Some Writing on Writing

(Update: This post is now also on Writerly Life, a very good blog for writers.)

(On Fridays, I’m going to be writing about this writing and publishing process I’ve been going through. I keep bumping into and talking to people who are interested in writing and being published, etc. Hopefully this will encourage them and entertain others.)

Someone who is writing must inevitably say something about their writing. The way it is done. The feel of it. In the midst of it even. And the more this person is read, the more they will be prone to write about the writing and the reading. There are just too many writers writing about writing to confirm this.

I do not compare myself to these writers unless an ant compares itself to elephants.

But when God stretches out the hand of grace to lend a dream, the most tepid of internal waters will stir in the heart of the lowly even, to speak of it.

Yesterday afternoon I heard from the editor. Thankfully when I opened the email I’d no idea what the contents were, though the subject line should have made it more than obvious. If I had known, I’d have prayed before hand. My mind, had of course gone to the place where the worst of reviews and the best of reviews stood side by side trading places for primary expectation.

The deadliest was, “No one will read this.” With an eye-roll to boot.

The one making my heart soar was, “I love this.” Simply that. Maybe it is not good to tell you that’s what I wanted to hear more than anything. But it is true. So I lodged hope there, tucked it in and waited outside while it slept soundly.

Maybe all this comes from the past. It has roared into the present like a train into station.

All the writing started because Mrs. Derieux pulled me out into the hallway of W.J. Christian School after I told her I did not want to memorize a poem. I can remember the fifth-grade feeling the moment I said it. I might have said it was for girls. So fear. Also because I was shy (a year would cure this) and stuttered (still do) and recitation of something like a poem felt impossible.

Either after the rebuke in he hallway or during the rebuke Silverstein was put in my hands. And like a trout destined for an almond crusting, I was hooked. And forever thankful for it.

From then on, I began to fill notebooks of poems. For a time I would write poems making fun of other students. Then they became ‘serious,’ mimicking songs I heard lulling out of cassettes.

Once in HIgh School, I ignored my classes for them. A teacher found one of these notebooks and I expected him to laugh, but he just looked at me puzzled, which I preferred.

On into college I scribbled them down. Some long and some spread over dozens of pages. All terrible. But I took a creative writing class in which I languished and dreaded each day. I remember nothing but the critiques leveled like breathy daggers and paper bullets. I got a C. And it was most likely deserved. But I’ve written almost no poetry since. And rarely enjoyed writing anything till I finished Seminary.

So when an editor writes back and says more than what I could have hoped for, it felt like it needed to be written about. Not only was the content commended but so was the way it was written. I ruled cloud nine last night.

Not because it makes me anything special – many are writing and are far more competent than I am. Not because it means I’ve achieved anything yet – the book hasn’t even been released. Not because I think I’ll make much money doing this – I’ll still have to work of course. But because it’s the very thing I thought would never happen – and yet is happening.

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