Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jojo The Dancing Bear

Let me tell you a story about a boy.

A boy named Jojo.

Jojo was a happy young lad. He loved to dance. But he also loved the savory taste of his mothers mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Matter of fact the only thing he loved more than dancing and those mashed potatoes was his grandma's lasagna. Well that and his Aunt Isabell's pecan pie, or perhaps his Aunt Mona's German chocolate cake.

The years went by. Jojo grew up, and out. How could he not given all his favorite foods? And yet Jojo continued to dance. He listened to songs on the radio and practiced his moves in the solitude of his room. When he gained a little confidence he began dancing in front of the TV to his favorite music videos. At first Jojo never danced when anyone else was home but then one day his mom surprised him and spotted his fly moves. Jojo confessed he'd been dancing for awhile and to his surprise his mom didn't laugh at his announced dreams of becoming a dancer.

Slowly over time Jojo revealed his secret to his other family members and even a few trusted friends. A few pointed out he didn't much look like a dancer. Some even said, "But Jojo you've never taken any dancing classes. You can't just decide to be a dancer. You have to follow the rules and take years and years of formal training."

And still Jojo danced on. Eventually most of his friend saw that not only was dancing Jojo's passion but he was actually good at it. Or so they told him.

Finally Jojo decided the time had come. he went from one audition to the next. At first they stopped him right away. They wouldn't even look him in the eye. The powers that be merely yelled next and awaited the next dancer.

And still Jojo worked.

Eventually he began to get a few appraising nods. Even a few smiles from those watching his auditions. They began to speak directly to him telling him things to improve on.

And Jojo danced on.

And on.

And on.

A few people began to know and remember him. They said nice things to him.

"Jojo, you have talent, but it's not the kind of talent we are looking for." "

Jojo, I enjoyed your performance but I'm afraid our target audience won't get you."

"Jojo, just keep working at it. Eventually the timing will be right and we'll find a spot for you."

Year after year, Jojo remained just this close to breaking in. The eagerness Jojo once felt eroded. Stubborn determination took its place and still Jojo danced.

He still liked to dance but some of the joy was gone. He wasn't dancing for himself or for the feel of the blood pumping in his veins anymore. he was dancing to prove he could. he was dancing to ensure he hadn't wasted all those countless hours practicing.He was dancing because he had to.

But there, in the back of his mind, he was starting to feel more like that fat kid who hid away in his room. Hiding the fact he wanted to dance.

Today, I feel like Jojo.


David said...

I know the feeling all too well, but you can never give up dancing.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think trying to achieve something in the creative arts almost guarantees that you'll feel like Jojo at least some of the time. It can be agonizing.

Bubblewench said...

I'm so with ya JoJo... but please keep dancing. I am.

Hilary said...

You're a fine writer, Travis. Keep on "dancing".. because you love it.. and it shows.

Anonymous said...

Keep dancing, Travis! We're all on that So You Think You Can Dance ride, dancing and dancing and dancing till someone says, "You there! Yeah, you! With the pen and the paper and the Cheetos! I want you!"

sybil law said...

Hammer time!

Texanne said...

In New Orleans, we went to night clubs owned by trumpet players, clarinet players, singers, female impersonators. They were all great performers. Some were nine kinds of famous and rich, so why should they keep working so hard? But owning the stage means you always have a gig.

Find the stage you can own, Jojo. You've got the moves--and the recipes. The audience is milling in the street out front, not even knowing that they're looking for you. But when they do see you, they'll all come to your show. Don't let the moves get rusty. Are you watching Mayer's blog?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Don't we all. A really bad day.
I wrote five words before it fell apart. Don't give up though. You will succeed.

Melissa Amateis said...

This is brilliant.

I've felt like Jojo numerous times. It's time to find the joy in writing again. :-)

Annette said...

Would Jojo feel any better if he quit his passion? Keep going, it's part of who you are.

savannah said...

somehow pause was hit, so hit play! ;~D xoxox

Unknown said...

Even if you're just dancing for yourself--the dance is worth it.

Nadine said...

I totally understand. I am with you 100%. I'm Jojo all the time, but it would cause more pain for me to stop dancing then it would to keep going.

Melanie Hooyenga said...


DrillerAA09 said...

Been there, done that...got the T-shirt.
Dance on Jojo, dance on.

the walking man said...

"He still liked to dance but some of the joy was gone. He wasn't dancing for himself or for the feel of the blood pumping in his veins anymore."

Dance for the joy of the rhythm. Business is business and emotionally Jo Jo makes his mistake in mixing the two.

The question is this Travis and if it is too blunt I apologize because I like our occasional back and forth. Do you write because you can and enjoy it or do you write because you want to be some luminary of the sky? A star. If you were gone tomorrow in that last second would you be literarily satisfied or would you try to cling desperately so you could still work to see your name in The New York Times book review section?

God. Dude you are a good man, a good husband a great father, you work steady at a place Bukowski hated (even though he stayed 11 years) and then you write a few hundred thousand words a year. I think them that love you love all of you whether they or you ever see your name in the NYT book review section.

So which counts for more someones opinion of your writing or what you have built around you, writing included?

alex keto said...

Ah yes, the great gnawing fear... All those years and all those millions of words. Yep, the fates could well fix the game so that they are all a wasted effort. The publishing world's claim that if you have talent, you will be recognized sounds a bit pat to me. Too many variables, too much left up to chance.

But, the real question is much more basic and revolves around what do you want to do with your life? What else would fill the time, the void left if you stopped? When writing becomes part of your identity, it's a lot harder to give up. Besides which, even without being published, you are still a writer. Sure, one that hasn't received recognition, but it remains true. And yeah, there are always the jerks who will say, "Yah, you haven't been published so what good are you?" That's how you know they are jerks.

So... what do you want to do with your life?

alex keto said...

Just to blither on further, I have a friend who remarked years and years ago that there are only two types of people in the world: the ones who face the blank sheet of paper every morning and the ones who don't.

What he meant is that there are those who live in a world of ideas and create new things. This can be in any walk of life, not just writing.
And then there are those who do what they are told.

Take your choice, which side do you want to be on?

Old Kitty said...

Beer. Have some beer. Beer will help find the inner younger more innocent Jojo within!

But seriously! Please come out of your hiding place when you feel like it and not because you are forced to! Sometimes its good to take a moment to regroup.

Take care

jjdebenedictis said...

Do you want a second pair of eyes on anything? I know you already have beta readers, but if you'd like a fresh perspective, I'll volunteer.

Over and above being a good internet buddy, and well beyond cheering you on just to be nice, I really do think you've got what it takes to be published, Travis. You've got a great voice, a bushel of humour, and a work ethic. If I can help you get where you deserve to be, I'll do so. Just let me know.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Since coming to check out your blog I've been working backwards, reading my way to earlier posts. This is beautifully written, Travis! The vulnerability is poignant, emotional, revealing... it's what good writing is all about. I'm sure you know how difficult it is to get published these days but don't despair. For many of us, much of the joy of being a writer is in the journey, not just in reaching the destination. Write for yourself and be persistent. You never know when The Call may come, but if you stop, it never will.

Lana Gramlich said...

I think we all feel like Jojo sometimes--perhaps more often than not. Unfortunately I have no words of wisdom on the subject, but things do tend to run in up & down cycles. Bear with it, hon. Things will get better.