All of the writers are brave.
Like red wine down the front of a white dress, this sentence spilled into my head last week, as I strolled, seaside.
On Wednesday afternoon, I wandered in the sunshine and assertive wind along the Pacific Ocean, and through downtown Manzanita, Oregon, one of my favorite coastal towns.
I was grateful to be on a long overdue writing retreat, recalibrating and combobulating after almost a year of Real Big Change (RBC): Deaths of beloveds, cohabitating again for the first time since my divorce, growing pains in entrepreneur land, and realizing it’s time to reinvent myself as a writer and a woman, to name a few.
While I walked, I wrote, a familiar and comforting pattern. If I’m stuck, all I have to do is take a stroll and whole articles spill into my brain from the ether, such that I quicken my pace to reach home and download all of the words onto paper.
My mid-walk inspiration: I ran into one of the beautiful writers I’ve worked with. She devotes a significant chunk of her time to supporting other writers—coordinating a writers’ series, creating opportunities for young writers to publish, and for all kinds of scribes to share and hone their work. She’s a gem. Smart, funny, talented, and generous.
After we chatted and hugged and parted, she led a parade of all of the writers I work with through my head. Behind her marched several who have self-published. How brave that they’d declare their words worthy, take matters into their own hands, not waiting for permission or approval.
The parade shifted to feature other writers sending their work to agents and publishers, knowing their strengths and trusting in the strengths of others to get their words out into the world. So brave.
Next in line, those who write without any publishing at all. Who simply trust that they have something to say and want to make room for it. Who have no goal other than to give voice. Bravity, brave, brave.
Ah and after them, the older and wiser—the writers who penned the stories I read as an awkward teenager, when my dad was sick with lupus and bone cancer, and when he died. When I felt like I had no place in the world. When I still feel like I have no place in the world, no matter how that feeling might fly in the face of logic. Feelings are a lot like that assertive wind I walked through on the beach. They fly. I have lots of them. They scour me with sand until I shine again, reinvented. So thank goddess for the writers who sculpted those earthenware bowls of books, giving me a container to hold myself together. The writers who gave me sanctuaries of refuge and hope, places I revisit. Who wrote and got their stories out there, come hell or high water. Bold, beautiful, brave.
At last in the parade, bringing up the rear, I came along, odd though it may be, marching in my own head and all, with a glittered baton. Me, on this retreat, diving into new territory, writing about all of the forbidden things—sex and death and religion and the scariest thing of all, requiring all of my reserves of courage to write about: my body. I thought: I’m brave too.
This piece that had started with one became many. Every. All.
All of the writers are brave.
It’s no accident that as I walked with all of the brave writers in my head, just to the right of the sun, an unmistakably heart-shaped cloud floated by.
I mean it. This wasn’t some clump of cloud mashed potatoes that might could possibly have one curve of a heart. It was a verifiable heart-shaped cloud.
I wish I had taken a picture so I could show you, but I didn’t, because I was writing. And walking. I can only do so many things at once. So I hope you’ll take my word for it, because words are the best I have to offer. Like these:
All of the writers are brave, because of their hearts.
All of the writers are brave hearts, and not like Mel Gibson bravehearts, although they are warriors. Fighting for truth and justice and healing and love. Like Super Friends, but without the spandex.
Brave, brave, brave.
They’re writing because their innocence was robbed. They’re writing because their voices were taken from them, and they are taking those voices back.
They’re writing on behalf of the voiceless, the powerless. They’re writing on behalf of themselves. To give. To heal. To discover.
This is a meditation to celebrate the brave writers, to say thank you for getting to work with some of them, to feel humbled by the enormous grace and gift of words.
Often in messages, I like to use the address: Greetings, brave writer. And I mean it. More than ever, I mean it.
All of the writers are brave, and if you take pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, that means you, too.
Greetings brave writer, and thank you.
I sure do love a parade.
Jen Violi is the author of Putting Makeup on Dead People, a BCCB Blue Ribbon Book, and founder of Jen Violi: The Business. As a mentor, editor, and facilitator, Jen helps writers unleash the stories they’re meant to tell. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter, brimming with writing ideas and resources for you at www.jenvioli.com.
If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to this blog or sign up for my newsletter. Or read my column, The Persistent Optimist, at Sweatpants & Coffee. Also check out my books: Night Oracle, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and, Forged in Grace. And check out my Plot & Scene Writing Retreat with Martha Alderson at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 1-3, 2015.