I’m back in heavenly Provincetown, and I have 3 things to say.
1) I woke up this morning with the sun, pretty wide awake actually, but as it was just a little after five, I thought I’d try to go back to sleep. The next time I opened my eyes it was nine am straight up.
2) I’m still coughing but much better, and I had my first intentional exercise in over two weeks. I walked and walked–10,000 steps.
3) But here is what I wanted to get to. At AWP, at a panel, Arna Bontemps Hemenway read a portion of a letter from the poet Dean Young to his nephew, Seth Pollins. I made a note to look it up. I did that today and want to share some bits and pieces with you.
But one thing that won’t just happen to you, like life, is teaching yourself to write well. So whatever time you spend doing that, can stand to spend, and need to spend, all that time that seems wasted and those rare moments that seem volcanic and so sure, is the time that must be spent, otherwise you’ll never become the writer you want to become. And there’s a funny thing about that, too. One is that you’ll never become the writer you want to become. You’ll never be satisfied, never really know if you are any good. You’ll never be certain.
So don’t worry, Seth, you’re feeling what you have to feel, and as John Ashbery says, The reasons that religions are great is that they are founded on doubt. So you have to be the religion of yourself, which surely Walt Whitman said somewhere, and it sounds like you’re finding your way. Because it has to be YOUR way.
In my experience, the people who become writers are the ones who keep writing through the yards of silence and the years of discouragement.
Allow yourself to be uncertain, but don’t let your uncertainty turn to despair. It can be wonderful to write when you’re sad and full of the dark bouquet of doubt, but misery leads itself to silence and one must get out of bed every morning and prepare for the great celebration of one’s own imagination, even if it doesn’t happen that day.
There’s a lot of luck involved in being struck by lightening, so you want to make sure you’re holding a pen when it happens.