Embody your fantasy; fiction can manifest reality

Though I’ve never published fiction,  I have written fictional stories that have become real worlds and my characters are well known by many who interact with them as if they are real, live people.

Let me explain.

Back in the early 90s, I was trapped in a marriage to a man who had become physically and verbally abusive. We had only one car, and I used to stare out the window as he drove through West Palm Beach, fantasizing about what went on inside some of the buildings we’d pass. I couldn’t go inside. My husband, who was much older and made most of the money, controlled where I went physically.

But he couldn’t imprison my imagination. The colorful sign above the ArtsBar on Dixie Highway provoked my curiosity, and my imagination projected me into that dark bar where Bohemian creative types drank and conspired to make art together. Along Federal Highway, a plain beige one-story building announced short term rentals. From a post hung a plain white sign with Mi Casa written in brown script, inviting me in.

Into these spaces, I projected the characters of two young women — Calla, the uninitiated narrator who had just declared her independence from a suffocating marriage and Sybil,  a wild child neighbor who taught the narrator the ways of single, independent, creative living. I began to write the story down. And then it took on a life of its own.

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Dorothy and I, photo by South Florida Sun-Sentinel staff photographer

Within a few months, enough money to leave my husband found its way into my hands. The local radio was giving away cash — extra if you knew the phrase that pays. I won the big prize — $1,000. That was surprising in itself, but what was even more magical was that I’d told my co-workers that I was going to win the contest that day.

With the money, I moved into a studio in a Palm Beach duplex that was maybe twelve feet square. It was so small, you could sit on the toilet and brush your teeth over the sink at the same time. There was room for a bed, dresser, desk, and book shelf, which left only enough room to walk between the furniture. It was tiny, but it was mine!

Within a couple days, I discovered the best feature of the place: Dorothy, a wild child who would teach me the ways of single, independent, creative living!

I was Calla and she was Sybil. She’d studied theater, art, and poetry. She believed in the chthonian power of the arts and lauded chaos, darkness, and earth magic. Dorothy showed me all around Palm Beach, where she had been waiting tables and rubbing elbows with high society who appreciated smart women with quick wit and sharp tongues. She took me to the bars and arts institutions. She taught me the importance of a little black dress and red lipstick. She taught me to be shameless and brazen. Within the year, Dorothy and I had published our first art & literary magazine and were featured several times in the local press.

Then Dorothy took off for Europe with a backpack and I became a one-woman show. I performed poetry on pool tables, I started a poetry band. People started calling me “The Poetry Chick.” Eventually, I founded Delray Beach’s Dada Poetry Slam (Florida’s longest running slam, which just came in FIRST PLACE in National Poetry Slam Group Pieces! Yay team!). I traveled around the country performing my poetry and selling my chapbooks.

I wrote that new life into existence. It began with a vision — a fantasy — which I clarified and developed as I wrote. In the writing, the characters became more real, more embodied.

I understand that my desire for freedom — personal and creative — was within my power to choose.

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The very first issue of our literary magazine

How on earth did I manifest Dorothy, though?

I don’t know. Perhaps the story was a pre-cognition. Or maybe I just got lucky. I can’t say for sure. But I do know that I have observed these synchronicities over and over in my life where my writing about things precedes them — new situations, events, and people.

I teach this aspect of Practical Magic for Writers in my Genius! workshop. I really am in awe of our ability to manifest the lives we want by imagining them and writing them into existence. That seems like magic to me.

 

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Between a rock-paper-scissors and a hard place: on writing, performance anxiety, and winning!

We writers can get pretty weird about our work. Depressed. Anxious. Neurotic. Self-obsessed. Hysterical, even.

If writers had enough money for therapy, the mental health field would be booming. But instead what we have is an entire readers market dedicated to writers who write about writing and the struggles we writers face.

Ours aren’t your normal professional struggles. You’ve never seen your plumber or retail manager having a nervous breakdown about a deadline or a line that wouldn’t scan. Lawyers don’t wake up and go, “Maybe I should get out of these pajamas and get a real job?” And no one other than a writer really understands. It’s just part and parcel of the gig.

My students at the community college think I’m nuts because I’ve given myself life-long writing assignments, often with little or no pay. Like this blog here that I ‘m writing at nearly 11 pm on a weeknight after I spent the whole day writing to finish up a year-long project, my Practical Magic for Writers book.

Before I even turned in my final grades and declared school out for the summer, I’d taken on another deadline: Write Club, a head-to-head writing competition that is billed as literary bloodsport. There are chapters in Chicago (where it started), Atlanta, and here in Los Angeles. Basically: Two writers. Two opposing ideas. Seven minutes.

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Marya Summers defending “Overt” at Write Club Los Angeles, the Bootleg Theater

Contestants get a week. I was assigned “Overt” and my opponent, “Covert.”

In a nutshell it was a crazy week: I sat for full days with a lap top heating my thighs. I wrote decent poetry, then terrible prose, and finally decided to stick with poetry.  A day before the competition, I only had a solid 2 minutes of stuff I liked. Writing five more minutes of poetry – good poetry — in just the space of two days? When I hadn’t written a poem in like a dozen years? Um, hella hard.

The night before the competition, I sat in my meditation group with anxiety so intense that I couldn’t breathe. It felt like a giant rock was sitting on my chest and like I needed to run for a very long time. The next day, the day of the main event, I got up early and took the run my body craved, though I hadn’t run in months, and then I wrote some more. The anxiety wouldn’t let go. Nothing I did would shake it. I kept lowering the stakes:

1) It doesn’t have to be a good poem, just the best you can do.
2) It doesn’t have to be your best, you just have to have something finished.
3) It doesn’t have to be finished, just read what you have and have fun.

But the anxiety wouldn’t let go no matter what I told myself. Even while I was trying to have fun. It didn’t soften until I got on stage. Stage fright has got nothing on real anxiety — in the face of the former, the latter wasn’t even noticeable. The anxiety evaporated somewhere in the stage lights, I think. Just like that.

And then I won.

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The hard-earned Loving Cup of Deathless Fucking Glory

The moral of the story isn’t “anxiety = winning.” Not at all.

The point isn’t “anxiety = pointless, so why am I so silly?” either.

My point here is that anxiety is something that I’ve learned that I just have to live with sometimes; writing and performing have seldom been comfortable for me. Facts are, it’d be nice, but I don’t write to be comfortable. I write because I have to. It’s who I am. Sometimes being me is pretty fabulous, and someone gives me a trophy or a paycheck for it.

You know how beauty queens and glamour girls say, “You have to suffer to be beautiful?” I think what they are saying is about perseverance – that sometimes things are really uncomfortable. Whether it’s a girdle or performance anxiety, it’s hard to breathe, but you tough it out anyway.

Writing is hard. For me. For lots of writers. For those who say it comes easily, well, I really can’t say I like them much. Nor do I trust them. I think they are probably lying.

But what we have, friend, is intestinal fortitude. It’s a Fire Element quality — much like anxiety, which is also the result of excessive Fire energy — that I discuss in my workshops and book Practical Magic for Writers, which will be finished this summer.

Summer: the season of fiery solar energy! What better time to summon our inner creative warrior? Have writing anxiety or need some other writing help? Hit me up. Seriously. I luuuuuvvvvv to help.

Creative teeth: When your work bites

Yesterday, while I was spooning down a trifecta of Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt — honey, cherry almond, and vanilla custard — I was secretly fantasizing about killing someone. I’d been dishing to my pal J about the latest novel I’m reading and loving. It’s a Y.A. fantasy that my adult daughter wrote.

J was like, “Oh wow, your daughter wrote a novel?  What’s it about?”

I’d barely gotten three sentences out when he started laughing. “Another vampire novel?”

Maybe I’d been inspired by one of the characters in the novel, but I almost leapt across the table and tore his throat out with my teeth.

I suppose taking pity on the guy was the right move, considering a) children at nearby tables would have been forever scarred by a fro-yo blood-bath and b) the near-victim knows nothing about the creative process– neither the challenges nor the sacrifices (nor that he was almost one of them).

Other than kicking my powers of creative visualization into high gear and giving me an opportunity to exercise my impulse control, my friend also offered me an opportunity to reflect on some important truths about the creative life:

  1. People are going to mock and criticize because they are cowards themselves. It makes them feel superior and gives them a sense of safety. But it’s actually keeping them from taking risks and keeping them stuck, which is their problem. Not yours or mine. We know our creative baby (or grandbaby) may be fugly but we’re gonna love it anyway. Because it’s ours, and it’s a gift we appreciate because it teaches us about ourselves and the world. Like, how about all that badass discipline it takes to finish something as huge as a novel? How about the vision? The courage to move forward when you don’t know where something is going? These are things to celebrate. Creative risks are moments to celebrate precisely because of the cowardly critics. So maybe on a day when I’m feeling particularly charitable I will remember to thank the person or people laughing at our art for making us all the more heroic in our creative actions.
  2. It has all been done before. Yup. Lots of vampire novels have been written. And that’s because people like to read them. Duh. Fantasy fiction fans are hungry like a blood-starved vampire for another good book to sink their fangs into. So let’s not worry too much if our poem sounds a lot like a Rumi poem or if our novel isn’t novel enough. If we are one among many, that sounds a lot like an audience to me. Carry on.
  3. An entirely valid approach to creativity is imitation. It’s not only the highest form of flattery, it’s also highly instructive. We learn a lot by imitating those we admire. In fact, I’ve watched a painter friend reproduce Van Gogh’s technique, learning from the master though separated by centuries. I’ve got musician friends who swear by learning cover songs for similar reasons: they learn technique and structure as they play songs others have written. I’ll also add that lots of times accomplished musicians pay homage to those they admire by adding a cover to their set list. I saw Panic at the Disco cover Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” this summer and I was blown away. It was done with passion and precision, and no one was laughing that it had been done before.

Want more insights into the creative process and inspiration to keep you going? Come see me over at Wholly Creative.

Disorder is the rule of the day; Be a fool, Give your writing a roll in hay!

Be gone seriousness! We got the important business of play to do!

April 1st traditions of pranks, of reversal, of masquerades and of hilarity can stir some fun into your usually very, very serious work of writing. If you’re anything like I am, you have big goals, you set deadlines, you carve out time in your schedule for writing and defend it as if it were your queen and under attack by a foul mob (the mundane demands of “the real world.”)

But today, ah. Today is different.

Today, disorder is the rule; the queen gets let out of the castle — to play in the mud or roll in the hay. Let her even run around in circles clucking and flapping imaginary wings like the village idiot, if she wants.  The dirty peasants can sit on the throne for a while.

quote-William-Shakespeare-a-fool-thinks-himself-to-be-wise-88508What would a practical joke look like if it were a poem?

How could reversal — of roles, of words, of rhythms, or images — create a topsy-turvy view of the world that offers something unexpected and fun to your reader?

Or you might use the energy of today to introduce some levity into a very serious scene, poem or article you are writing.

It’s not all frivolousness, mind you — there’s depth to be had in play. Shakespeare’s fool was no joke. In the reversals, we find the truth of things. The neglected, often unconsidered, view that is necessary for deep wisdom. And laughter is potent medicine for societal and personal ills.

It’s opposition like this — of seriousness and levity, of dark and light, etc.  — where we find power, our mojo, as writers. And the correspondence of our holidays, of the mood of the day, helps heighten that power. Learning to work with these energies is something I do in my Wholly Creative writing workshops. (Enjoy a free MP3 download of my intro to Mojo-a-go-go Writers Workshop: Dancing with Elements. Click Here for Mojo ).

So, go have fun. Get dirty. And write on.

Writing inspiration that sticks!

We writers will take inspiration in whatever form we can get it: Broken hearts, strangers on a bus, some gum stuck to our shoes. The big stuff like a break-up has an urgency in the intensity of emotion that needs to be expressed. It’s hard to miss, and we are propelled to the page to get it down.

The other, little stuff? It’s easy to miss. But sometimes there’s a flash of recognition that something important exists in what on the surface seems trivial or mundane. Then we can get a great poem or essay about brushing our teeth or watching an employee refill the drink dispensers (Listen to Ballad of Orange and Grape read by Muriel Rukeyeser on the subject. It is one of my favorites!)

But often we are so busy, we don’t see the significance in the little things. Our awareness is turned outward and we see only the literal meaning and the practical application of the experiences we have.

But, that’s okay. Because while we sleep, our brain takes our experiences, finds the significance, and translates them into metaphors in our dreams. That’s why dreams can be so bizarre and  so haunting. The metaphors are powerful stuff that can bypass the objections of the rational and habitual mind. The political and philosophical message of “Ballad of Orange and Grape,” for instance, cannot be argued against because its argument is presented as a metaphoric narrative.

A story can’t be wrong. It just is. It’s the same with dreams. We get powerful motivating statements in our dreams expressed to us in narrative form.

I frequently have recurring or similar dreams — either the same theme or the same images or same feeling-state — until I am able to understand the message of my dream and integrate it into my waking life.

For me, this is pretty easy. All those years in school studying literature so that I could be a better writer not only led to a job as an English professor, they also made me fluent in metaphors. I can recognize and understand them easily.

But when I started to use my dreams as writing prompts, using the plots and images to inspire journal writing while I downed a couple mugfuls of black coffee, I began to wake up inside the dream. In some ways, this is tantamount to lucid dreaming while awake. It has the dreamy quality of twilight sleep but I’m aware and can make choices, such deciding to pursue the analogous connections that unlock the metaphors.

My most recent example was a dream I had about B, a woman who was presumed to be eaten by alligators. When I woke and began to write, alligators seemed weird. They seemed to be the metaphor, so I kept writing. B had faced “alligators” before as in “up to your ass in alligators” when she had been a student teacher. So I wrote that into my narrative and the story’s image opened in a new way. I understood B in a new and deeper way, too. (Important because I’ve known her my whole life and I love her though we have a remote, strained relationship.)

And that gum you stepped in? Well, on a literal level it’s nothing but a hassle. But don’t be surprised if, after you’ve scraped off the gunk and gone on with your day, at night your dreams find deeper meaning than just the fruity, pink, disgusting hassle.

I’m happy to share my process with you. I am leading a FREE Dream Writing Workshop (an hour long, give or take). Once you register, you can attend it live (Saturday, February 27 at 11 am PST) or watch it in replay when you have time. Or both.

I’ll give you tips to remember your dreams, discuss the best way to write “into” them (rather than about them), and we’ll do some writing together so that you leave the workshop with some new work.

 

 

 

The dark side of awesome …

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Free to be me!

Self-help is such a huge industry that it’s become the M.O. for many of us who want to be the best selves we can be. But in some ways I think it’s become insidious in its negation of who we are.

For instance, perhaps I could watch less TV. Then again, I enjoy stories. The shows provide an escape, and I also learn and am inspired by what others see as mindless drivel.

Take The Almighty Johnsons, a kiwi show about four brothers who are Norse gods. The gods’ attributes contribute both power and weakness to their characters. For instance Ull, the god of hunting, while good at games and finding things, can easily cross the line into stalker territory. Bragi, the god of poetry is a natural at PR, but he is also a bit of douche, using his powers to get women in bed. These gods can’t deny their powers, nor the fact that there is a dark side to them.

The_Almighty_Johnsons_season_2If I were among the pantheon, I would be the goddess of the escape. When I was young, I had a knack for breaking in (and out) of places, though seldom causing any real mischief. I wanted to move between spaces, explore different worlds, and I couldn’t see any reason why I should be locked out or in. I slid out of my bedroom window at night, and I wandered into people’s homes, into schools, into hotels after hours. This may have developed because, unless I was in trouble, I was virtually invisible in my family. I could leave for long, unaccounted for hours and return without having to explain myself.

To checkout of the void of a lonely childhood, I read books that transported me to other worlds. I remember fondly Désirée, a very long historical romance novel about Napolean and his lover, where an entire week went by and I existed in a different place in time even when my face wasn’t in its pages.

When I was locked up  – first briefly in juvenile detention and then for about a year in a behavior modification program – for running away from home as an adolescent, I escaped by constructing elaborate fantasies and daydreaming my way into other realms that were more appealing than the church pews I was forced to sit in the entire day to be reprogrammed. I never made an actual break for it because though I’m dreamy, I’m also practical, and I knew I’d be better off in the long run there than on the streets.

After being locked up, I learned to immerse myself in academics, using scholarship and achievement as a socially acceptable form of checking out of the real world. In my early adulthood my problems, like my abusive marriage to an older man, went away as I immersed myself in literature and philosophy. When I abandoned my marriage, I escaped my troubles with drugs and alcohol and men, none of whom I kept around for long. As I got older, I gave up the escapes that were the most destructive. I made a commitment to better self-care. I also committed to a few other things: To my daughter (which kept me in the same geographic place for 18 years), to my writing, to my cats, and to Truth. Not necessarily in that order.

The expression of escape changed. Fundamentally, however, I am still a free spirit. Especially when it comes to ideas.

I have a friend Paul, who regularly calls me because he has “figured something out.” I’ll answer the phone and he’ll deliver some truth he has arrived at such as “It’s all love…love is not the exception” or “If we’re suffering, we’re in ego.” Generally there’s a long story that accompanies the realization. I made the mistake once of saying, after he delivered his punchline (the realization), “Well, Paul, that’s an absolute, and absolutes usually aren’t true.” There was a long moment of silence for the dead idea.

In the interest of our friendship, I have had to learn listen to Paul’s stories and not to respond with the exceptions that do, in fact, unravel his theories. Some people like the solidity of Desireeabsolutes; it makes them feel safe. As the goddess of escapism, I’m also the queen of exceptions because exceptions allow the mind to wriggle free of the confines of a governing concept.

“I can see how you would be difficult for people,” our mutual friend John said (I tend to collect friends named after the apostles, evidently). “You’re hard to pin down.”

In fact, one of my favorite things about teaching English was that I teach thinking – that is how to think, and what people have thought, rather than a specific point-of-view. For me, my superpower is that I think fluidly, I am often unattached to ideas, and I can see things from multiple perspectives.

Sure this comes with its challenges, for instance, I can be indecisive. But when it comes to my relationship with Truth, it actually is helpful. I’m not talking about truth with a lowercase “t” as in “Did you take the garbage out? Tell the truth.” I mean the Truth about the nature of being, about why we are here, where we go when we die, and what it all means (if anything).

I’m very comfortable with a multiplicity of views. And I’m very comfortable knowing that these are questions that point at the infinite (God-type stuff) and that my intellect and language is finite and so my thoughts and words can only generally point in the direction of what I am discussing. And when this infinite shifts and takes on new form, I’m comfortable going “and there it is again over there contradicting what I just said.” It’s part of the mystery of life. And I can know it and revere it without being able to explain it.

Of course, part of the nature of being in flow like this is that I tend to not attach myself to things like money or people for very long. It has its challenges, for sure. And when I get on a self-improvement jag, I can sometimes start yanking at the roots of this thing, forgetting that in doing so, I’m going to eradicate what makes me me. I named after the wind, after all, and destined to slide between cracks into spaces that want to be explored. And like wind, I may settle down, but never for long.

It seems to me that my job is to know my power, to explore new opportunities to use it, and to do my best to use it responsibly – with the understanding that sometimes my power is more powerful than my will to control it.

The dark side of awesome is still awesome. What’s your superpower? What’s its dark side? How can you help save the world?

Get my guide Get Moving and Get Things Done (there’s no better way to be awesome and it’s totally free).

Rule breaking, time warping, persona stripping: it’s how legends are made!

I broke rule #1 of blogging.

I didn’t publish a blog for years.  After my move to Los Angeles from South Florida, things inside of me shifted, like my consciousness was tectonic plates and my life was the resulting earthquake. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore or what I had to say or why anyone would want to listen. My professional creative life was the casualty. After over a decade cultivating a readership, I didn’t want to be “followed.” I didn’t have any idea where I was going.

Now, I know some would say, “Hey, that’s the kind of thing that sells…those dark periods, that descent, that drama.” But the truth is, I’d pimped out myself as a writing persona for so long in alternative media, I wasn’t even sure what the real me sounded like or what she had say. I knew I didn’t think mean was funny (Actually, I never did. I was coached to write that way by an editor). I needed to find myself.

(I bet you can relate to that. I’m sure there’s been a time in your life when you didn’t know what to say or what your leadership was. Maybe that time is now. I’m here to tell you: It’s okay.)

In the hiatus, I lowered my expectations and stopped engaging in the activities that triggered “old Marya” behavior. But I didn’t stop writing. In fact, I wrote a lot. In fact, I need to write my projects down now to prove my accomplishments, even if only to myself, so here it goes (I encourage you to take stock of your accomplishments, too.):

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My first improv comedy class show. @ M.I. Westside Comedy.

I wrote a few articles for Palm Beach ArtsPaper about my experiences in California. I wrote a narrative essay “Trapped” about childhood traumas and escapism, and I performed at Spark Off Rose. I wrote lots about yoga philosophy and practices and how these could be applied to the writing process. I was asked to present on my research at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Conference, and then I was asked to submit that paper, “Writing East to West: A Yogic Approach to Life Writing,” to a new book project, Beyond the Frontier: Innovations in First-Year Composition. I also wrote a lot of poems and essays that I have left unpolished and stored unceremoniously on a flash drive. Oh, and I spent a year doing improv comedy…quite badly, in fact.

None of these projects were things I was sure of. (Some days I still wonder about what I’m doing with my life: a yogic approach to writing?) I struggled because what I was doing was new for me. I’d left behind the smartass, hard drinking, shameless Marya Summers that I’d capitalized on in South Florida. It’s hard to invent yourself, but it’s harder to strip down the persona and show up authentically, with no mask to shield you. I have been cultivating humility and grace; it’s made my humor gentler and wiser, I think.

Now, I’m back. It’s not a new Marya, it’s the real Marya. As myself, I’m vastly more… I was going to say more Zen, but I had been zooming around on a endless tank of an ego-boosted fuel blend of anxiety and shame in the opposite direction of  Zen for so long that, now, even being in the zip code of Zen seems like some serious Sci-Fi technology.

My point is that transformation is possible, and it’s never too late to start. But you have to let go of something if you want to reach for something else. You have to be brave enough to trust that you are enough.

Get my free guide Get Moving and Get Things Done.

An approach to creative success

I teach a workshop on the relationship between shame and writing. One of the primary texts I used in my research was John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You. While this book has been consulted by many self-helpers for recovery from shame, it also contains some  insights into our psyche that inform and liberate our creativity.

A healthy sense of shame (humility), Bradshaw says, is basically knowing that we don’t know it all. When we think that we know things, our creativity shuts down. Creativity takes curiosity, and curiosity takes courage — after all, who knows where the unknown will take us? However, the three C’s alone aren’t enough, says Bradshaw:

A person with humility shame is open to new discovery and learning….When a person with curiosity and interest has discipline available to him [or her], [s]he has the right formula for creativity. The world is full of people with good ideas and fantasies that never come to fruition because they don’t have disciplined limits.

If you’re having trouble finishing a project or getting it started, it may help to ask yourself where you need more push. Do you need more courage to ask the hard questions and inquire further? Or do you really need more discipline in your creative life?  Or perhaps, is it possible you’ve lost interest in the project because you know it so well that your curiosity has waned and you really need to explore those aspects that are still a mystery to you?

What’s in silence

I was introduced to a lovely concept in yoga teacher training this weekend: We tend to think of ourselves as moving through the world…but what if the world moves through us?

It’s how I’ve been approaching some of my writing — as a moving meditation where I listen to the wisdom of the universe (or God) and just try to write down what comes. It seems like an ironic contradiction — that we should verbalize what comes to us in silence — doesn’t it?

Terry Wolverton, one of my mentors, shares her ideas on this subject in her blog Writers at Work (read the whole entry). She asks some interesting questions:

Where do we gather the wisdom, the depth that is so needed in our blathering culture if we are caught up in the same pressure to constantly blather?What if our measure were not how much did we produce but rather, what is the quality of our ideas? Not how many pages did you generate today but, instead, what is the most important thing you have to say and have you explored it fully before you said it?

What defines a writer?

You may have heard this old joke about the man who’d done many good deeds in his life but was defined by one terrible one. He bemoans his fate to a bartender:

You see that church over there? I built it with my bare hands but do they call me O’Reilly the Church builder? No!

You see that school over there? I taught there for 30 years but do they call me O’Reilly the Educator? No!

But you *$!# one goat….

I appreciate how this joke applies to us as writers, and I’m not just talking  egregious writerly offenses such as that of James Frey who screwed the goat when he fictionalizing his “memoir” A Million Little Pieces. Chances are he’ll be remembered for that rather than any other literary accomplishment.

Let O’Reilly serve as a reminder that there are many accomplishments we should celebrate, even in the face of failure. Instead of just criticizing our lapses in discipline, let’s also admire our lifelong devotion to craft. Let’s congratulate ourselves for the volumes we’ve written even if they haven’t been published. Let’s find the beauty in our descriptions as well as the flaws in the plot.

The joke also teaches another lesson: O’Reilly’s identity gives us permission to claim our own. After all, he molested only one goat, but how many times have we written?  Still, unless we’re claiming a paycheck for our words, we hesitate to announce to the world, “I am a writer.”

But what is the page if not a goat where we have passionately relieved ourselves?  Gross, I know, but I think it’s apt.