Wow. I have not written a blog post in a LONG time. I will fix that…
However, today is something special.
I had a tarot reading today, because the Mercury retrograde season is upon us, and I am interested in what the world has in store for me.
First, memories will start to come up from my past. Not necessarily bad or good, but memories that need to be acknowledged, processed, and moved through.
The bulk of this reading stems from the processing of these memories, difficult events that happened, and moving past them to achieve something I am ready to achieve.
The idea that the system is working well enough, but it is missing something… a fountain works just fine, it is recycling the water, it works well… still, without a filter, the water can become musty. It needs some outside nourishment to function more efficiently, which will lead to a more fulfilled life.
Then there was the idea of some past abuse, or trauma, or some other difficult event in my past that I need to process and overcome… that one thing I’ve been holding on to, which has been restricting my growth.
I know exactly what that past abuse/trauma/difficulty is… and how I need to move past it.
26 years ago this fall, I was a freshman in college. I had been told for years that I had an important story to tell, that my voice was important, that I had a talent for words, so I enrolled in a poetry workshop class. That first college level poetry workshop had an instructor named Tim. He was a published poet, visiting instructor, had won awards and such, I mean, he had published a book… so he must know his stuff.
The first day I asked a question that should have made me know what kind of class this would be. I asked, “Is effort going to factor in to the grade?”
Nope. If the writing is bad, then it’s bad. It doesnt matter how long you work on it.
Now I know this was a hint at the “good writers are born, not made” ideas. In my opinion, everyone has a story to share… everyone has a voice, everyone has the right and ability to use that voice and share that story… who the hell is he to say differently?
So we are going about our introductions the first day, he asks us to submit some work… i had some from high school… so I turned it in. We also had to rank our ability to take criticism from 1 to 5, 5 being brutally honest. I asked for 3-4…
He admired the person who said, “3, well, 2”
Anyway… he basically told me that my writing was crap and he didnt know why I even bothered trying. (I must admit I don’t think he actually SAID that, but the message was received).
I was waiting for feedback to tell me how to fix it, why was it bad, what should I do…
There was no feedback. No teaching. No encouragement. No education. Just “this is bad.”
So after that class, I stopped writing poetry. I stopped creating worlds. I stopped noticing small details, because they didn’t matter, not really, I mean, who was I to say anything? My voice didnt matter… I mean, if a published poet didn’t think my words mattered, why should I share them at all?
For ten years I did not write. I did not write a creative work again until mom and dad moved to Kansas and I was in St Louis working at Wash U. I could take free classes, so mom said, “why dont you take a poetry class?” Yeah, okay…
Brian Taylor, poet and instructor, gave me proper feedback. He showed me how to let the poem guide me. He gave me language to describe what I wanted the poem to say, and still letting the poem breathe and live.
I started writing again. I wrote a poem called “Not Another Empty Table.” It was published in 2005 in an online magazine.
That was fifteen years ago.
My, how things have changed.
I’ve been talking lately about Imposter Syndrome.
How even though I have a book accepted for publication;
how even though FOUR poets have written eloquent praise for my back-of-the-book blurbs;
how even though TWO Poets Laureate think MY voice is important and beautiful and daring and dangerous;
how even though I’ve won awards, and secured two grants, and commissioned poems, and created personalized poems that made people gasp and cry…
…there, smiling in the back of my brain… was always Tim’s reaction to my very early work… “You are not good enough. Don’t even try. Why bother. Choose something else. You will never do this.”
I remember when I was in Catholic school, there was a lesson on self esteem. How everyone starts the day with a full sheet of construction paper… and each little thing (getting a low grade on a test, not being chosen for line leader, coming in 3rd at a race when you worked your hardest)… each of these rip a bit of the paper a little more each day.
These things are easy to move past, though. Work harder on those math problems… everyobe gets a turn as line leader… run a little faster next time… the next day, those papers are back to full again…
Molly said, “I dont like your hair.”
Dylan said, “your feet smell.”
Sara said, “glasses make you look stupid.”
With each of those comments, the paper ripped, like the other times… but those pieces did not return to the page… those pieces were gone forever.
So, for the past 26 years I have been second-guessing my writing. I have been worse than a worst critic… I have been afraid of succeeding. I have been afraid to know I am a good writer and have important things to say. I have been afraid to voice my opinions and thoughts and feelings, stifling my excitement and joy and accomplishments…
Well… (dramatic pause)
I think my tarot reading today is telling me that I need to not just SAY I have moved beyond Tim’s comments… but that I HAVE moved on from them.
For 26 years I have allowed this man’s existence to harm me. He doesnt know me from Adam, but that is usually the way with bullies and poor teachers.
Tonight I am cutting the cord that has tied me to this past event.
I am no longer afraid of success, just because the fall of failure is longer, and harder.
Tonight I am embracing my voice because one person’s opinion is not worth twenty-six years of my life.
A local arts advocate has asked me several times… “Do you know yet, that you are good?”
My answer is…
(Wait for it…)
I am a good poet.
I weave worlds with language and put up a mirror in front of faces.
I share my view of my world and put it out there for others to read and experience.Do I know, yet, that I am good?I am great. I know it.
Now, time to write.