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On the Road: Reflections on Ambition & Art

Painting by Norman Rockwell, Image from Cliff1066 on flickr.

As you know, I’ve just returned from my first residency at Wilkes University. I’ll go twice a year for 2.5 years and on the other side of 3, have an MA, and an MFA, an internship in teaching or publishing, and I’ll have a manuscript, a(t least one) revision of it, and all sorts of connections with the world of publishing.

If you know me, you know that I’ve always been a word nerd.

And if you were in my head all the time, you would know that at least 70% of the time, even though I make money as a writer, have publishing credits, and have a Bachelor’s degree (and am now working toward the terminal degree) in writing, I am sure that there’s nobody less qualified to do what I do, that I’m a fraud and a sham and have just been tricking people my whole life into believing that I’m a proper writer.

But know the most valuable thing I learned at the residency?

That every other writer feels that way, too.  Even writers as excellent as the ones I was lucky enough to meet and to hear read.

This is not to say that I feel like I’ve got nothing to learn.  The contrary in fact.  I’ll learn more in Wilkes’s program than I could’ve possibly predicted.

And I feel, for the first time since Pearl was an infant, that I’m both home and on the road to destination Realizing Goals.

I got permission to be constantly thinking about the stories I want to tell.  Those ideas that were bashing about in my wee noggin have grown larger, more defined.

And instead of running away from each of those ideas with some kind of fear, and some kind of narrative about why I can’t write that story now, my dilemma is that I can only pick one.

I don’t know if it is a feature of the artistic temperament or if it is that I was ingrained from a very early age that though I am welcome to try to do whatever I want, it is unlikely–statistically–that I will meet with any real success and that I should seek fulfillment in the menial, that explains my fear when facing my creative pursuits, my desire to put them off, to own any other path or career choice.

But spending a week around people who see the world as I do, in the kooky writer way, and with working writers who are generous with their insights, resources, time, and energy, well I don’t remember the last time I felt so creatively and spiritually fortified.

What about you?  When was the last time you felt creatively fortified?

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One comment on “On the Road: Reflections on Ambition & Art

  1. Holding the first print copy of my new novel, The Storyteller’s Bracelet, was pretty fortifying. But I want to address your feeling like a fraud comment. It is so true! I remember the first time I got up in front of a classroom to teach a writing workshop. All these faces looking at me expectantly. I kept thinking, where’s the expert? Where’s the instructor? Then, I realized–it was me. Talk about a humbling feeling! So yes–we all feel that way. And there is always, ALWAYS, something more we can learn.

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