For the longest time, I wanted to be a writer. Decades. “A writer is a person who writes,” I heard, and so I did. But I didn’t call myself a writer until I started to get published, and even then, I always felt like I was exaggerating. Boasting. Maybe until my second book, Writing Is My Drink, came out. Then, I figured I must be a writer because not only did I write but I’d written a book about writing.
You’ve recently read Claire Dederer’s Love and Trouble and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts AND the deeper-in-the-catalog Bluets. You love Abigail Thomas’ Safekeeping and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries. You own multiple copies of Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge. These are signs.Your manuscript is built of teeny tiny chapters. Can you even really call them chapters? Your book possesses multiple narratives. Some pages contain more white space than words. These too are signs.
Like my students and clients who’ve sold their memoirs, Jill Soloway made a crucial decision to bet on herself and her writing. When her career was at its lowest point, she chose to “double down” on herself.
When I see my students being all adult about workshop notes, I can’t help but try to understand why I wasted so much time pushing away what I so needed to hear. The answer I come up with: I subscribed too heavily to the idea that talent reigns supreme. I believed that these critiques meant I didn’t have enough talent to BE A WRITER. Another issue: I then lacked the skill to take a comment and revise, so I found critiques overwhelming. How on earth was I suppose to use these comments? How could I pry open this formed thing and begin to rebuild?
My life slowed down, and in that slowing my commitment to teaching and coaching deepened. Client and student successes jolted me with pleasure. Witnessing their growth and accomplishment renewed my awe for the creative process. And, I began to realize that coaching had become central to my sense of purpose, that my best work these days often happened in collaboration with a client who was in the midst of a memoir or a personal essay. So why not move coaching to the middle of my life?
A memory from my MFA program: The professor looking around the room at our small group of nine and proclaiming: "You're all talented. It's impossible to know which ones of you will make it into print ...
1. What genius invented the Mandarin orange? I’m not a person who likes to struggle for food. Cracking and scraping my way through a plate of crab hardly feels worth it. Shelled nuts? Seriously? ...