We Teach What We Need to Learn

How many times do I have to be reminded?

I spent a wonderful Saturday with 15 women writers. It didn’t matter that they were “students” who had signed up for my class “Writing From the Inside Out.” Talking with and listening to these women reminded me of so many lessons I had forgetten! I must write some of it down so I don’t forget again. I’ll tell you one here today.

“Keep your hand moving.” This basic tenet from Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones, comes back to me over and over. Today I was prompted to tell the story of the woman who went to a week-long writing conference with a famous poet only to have her work torn to shreds. But this student knew about writing practice. So every day after the class, instead of going to the bar to lick her wounds with the other students, she went outside, sat under a tree, and did writing practice. Over and over and over.

On the last day, the student walked into the classroom wearing a large pink bow on her head. She handed the poet her work and sat down.

The poet read it and said, “You wrote this?”

The student nodded.

The poet tore a sheet of paper out of her notebook, wrote down her phone number, handed it to the student and, in front of all the others said, “If you ever need anything, call me.”

Who was it that said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get?” Next time a comment from my MFA advisor threatens to derail me, someone remind me of this story (which I had forgotten until today). I just need to get back to work.