In a recent op-ed piece in “The New York Tines,” famed cartoonist Liza Donnelly wrote about having broken her right arm.
Hospitals are filled with people with broken bones, but in Donnelly’s case it threatened her entire career. She realized it might be a long while before she could use her right hand to draw her humorous pieces.
Most people would have caved in to self-pity – or fallen into a cookie or alcohol binge. But Donnelly chose a better alternative: her other hand. Born right-handed, she had never used her left hand creatively, but it was her only option. Trying to draw with her left hand she found the cartoons were “looser,” she said – more like the first ones she’d done as a child. Was that amateur hand tapping into her “orginal creativity”? Obviousdly it tapped into something – because one of those left-handed cartoons was published by “The New Yorker.”
The point isn’t that we should all break an arm to become creative,. It’s that Donnelly refused to be disarmed (pun intended) by an accident but,instead, to find some way to continue with her art.
Her comparatively brief experience with disability pales beside Christy Brown, the writer-artist whose life was dramatized in the 1989 film “My Left Foot.” Born with cerebral palsy that made it impossible for him to control his body – except for his left foot – Christy won out over what would have been understandable despair. He used the big toe on that foot to write and draw, incredibly becoming a notable author and artist.
This blog is not a rallying cry for using our left side, although that’s reputedly the creative part of us. It’s a way of pointing out that with enough determination impossible can become possible . Nor is this limited to writers and painters. Could a composer who has become totally deaf possibly create music? Fortunately Beethoven didn’t listen to naysayers. Couldn’t listen – not because of his hearing loss – but because within him was a fierce and unbeatable need to create. Of course, this deaf musician went on to compose some of the world’s greatest music.
There’s another “handicap,” if I may use that word. It doesn’t involve broken or paralyzed bones, and it can’t be wrapped in a splint. It’s the voice within us that whispers, Give up …no agent will reply…this will never be published…you can’t even write well anymore . .. on and on endlessly. That’s the disabling self we have to overcome. I’ve asked numerous writer friends what they do in those dark moments. The response is usually a shrug and the terse,“I keep writing.”
The choice for each of us is whether to give up or to go on. Fate may throw us a curve, but we’re the only ones who can defeat ourselves!
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play – Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.