I’m slowly floating down from cloud nine.
Three days since the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference in Minneapolis, and I sit in my local coffee shop distracted by the long thoughts that still linger forefront in my mind, thoughts prompted by the many panels, readings, overheard conversations, and hotel-room discussions I had during the three-day event.
It’s taken some time for me to accept, and then proclaim, this tagline to my name: Ellee, writer. The threat of discovery that I didn’t qualify would somehow be too much to bear, too much to mourn. I’ve carried this word around with me, secretly, since I was a child, thinking about what it means and wanting so badly to find my own place in it. But I never considered what it meant to fit in, to “qualify,” to be allowed membership in a professional group of word artists. For a few years now, I’ve tentatively put on the elevated label — adding it to my resume, my LinkedIn profile — without considering why I’m so scared to claim it.
But, last weekend at AWP, while I nervously zig-zagged through the huge book fair tables with their magazines, paperbacks, journals, bookmarks, magnets, and t-shirts, I had an epiphany: Writers are not special. They don’t occupy some strange intellectual space that requires years of tutelage in their lingo and set of rules. They are simply word lovers, word givers. They connect through the effort they put into finding just the right collection of letters that makes sense of their particular view. It takes hard work, not specialness.
I had to introduce myself to so many strangers, who were gracious and generous with my nerves and my apologetic explanations of what I do. People were interested in what I had to say. They wanted to know more about my ideas. They connected with they way I see the world. And I quickly found myself rooted in this varied community of political views, religious associations, artistic aesthetics, modes of communication, that are all connected through words.
I realized, I am also a word lover, a word giver. I, too, connect through the effort of finding just the right word. I, too, work hard. I, too, am a writer.