Friday, April 30, 2010

All I ever wanted to be was a starving artist.

I wish I had recorded Barbara Donnelly Lane's presentation to our class today. She's a freelance/children's author who spoke to my Literary Magazine class about why she writes, the persistence a writer's life requires, and the importance of knowing why such persistence is worth it.

Though she described in detail the hardships writers face, she fueled my yearning to share my words with other people. As she described the discouragement attached to multiple publishing rejections, I couldn't help but know that I will stomach whatever it takes. She said, "You have to want to write badly enough that the process seems worth it. You have to have an outer shell that rejection bounces off of because if you don't, you'll stop trying. I used to save all of my rejection letters. Don't do that. Burn them.

"You have to know why you want to write, and you have to practice your craft. I have no respect for writers who don't practice their craft. And I have no respect for writers who can't tell me what they read last. Writers need to read.

"You need to know how you're going to eat. Writing for self-publication alone will not put food on the table. Think about your education and get a degree that sets you apart."

She shared this quote with us as one that stood out to her as irrevocably true for writers:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

I want to clarify that I do not ever plan to answer the question "What do you do?" with "I'm a writer." I envision "writer" as a title saved for other people to use about the writers they respect. The title is overused. Too many use the title as their key to a literary pedestal. To cultural importance. To unmistakable talent.

In my opinion, which I will too gladly share with you for the rest of my life, no one should label themselves as having any of those.

Class of 2010, prepare yourselves. The next twenty-five years may fly by as swiftly as the past twelve did. And when you ask me at our 25th High School Reunion, "What are you doing these days?" you'll wonder if I ever removed the "rising" from "rising college freshman." I will answer, "I want to be a writer."