Monday, September 29, 2008

words on the street

The maple tree outside my study window is still green, but the light around it is metallic and harsh.  "Word on the Street" yesterday, that great celebration of the printed word, takes place on the last Sunday in September, and so is a celebration, too, of the last warm days of summer. Queen's Park was packed, as always, in the hot sun, and as always I marvel at the outpouring of print - mags, newspapers, books big and small, hard and soft, manifestos, chapbooks, t-shirts and flags. 

My students - what I realised, looking at those mountains and miles of books, is that the only difference between those writers in print and you is that they have pushed through.  They learned what was needed to get the story down and edited; they finished, found an agent or publisher or even simply self-published and got a final product out into the world.  There's an issue of talent, yes - but also perseverance, humility, self-confidence and guts.  You have those things.

I am also talking to myself.  I was working at the Ryerson table yesterday when a woman with a familiar face came up - a student in one of my very first classes at Ryerson in 1985, there with her son, who then was a newborn and now is a young adult who has written a 500-page novel. She has been working as a freelance writer.  "I remember the class so well," she told me, "You talked about the book you were going to write on Paul McCartney."

A jolt in my heart.  I didn't realise I was talking about that material back then, and now, more than 20 years later, I am still talking about it - still labouring to find a voice in which to tell that story, with fifty different beginnings in my files and still no push through to the end.  So I need to tell myself, also: perseverence, humility, self-confidence, guts.  And that final but so important necessity for a writer: BOC.  Bum On Chair.



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