To My Dear Undergraduate Students,
Don’t be afraid of your talents, but also be sure to humble yourself to them and to what will be a lifelong apprenticeship if you decide to keep writing. Never think yourself greater than the craft itself. We are all amateurs from time to time, no matter how long we’ve been writing. The process always finds a way of showing us that. If you’ve decided to sign on to this apprenticeship, particularly at the expense of some other route in life that you or others have mapped out for you, ask yourself why you’re choosing writing. Make sure it’s because, as hard as it may be, nothing else that you do gives you quite the same degree of satisfaction. Is writing necessary to you? Is it part of who you are? Will you feel a stranger to yourself if you stop? Make sure you understand that people will say no to you. Editors will say no. Other writers will say no. Family members will say no. Readers will say no. They will find many ways of saying that word to you. You’ll know it each time you hear some manifestation of rejection. Rejection will become a part of your life. Make sure you can toughen up and accept that fact, no matter how deeply each no may cut you. A single yes will make you forget all the rejections. . .at least until the next time someone tells you no. You’ll live for those yeses, but most of all you’ll live for the act of writing itself, for the joys of shaping something out of words. Maybe you’ll even throw in some teaching here and there. Some teaching and some writing. Some yeses and some not-yeses. There are worse ways to make a life. It was a pleasure to know you and your work. I hope I was clear and considerate whether I was telling you where you fell short or where you triumphed. I hope for our ten weeks together, you experienced at least once the joy that comes from touching a reader, for making that reader say, yes, yes, and again, yes. Blessings to all of you.
Dear Gods of the Book,
In two days, my novel, Break the Skin, will be on bookstore shelves. . .at least I hope it will. Please grant it a pleasant passage through the world. Please forgive me for being nervous about its reception. I’ll stop short of asking the great dragons to protect it, as this blessing on the left does, but, I’ll go along with, “So Mote It Be.”
Your Nervous Author,
Whether be Nook or Kindle or between the hard covers, I hope you’ll find something in my new book to delight you, and if you do, I hope you’ll let me know. If you don’t, please remember what our mothers taught us: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I did the best I could, and now I can’t do anything more except to do what writers do, move on to the next project. In my case, this means attending to my agent’s edits of the next novel to come. I’ll open the manuscript tomorrow. In the meantime, blessings to all of you.
Lee, I really like this new site. Your photo is great, the layout is well thought out, nice graphics, and, oh, what you said to your students. How beautifully put. Is writing necessary to you? What a poignant question. For so many years art consumed the bulk of my life and imagination. It’s difficult sometimes to realize the creativity, the passion is all still right here, yet my body is unable to find the strength to let it blossom across the walls, which have been my canvas. I won’t lie. I miss it. I find it difficult to face the homes and businesses that claim a part of me in their decor. I am not yet at that point that I can see my own work and feel dispassionate about it, as something in the past, where I’ve moved on.
But my passion has been re-born into a concern for the nurturing of other women facing what I did. I’ve learned through writing that I can reach into the very hearts of the hurting to help them understand and sort through their own roller coaster of emotions. How to deal with the maze of confusion, information, and treatment. How to not just survive, but to THRIVE in the face of death. I am so amazed that the same exhiliration I felt over a completed art project can translate itself so beautifully into joy from motivating others to a whole new level of living.
Oh, how blessed I would have been to have had a teacher like you, who could help me through this adventure. Being in the little burg of Sumner did not exactly give me an opportunity to sprout wings and fly through the magic of art. Everything I learned, I learned by experimenting. I was so very determined.
I take this determination now to the keyboard, praying that my words will continue to help effect lives all over the world. That’s what my blogging is doing now, and I am delighted with the large audience, but there are many more that need to be reached. And I am just the woman to do it!
Sorry, didn’t mean to be so wordy, but I know that you understand what is in my heart. I find it so delightful that we have re-connected. I’m so excited to hit the bookstores this week and purchase your book. My only regret is that it won’t have your signature on it. Yet. Doesn’t mean it won’t at a later date.
I hope and pray it’s a raging success. It couldn’t happen to a nicer, more worthy guy!
Take care, and good luck! Will talk later. Babz
Babz, thanks so much for all your kind words and also for telling your own story. The power of writing is significant as you well know, and as you’re helping others to know. I admire the work that you do,and I wish you all the best with it. I’d love to sign a copy of Break the Skin for you. Who knows, perhaps we’ll both end up in Sumner one of these days, and I’ll be able to do just that. In the meantime, please do stay in touch, and keep writing and helping others
My guess is that any writer worth a nickel is also a teacher under the skin, or perhaps above it as well. Lee, the class was a joy. My only regret was that we were not yet on semesters; ten weeks was just too darned short! As for your insightful question, yes, I would feel estranged with/from myself were I not to write, every day. Those who ask why I write receive a blank stare in return. On occasion that’s because of my well-earned hearing loss from hanging around noisy aircraft for forty years. Mostly the dumb look means I write because I must. I have to tell you that one of the ultimate memories I have of 568 Spring ’11 was responding to your writing prompts, feeling the solution to my essay’s opacity spring into view like parting clouds. “At that moment” and “I never knew…” and “Then I wondered…” and “Part of me…” It was like a pipe burst and words–the right ones, I think–flowed onto the page. Amazing.
Thanks for that, and for all the great windup toys, too.
Byron, I’m so glad that those writing prompts worked out so well for you. I noticed evidence of that work in your final revision. I had no idea I was going to do that activity the day we discussed your essay, but I’m glad the idea came to me on the spur of the moment. And if I could be permitted one more pun: You’re writing for all the “write” reasons.
In summary, I believe you’re write–more or less.
I hate to draw too much attention to language convention, but I want to draw attention to a misuse of the word “confident” in the blessing of your book. I think you wanted to use “confidant” instead.
Hussein, the blessing of the book is an image that I borrowed from elsewhere. I didn’t write it, so the misuse of the word that you rightly point out is someone else’s error. Thanks for reading the blog and thanks for taking the time to comment.