One day, you call your friend and say, Quick, give me a number between 1 and 243. She gives you a number and you turn to that page in your book of prompts. That page says to write a villanelle. You (begrudgingly) write a villanelle, revise it one bazillion times, and then send it off to a local poetry series. Next thing you know you are reading your poems at a local bookstore, and your friends are there listening.
One day you read a prompt that says: write a poem about a shadow. And so you do. And your writing group falls on it like a pack of wolves. They do not like it. But they note that it’s clearly an erotic poem. Which you did not intend. But which you decide to play that up in revisions. A few years later you see a call for submissions for erotic poetry. You think, Why not? and send it in. Your poem gets put into an anthology of erotic poetry. Also, you suddenly move across the country. Next thing you know you’re in the Mission reading erotic poetry with other poets you’ve never met but who are also in the anthology. Crazy.
One day you walk by a book at the library called Hearts West: True Stories of Mail Order Brides on the Frontier. Something in you shifts. You realize you must read the book. You read the book. The voice of a Mail Order Bride (capital letters) takes up residence in your mind. You write her poems because she won’t leave you alone. You send a few in to a contest. You wake up on another Tuesday morning in the P-town, and next thing you know you’re enduring the longest, most turbulent descent in the history of air travel, after which you finally land in Salt Lake City on the way to a conference where you will get to read some of your work, and more importantly, learn from the poet who chose your manuscript the winner. AND you are not even worried about what to wear to the poetry reading! (this may be the craziest thing of all).
Once upon a time I would not and could not have imagined ANY of these things happening. I thought poetry was just something I did for me. I never imagined anyone else would find value in my poems. Or that I would go places and meet people because of my poems. Although none of these events are rock-star poetry events. Although they are small potatoes in the big po-world, even so, I’d never have imagined them happening in my life because of poetry.
Luckily for me, I’ve always had people in my life who I think of as co-dreamers: those who can dream for me when I’m too scared or busy or scared or worn out or scared to dream for myself. They believed in me before I believed in me. (They still do sometimes if I’m having a day of disbelief).
We think we’re so in control of our lives. We think we know what we’ll be doing a year, two years, five years from now. We think we know our own strengths and limits. We don’t, really.
Get a co-dreamer or two if you need to. Proceed as way opens. Don’t kick out the crazy, whacked out persona girl blabbing away in your head (or whatever crazy, whacked out whatever is making noise in your head). Don’t discount what might happen for you because you followed your dream (by which I mean: because you lived your true, authentic life) bit by bit.