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On Being Precious

I had a clarifying moment recently when a writer referred to We Write, We Light as precious.

If you've been around as many writing workshops as I have, and if you tend to wear your heart on your sleeve as I do, you would know that this is not a compliment.

It means that I’ve been caught emoting without any artfulness. Time to reign in your feelings there, missy, don’t want your emotions messing up the place.

I picture a chart with TOO MUCH FEELING on one end, and WISE ALL-KNOWING MASTERY on the other. There’s a big, fat X scrawled in crayon to mark how much I’m over-caring and sharing.

Confessions:

I like my writing messy and a little wild-eyed.

I want to feel you, writer, out there, pulsing in your pages, maybe even bleeding a bit, maybe a little embarrassed about bleeding all over the page, but rallying and realizing that you’re okay, you survived.

It is clarifying to be called precious because when I broke open a few years ago when I was both literally and figuratively broken inside, I felt much more connected emotionally to the writers I love.

I value you all like something precious. In fact, I love you and what you do. I won’t apologize for wanting to help you tell your story and make it shine in the hope it lightens your burden when people are enlightened by what you share. (Almost as much as I love a good light metaphor.)

I teach writers to get published in lit mags, but—another confession—I care little about all the publication credits rolling in. I get links from students several times per week, but what I love more than a publication credit is if a writer gets to reveal raw, real, truth to readers.

By now you’ll be unsurprised to know that modernist poetry never resonated with me. (Yes, give me some Sylvia Plath, messily raging at her father/husband, over Hemingway any day.)

I realize this messiness may divide us. I know for sure some of you may be invested in some of the ways that we push back against (let’s face it) women writers because it’s what we’ve been taught by sanctified writing workshops and all-knowing writing mentors. Me, I’m done living up to these expectations.

I remember re-meeting an acquaintance after many years during which he became well-known in modernist poetry circles. He was had built a big following. In our small talk about the writing life, I lamented about the resistance I had with getting down to writing. He shrugged and said in a condescending tone, writers write.

When I think back on this, I can’t help but consider what he got out of the trappings of writing versus what I was getting out of it. He had young women hanging onto his words, and I had the real fear of being cut off from my family. I was writing for my own sanity and survival, up against gaslights and consequences from speaking out of turn.

I’ll end this love letter by dedicating it to you, the precious shower-uppers, those who continuously pour hearts into pages, for those who have been met with scorn or blankness when they hang it out for all to see, yet keep going back to their well and keep sharing (and caring). We don’t deserve you. Yet here you are, precious.

Yours, Precious,

Rachel