The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Walking the Line

There is a great scene in the new Johnny Cash biopic
"Walk The Line" where a record producer asks Cash
an incredibly powerful question.  "If you were dying in
the street, and you had the time to sing one last song
that would sum up your entire life, your feelings about
God, and Love, and all the world, what would you sing?"
And Cash drops his act, and actually sings from his soul.
And wins a record contract. 

That's the key for all of us as artists, to live each day as if
it is our last, and to find a way to pour into each and every
work of our art the essence of our lives.  What else do we have
to put in our work?  Our education?  What we've read?  What has
gone before?  All that is well and good, but each and every one of
you has a unique contribution to make, and unless you learn
to tap it, you will never hit your heights.

Yes, it can be embarassing to be so revelatory, but such honesty
is the key to greatness.  The most important point in my
career came when I realized that I was avoiding
speaking my feelings about race and sex and power in
America.  While possessed of no urge to strike out in
anger, I felt I was being cowardly not to address
the very pains that had damned near crippled me as
a child.  I wanted to create a bridge to the future, and to
do that, I had to process my own anxiety and damage, and
offer it to readers without overwhelming them with it.  The result was
"Lion's Blood," to this day my most popular and successful novel.

I believe that each and every one of you has a similar nugget of
honest pain or love to offer the world.  Start digging!

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