I often can’t get to my words as fast as I would like each day as I sit and face my blank screen or piece of paper. And on those days when doubt speaks too loudly, drowning out my quiet instincts, I hear it bullying me, “It isn’t even important, what you have to say! Let a ‘better’ writer say it, dummy!” That’s when I hear my fearless leader’s voice, “Do NOT call my friend, Dida, a dummy… under any circumstances!” She's right there, standing up for me, the little novella in Danny Shanahan's New Yorker cartoon.
It’s her voice I hear now in my heart and it shuts Mr. Know-It-All Doubt right up. Her name is Crescent Dragonwagon (no, really, it’s Crescent Dragonwagon, that's her logo on the left) and she reminds me on a daily basis that what I have to say *is* important, even if it’s just for me to see and read, and even if no one ever reads it and no one is ever moved by it one way or another, I am moved by it. This is why I write the words down in the first place and that is enough… at the end of the day, that is more than enough.
Another writer asked me recently, what my ultimate goal is for writing a novel. "Do you want to see your name in Barnes & Noble next to Barbara Walters or Danielle Steel?" she asked. I had to admit (and I might have even laughed a bit too loud at the thought of my name next to either of those names) that I had no desire to see my name in Barnes & Noble.
"But, don’t you want to sell it and see it in print? Don’t you want the success that they have?"
No, I said, I really didn’t care about that kind of success. That’s the publishing world’s idea of success, not mine, I said. And at almost forty-nine years of age, I can finally say I don't need anyone else's approval of my work to call myself an authentic writer. After taking Crescent's 36-day “Virtual Fearless Writing” workshop this year, I finally feel I am already "successful," two of the short stories I am most proud of have been featured on NPR, thanks to Tales from the South and living in Arkansas, something that is truly incredible in and of itself, and now I am writing every day a story I want to tell, another miraculous gift... but the most miraculous achievement of all is that I am finally at peace and enjoying my writing process. I am finally discovering new ways to layer and season my novel to reveal a richer, more authentic, heartfelt plot. I couldn't care less about any money I might or might not receive from finishing my book.
This fellow writer from my writer's group did look at me a bit sideways after I gave my little speech about why I write and what my ultimate goal is for my novel, which is just this: to finish it for my own self-satisfaction.
I do have a deadline, though, not because an editor gave me one, but because I gave it to myself. My deadline is my 50th birthday (you'll just have to ask me how far away that is judging by the look of me that day!) but if I don’t meet my deadline, I know it’s not the end of the world... not by a mile, not if I enjoyed the process and I wrote the story authentically, embracing fear as my partner, finding my 'helpful inner editor' waiting on the shore up ahead. I have Crescent Dragonwagon to thank for that realization, something it has taken me ten years to fully understand. I now know, thanks to her voice, that I am no dummy, not under any circumstances. Crescent, I am so grateful that you were born, Fearless Dragon. Happy Birthday.
L ike a present sent just for me, even on your birthday, I am still opening up this gift
O ften unspoken as I write, although I do sing it throughout the day
V essels of gratitude setting sail to you ~ on board, what you have given me and
E ach one of your students. I call myself one of the lucky, one of the sacred, one of
D ragon’s fearless writers and finally, I can let go.
I ‘m finally moving forward, my instincts holding me steady, holding me tight.
D on’t even try to get in my way now, I’m not stopping, I have a story to tell
A nd I will write it with honesty and passion and love because you, Crescent, taught me so well.