To my dear graduating writers –
I am so sorry to be missing the big reading for graduating MFA students at the University of South Florida, where I would get to hear your amazing voices all at one time, where the hard work you’ve done over the past three years will be apparent to all. I know your professors will give you all insightful, funny and poignant introductions, and your friends and families will again see just how smart and talented you are. And after, I hope there will be a party, and you will laugh and talk together, and when you leave, know that you have made not only beautiful works of art but also a community to be proud of and to rely on.
After all the struggle and work of graduate school, it may be hard to face that there is more struggle ahead. But it is always a struggle to be a writer in this culture, in this world. Doubt is always around, the way insects are always around us in Florida: even if we can’t see them at the moment, we know they are close, and sometimes they bite to remind us.
I wish I could develop a force field to protect us all from those insects of doubt. I wish I could start a school and hire you all to teach, to write, to counsel and support other writers as I have had the privilege of doing with you. I wish I could find the right readers for your work and connect you to them without all the delays and dead ends of submissions, rejections, revisions, acceptances, more submissions. I wish I could be there every day to remind you that your writing matters.
This is what I can tell you: what you do for a living, how much you publish, what clothes you wear, what your spirit animal is–none of these things affect the fact that you are real writers. You are real writers because you write, you think hard about your writing, you revise, you reconsider, you practice. You are real writers because your voices are important, unique, hard, soft, smart, profound, true. You are real writers because you’re not looking for writing to be easy, but for it to be the best you can possibly make it. Every hour you carve out of your lives to write is a burst of light, and that’s what the universe is made up of. You are making stars. Remember that, when the doubts come. Remember it, too, when the triumphs come as well.
Much love and admiration to you, writers, makers of stars.