The best thing about being an artist…is that you get to engage in satisfying work.
Anne Lamott— Bird by Bird
This past spring, I purchased some garden art: a metal orb on a pedestal, our spinning world deconstructed, with an arrow pointed in any direction I desired. North to the Star, South to my place of birth, West to the river I love, but East pulled me. Sun, daylight, warmth, light, where I can be child and explorer. The spinning world found a home in my garden, arrow pointing Eastward.
This orb and its easterly direction serve as guides for my writing journey, and now a guide for my journey into the world of submitting work for publication.
Trying to get my work published seemed a natural step forward, a step I always promoted to my high school students and to my workshop participants because writing matters, because it fosters human spirit, the heart, individual and collective voices. Writing connects us. But when facing the possibility of my own work out there, to be looked at and criticized, the process seemed scary and daunting: hundreds of publications, rules, contests, rejections, rejections, silence.
What changed? I needed a compass, a direction. I turned to some of my favorite writers and found guidance in Brenda Ueland’s If You Want To Write: “the best way to know the Truth or the Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others?”
There, I had it. I just got down to it. As a student and teacher, I’d always loved research. In other times out of the classroom, I spent years working in the retail world with clothes and books, matching clients to styles of clothing and writing, so I began treating this process as my direction. Similar to a child’s card game, I pored over my work, matching my work with some possible places to submit, collecting literature journals, magazines, attending more writing classes, talking with writing colleagues, visiting websites, and of course writing, writing, and revising. The whole process actually became fun. —Unbelievable, right?
But what I still loved was the writing, talking to other writers, reading so many writers in various voices and styles, listening to others— their words are Beauty. And I’ve been rewarded. I’ve had some work accepted with kind notes from editors, and I’ve had plenty rejected, some one line rejection emails, others with a complimentary note or suggestions. Each acceptance or rejection has become a celebration of what Ueland calls “purpose of existence.” I’ve gotten so that when rejection comes, I rejoice in revisiting the poems, re-visioning, deciding where they might fly next.
At times I’ve been discouraged, and I know I will be again, but I know an idea or phrase will pull me in and I’ll be writing, without thinking of the publishing, but of exploring words, the worlds they bring me. I love what Pat Schneider says in her book for Amherst Writers and Artists, Writing Alone and With Others, about the moment you open an idea “… you might never be again touched by the confluence of images that have opened you to this particular moment in your imagination.”
And I suppose that’s what keeps me in. The writing for pure pleasure of that moment. Opening the imagination. The thing it is to be writing.
Many, many thanks for all who have encouraged me, written with me, and taught me.
Words roll on the tongue, in the ear, on the page, pointing me in the right direction to my garden, toward the Sun.