Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Do You Say...?

By R.S. Mellette

There's something missing in the literary world that is prevalent in the performing arts. That is a unique way to wish an artist good luck.

For various reasons theatre, dance, and opera all have their special way of wishing someone good luck—or, because it is bad luck to wish someone good luck, wishing them bad luck as a way of fooling the Fates.

In theatre, we say "break a leg." There are a thousand stories about the origin of the saying, so take your pick as to which one you like.

In ballet, they say "merde," which is French for "shit." Having known my fair share of dancers, I'm surprised they don't say "chienne." God knows they call each other bitches enough during rehearsals.

In opera, Wikipedia tells me that they say "Toi, Toi, Toi." They'll also knock wood and spit—or pretend to.

But we writers have nothing. What do we say to a fellow scribe who says, "My manuscript is going out to editors today," or "My agent is reading my next book"?

"Good luck." How lame is that? "I'll cross my fingers." What are we, twelve?

So, I'm issuing a challenge to our readers and writers everywhere. A call to arms! Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the literary world is on the hunt for our own, new tradition, our own new way of communicating to one another that we are in this fight together. We might be lone wolves in the creation of our art, but we are not alone in spirit.

So writers, write! Come up with a phrase that clearly means, "I am an author in the same hell as you, and I am wishing you well."

Some parameters:
  • There should be implied history behind this saying.
  • That history should have something to do with the literary world.
  • It should sound old before its time.

Once found, we must make sure we use this phrase so that others might hear it and pass it on without knowing the origin, but thinking it has been a literary tradition throughout time.

Here are my two proposals: "Dante's Luck" or "May Virgil find you."

I like them because they both come from Dante's Inferno, a great literary work, and they both speak of one making their way through Hell to get to eternal paradise.

But I'm not the only writer here. What say you all? Offer up a suggestion of a phrase and why you think it should be the one to pass from generation to generation. We will know the winner when we hear it in a writer's group decades from now.


Matt Sinclair said...

So far, all my thoughts are sarcastic. But it's a great challenge.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

How about a reference to Homer? "Don't follow Odysseus," as in, "Don't take twenty years to reach your destination."

RSMellette said...

Maybe "string the bow?" (I get all my Greek Mythology knowledge from my time on Xena: Warrior Princess

Ryan Stuart Lowe said...

I think the Dante references are already a great start -- people talk about being in "submission hell" when they send stuff out. :-)

I propose the phrase "judge tenderly" or maybe "stay committed." Not only because these phrases sound a little weird but upbeat, but because of this poem:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
...Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

The poet is Emily Dickinson. :-)

RSMellette said...

Nice. She's got a future, that Ms. Dickinson. ;)

I think we can all say what we wish, just make sure when someone asks about it, you tell them "that's what you tell a writer instead of 'good luck,'" like it has been a tradition started long before any of us were born.

Amanda Corlies said...

All I've come up with so far is "Break a binding." I know, not the same punch as "Break a leg."

RSMellette said...

That's hilarious! I love that one.

catwoods said...

"Eat chocolate!" as we writers all know that chocolate soothes the injured psyche and makes us feel better. It also has the cheekiness "Break a leg!"

Jemi Fraser said...

I love these!! Gotta say anything with chocolate would get my vote though! :)

Christopher Hudson said...

How about 'Enjoy your last meal'.

Jean Oram said...

Love this! I always feel a bit cheesy saying I'll cross my fingers for someone and wishing them luck feels so insincere and like a thoughtless knee-jerk comment similar to "how are you?"

Here are my two cents:

"Out of the jaws of death."
"A dish fit for the gods."


RSMellette said...

Someone on Twitter came up with "Break a Pencil."