Why haven’t I been able to find myself as a writer? Why does it seem like everyone has what it takes to be a beautiful writer but me? Am I not an artist of the word? And how pretentious does that sound: An artist of the word. Try “writer,” Tannis. Keep it simple, avoid adjectives, no passive voice; trust the reader’s intelligence. And practice: practice writing, practice patience, practice varying your sentence structure.
Read like a writer: it might not be fun, but it must be done. Every word matters – weight each equally. You are used to pounding out a story for a newspaper without considering the artfulness of your craft. You are only starting out as a creative, artistic writer and you must be patient with yourself. If this is what you really want to do, expect to face hurdles and force yourself to learn from them as you overcome them.
Write, write, write. Don’t distract yourself from writing: tell others’ stories with creativity, artfulness, accuracy, and attention to detail. Above all – and as Richard has told you time and time again – forgive yourself; give yourself permission to fail, for it is only then you will succeed. For the record, the definition of success is this: the privilege of being able to continue doing what you love, and that is to write.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Her funeral is tomorrow, and I can’t go. Her funeral: Jasmine, the strongest person I knew for some of the most important years of my life. Her eyes were so dark they were black holes that revealed, in their most intimate depths, cosmic fire. I sit here now, twenty-eight years old, and look at my reflection in my darkened computer monitor – I do that when I’m writing so as not to be distracted by the words on my screen – and study my face. Young, rosy cheeks and a pink nose, freshly peeled from the burn I received vacationing in Costa Rica only days ago. Sunkissed bangs pulled lazily into my hazel eyes, and the necklace my mom bought me from China twinkles around my neck. Everything makes me think of my best friend though my teenage years.
China: where her mom is from; where Jasmine went after high school to be with Jeff, the man who would become her husband a decade later, only five months before she died; Costa Rica: Where I received the news via fucking Facebook that Jasmine had finally given into the cancer the doctors told her six years ago would kill her in five. Stubborn thing: she held on long enough to marry her sweetheart, and with nothing left to hope for, she gave into her fate. She wasn’t happy about it, though. She wasn’t filled with the cliché sense of peace and acceptance one might hope graces those about to die.
I visited Jasmine in the hospital in January — flew out to Vancouver and spent a week by her bedside. We hadn’t seen each other in years, and she knew why I was there, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say my final goodbye to her, instead choosing to try to make her laugh at all the old memories we shared in our teenage years: That time we were fourteen and decided to steal my mom’s car to go to a party; the time in Grade 8 she let me learn to kiss with her boyfriend (even though I didn’t know, at the time, that he was her boyfriend – she was keeping it secret); tipping hay bails – cinnahays, we named them – in farmers’ fields at night so we could look at the stars while we lay on them, planning our lives together; talking about how we want to die, unaware in our innocence that death would one day actually claim us. I forget what my answer to that question was – how we wanted to die – but hers remains indelible: “Riding on spaceship, listening to Stairway to Heaven, and eating pancakes.”