For Susan Palwick
Susan made me do it, made me reconsider.
She does that.
Spinner, knitter, weaver, crafter
She sees the pattern and the details.
Spots a snag, a lumpy bit, an errant thread.
Sometimes, goes on. Sometimes, starts over.
So here, I start over.
Real Writers, I said.
Meaning (old school) Published. Bound. Illustrated covers.
Those who made the books I discovered, me hovering by crowded shelves, imbibing paper perfume.
A writer is one who puts down words.
Captures thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, facts.
I excel at writing facts, well seasoned with dream. This annual report, it pulls it all together. Digests facts from dozens of sources, numbers crunched in new ways to show clear here, see this? We did this. We did.
Given this, we could do this. We could. I wrote grants, small and large, that spoke of hopes and dreams. Some, most, became fact. Small miracles, but mine, I made them happen, made hopes facts.
Manuals. Illustrated, indexed, tabled. First do this, then this, then that. And this is why. And this is when we started doing it, and why we don’t do that other thing any more. Once upon a time, it was thus. Now thus, trust me, do it thus because this task you do becomes fact on which other people act. So best do it right.
Lately, I have been writing thoughts. It helps to put them down, opens space in my head, reveals logic that I had not previously understood.
I mostly like my brain, it’s very clever and busy. Stuff comes in and rolls around and gets knitted in. Collected, sorted, arranged, emerging in a fabric in an unexpected pattern. Huh.
People seem to like my thoughts, to get my jokes, to respect my grief, my anger, my joy. Huh. So emboldened, I write more.
Lately the thoughts have been patterned differently. More phrases than paragraphs.
My brain is stubborn. It does its own drafts, and when it is good and ready it tells me I may now start writing things down. When there is no pattern, no logic, no passion, my brain does not allow me to write. There are no words running down my wrists to the keyboard or the notepad. There is a closed door. Don’t even, it says.
So to find myself putting out phrases, permitted to send out phrases, that’s new. That’s odd. Huh.
But it seems to be working.
I’ve been calling them poems. No rhyme, no structure, no adherence to the rules of poesy. But still, they tell me they are poems. Huh.
They tell stories, so that’s all right. They go somewhere, they come back around, they spiral in and out.
They begin and they end. And they tell me they are ready enough to come forth.
So I put them down, I make them, and I set them aside. I remain unconvinced.
I seem to be writing poems. But I am not a poet. Have never been. Never planned, studied, toiled. How can this be a poem.
Susan is back. She brings kindness and clarity. She is a writer, a Real Writer.
Published, heard, known.
Susan is back. “Everyone who writes is a real writer,” she says. She corrects my phrasing. she suggests different words, better words. She writes in my margins, she sums up at the foot of my paper. Susan is a Real Teacher. Ask her students.
Susan is back. Holding up a mirror, in kindness and compassion, compelling a vision of truth. Of inner Realness. Susan is a chaplain. Susan makes her life a homily, a practice.
Three good things she writes, every day. Even on days of grief, of pain, of fear, she finds three good things to honor.
And so she leads me to seek three good things in my day. She leads me, firmly, to reconsider.
Thing one, the words are pouring forth these days.
Thing two, my friends encourage me.
Thing three, I dared and succeeded.
Three very good things.
I dared. I do not often dare, but sometimes.
I dared take the Mighty Mustang to the Kiwi Cowboy challenge and we got third place. We were jubilant.
I dared invite Molly, a tentative friend, to an event in the big city. We met, we spectated, we parted in mutual achievement.
I dared send one of my sort-of poems to said Real Writer. I put it under her nose, as one would leave a piece of paper shyly on the desk of a teacher, inviting scrutiny. Terrified by the prospect of scrutiny.
And so, under Susan’s stern gaze, I reconsider. I am a Velveteen Writer, I make myself Real. Real in fact, real in verse, perhaps real in fiction. Huh.