The Magic Pencil
July 10, 2012
I’m a guest over at Women Writers, Women Books this week:
In my creative writing courses, I wave my magic pencil over my students and declare them to be writers—at least for the duration of the semester. After that, I say, it’s up to them to take over the spell. They generally giggle and roll their eyes (they’re college students after all), but I think it gives many of them license to believe it. The magic pencil has surprising power.
What does it take to call yourself a writer? As a child, I wrote stories and transformed them into books, because I knew that’s where stories belonged. I wrote for my friends, and I wrote a novel in high school as well. I knew writing was what I was always meant to do, but early on I somehow got the message that it was “no way to make a living,” and therefore, not a career option.
In too many cultures now, the arts are treated as disposable luxuries, instead of the essential activities that they are. I grew up in a place where the schools were producing better autoworkers for tomorrow; there was not a great deal of interest in cultivating the arts, unless you could somehow turn them into filthy lucre. Generally we were taught to dream small and feel satisfied if we reached those mundane heights: a secure job, a nice suburban house, and a happy marriage…