I have friends who are doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, organizers, bartenders, and on and on and on...and I see the poet in all of them, peeking out in wonderful shining moments that they themselves do not even recognize, when some Muse is working through them that they aren't even aware of. And it is so beautiful, that raw and fragile moment when the artist in each of us is revealed.
For me, it has always been about words, and finding ways to get beyond my fear of sharing them with others. When I was young I wanted so desperately to be a writer--I couldn't begin to imagine being anything else--but always had that nagging awful feeling inside of me that I would never be talented enough to make a living that way. So I would try to bury my dreams of being the next great feminist novelist, and like a toothache they would just come back to haunt me.
And then a friend who was tired of hearing me wax poetic about my self doubt wrote down a Marge Piercy poem for me that I still carry around today, more than 20 years later. It was a gift that ultimately transformed me, a gift from someone who understood my ache of wanting to write, to express, to fill a blank page with words that might take people I would never meet to places they had never imagined. What that poem made me realize was that the work itself was all that really mattered...even more than wanting someone else to love it, and by extension, to love me.
Now I write just for me.
And every once in a while, I let someone new inside my little cyberspace world of expression.
It is never easy to do that. I feel at once like I am uncovering myself, peeling back the protective layers that I wear in the world outside of The Slant. A world that, to me, is a crazy, turbulent sea of humanity (and not), and of which I am, quite simply, just trying to stay afloat in.
But then I go ahead and do it anyway.
For the young who want to
Talent is what they say you have
after the novel is published and
favorably reviewed. Beforehand
what you have is a tedious delusion,
a hobby like knitting.
Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go out and get
Genius is what they know you had
after the third volume
of remarkable poems.
Earlier they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why don't you have a baby, call you a bum.
The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really learn is a few
techniques, typing instructions
and somebody else's mannerisms
is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.
The real writer is one who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.