“’What is REAL?,’ asked the Rabbit one day….”
And when a writer really loves an idea, a book can become real. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit in the eponymous children’s book by Margery Williams, for a writer’s story to become REAL takes a very long time. (In fact, you might find bald spots and missing buttons just like Rabbit!) It’s not just the writing that evolves, it’s the believing in yourself that takes time to develop. Like many writers I know, my “Not Enough” voice peppered me with doubts, whispering things like, “Well, that poem is pretty good, but will you ever be able to write lines like that again?” Thankfully, I know enough now to banish that voice to a far corner in my house and ignore her.
Writing a book involves a willingness to put in long, solitary hours and to believe utterly in the future possibility that someone, somewhere might take a chance on your work. In my case, that meant a publisher taking a chance risk on someone who had never published a book before. But every step of the way, I kept refocusing on the small, daily tasks of writing a new poem or reworking some stubborn lines, or coming up with fresh images. The Altar of Innocence —my goal—loomed in the distance, like a lovely cottage surrounded by wildflowers. I could imagine it, and I knew one day I’d find it. But meanwhile, there were other tasks at hand. I used my ability to take a “yes, and” view—something I learned from improv classes. I visualized my end goal while working on very discreet daily tasks in order to get there.
I focused on one thing at a time with dogged persistence and refused to get lost in all of the “what ifs” that inevitably crept into my consciousness. Before I knew it, a box of books arrived on my porch. Early and unexpected. Ecstatic is not too grand a word to describe how I felt at that moment. I hauled the box inside, hoisted it up on to the counter, grabbed the Exacto knife, slit the tape, and pulled off the layers of paper keeping my babies from sliding around. All the while, I prayed that they would be as beautiful as the proofs from the publisher.
When I finally held a copy of my book — MY book — in my hands, I felt a rush of gratitude to everyone who believed in me enough to help me make my book REAL. And gratitude for the editors along the way who published my poems, faithfully submitted, one-by-one—even those rejected over and over, and those published right away. And always, every step of the way, my dreams guided my efforts. It’s as if all of my experiences—as a mother, a teacher, a workshop leader, a writer—all of those lessons about love and loss, disappointment and setbacks—have guided me on the path to making my dreams become real. And I could almost hear what the Skin Horse advised the Velveteen Rabbit:
“‘It doesn’t happen all at once……You become. It takes a long time.’”
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