ending, but tapped into the deep energy and hope of the human condition. So as I embark on my next draft, I’m going to be using it as my personal mantra.
I will try my best. I will never give up.