Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I'm No Expert, But...

Back in college, I once wrote an entire 20-page final paper on Jane Austen in three nights.  This was, not uncoincidentally, also the first time I ever drank coffee.

I was supposed to be working on the paper throughout the entire semester, turning in a section at a time for critique.  Well.  I turned in my first two sections, got miserable feedback, and promptly stopped turning in sections.  I continued reading the books, making notes, and doing research, but as for actual writing?  I didn't do it.

Suddenly, the deadline was looming and panic (naturally) set in.  So I and three other girls in my class spent three nights sitting at Starbucks till two and three in the morning, drinking coffee and writing our hearts out.

I finished the paper (just in time), turned it in, and waited with none-too-high hopes.

The professor, the regrettably late Dr. Lila Kurth, was always a hard grader.  She gave me my only C and often wrote "trite" in the margins of my papers.  But, when I went to go pick up my Jane Austen paper, she handed it to me and then told me she needed to give me a hug, because my paper was "beautiful."

I'll never forget that moment.

It was also the start of my realization that I truly do function best under a deadline.

This has not changed.  Most of my blog entries are finished just under the wire.  And months ago, my friend Jessica asked me to write something for her upcoming wedding.

Why she did this is mostly beyond me.  It seems unusual to ask the (more-than-slightly cynical) divorcee to write something about love for a wedding.  I didn't write anything for my own wedding, much less love poetry about my ex-husband.

And, to be honest, I didn't exactly write much for her wedding until very recently.

(Please, Jessica, don't think I didn't work on this over the intervening months since you asked me.  I did, honestly I did.  I have scraps of poems and ideas all over the place, from notebooks to my phone to the bathroom mirror.  But nothing solid and certainly nothing finished.)

But, thankfully, deadline panic strikes once again (with the help of my now long-time friend, coffee), and I have a not-quite-love poem ready for a not-quite-conventional wedding.

I do wonder if I could have written a love poem while I was still married.  My last marriage was where my writing went to die, after all.  When I did write, it was dark and lonesome words which I still uncover from time to time and which always remind me of how secretly miserable I was.

Divorce, as brutal as it was, gave me something I hadn't had in a long time: the freedom to have my own voice.  I know I talk about this a lot, but as a writer, it's still important to me.  Without my voice, what am I?  Certainly not a great writer.

Not that I'm that confident in what I am at the moment anyway.

The other week, Mark intercepted a text from Jessica asking me if I were a published author so she could put it in the wedding program.  If it were up to me, I would have hemmed and hawed about the answer.  I honestly don't feel that simply being published in my college magazine a few times and once in a local literary magazine really count as my being a "published author," but Mark disagreed and told her so.

And so the decision was made: I'm a published author.

Maybe they're right.  I might not feel that I'm a properly published author, or that I'm the best choice to turn to for a wedding poem, but I've always been my own worst critic.

So while I'm certainly no expert, I'm also no longer mute.

Give me a deadline, some coffee, and a blank page, and eventually?

I'll come up with something to say.

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